the knowledge which matters in the kingdom

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.

1 Corinthians 8

In this passage (to see its entirety, click the above link), Paul goes on to argue his point in terms of theology. So it’s not like knowledge is set aside. But the context for knowledge ends up being crucial for us in Jesus.

Of course we need to see knowledge with reference to the received tradition of the church, how the church has read and interpreted the scriptures with the assumption that at least in matters pertaining to the gospel, the church has been led by the Spirit in its basic teaching, setting details of difference around many subjects aside.

Paul’s concern in the passage is a failure not to act out of love for a weaker brother or sister, or for one who may be coming to faith, but whose faith may still not be established. Interestingly, Paul then goes on to teach why those who had scruples over the possibility of eating food sacrificed to idols, actually shouldn’t worry about it, since an idol is nothing at all in the world, there being one God alone. And Paul says, as well, that Christians, whose conscience is strong on this issue, should still refuse to eat food sacrificed to idols, when they know such has been sacrificed as in consecrated to an idol, not for their own sake, but for the sake of others whose consciences may be weak due to their lack of understanding on the matter.

The point here is that in everything we need to be acting out of love, and not in an assumed superiority of knowledge. And when we do so, the knowledge we need from God will come. But in this text, that our goal is to help the weak out of love. This is something of what got Jesus himself in trouble with the religious authorities he was interacting with. They were about acting on their interpretation of truth; Jesus was about helping others in love to come to a knowledge of the truth, which in essence ends up being Jesus himself.

Love is crucial when we are considering how to approach matters which lend themselves to controversy, a love grounded in the gospel both in terms of is direction and goal. So that we see everything, certainly reflecting on such with the best reason in terms of no less than that out of love for God and for others.




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