I have been wrestling with the question of inspiration when it comes to Paul’s writings. It started when I read 1 Corinthians 7:10 where Paul says, “I say, not the Lord…” I read commentaries that said Paul did not know he was being inspired by the Holy Spirit. Paul clearly was writing letters to the early churches at the time and likely did not know his writings would be made into Scripture. Humans then decided to make these letters part of the Bible. When I read the Bible, I trust and believe Jesus’ words completely. I respect Paul and believe he is a true apostle and a great leader for the early churches. I believe his teachings are valuable, but can I truly look at them as inspired and infallible? At the end of the day I do believe they are true, but I struggle with these doubts. Paul and Peter clearly had disputes on some things, they were human and though they knew Jesus and the gospel, they also had human opinions. Wouldn’t it be similar to reading a Christian book to gain wisdom and advice? I would appreciate learning from the Christian book, but I would not feel the need to agree with all of the content. A lot of what we believe as evangelicals is based on the teachings of Paul, as Jesus does not speak on all topics. The scariest part to me is that the whole basis of the Evangelical message pretty much lies in Paul’s teachings- salvation by grace alone. Jesus seems to stress works much more in His writings. How many times do we hear Jesus say the path to salvation is narrow and talk about condemnation for sin?
A common response to this question is the 2 Peter 3:14-16 refers to Paul’s writing as Scripture. When Peter talks about Paul’s writings he says some things are hard to understand, so how do we know we are understanding them correctly? It helps me to think that Jesus said Peter is the Rock on which the Church would be built because that makes me think God has given him authority to say that Paul’s writings are valid. However, I’m not sure which writings Peter was talking about when he said that. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, Paul and Peter didn’t seem to agree on everything. Paul says all Scripture is God breathed in 2 Tim 3:16-17, but to me this argument is circular. And Paul didn’t even know his letters would be Scripture when he said that, right?
Other arguments suggest that the thoughtful canonization of Scripture means that Paul’s letters were validated as the word of God. But the people who chose to make Paul’s letters part of Scripture were also human. People also say you must have faith that God intervened in compiling the Bible over the centuries, but this seems to be more human supposition. I know many churches that even say they only believe in the infallibility of Scripture in their original languages, implying that the translation process was subject to error. If God intervened in the canonization process, why would He then not intervene with the translation? I love Jesus and enjoy studying Scripture. I just struggle with believing certain promises as I think about this question often. I would love to hear input and thoughts! Thanks so much!