1 Corinthians 8:1–3 (NASB95)
1 Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.
Knowledge is a good thing. It is how we grow and learn about God and our world. It is how we pass information on from generation to generation. It was required to eliminate polio, construct the Golden Gate Bridge, and put a man on the moon. It is so essential to our life that I can’t even dream of a world in which knowledge does not exist. I have spent decades of my life pursuing knowledge in classrooms and bible studies. Yet, knowledge is a very dangerous endeavor for anyone to undertake, especially the believer.
I had the pleasure a few years ago of talking with a Bible college student about seminary. He was the best man at the wedding of one of my former youth group students. He was going into his third year at a bible college in South Carolina, and he had been debating on whether he wanted to continue on into seminary. He had a passion for knowing God and equipping others, but he was afraid of what seminary might do to him. He had struggled before with becoming dogmatic and unloving in the pursuit of theological knowledge. I agreed with him that this is a very real danger.
You see, while knowledge is not a bad thing, it is preloaded with the very real possibility of puffing us up and making us arrogant. In many circles, knowledge, even biblical knowledge, is pursued as an end in itself. Knowledge by itself destroys. It builds an independence from God that destroys the childlike, trusting dependence that we were made for. Some seminarians actually seem to be pursuing the knowledge of God for just that reason. Like anything, the more we know about something the less we have to live in uncertainty and the more we believe we can control that thing. In this estimation, the pursuit of biblical knowledge at seminary sounds like a sure recipe for losing one’s faith (their trusting dependence up our Lord).
There is a solution for the student of the bible though. In fact, scripture gives us two in 1 Corinthians 8. The first is to pursue knowledge not as an end in itself but with the goal of loving God and those around us. Knowing the Bible does not build up on its own. It must be accompanied by a strong desire to pursue deeper levels of love for the God who breathed it out and for those who He sent His Word to impact. Later in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, “If I...know all mysteries and knowledge…but do not have love, I am nothing.” Knowledge without love is worthless. On the other hand, knowledge motivated correctly is actually a critical way to increase your love for others (Phil. 1:9).
The second is to recognize how small our understanding is. We should approach any acquisition of biblical knowledge with a deep understanding of our lack of smarts. The moment we start believing that we have read enough, studied enough, and went to school for long enough to have full understanding is the moment to God says “you don’t get it at all.” You see it is not about how much we know but how dependent we are upon the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
May we be people who seek to love God and others more deeply by our pursuit of biblical knowledge.