While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one God knows and cares for. - 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
That the ancient Greeks were exceptionally clever goes without saying. Anyone who has read their philosophers, attended their plays, studied their buildings, learned their mathematics, or contemplated their art recognizes their unique skills. The problem was that some of them were so smart that they thought they knew it all!
Some of that kind of thinking has seeped into the church, too. In Corinth, there were church members who not only felt they had achieved “perfect knowledge,” but they also thought that “everyone should agree” with it! (1 Cor. 8:1). The people who embraced this attitude felt very important. They were very impressed with themselves!
So bright as they undoubtedly were, the Corinthians had blind spots that needed to be pointed out. First, as Paul said, “Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.”(8:2). Second, “while knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church” (8:1). The Corinthians needed to learn that the person who is impressed with the heights of his knowledge should be alerted to the depth of his ignorance. They also needed to be reminded that, if knowledge is not mixed with love, it can become desperately destructive rather than impressive. Being smart is not the whole story.
Here is a case in point. Greek temples often doubled as restaurants, so that is where Corinthians went out to eat. The fact that part of the ritual in the temple included offering some of the food to an idol was of little or no concern to most of them. They were smart and liberated—remember? They knew that the idol was nothing more than a piece of wood or stone. So as long as the food was good, it was no big deal. The Christians were particularly aware of the irrelevance of idols. They, of all people, knew, “there is only one God and no other” (8:4). So they went to the temple for a good meal.
But some of them were not so sure. They reasoned that going to the temple meant that they were in some way associating with idol worship and, accordingly, it was wrong for them to be there. Not only was it wrong, in their minds, for them to attend such a social event, but they also didn’t think other Christians should go! So the Corinthian church had a controversy on its hands. “To eat or not to eat?”—that was the question.
From a purely intellectual point of view, Paul apparently agreed with those who saw nothing wrong with eating at the temple. He said, “We all know that an idol is not really a god” (8:4). But he looked at the issue from another perspective. What happens when an intellectual conclusion is deeply offensive to a brother? Then love for the brother becomes an important factor—even more important, in this case, than knowledge about the issue.
Knowledge isn’t everything. Love matters, too! So smart people who don’t love have a lot to learn. They’re not as smart as they thought!
For Further Study: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Stuart Briscoe, please visit tellingthetruth.org.