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A Little Knowledge

“Now about meat sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” (I Corinthians 8:1-2)

It is obvious that this text has something specific in mind. Paul is writing in regard to meats that have been sacrificed to idols. Many of the brethren knew that meat was meat, whether cooked on a stove or sacrificed to an idol. They knew they could eat it with a clear conscience. There were also those who thought that because it had been sacrificed to an idol, they would be participating in some kind of sacrilegious worship of God if they, in fact, ate the meat. Those who knew they could eat the meat were imposing their understanding on the other brothers, thus causing them to violate their consciences. Therefore Paul rebukes those who have the knowledge. Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Borrowing this concept from the context, let’s talk about “a little knowledge” for a bit and see if we still have problems connected to it. First of all, let’s get one thing perfectly clear. If every one of us combined our knowledge of God, pooled it all together, measured it against what could be known about God, and then measured it against what God knows, we would all be found as ignorant as a stick. This writer makes no claim of brilliance!

In the church today, we have many who think they know more than they really do. It might be said of them, as Job said to those who were chiding him, “…Surely all wisdom will pass with you.” Because of this over-confidence, or feeling of “superior knowledge,” many problems arise. Those who feel so enlightened are burdened to become the “patrolmen” of the body of Christ. These are very often the source from which most of the complaining and judgments come.

In several books in the New Testament there is obviously a war against a group known as “gnostics.” This name comes from the Greek word for knowledge. Gnostics were, for the sake of brevity, spiritual know-it-alls. They claimed superior knowledge and held many of the brothers in bondage to their form of elite ignorance. Books like Colossians, I, II and III John explode with the problem. Brothers and sisters today who think they know more than they really do can cause a tremendous hardship on the body of Christ. There are some who recognize them for what they are. On the other hand, there are many who are impressed and follow their decisions, their protest, their murmuring and so forth. They are easily led astray, and thinking all the time that this must be right. After all, if brother “Know-It-All” said it, it must be true.

This person wants to be the center of attention. If he or she speaks, you will quite often find them looking around the room, searching for impressed eyes, or perhaps the eyes of the stunned.

In Corinth, oratory was “it”. If you could speak and swoon an audience you were really something. Paul disagreed with that principle. His idea was more like this: If the common person can speak about Jesus, and Jesus can touch your heart, that’s really something. Let’s be careful as we learn, not to become the “spiritual elite.” We have enough already.