Did you know that not every word in the Bible is something we should live by? You have to pay attention to who is speaking. You have probably heard someone say in your lifetime “God doesn’t hear a sinner’s prayer” and point you to John 10:31. That is what the text says. But you have to pay attention to who said it. Jesus healed a man born blind, on the Sabbath. The religious leaders are all upset about it and are looking for Jesus. They asked the healed man who did it and the man says that he knows the man who did it couldn’t be a sinner because God doesn’t hear the prayer of a sinner. What the man is implying is that if Jesus were an unrighteous man and attempted to perform a miracle, God wouldn’t do the miracle through an evil person, so God wouldn’t hear the miracle worker’s prayer for the miracle to take place by the power of God. This man doesn’t at all understand what just happened, how it happened or who did it. He speaks from ignorance, not only on the circumstances of his healing (he was blind when it happened) but also of his statement about God hearing the prayer of a sinner. In context the man doesn’t even mean God couldn’t audibly hear a sinner pray but that God wouldn’t answer such a prayer for an unrighteous person. Jesus didn’t make this statement. The healed man did. His statement is not one to make a doctrine out of! It is important to pay attention to who is speaking.
Another place you find this is in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In chapter 10 Paul begins predicting the Corinthian’s response to his points or else he is familiar with their rebuttals or erroneous claims in the past and is quoting the Corinthians and then responds. Here is the text,
“Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” – 1 Cor 10:23-24
Does Paul really think all things are permissible for him to do? Absolutely not. But he said it. He was quoting his opponents in Corinth. The 2011 NIV adds some words to the text that are not in the Greek to give you the feel for what is going on here,
“23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.“
It is not Paul who believes all things are permissible. It is the Corinthians who believe that and Paul is correcting them. You have to pay attention to who is speaking. If you don’t you can very easily end up thinking some things are inspired, authoritative teaching that are exactly the opposite! The tricky thing is, someone can quote these things to you book, chapter, and verse because they are in the Bible!
Every text is instructive but not every text is authoritative to follow as an example. Judas hanged himself but that doesn’t mean we should as well. But Judas hanging himself can teach us something about sin and how we shouldn’t respond to our failures. It is instructive but not an authoritative example for us.