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In the Bible, God gives specific instructions and commandments. But weren’t Paul’s writings driven by the prevailing culture at that time?

We must be very careful that we don’t fall into the trap of trying
to say that what Paul taught was just an instruction for his time, some
2,000 years ago–and that it is not necessarily binding for us today.
This wrong understanding was epitomized by an Anglican Bishop who, when
challenged on a particular issue a few years ago, wrote:

“My
disagreement stems partly from my understanding of the way in which I
read the Bible, praying that the Holy Spirit will enlighten my
understanding of what statements are unchangeable and what are
conditioned by social and cultural norms of the time in which God spoke
to those involved.”

He fell into the trap of “cherry picking”
those portions of Scripture that suited his particular stance and
ignoring those which he considered no longer applicable. This is a very
dangerous thing to do because God clearly states that “ALL
Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped
for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The problem with the
“social and cultural norms of the time”-approach is that it allows the
culture of the day to become more important than God’s clear
instructions!

It is true that Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:25:
“Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I
give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy.”
The question is, did Paul, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, have the
authority, under godly inspiration, to “bind and loose” (Matthew
16:19)? That is, was he permitted to explain with authority, under
godly inspiration, God’s will on a certain matter, even though the
written record–until that point in time–might not have been totally
clear? Since he undoubtedly did have such authority, his commandments,
as revealed and retained in God’s Word, are binding for us today. When
Paul said, although there was no WRITTEN law, he was communicating
God’s inspiration to him. Therefore, it has the same strength as a
written command. God inspired it to be written down in the Bible, so it
has now become part of the written commandments as well. A
transgression of God’s written law (not just the Ten Commandments, but
all of God’s words which are still binding today) is sin. After all,
sin is defined in Scripture as the transgression of the law (1 John
3:4, Authorized Version).

The New King James Commentary has this to say about 1 Corinthians 7:25:

“Paul
is now about to deal with another subject about which the Corinthians
had written him (cf. 7:1). I have no commandment of the Lord. In our
Lord’s instruction regarding marriage and divorce recorded in the
Gospels, there is no record of His speaking directly to this issue. And
so, the apostle says, yet I give my judgment. This again is not to say
his advice is less inspired than something he may or may not quote from
our Lord. Rather, Paul gives advice under the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit in order to fulfill this obligation to the Lord to be faithful.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary makes these observations about this same verse:

“He
[Paul] acted faithfully, and therefore his direction was to be regarded
as a rule of Christ: for he gave judgment as one who was a faithful
apostle of Christ. Though Christ had before delivered no universal law
about that matter, he [Christ] now gives direction by an inspired
apostle, one who had obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.”

It
is important to note that Paul’s writings are now Scripture. In 2 Peter
3:16 we read: “…as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of
these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which
untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do
also the rest of the Scriptures.”

This is critical
understanding because this verse reveals that there will be those who
will twist Scripture [including Paul’s writings], not only for their
own purposes, but to their own destruction; and, secondly, it states
that Paul’s writings were considered Scripture. Jesus Christ is the
same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and the Word of God,
likewise, is unchangeable. We must not “cherry pick” Scripture. Rather,
we must take the Bible in its entirety. That includes Paul’s writings
which are part of Scripture and which cannot be dismissed as only
applicable to his own time.

Lead Writer: Brian Gale