1 Corinthians 8:1 (NKJV) "Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.
Paul is here warning the Corinthians against pride caused by their knowledge. Do we need such a warning? Do we wrestle with pride because of our knowledge? I think that we need this warning every bit as much as the Corinthians did.
Paul is answering questions that the Corinthians had asked him. Their question here was concerning "things offered to idols" These questions were arising against a particular background, that being that these Christians had at one time been themselves involved in that idolatry. That was part of their old way of life. The Greeks and Romans were polytheistic, worshiping many gods. They had a god, or a group of gods, for every circumstance, every need. They had a god of war, a goddess of love, a god of travel, a goddess of justice, and on and on. They had been saved out of that background. As Christians, what should they do about meat that was offered to idols? It was even complicated by a further fact. There had been a counsel in Jerusalem some years before. The judgement that had emerged from that counsel by the apostles and elders and had been sent out to the Gentile converts was, as follows; because of the conscience of Jewish persons, it would be better for the Gentile converts to abstain from meat offered to idols. There were no doubt those at Corinth who were citing this counsel and teaching that eating meat offered to idols was wrong.
There were some in Corinth who were mature enough to realize that eating meat offered to idols was really not an issue of spirituality. They knew that idols were nothing and they could eat the meat with no problem. However, there were others in Corinth who did not feel that way, they were not sure if it was permissible. You can imagine the conflict that developed over this.
The phrase, "We all have knowledge," is probably a Corinthian slogan. This slogan most likely reflects the position of the strong believers in Corinth. Notice in verse 7 that not everybody at Corinth shares this knowledge, some of them are weak.
1 Corinthians 8:7 (NKJV) However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
Paul addresses himself primarily to the strong believers in the church. Contextually, the knowledge spoken of is knowledge concerning idols as we see in verses 5-6.
1 Corinthians 8:5-6 (NKJV) For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
To bring this into the twentieth century, and apply it to our situation, we could say, " We know that we all have knowledge about eschatology." We know that the Jewish age ended in AD 70; we know that the Lord returned in that generation just as He said he would; we know that we now live in the New Covenant age of the New Heavens and Earth. Yes, we could truly say that we all have knowledge. Now notice what Paul says about knowledge.
Paul makes a statement about knowledge that I would like to focus on this morning, "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." This is a statement that would do us all well to ponder. We are big on knowledge here at Berean Bible Church. We love to study and debate the truths of the Word of God. This is a very worthwhile pursuit but we must be carful of pride. Paul says, "Knowledge puffs up." The Greek word translated "puffs up" is phusioo, the primary sense is of blowing; to inflate, i.e. (fig.) make proud. It makes one arrogant, it leads to pride. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand what he means. We all know the tendency of knowledge to lead to pride. When we know something that others don't, we have a tendency to look down on them, to belittle them because we feel superior. You can understand that, can't you?
This word that Paul uses here is only used in the NT six times, five of those occasions are in 1 Corinthians. One of the great problem of the Corinthians was their pride. Let's look at a few of Paul's uses of this word.
1 Corinthians 4:6 (NKJV) Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.
Paul is warning them not to think too much of themselves, not to think that they are better than others.
1 Corinthians 4:18-19 (NKJV) Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power.
The Corinthians had a problem with pride. They truly felt that they were superior to others because of their knowledge.
1 Corinthians 5:2 (NKJV) And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
They were even proud about sin in their midst. They must have been proud of their tolerance of sin.
Colossians 2:18 (NKJV) Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
The Colossians seemed to have the same problem, they were proud about their knowledge. The words "Puffed up" refer to pride itself. The pride of the Corinthians demonstrated a lack of love. "Love is not puffed up," Paul tells them in chapter 13.
1 Corinthians 13:4 (NKJV) Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
Love isn't puffed up, but they were very puffed up. They were being controlled by pride and not by love. The Corinthians were right in what they believed, idols are nothing. But they were wrong in how they handled that knowledge.
