not a command

I’m a big believer in the authority of Scripture. I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and that it’s been revealed to his people by his Spirit. I also believe that it’s without error and should be recognized as the authority for our lives. Some people agree, some don’t. I’m not really looking to debate that or defend that today. But I am curious about something.


I’m preparing to speak tomorrow at our church. The pastor has been working his way through 1 Corinthians in a series called “Unsanitized Christianity” and so far it’s been great. Right now we’re in the midst of chapters 6 and 7. As I am preparing to bring the teaching tomorrow I couldn’t help but consider again an old thought that has come to my mind from time to time. I have my own ideas about it, but am continuing to consider and contemplate it. And it’s always interesting to hear from others.


If we are trying to live with the Bible as the authority for our lives, then places that give commands and directive or texts that reveal God’s expectations in clear and concise language are easy. Maybe not easy to follow, but easy to at least know what’s expected!


But does having the Bible as our authority for life just mean following a list of rules it lays out? I have a sneaking suspicion there is more to it!


Consider this…


In 1 Corinthians Paul makes a couple of statements that don’t exactly sound clear or certain. He doesn’t even seem sure if they are from god or just from himself. Let me show you. The two I’m considering (and I think there are more) come from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. He’s talking about marriage and singleness. First he preps a statement about how they should live with these words:

I say this as a concession, not as a command.  1 Corinthians 7:6


So, what do we do with that? Is this something we should follow? Something we can choose to take or to leave? Or is there another way to look at it? Again, I have my own thoughts, but I’m wondering what you think. I feel like in some ways considering what to do with passages that don’t lay out a clear and complete explanation of exactly what to do are critical to understanding what it truly means to honor the Scriptures as the authority for life. Let’s face it, there are more places that are ambiguous or open to some interpretation than there are lists of do’s and don’ts. And this is good I think! We just need to consider what we do with these. How do we handle them?


Here’s another example, just a few verses later:


To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.    1 Corinthians 7:12


“To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)…”


Paul is making a clear distinction between some things that the Lord is commanding and the things he is saying. So what do we do with that? How do we handle that? What kind of authority do we give those types of passages?

Again I say that I believe that how we handle passages like these has far reaching effects for what it really means for us to acknowledge the Bible as the authority for our lives. The Bible doesn’t cover directly and in list form every issue we will ever face in life. How do we let it be the authority for our lives in these cases? I think considering how we handle places like the two I’ve mentioned above will get us on the right track.


What do you think? Please share your thoughts or add your own questions.


4 thoughts on “not a command

  1. “christians” like the lists of do’s and don’ts because it takes the responsibility off of the individual and it just makes it easier, like you said…not easier to do, but to understand. unfortunately, when we do this with everything i think we put God in a box. we forget that He is a mighty God that can take the “tricky”situations and make them perfect. i find that when i am facing an unclear situation i will beg God for a clear cut answer. He often reminds me that i am to be still and just trust…and wait. as much as i don’t like it…my faith is always challenged and growth occurs. also, i find so many people do not like it when you talk about a spirit led life. in order to hear God’s direction in the times of unknown we have to quiet ourselves and seek His face….much more difficult to do than following a list of do’s and don’ts because it requires one to quiet themselves and listen. in our world today…quiet moments are far and few between. another twist….many of God’s children that are very comfortable following a list of rules often question the motives of the ones who seek answers and then say, “they were led by God to solve that tricky situation a certain way”. i actually heard a fellow rule follower say,”as soon as i hear someone say i was led by the spirit i question their motives”. i am not bashing either side and understand that we all need to love each other where we are at…..and trust the spirit to work it our in all our hearts. i don’t know if this makes any sense?? i never usually respond to things like this, but i am living this out as we speak and i thought i would toss my raw ideas out there…i am curious if i am “lost” in this area or on to something??

    • kj, thanks for your thoughts here. I think you are definitely on to something. I agree with you on how much more we love lists and the difficulty of living through the “tricky” situations. I think you are right when you identify that one of the reasons that it is so much more difficult is that it requires stillness, listening, and trust. those are just tough for us!

      I have also heard some say things similar to what you shared about being skeptical when hearing someone say they were led by the spirit. I think I can understand the propensity towards this as I’ve seen some use it as an excuse to do what they wanted rather than what was appropriate. But obviously responding with sheer scpeticism isn’t the answer and veering away from a spirit led life isn’t the answer.

      I think you are making a great deal of sense and your desire to sort out how to “trust the spirit to work with all our hearts” is definitely the right course of action we all need to pursue more intentionally!

      I’m starting to think that in my own life there is far too much comfort and not enough trusting and pushing forward. Thanks again for sharing! Since you say you are living through this right now I will be praying.

      May the grace and peace of Jesus be with you.

  2. I believe moments like this in the Bible are important, if for no other reason than we can be comforted in the knowledge that God deals with “me specifically”.

    These moments leave room for us to seek GOD’S direction. It actually forces us to…if we want to live out that issue HIS way. It also leaves room for Him to work in/on us on an individual basis instead of being clumped in with the whole order of society. A list of rules don’t allow for intimacy with one person. When we are facing the tough issues that have no clear cut answer, we are drawn into a deeper intimacy with God (and often, one another) through pray and reading…and even fellowshipping with other believers.

  3. One final thought…(since I hit send by accident)

    Often, when we are in a moment that requires direction and can’t seem to find any, there is Scripture we stumble upon that may not give us a clean answer but it DOES reveal God’s heart on the matter. Knowing that SHOULD give us the clarity we need. More often than not, I’m afraid, I’m too stubborn to do what is obviously the right thing because I tend get stuck looking for the path that’s already been made out.

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