1 “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.”
The words “now concerning” are a key to noting an important transition in 1 Corinthians. Paul now turns to a new subject running from chapter eight to chapter ten – doubtful things (issues that the Bible does not speak explicitly about) and Christian liberty. This is the second question that the Corinthian church raised for Paul to answer.
There are four principles running through chapters eight through ten:
- The principle of love – intended for the fellow believer, 8:1,13.
- The principle of liberty – intended for the self, 8:4,9.
- The principle of supreme sacrifice – intended for God, 9:1-15.
- The principle of expediency – intended for the non-Christian, 9:16-23; 10:23.
things offered to idols:
The specific issue that raised the greater question of Christian liberty was whether it was right for a Christian to eat meat offered to an idol. If a non-Christian invited a Christian to a meal in his home and the meal contained meat offered to an idol, was the Christian committing idolatry by eating this meat? Some Corinthian Christians said it was a sin to eat it, and others said it was not a sin.
We know that we all have knowledge.
Paul assumes that knowledge is important, but the knowledge that stands alone is incomplete. Mature Christians knew that meat offered to idols was intrinsically nothing. The point of verses one through six is that some believers did not have adequate knowledge of their liberty in Christ. They operated on taboos rather than grace and preferred legalism to liberty.
Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (4:6,18-19; 5:2). Knowledge without love produces pride because it gives a sense of superiority. It is a deluding bubble; it does not build. The word “edifies” means to erect or build as in constructing a building. The mature believer should be constructive with the weaker believer. The issue was one of attitude. Believers in Corinth who understood and practiced their liberty in Christ violated the consciences of weaker believers struggling with eating meat offered to idols. An attitude of love takes into consideration the vulnerabilities of the fellow believer’s faith. The principle of love supersedes the law of liberty when it comes to a weak Christian.
And if anyone thinks that he knows anything,
No one gains complete mastery over any doctrine. If anyone believes he does, he is arrogant. We can know what we know truly but, although it may be true, it is still incomplete because we are finite human beings. We see through a mirror dimly (13:12). A mature person recognizes how little he does know. The more we know, the more humble we are because we know that we do not know completely. The less we know, the more proud we are of what we know.
he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.
Christians need to know by experience as well as theory. Doctrine and love must work as a tandem.
But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.
God recognizes those who love Him. We must subject what we know to the principle of love. Love opens intimacy with God. If we are to treat believers with edification, we need to love them as God loves us. We love with the approval of God’s love. All this implies personal relation to God because the love of fellow believers is an outflow of our love for God.
Doctrine and love must work as a tandem.
There are Christians who look down their long noses at other Christians. This makes them feel superior to what they deem as weaker Christians: “You are not as advanced as I am in the Christian faith, so you need to get with it. How naïve can you be?” This is spiritual self-absorption. It is more interested in self-love than other-love. True spirituality cares about building up other people (edification). It is interested in strengthening them, not tearing them down. As someone once said:
Isn’t it odd that a being like God who sees the facade still loves the clod he made out of sod? Now isn’t that odd?