Drinking Deeply

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 at 12:55 PM

Did Paul consider himself inspired?

I would argue "yes, as Paul was writing, he considered himself inspired and carrying the very authority of God." This is in contrast to those who would argue that Paul did not know he was inspired. Why is this important? Because it affects the way we view and interpret Scripture. I have heard the argument that Paul was just "driven by the Spirit" and that this was something that could be expected for any Christian. That we can somehow know "God's will" by direct application of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, I would argue that Paul was being directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, so some of the commands that he leaves us are not on completely solid exegetical footing, but rather use a process of starting with the "answer." That's probably unclear, but when I give my example, it'll be clearer.

Now, given, not all people who disagree on the point that Paul is inspired will take that view, but it seems to me that it has come up enough times that I feel a direct link.

There are various good arguments for this view:

The first and foremost would be that Paul introduces himself as "an Apostle of Christ Jesus, called by the will of God," in almost all of his letters (Philippians and the 2 Thessalonian epistles being exceptions). What else could he be doing but establishing authority? "I come as a messenger of Christ, listen to me."

A second argument would be Paul's encouragement to the Colossians to read his letter aloud:
15Give my greetings to the brothers[a] at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
If we take this as a reference to the fact that the Jewish tradition has God's Word read aloud daily, then he's claiming quite a high position for his letters.

These are decent argument, but are only convincing if we're already convinced. But one argument that I think is convincing if we're not is 1 Corinthians 7:

After he has written in ch. 1 that he is an apostle called by the will of God, he writes this:
10To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you[b] to peace. 16Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

Notice Paul's phrase: "I, not the Lord." What is he saying here? Is he denying his authority? This text is not inspired? Or rather, might it make far more sense to understand Paul as saying, "Now, this isn't an explicit command in the Bible (Old Testament), but this is what I am telling you now. Indeed we have confirmation of this when Paul closes the chapter:
39A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
"And I think that I too have the Spirit of God."

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