1 Corinthians 8:1-6. Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 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. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords” — 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
So a quick reminder that 1 Corinthians is a response to a letter from the Corinthian church to Paul. Paul is literally answering questions and topics that they have brought up to him in that letter. Next is a question about eating food offered to idols. But the real question is how do we love each other?
Paul quotes the Corinthians back to the Corinthians when he says all of us possess knowledge. Some of the Corinthians believed in a secret and spiritual knowledge that only a few would ever achieve. For them it was the knowledge that an idol has no real existence, and there is no God but one. Both of these statements sound great, but there’s a problem. The Corinthian Christians with this knowledge about God would eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols because they knew that the idols were just fake gods. But other Corinthian Christians still struggled with this idea. The meat is defiled and therefore we should not eat the pagan feast. These Christians were called “weak” by those who ate the meat. Those with knowledge failed to love their brothers and sisters in Christ. They were arrogant. Once again we’re back to the same problem we’ve seen throughout this letter- grasping for power.
How will Paul address this problem?
First, Paul isn’t completely denying the need for knowledge. In fact, he gives us an amazing clarification on the identity and nature of God in verse 6. There is one God and he is both the Father and he is Jesus and everything exist from and for him. The Father is the Creator God and our lives exist for his glory. Jesus is also the Creator God (Lord = Yahweh) and the one through whom we exist. He is our life. Which means inside of you you have both knowledge and love.
Second, there’s a difference between “knowledge” and learning. Learning is a process and a good one. We are learning to love and be loved. The learner is humble. But the person who claims knowledge is claiming completion. Like a “know it all” they have no respect and get no respect. We are in Christ but we are still learning Christ. We must never claim to have mastered the knowledge of Christ (v.2). We will continue to learn him forever.
Finally, Paul reminds us that the most important knowledge is that God knows you. He knows you intimately, has forgiven you, and has accepted you into his family, and this is what frees us to love and serve others. Knowledge alone will never build up the church, only knowledge added to God’s love can do that.
I think one of the greatest problems in the church today is that we are full of knowledge without love. We spout out our reasons and logic without any care or concern for other’s hearts or minds. Look at our social media. Christians arguing away, trying to prove their point, and win the debate, without winning the relationship. So much of what I read everyday is void of any kind of love for the other Christian on the other side of the internet. Even the believers that are trying to promote love do it without love. They argue from a cry for love with no regard for the convictions, experiences, or especially the weaknesses of the other side. It’s passion without compassion. Truly we are a puffed up generation of Christians.
“To live is Christ” is the marriage of knowledge and love. Christ is truth and he is love. And he lives in you. Yes you have knowledge. But you also have love. So make sure that you always combine the two.
Do you tend to argue with other Christians from your “knowledge?” Do you try to win arguments or do you try to win relationships? How can union with Christ teach us to not talk past each other? Why is it so important to continue to learn Christ and not think you “know it all?” Does God know you? Do you know God (not just about God)?