So often we are impatient and unkind because we think we are right and other are wrong. We feel because we are right, we deserve better treatment than we are getting, this is pride. And we need to understand that the root problem in any conflict between two people is most often a result of pride.
Proverbs 13:10 (NKJV) "By pride comes nothing but strife,
When ever there is a division between a husband and wife, or a parent and child, or one believer and another believer, there is always a root cause, which quite often is pride. And where there is pride, there is no love. Love is not proud.
Pride revolves around three steps.
1. The person begins to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, he has an unrealistic view of himself. Paul warned the Romans of this attitude:
Romans 12:3 (NKJV) "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."
With all the talk about low self-esteem today, it's hard to imagine that we could actually think too much of ourselves. But to an honest person, it becomes clear that this is in fact our greatest problem.
And once a person has an unrealistic view of themselves , they think that they are better than they are. And it is a very short step to the second step.
2. They begin to think that they are superior to others,
Philippians 2:3 (NKJV) "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."
And when that takes place the third step is;
3. He thinks that he has a right to certain things to which he has no right whatsoever.
Isaiah 14:14 (NKJV) "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.'
That is the essence of pride. The solution to the problem of pride is to see yourself in a proper manner; to see yourself as a sinner saved and sustained by the grace of God alone. All we are, all we know, and all we have is a gift of grace from God. What do we have to be proud about?
1 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV) For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
Deuteronomy 8:18 "And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
James I. Packer, in his book "Rediscovering Holiness," writes, "Pride blows us up like balloons, but grace punctures our conceit and lets the hot, proud air out of our system. The result...is that we shrink, and end up seeing ourselves as less--less nice, less able, less wise, less good, less strong, less steady, less committed, less of a piece--than ever we thought we were. We stop kidding ourselves that we are persons of great importance to the world and to God.... We bow to events that rub our noses in the reality of our own weaknesses, and we look to God for strength quietly to cope."
Pride and arrogance breed contention, with which the Corinthian church was filled. In such things, love has no part. Pride is big-headed; love is big-hearted.
In "One Church from the Fence," Wes Seelinger writes: "I have spent long hours in the intensive care waiting room ... watching with anguished people ... listening to urgent questions: Will my husband make it? Will my child walk again? How do you live without your companion of thirty years?"
"The intensive care waiting room is different from any other place in the world. And the people who wait are different. They can't do enough for each other. No one is proud. The distinctions of race and class melt away. A person is a father first, a black man second. The garbage man loves his wife as much as the university professor loves his, and everyone understands this. Each person pulls for everyone else."
"In the intensive care waiting room, the world changes. Vanity and pretense vanish. The universe is focused on the doctor's next report. If only it will show improvement. Everyone knows that loving someone else is what life is all about."
I realized the truth of this last week as our plane lost power and began to fall (Christmas Crash pictorial). I wasn't thinking about doctrine, or things I had learned or accomplished. I was thinking about relationships; my wife, my family, my friends. The things that mattered to me in that moment were the relationships that I had made, the people that I love. Long before we're in a crisis situation or an intensive care waiting room, maybe we can learn to live like that.
Paul is warning them that knowledge can lead to pride. I hope you understand that.
This little phrase, "knowledge puffs up," has been greatly misused by many to depreciate knowledge. But I don't think that is what Paul is doing. Of all the apostles, Paul is least likely to be accused of belittling doctrine, the knowledge of God's Word. Notice what he prayed for the Colossian believers;
Colossians 1:9 (NKJV) "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;"
Knowledge of God's Word is extremely important. It is impossible to believe or obey what is not known. Would you agree with that? How would we know we are to love apart from the teaching of the Word? How would we know what love is apart from the teaching of the Word? The Bible places no premium on ignorance.
