Should we accept the writings of the Apostle Paul as inspired (see 1 Corinthians 7:12)?
Second Timothy 3:16-17 claims that all Scripture is inspired by God. However, critics sometimes argue that these verses only refer to the Old Testament and that Paul's writings were not Scripture. A look at 1 Corinthians 7:12 notes that Paul differentiated his words from the Lord's words, saying, "To 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." Does this mean Paul's writings were not inspired?
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One passage that directly answers this question can be found in 2 Peter 3:15-16. There we read, "And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures."
In these words, Peter notes three important aspects of Paul's letters. First, he states some parts were hard to understand. Second, Peter notes that some had twisted Paul's words "to their own destruction." Third, Peter equates Paul's writings with the "other Scriptures." These other Scriptures were the Old Testament writings, works referred to as inspired by God by the apostle Paul (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the apostle Peter (2 Peter 1:20-21), as well as Jesus (Matthew 5:17-20). Peter here makes the clearest comment in the New Testament that Paul's writings are inspired. This was not only the view of Peter, but was the accepted view of the earliest church fathers who included Paul's letters along with the other New Testament writings as inspired Scripture.
Another way to address this question can also be found within the context of 1 Corinthians. Paul had spent much time answering questions from the Corinthian Christians based on the teachings found in the Old Testament. In chapter 7, he discussed the topic of marriage. In verse 12, Paul distinguished between his writing and the teachings of the Old Testament related to marriage. This was likely due to the fact that marriage between a Christian believer and unbeliever was a new problem not directly discussed in the Old Testament. Therefore, Paul distinguished his comments from the teachings of the Old Testament on marriage. This was not an issue of whether his comments were inspired, but that this was new information not from the Old Testament teachings used in his earlier responses.
Understood in its context, then, Paul's words to the Corinthians in chapter 7 are not addressing the inspiration of Paul's writings. Other passages help to clearly show that Paul's writings were accepted on equal ground with the Old Testament Scriptures, words affirmed by Jesus and His followers as inspired by God.
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The Prison Epistles - What are they?
The Pastoral Epistles - What are they?
How is the Bible inspired? What does it mean for the Bible to be inspired?
Pauline Christianity – What is it?
Truth about the Bible