Does Paul teach his opinions apart from inspiration? Some find that the apostle Paul did this in 1 Corinthians 7, 2 Corinthians 11:17, and 13:10. These Scriptures are clear that Paul does not give his man-made opinions in any of these passages, and he continues to instruct word-for-word as always by the leading of the Spirit.
Paul wrote by inspiration of the Spirit even unto every word. In 1 Corinthians 14:37, Paul declared, “If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord.” In Galatians 1:11–12, he also confirmed, “For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the Gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but through revelation of Jesus Christ.” Then in 1 Corinthians 2, Paul declared that what he taught was from God even to every word and that this was from the Spirit. Evidently, Paul like other apostles who “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21). Paul’s instructions were the Lord’s instructions, and Paul wrote what the Spirit revealed to him.
First Corinthians 7:6 appears as Paul’s opinion separate from inspiration. Paul wrote, “But this I say by way of concession, not of commandment.” Concession means permission. Verse six is conjoined with its pretext in verse 5. The antecedent of the pronoun “this” in verse 6 is the discourse of verse 5. Verse 5 is the statement that is “by way of concession” to those who are married that they have permission to stop sexual relations for a season to pray. Therefore, verse 6 in no way presents Paul speaking his own thoughts and not the Lord’s. Here Paul is speaking the Lord’s instruction by inspiration. Even in verses 7 and 8, Paul speaks that he would that all men were like himself, but these verses are as much an inspired suggestion as the permission given in verses 5 and 6.
In verse 10, Paul revealed, “But unto the married I give charge, not I, but the Lord.” Furthermore, Paul wrote, “But to the rest say I, not the Lord.” There are two different interpretations of these verses. Either Paul was separating and contrasting what he thought by his own opinion from what the Lord commands, or Paul was presenting his commands by the Spirit in contrast from what the Lord revealed by command in His ministry on earth. Which one is the true interpretation? This can be briefly resolved with a few verses.
Verse 10 affirms, “But unto the married I give charge, not I, but the Lord.” This is the answer to this whole controversy. Paul gives a charge to not separate or divorce one’s spouse, and Paul is emphatic that this charge came from the Lord first in His earthly ministry (cf. Matt 28:18–20; Mark 10:11–12; Luke 16:18). However, the charge also came from Paul of whom the Spirit guided. Paul’s statement in verse 10 does not exclude Paul’s declaration that “I give charge,” and likewise, Paul’s charge does not exclude Christ’s Spirit as the source and authority in verse 12. In other words, Paul declared in verse 10, “I give charge, not only I, but the Lord,” and then in verse 12, “to the rest say I, not only the Lord.” Paul was right. Jesus did specifically give commands about marriage in His earthly ministry, and with additional guidance from Christ’s Spirit, Paul is charged these Christians who may have married unbelievers.
The apostle Paul was linking His inspiration by Christ’s Spirit with the authority of the Lord’s words in His earthly ministry. Note 1 Corinthians 7:17 where Paul spoke of this discussion which begins in verse 12 as “But to the rest say I, not the Lord.” He also revealed, “so I ordain in all the churches.” Does Paul ordain his opinions in all the churches? No.
Remember Paul stated that what he writes are the commandment of the Lord (1 Cor 14:37). Likewise, Paul expressed in 1 Corinthians 4:17, “For this cause have I sent unto you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which are in Christ, even as I teach everywhere in every church.” Paul described, “my ways which are in Christ,” and these are not his opinions. The Greek student can translate Paul’s claim as “the ways from me.” See, in writing this letter by the Spirit, Paul also reported, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you,” (1 Cor 11:23–24). Paul presented what Christ instructed before in His earthly ministry and by the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ. There is no such passage that has Paul teaching his opinions.
Paul also declared that, “I have no commandment of the Lord, but I give my judgment” (1 Cor 7:25). Is this an instance of Paul giving his opinion? In this passage, Paul gives judgment in contrast to command, and yet, this is also by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul gave wisdom and permission having authority from God via the Holy Spirit. In this verse, he revealed his apostolic and inspired judgment that “one that has obtained mercy of the Lord to be trustworthy.” In 1 Corinthians 7:40, Paul gave instruction after his judgment, and he claimed, “and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.” His statement of “I think” is not one of uncertainty as conveyed in English, but it is one of certainty like in 1 Corinthians 4:9, “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.” Is Paul uncertain about God exhibiting the Apostles last of all to endure many things? Therefore, the reader can know that Paul spoke with certainty about his trustworthy judgment as one guided by the Spirit (2 Pet 1:20–21; 3:15–16).
Lastly, Paul many times spoke a common phrase like “I speak” without giving his opinion, because he said, “I speak by the Lord” (Eph 4:17). There is no separation of inspiration between Paul and the Lord here nor anywhere else (Rom 15:30; 1 Cor 1:10; 1 Thess 5:27).
Lastly, the apostle revealed in 1 Thessalonians 2:13,
And for this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when you received from us the word of the message, the word of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you that believe.