“Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” – 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul is addressing some issues within the Corinthian church, namely, the controversial subject of whether or not Christians could eat meat sacrificed to idols. Although this particular question isn’t something applicable to believers today, Paul is addressing something that is now incredibly applicable to us: the sin of arrogance. In other words, the Corinthians had a serious attitude problem! Their pretentious behavior was being guided by pride, not love. The Corinthians were enriched in spiritual knowledge and were incredibly proud of their achievements. They wanted to dictate what other believers should and should not do, based on all their knowledge. They were, quite bluntly, acting as “know-it-alls.” An attitude like this is only an evidence of ignorance. In fact, Paul is essentially saying that the person who really knows truth is incredibly sure of one thing: how much he does not know! It’s one thing to know doctrine and quite something else to know God. It is possible to grow in biblical knowledge, and yet not grow in grace or in one’s personal relationship with God.
The test is love. Love and knowledge must go together! Ephesians 4:15 tells us to “speak the truth in love.” Please hear me: knowledge is not bad! Knowledge is a gift! However, to quote the great Schoolhouse Rock educational cartoons I watched on TV growing up, “It’s great to learn ‘cause knowledge is power!” This is absolutely true, but we must be mindful that any kind of power must be used in love. The strong Christians of the Corinthian church were only puffing themselves up, instead of building up the weak saints.
There is a quote by Oswald Chambers that I just love. He says:
“It is a great advantage to know there are deep things to know. The curse of the majority of spiritual Christians is that they are too pompous and certain there is nothing more to know than they know. That is spiritual insanity. The more we go on with God, the more amazed we are at what there is to find out…”
The first time I read that, I thought, “Wow, Oswald, that’s harsh!” And then I thought, “Wow, Oswald, I know some people like that!” And then, being suddenly humbled, I said, “Wow, Lord, please forgive me if that’s me!” You see, Paul instructs the Corinthians that they should be less concerned about what they know and more concerned about Who knows them. Verse 3 says, “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”
You don’t always solve every problem with logic. When one of my children comes into my room at night because they are afraid of monsters in the dark, one thing I don’t say is, “Well, you’re just young and stupid if you believe that monsters are real!” That will not assure them! What will assure them is the loving comfort I provide for them; the love that is also controlled by my knowledge that there are no monsters to be afraid of.
I was so convicted as I read 1 Corinthians 8. Although I realize there is still an endless supply of knowledge about God and His Word that I haven’t even begun to tap into, I wonder if at times my own pride and insecurities cause me to puff myself up, instead of building others up! I had to ask myself, “What is more important to me? What I know or Who I know?” I think we all know what the answer to that question should be. My prayer is that we would not be Christians who are known merely by our own wisdom, but rather Christians who are known by our intimate relationship with the person of God. A deeper understanding of who our Creator is manifests itself as the most important gift of all: “But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Pastor Danielle McEntee