Saturday, 12 July 2014
But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 1 Corinthians 7:6
This verse has caused great conflict between scholars as to exactly what Paul is speaking of. First, some translations say, “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment” (KJV). The intent of what Paul says then becomes unclear. Some have taken it that the “permission” is something that was granted him to say, but not as a commandment. This is not the intent at all.
Rather, the word “concession” shows what he means much better. He is leaving the details of the lives of believers, whether they decide to remain celibate or get married, up to the individuals. However, as we will see, he is doing it with his own personal advice on the matter (this will be seen in the coming verses).
The second area of conflict is exactly what Paul says is a concession. Is it from 7:1? Is it from the preceding verse? What is it is that he is not commanding, but rather is giving as sound instruction? The answer is clear from the text itself. Verse 7:1 said, “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me:” In response to the first question, he began with his instruction on celibacy verses marriage. During this entire set of verses, and for the next two to come, he is giving personal advice on the matter. He has not issued any command, but is merely responding as he believes is appropriate.
When we come to verse 7:10, he will issue a “command.” At this point, the words of concession end and direct obedience to the words issued is expected. Until that time, his words are intended for a sound contemplation of the issues of celibacy and marriage. Both are authorized by God and so it is obvious that there are no commands concerning the issues, but rather words of wisdom which will keep the individual or married couple free from unhappiness in their chosen state.
Understanding this brings us to the third difficulty. Are the words of Paul inspired or not during these first 9 verses? He is claiming that his words are a concession or an “allowance” for believers to follow. If they are his words, and he is not claiming inspiration in the matter, are the words truly to be considered a portion of the word of God and thus inspired?
The answer is “yes.” They are written by Paul as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit. Regardless as to whether his words are merely descriptive, prescriptive, for exhortation, for advice, or for instruction, they are the words God intended for the particular subject in question.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:5, “Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia).” This is merely a descriptive thought. Paul is describing what will happen. Nothing is required for us, and yet it is inspired because God intended for this thought to be in the Bible.
In 1 Corinthians 5:11 he says, “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.” This is a prescriptive verse, a command, that is to be followed in Corinth and in all churches at all times. Obedience is expected and something is required for us, and it is inspired because God intends for us to be obedient to His directive, given through Paul.
The same is true with all other forms of writing used in Scripture – wisdom, poetry, history, advice and counsel, instruction, etc. Each has a place and all are inspired. They are exactly what God wants for us to be built up and edified with.
Life application: Understanding context and also style of biblical writing is extremely important to grasp what is being said, to whom, and for what purpose. Arching over all of this though is the expectation that we believe that the Bible is truly God’s word. If we accept this premise, then we will properly apply the context and style to our walk with the Lord. Dismissing even one verse of Scripture because we disagree with it will unravel the entire tapestry of the word and it also demonstrates that we believe that what God says is less important that what we desire; it is idolatry. Let us carefully and tenderly handle God’s precious word.
Oh God, how amazing it is to read Your word and to ponder the beauty which is contained in it. Despite thousands of years of analysis and study, new revelations, patterns, pictures, and secrets are gleaned from it day by day. It is a timeless and precious wonder which is beyond compare. Forgive us for the dust which settles upon it as we neglect it. Forgive us for shunning it, deriding it, and ignoring it. Help us, O God, Your people, to accept it, cherish it, and study it all our days. Thank You for Your superior word. Amen.