What does Paul mean when he says, "knowledge puffs up?" I believe that what he is saying is that knowledge alone is not enough. Knowledge alone will just make you proud. But knowledge controlled by the attitude of love will build up. Notice what he says in:
1 Corinthians 13:2 (NKJV) "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."
Knowledge without love is NOTHING! Love and knowledge must go together. It has been said, "Knowledge without love is brutality, but love without knowledge is hypocrisy." Knowledge is power and it must be used in love, but love must always be controlled by knowledge
Philippians 1:9 (NKJV) "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,"
The strong believers in the church had knowledge, but they were not using it in love. They were not "speaking the truth in love," as Ephesians 4:15 commands us to do. They were speaking the truth, what they said about idols was true, but they weren't speaking it in love. They were putting down the weaker believers, maybe even making fun of them, because they didn't understand that idols were nothing. We would never do anything like that, would we? I am afraid we do it too often.
We must always realize that no matter how much we know, our knowledge is incomplete. We are in a growth process in the Christian life, and we are all at different stages of knowledge. We are growing in knowledge as the Lord illuminates us. You do not know all that you can know? Someone has defined knowledge as "the process of passing from the unconscious state of ignorance to the conscious state of ignorance." We all still have much to learn.
The principle is this; there is something more important than knowing, and that is loving. Love in the life of a Christian is superior to knowledge. Paul is saying this as a rebuke to those at Corinth who were very proud of their knowledge. I believe that we should also take this as a rebuke. We put a lot of emphasis on knowledge here at BBC but do we love? This is a theme that is consistent with all of the NT, there is something more important than knowledge and that is love. As Paul gives the fruit of the Spirit, the first of the nine is love. Paul says now abideth faith, hope, and love but the greatest of these is love. Jesus said that his disciples would be distinguished by what? Knowledge? No, love.
John 13:34-35 (NKJV) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Love is superior to knowledge. The determining criteria for the conduct of a Christian is not what the Christian knows, but is his love for other Christians.
It is a lot easier to study than to love; isn't it? Sure it is. Again, I am in no way depreciating doctrine, if you know me at all, you know that. I am calling for us to always let love guide our living. If we have all of our doctrine in the right slots but don't love others, we are not loving God or living lives that are pleasing to Him.
As Jesus spoke those words in John 13, His ministry was coming to a close. It was the night before his death and He was spending these last hours with His disciples to prepare them for His departure. Jesus said that His disciples would be identified by their love. Love is the identifying mark of a disciple of Jesus Christ. We know that and yet we often act like knowledge is what distinguishes us as Christ's disciples.
Jesus said in John 13, "A new commandment I give to you." Is the fact that they were to love others new?
Leviticus 19:18 (NKJV) 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
The word "new" is kainos, new in freshness; while neos, is so with respect to age. New here seems to be in reference to motive and scope -- "As I have loved you," instead of "as thyself."
"By this" -- our love for one another -- we are identified as Christ's disciples. Think about that for a moment. How many folks that you come in contact with know that you are Christ's disciple because you demonstrate love?
Tertullian said, "The heathen are wont to exclaim with wonder, 'see how these Christians love one another and how they are ready to die for one another.'" Does the world say this of us today? Does our love identify us as disciples of Christ?
If not, why?
What does it mean to love? Love is agape, the divine love produced by the Spirit in the life of the yielded believer. Love is an act of self-sacrifice.
John 3:16 (NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
God's love caused Him to act, to meet a need.
John 15:12 (NKJV) "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
This is not a request, but a command. How had he loved them? By coming into the world to give his life as a sacrifice for our sins.
John 15:13 (NKJV) "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.
Here is the greatest definition of love-- the supreme sacrifice. We must understand that we cannot truly love God without loving one another.
1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV) If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
How do we love others? God is commanding us to act in a certain way toward others that demonstrates our love.
1 John 3:16-18 (NKJV) By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
Agape love is an act of self-sacrificial service toward somebody who has a need. The word "heart" is a bad translation of the Greek word splagchnon which means spleen, intestine, or viscera. Figuratively, it means pity or sympathy. To the Hebrew mind, the heart referred to thinking and the gut to feeling. We are to meet the needs of others out of compassion or sympathy and not just duty.
