Knowledge, Love, and Idols - Page 3 (Lessons on First Corinthians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing,
“Any thing” is used here to represent any matter pertaining to science, morals, philosophy, or religion; and the conjunction “And” is not found in the oldest manuscripts. The Greek word which is translated here as “knoweth” means we know or are aware and it implies a personal experimental acquaintance, not merely knowledge of a fact. The verse is a general saying which can be applied to all who are mere pretenders to knowledge. It describes a person who has an unrealistic opinion of himself, or is conceited with his own knowledge, and imagines that he knows more than he does; which is always the case with those who revel in their concocted knowledge, and treat others, that they think are inferior to them, with contempt. All earthly knowledge is partial and fragmentary. There is a saying that asserts, "Knowledge is proud that it has learned so much. Wisdom is humble that it knows no more." In thinking that they knew everything while at the same time despising the brethren they considered ignorant, the Corinthians definitely showed that they did not know as much as they should have known. Paul’s intention was to condemn that vain conceit of knowledge, or self-confidence, which would lead us to despise others, or to disregard their interests. "If anyone’s conceit over his knowledge, is so vain, and proud, and self-confident, that he is led to despise others, and to disregard their opinions and interests, he has not yet learned the very first elements of true knowledge as he ought to have learned them. True knowledge will make us humble, modest, and kind to others. It will not puff us up, and it will not lead us to overlook the happiness of others." “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25; KJV). Keep in mind that, Paul is writing to Christians, who he would later call babies, because they could not understand the deep things of God’s word. He said he had to feed them milk, because they, like babies, could not digest meat.

The first step to knowledge is to know our own ignorance. Without love there is only the appearance of knowledge.
he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

Paul is saying that he does not know what he should know, because if he did, he would know this; that he should desire the peace, comfort, and edification of his brother; and therefore whatever level of knowledge he may imagine he has arrived at, or whatever he may be capable of, and obtain in the future, for the present he must realize that he knows far less than he thinks he does; because he does not know the duty he owes to God and to man; if he knew the former, he would know the latter.

He may have a general knowledge of the vanity of idolatry, and the liberty from Jewish rites which the Gospel affords; but in spite of his knowledge he does not know this; that although the first and greatest commandment says, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and second is like it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. He may meet the requirements of the first part, but he is a failure when it comes to loving his neighbor. He can torment his neighbor’s weak or tender conscience with his food or his conduct without feeling he has done anything wrong, because he does not love him as much as he loves himself, and therefore he knows nothing as well as he ought to know it.

He does not know the true purpose of knowledge, which is to edify and promote the happiness of others. If a man has not learned how to contribute to the happiness of others, it is proof that he has never learned the true objective of knowledge. Paul's intention is to induce them to seek the welfare of their brethren. Knowledge, when applied in the right way, will promote the happiness of all. And it is as true now as it was then, that if a man is as miserly with his knowledge, as he is with his wealth; if he lives to accumulate, and never to pass on; if he is filled with pride for his wisdom, and he does not desire to benefit others by enlightening their ignorance, and guiding them in the way of truth, he has never learned the true use of science, any more than the man has of wealth who always hoards, and never gives. It is valueless unless it is diffused, the same as the sun would be valueless unless it diffused its rays all over the world, and the waters would be valueless if they were always preserved in lakes and reservoirs, and never diffused over hills and valleys to refresh the earth.

Knowledge, or at least having a lot of pride in it, is very apt to swell the mind, to fill it with wind, and to puff it up. It tends to do some harm to our image and reputation, but in many instances it causes greater hurt to others. But true love, and a tender regard for our brethren, will put our minds to work for their best interest, and ourselves to work for their edification.

Observe, there is no evidence of ignorance more common than a conceit over knowledge: If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. He that knows the most understands his own ignorance, and the imperfection of human knowledge. He that imagines himself to be a wise man, and is vain and conceited in this imagination, has reason to suspect that he knows nothing accurately, nothing as he ought to know it. Note, it is one thing to know truth, and another to know it as we ought to, and so it is our duty to improve our knowledge; but if a man simply acquires knowledge components, he is a seriously defective person. Yet, there is a knowledge that is important: the knowledge God has of those who love Him (if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him). There is another knowledge that is important: the knowledge we have of God and His WORD. Unfortunately, as long as we remain in this world, our knowledge of Him is only partial. But true knowledge leads to God, and Paul knew that true love for Him must flow out in love for others.

True knowledge is free from Pride. The self-satisfied pride of the Corinthian believers seems to have made some of them feel that they had attained complete knowledge. They acted like what we would call a “know-it-all.” They were attempting to teach, when they needed to be taught. The believer, who is in most cases, ready to instruct others, has only superficial knowledge: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (1 Cor 3:19; KJV). These Corinthians are all dead, but we have some of the same kind of people in our churches today.

3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

But if any man love God,
If any man is truly in love with God, as he should be; that is, if he loves God with his complete mind, spirit, and soul, if he seeks to serve Him and to promote his glory; he is known and loved by Him. The meaning seems to be this: "There is no true and real knowledge which is not connected with love for God. This will prompt a man to love his brethren, and will lead him to promote their happiness. A man's life, therefore, is not to be regulated by mere knowledge, but the grand principle of life is to love God and to love man. Love enlightens, informs, educates, and improves; love promotes happiness; love will induce a man to do what is right; and love will secure the approval of God." A man should not be guided in his relationships with other men by mere knowledge, however great that knowledge may be; but a better guide is love, whether exercised towards God or man. Under the guidance of love, man would be in little danger of making an error in judgment. Under the direction of mere knowledge, he would never be sure of having a safe guide, because he would always wonder if he knew enough.

“Beloved, if God so
The words "is known," is to be understood here in the sense of "is approved of by God; is loved by him; is highly regarded by God," etc. The word “known” is often used in this sense in the Scriptures. The sense is, "If any man acts under the influence of his love for God, and love for man, he will meet with the approval of God. He will seek His glory, and the well being of his brethren; he will likely do the right thing; and God will approve of his intentions and desires, and will regard him as His child. There may be little to distinguish him in the estimation of the world, since he has little in the way of human knowledge, which puffs up men with vain self-confidence, nevertheless he will have a truly elevated rank, and will receive the approval and praise of God. This is of more value than mere knowledge, and this love is a better guide than any mere intellectual achievement. The person who loves God has found the truth, and also has discovered that he or she can’t be God and know all the answers, because our knowledge of God is always partial: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part” (1 Cor 13:9;KJV). To love God is to submit to Him. Love for God, then, naturally leads to love for other believers.
• “The LORD is good. {He is} a fortress in the day of trouble.

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