Opinions aren’t lacking at all in our time. Opinions are like bellybottons, everyone has one. Everywhere you go someone is ready to share with you their opinion. One person may say, “My opinion’s just as good as yours.” Of course, that may or may not be true. It is true that we all have a right to our own opinions but we will face the consequences of having wrong opinions. We tend to act on our opinions, often without doing any research to see if the opinion is correct. Opinions aren’t all the same and they aren’t all of equal value. Would my opinion on how one should take care of their heart be of equal value to that of a cardiologist who has been studying the heart and how to make it healthy for many years?
It is expecially interesting to hear people discuss their opinions with regard to the Bible. For some reason, we all feel certain that we not only have the right to our own opinion about the Bible, but that somehow my opinion will be transformed into what is right even if it differs completely from what the inspired writer was talking about when he wrote down the message of God. When it comes to matters of truth, matters of Scripture, our opinions on what the Bible teaches do not have any affect on what it actually does teach. Our opinion is only as correct as it harmonizes with the truth there presented. Having a spiritual opinion, even if I received it from a godly parent or some well known preacher, doesn’t make it right or true. When Jesus came into this world to live among us as a man, he came as God in the flesh. He was in the beginning as the word and as the word he was both with God and was God (John 1:1). Walking among us he both taught God’s will perfectly and lived the will of God perfectly. He is the only one who has actually lived and taught God’s will perfectly.
Jesus told of people standing before him in the judgment of the last day in Matthew 7:21-23. “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. But he who does the will of my father who is in heaven. For many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, in your name cast out demons and in your name done many wonderful works.’ Then I will profess to them that I never knew you.” These people had strong opinions and strong conviction that their opinions were right with God and prepared them for the judgment. They were sure the Lord would tell them to come right on into the kingdom of heaven and enjoy the presence of God. But they were completely wrong on the matter. They were headed to hell all along. Paul warned the Christians in Thessalonica that they needed to be sure the loved the truth and stuck with the truth or God would allow them to believe a lie and be condemned (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12)
Are there opinions in the Bible? There are certainly opinions in the Bible and many of the ones there expressed are wrong. For example the Book of Job is an inspired record of what some uninspired people had to say. God didn’t want us to go to that book and read the opinions of Eliphaz, Zophar, Bildad and Elihu and believe them to be right. Yet it gives a correct rendering of what they believed was right. Even some of the opinions Job expressed were mistaken and had to be corrected by God. But the Bible doesn’t claim inspiration for everything quoted in the Bible. After all it gives quotes from Satan as when he tempted Jesus in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. When the Bible is quoting what some man said as his opinion it is obvious that they are giving an opinion. It is never the case that God has people claiming to be speaking for him through inspiration when they are simply giving their opinions. Now it is true that many who claim to speak for God today and claim inspiration from him are saying things that not only aren’t found in the Bible but are in direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches. It is worth remembering that the Holy Spirit is God and He hasn’t learned anything new since the Bible was written. If he were speaking directly to people today he certainly wouldn’t say things that are in contradiction to what he said in Scripture.
In I Corinthians 7 there are some intriguing statements from Paul with regard to opinions and Scripture. This chapter is given to answering questions the church in Corinth has sent to Paul especially regarding marriage. We don’t know exactly what the questions were which makes it a challenge at times to know exactly what he is answering. But notice at one point he said that what he was telling them was “Not I, but the Lord” and then he will answer a different question and say, “Not the Lord, but I”. In Verses 10-11 talking about Christians married to fellow Christians he told them that his answer wasn’t from him but from the Lord and the point he made was that they should not divorce one another. But if they separate they should remain unmarried or be reconciled to each other. When he stared the discussion of a Christian married to a nonChristian he said it wasn’t from the Lord but him.
His point was that Jesus had spoken while on earth to the first point but that he hadn’t spoken to the second so Paul is giving his inspired message on that topic. He then laid out the principle that one should remain in the state in which they are called as Christians. He said this was something he taught in all the churches. He gave two illustrations of the point with regard to circumcision and slavery. With slavery one was to remember that if they were slaves of men they were free in Christ and if they were free from men they were slaves in Christ. If one could be freed from human slavery then do it but if they couldn’t it didn’t affect their relationship with God. He then applied that same principle to a virgin who had never been married and to one who had been married but was not released from the bond of marriage. Notice his words, “Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.” (Verses 25-26) His point was “Are you bound to a wife, don’t seek to be released. Are you released from a wife, don’t seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life and I am trying to spare you.” (Verses 27-28) Does this mean that Paul wasn’t speaking by inspiration on this point and that he was simply expressing an opinion? That doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s possible that the point is that God’s revelation doesn’t answer every single question we can come up with and sometimes the best we can do is reason from the things the Bible does teach to answer specific questions. The fact that Paul would go ahead to say that while he recommends that one should not marry in this circumstance but that the one who does so, doesn’t sin does indicate that this isn’t a matter of law from God. Some things are recommended because they are best for us but doesn’t mean we sin in failing to follow that teaching.
Later in the last two verses of this chapter Paul deals with one more question on marriage. “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my opinion she is happier if she remains as she is; and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.” (Verses 39-40) The first part of this teaching is part of the law of God that a wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. It is the matter of only marrying in the Lord that he is declaring as an opinion. But notice he also said that he thought he had the Spirit of God on the matter. Inspiration didn’t destroy ones ability to think or believe a matter. As an inspired man of God he felt the Spirit was leading him in this matter. He was applying principles that had long ago been given to God’s people. It seems that he wasn’t always able to tell if a thought was coming from God by inspiration or if it was his thoughts based on his understanding of Scripture.
Perhaps the most significant thing that is said in this whole matter is when Paul tells them what he thinks they should do to bring a happier life, doesn’t mean that they sin if they do something different. What should stand out about this point more than anything else is that Paul never allowed his ego to become so big that he thought everyone had to agree with everything that he thought or said. Sometimes even as an inspired man of God he was giving great advise, not another law on the subject.