(1 Corinthians 8:1-3)
Every so often you come up against a scripture you have to spend some time meditating upon. You mull it over and pray over it seeking the fullness of the meaning and asking the Lord to provide insight.
Such was the case for me with this set of verses today. I have been thinking about this section of scripture for the past week trying to understand the significance of the words, and seeking to know all there is to know about this section.
I'm still not sure I've got it, but I have seen some things in a different light and will share what I can. Please also, if you see something more that I have missed, then add it into the comments section below. It will be greatly appreciated by me and all those who read this blog.
Knowledge Puffs Up
Ok. The first verse talks about food offered to idols and idol worship. I am not so concerned about the first part of this verse which speaks of one form of idolatry, which is not to say that is important. But I am fascinated by the second part of the verse. It says,
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. – (1 Corinthians 8:1)
It seems on the surface an odd way to introduce a discussion about love and knowledge by speaking of food offered to idols. But this was a common practice in those days and it still exists today in many parts of the world where idol worship is prevalent.
Everyone has some form of knowledge. We all know what we know. But having a form of knowledge does not make it or us correct.
For thousands of years people had the knowledge that the earth was flat and that the earth was the centre of the solar system. This so called knowledge prevailed until people like Columbus and Copernicus, Keppler and Galileo proved them wrong. And for their efforts at increasing the knowledge of man as to what was right, they all suffered. Some were branded as heretics, some chased and persecuted and some simply labelled as mad men.
And by so doing their opponents showed the truth of this scripture. “Knowledge puffs up.”
These opponents became puffed up in their knowledge and became arrogant and prideful. They were unwilling to accept that any other possibility might be more true and more accurate than what they knew.
And this is how knowledge puffs up a person. The old saying that a little knowledge can be dangerous is true, especially in the hands of a person with power. They do not want to see their piece of knowledge shattered so that they can remain the experts in whatever field they are in. They will cling to their knowledge, not sharing it with others for they fear being replaced or usurped as the “go to person.” They think they will lose their their power base and prominence if someone else has knowledge and so they defend it vehemently, even if their knowledge is incomplete or just plain false.
Love Builds Up
The contrary view though is the view of love.
The aim of love is not arrogance, competition, controversy or hoarding. The aim of love is to share and build others up. The aim of love does not say, “What's in it for me,” instead it says, “How may I serve you.”
The love of God, and that is the love we are speaking about in this verse, is a love that serves others and the good of all. As we see in the following verses, the love of God helps, builds, share and grows as it works in and through people.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Unlike knowledge for the sake of knowledge, love builds up, it does not puff up.
And if we have knowledge about anything that can help another person, then acting through love we do not hoard that knowledge to keep a level of importance or power, we share the knowledge for their benefit. What we find too when we share the knowledge is that we gain the respect of others and we become the “go to person” that knowledge hoarders wish to be.
Why? Because when we act in love and share what we know we earn people's respect. We become a help and not a hindrance. And being humble in the love of God rather than arrogant, we are in a position to learn new things.
God can teach the humble person new things because a humble person will listen. A person acting and living in the love of God is able to listen and accept new things, especially the hard things that may even be counter-intuitive or even the polar opposite of what they may currently believe to be the truth, like the earth is NOT flat and the earth is NOT the centre of the solar system.
Extending this principle to spiritual matters and Christian teachings we may learn many things about the ways of the Lord and the will of God that are not being taught in many of the modern churches. Look at the opposition the early church and the Lord Himself received and took from the “knowledgeable” people of their times. The scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and chief priests wanted desperately to protect their knowledge not realising there is a much better way than the path of sacrifices and offerings under the law. And they were more than prepared to kill to silence the early church.
Today there are many false teachings accepted in the modern church that are likewise false. We are warned many times about false teaching and false doctrine in the bible, and yet it is rife within the church. And as in the early church and days of old, those who hold fast these false teachings prosecute those who do not accept these lies.
Most people in the churches accept what they are told, not understanding the importance of seeking the truth for themselves. It is essential we seek ourselves from the Lord if we are to find the truth. It will not be handed to you on a platter. And you must be humble enough to listen to new things, but also to weight them against the scriptures with prayer and study to ensure what is being said is correct. This is how we learn.
Which brings me to the next two verses which tell us some interesting things.
2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. – (1 Corinthians 8:2-3)
Here is the arrogance of knowledge. Anyone who imagines that they know something is someone who is being arrogant. What knowledge we have is incomplete and has gaps. We do not know anything fully and totally, especially in matters of the spirit because we are not yet perfected in the image of Jesus Christ.
Elsewhere in the bible it speaks of our “vain imaginings” and much of our knowledge, especially the false knowledge that abounds in this world and even in the church, is indeed in vain. It is a great vanity to think otherwise.
Should we then ignore knowledge and cease learning? Absolutely not! We need instead to approach the acquisition of knowledge through the love of God, not knowledge for knowledge's sake.
We must learn in humility, learn to grow, learn to love, learn to apply what we learn and to share what we are learning with others. Of these, as the scripture shows us, when we love God we have the greatest knowledge of all. The knowledge that we are known by God.
Knowledge is important when it is sought in love and applied in love according to the will of God. We cannot grow without seeking knowledge. But the key is how we use it and seeking it in humility so that the knowledge we seek is applied in the will of the Lord to build up rather than to hoard or worse, to tear people down, and by so doing we are known by God.
What are your thoughts? Tell me what you think by adding your perspective on this matter in the comments.
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