I have no doubt that anyone who is able to read and understand this message agrees with the above sentiment. Of course, each one of us possesses knowledge about something, right?
The words “We all have knowledge” are part of the message which the Holy Spirit guided the apostle Paul to write to the church of God in Corinth. Here are more complete thoughts: “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1,2). So, what is the general subject that is under consideration in this context? Paul says it is “things offered to idols,” that is, “the eating” of food items which have been offered to idols (8:4).
Paul joined the saints there in agreeing, “. . . we know that an idol is nothing in the world” (8:4). Some church members may have had an attitude something like this: “Look, I know that it is a folly to offer food to a lifeless idol that cannot see, smell, or eat the food. Before it is offered to the idol, it is just food; and, after it is offered to the idol, that is what it still is – food, and nothing more. Because I know that, I can eat that kind of food without hesitation or doubt. I know that I have a right to do this, so it does not really matter what any other Christians think about it.” The knowledge part of that is accurate, but the attitude needs some work.
Knowledge is valuable, yes, even imperative. Christians are instructed to grow in the knowledge of our Lord (2 Peter 3:18). We also are told to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good (Romans 12:9). The only way for us to do that consistently and properly is to have knowledge of God’s will. And, we certainly recall the Master’s words: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Knowing the truth is essential to being made free by it. It is a grave mistake to conclude that knowledge is of little importance.
Yet, while knowledge plays a key role in the decision making of God’s people, there is “more to it” than knowledge. In the eighth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul introduces another element which must be taken into account. In our dealings with other saints, there is more to be considered than knowledge. There is also the love factor. In Paul’s words, “love edifies” (8:1) – love is helpful because it builds up. Brotherly love causes us to think about how our choices might affect others. While we might have liberty in some aspect of life, we are not to use any of our God-given freedoms to “become a stumbling block to those who are weak” (8:9). Our knowledge must be joined with a heart that truly cares about the spiritual well-being of others. Paul personally chose to give up his right to do something that might cause a brother to stumble (8:13).
If “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (8:1), then we should choose love over knowledge, correct? Hold on. Some in the church at Corinth had a puffed up problem. Paul warned them about it (1 Corinthians 4:6,18,19; 5:2). It was possible that a haughty spirit might cause them to make selfish decisions in the matter of eating foods offered to idols and in their dealings, in general, with other members of the church.
Though knowledge is not the ultimate goal, we hasten to repeat that it is not evil to possess knowledge. “But knowledge puffs up.” Well, in a heart that is in love with itself and thinks too highly of itself, yes, knowledge might be a factor in one being puffed up. But let us not make an unfounded conclusion. True or false: anyone who possesses knowledge is puffed up/arrogant. False. Consider Jesus. He knew what was in man’s heart – that is knowledge (John 2:24,25). But, He certainly was not proud or haughty: He was meek and lowly (Matthew 11:29,30). So, let us cast aside any notion that knowledge corrupts individuals and congregations.
We must strive to keep matters in proper perspective. Knowledge without love is cold and of no real value. Paul said of himself, “And though I have . . . all knowledge . . . but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Again, knowledge without action is fruitless, as God wants us to be doers of the word and not learners only (James 1:22). Furthermore, having knowledge of profitable matters but keeping that knowledge to ourselves and not sharing it with others is selfish. It is also true that knowledge with an arrogant spirit is repulsive.
Let us seek knowledge. Let us seek for proper application of that knowledge. Let us seek to have a heart that loves unconditionally. When knowledge and genuine love come together in one heart, that heart can be a powerful force for good
— Roger D. Campbell