I saw a news program the other night about a five year old girl who was born with a condition that they call "short gut." She had no intestines at all and had never eaten a bite of food. In a spiritual sense, many Christians are like that; they have a spiritual "short gut," meaning they have no compassion for others. The little girl needed a five organ transplant in order to live. What Christians need is to go through some pain and suffering in order to be a little more compassionate toward the pain and suffering of others.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Those believers who have been through the difficult experiences of life are more compassionate and able to comfort others in their time of trouble.
Love is self-sacrifice, but not all self-sacrifice is love.
1 Corinthians 13:3 (NKJV) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
You can do acts of sacrifice for many reasons and you can do them grudgingly. Our motive for self-sacrificial service must be a desire to please God and see that the person's best interest is met. Caring without action is emotionalism. Acting without caring is legalism. Caring and acting is biblical love. We are all commanded to love one another.
Loving others isn't easy, we are all so prone to selfishness. It isn't easy, but it is possible as we submit to the Spirit and allow Him to work through us. Biblical love expresses itself in many many ways but I would like to focus on just one this morning-- sympathetic service. Look with me at:
Philippians 2:19-20 (NKJV) But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.
Timothy was Paul's son in the faith. And Timothy was a disciple of Jesus Christ. Paul said that Timothy was, like-minded. Tim was just like Paul, he had a love for other believers. He said that Timothy would "sincerely care for your state." The word "sincerely" is the Greek word gnesios, it means legitimate or genuinely. He has the heart of a true disciple. He genuinely cared for the Philippians. The word "care" is the Greek word merimnao, which means to be anxious, worried or burdened in a serious way; to be troubled with care. It is a strong verb. Paul uses this same word in:
2 Corinthians 11:28 (NKJV) besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
Paul uses the noun form here. The care of the church was shared by Paul and Timothy. When you look at the context of this verse, it makes Paul's care for the churches quite amazing. Now notice the use of this word in Philippians 4
Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Here Paul tells the Philippians not to be anxious - merimnao. Are Paul and Timothy in violation of this principle? This verb is often used in the Gospels "take no thought for your life." And "thought" is merimnao. What is forbidden in the gospels and in Philippians 4 is anxious care for one's self and one's own interest. Timothy and Paul's anxiety was for the spiritual welfare of others, and that is biblical anxiety.
1 Corinthians 12:25 (NKJV) that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
This verse states our Christian responsibility for other believers, using this identical verb. Love is seen in sympathetic service of others. It's amazing how often we see this reversed. We find ourselves guilty of anxiety over our own interest to the exclusion of the well being of others. What we are forbidden to do in our own lives, we are commanded to do for others.
Notice what Paul says in Philippians 2; he doesn't say others care for themselves and not for you, but not for Christ. To be concerned for other Christians is to be concerned for Christ. Christ is one with His people.
Knowledge is important, we must know the truth. But we must remember that knowledge without love leads to pride. Our first and foremost calling is to love each other. It is this love that will distinguish us as the disciples of Jesus Christ. When is the last time you set aside something on your agenda to meet someone's needs? If you have to think too long, that is a bad sign.
May I remind us that love starts in the home. Husbands, do you love your wives? Do you care about their needs? Wives, do you love your husbands? Do you care about their needs? Parents, do you love your children? Children, do you love you parents? Do you minister to the needs of those in your family with sympathetic service?
If, in your quest for knowledge, you find yourself acting unloving toward others, you are becoming proud. Knowledge alone will lead to pride. But knowledge and love will build others us. Biblically, it is so clear that God has called us to love each other, how do we miss it. We often continue to press ahead for knowledge and treat those around us unlovingly.
In 1998, let's continue to grow in our knowledge of God's Word but may we always keep in mind that our highest priority as believers is to love one another.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV) And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.