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In 1 Corinthians 4:6, Paul tells us to learn the meaning of the saying,

“Nothing beyond what is written.”

Does this mean we are to take the plain and obvious sense of what is actually said, being very careful about making logical deductions from the written text and then attributing to the logical deductions the same force and authority as the original text?

Already posted Answers to a Question about this focus on matters that, to me, seem tangential.

An illustration: I sometimes say about myself that I say what I mean, I mean what I say, and if I didn’t say it, I didn’t mean it. Is something like this what Paul is saying?

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1 Corinthians 4:

6Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

The point is this: Do not boast. Do not puff up yourself. Do not go beyond what is written.

A good example of this is found in Genesis.

New International Version Genesis 2:

16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Genesis 3:

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.

The serpent is puffed up.

He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

He went beyond what God said.

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

Eve also went beyond what God told Adam.

4“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.

Now the serpent got even bolder, directly contradicting the word of God.

Paul's point was to stick to the words of God as closely as possible. Don't add to it. Don't be boastful. Don't go beyond what is written.

Does this mean we are to take the plain and obvious sense of what is actually said, being very careful about making logical deductions from the written text and then attributing to the logical deductions the same force and authority as the original text?

Yes.

OP: I sometimes say about myself that I say what I mean, I mean what I say, and if I didn’t say it, I didn’t mean it. Is something like this what Paul is saying?

Yes. Stick to the words and wordings as close as possible. Do not put words into God's mouth.

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The quoted portion of a verse should not be divorced from its surroundings which says:

Brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us not to go beyond what is written. Then you will not take pride in one man over another.

The context of this part of Paul's discussion begins in 1 Cor 1:12, 13 -

What I mean is this: Individuals among you are saying, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

This continues all the way into 1 Cor 3:5-9 -

5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each his role. 6 I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose,a and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

There was clearly a series of cultic leadership matters in the Corinthian church which Paul sought to dispel. Some of these appear to have brought new light not found in the Bible and taught that as God's Word, which it was not because it was NOT in the Bible.

Thus, Paul concludes his argument with 1 Cor 4:6 -

... do not go beyond what is written

That is, Paul is saying that the inspired word of God, what we now call the Bible, contains all the information we need for salvation and knowledge of God, as Paul continues:

“Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.

Thus, Paul is simply suggesting that all divine doctrine be based on the Bible and the Bible alone. Luther coined the phrase, "Sola Scriptura" to capture this idea. That is, Christ is head of the Church and no human leader. Again, Luther coined another phrase, "Sola Christos" to add to the first.

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  • This is a difficult question since the New Testament was still in progress. Greek philosophy that clashed with Christian theology has always be a problem; for example denial of a bodily resurrection discussed in 1 Cor. 15. One needs to be careful about philosophy that departs from Scripture.
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 4 at 12:08
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    @PerryWebb - I agree. However, the OT also predicts that Messiah would rise from the dead.
    – Dottard
    Jul 4 at 12:10
  • True and commentators mention Paul's OT quotes. A bodily resurrection is also supported by the OT as is our theology about God.
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 4 at 12:24
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Tony,

That was a very good example you showed in Genesis where Eve added to the words.… Eve thought she was pretty smart.

You could just tell she was leaning on her own wisdom because she was looking at the fruit from her senses. After all she was born soulish and easily tempted.

She added her own human wisdom to the word of God…

In turn when she acted on her own wisdom it brought death.

We see how the Pharisees and Sadducees did the very same thing and had become so entrenched in their own wisdom that they killed their source of life as well. Also the multitude became blinded from their corrupt teaching. They had gone astray from the written word of God and added their own.

The apostle Paul was sent to the Gentiles and the body of Christ is starting to form. He does not want the same thing to happen to them.

He knows the temptation for man to be elevated and then divisions begin to happen as people put one teacher against another teacher. Then man's wisdom is added to God's word and corruption follows. A lot of legalistic teaching can be added to God's word and corruption of the grace of God can be seen in lives that that have been hurt by it. What once was life to them becomes death.

Thanks for bringing this verse up again to consider as it seems a lesson that can be learned over and over in again one's own heart.

It seems like it is a very difficult lesson for most of us to learn.

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  • Another good answer, +1, ironically there is traditionally heavy dependence on ‘church fathers’ also who have significantly added to the word delivered.
    – steveowen
    Jul 4 at 22:09
  • Thank you user 48152 for your encouraging words. What you said is so true about some things that have been passed down and taken for granted and later on you find out it's not truth.
    – Sherrie
    Jul 5 at 0:47

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