Christians should endeavor to learn and grow in their knowledge of doctrine. This is a key aspect of our sanctification process. Orthopraxy (right behavior) flows out of orthodoxy (right belief). Knowledge is foundational to orthodoxy, for proper beliefs are not empty or blind, but established on knowing doctrinal truth.
The apostle Paul certainly grew in his understanding of core biblical truth. As a Pharisee, he would have studied the Scriptures even prior to his conversion. However, after his conversion, he spent several years learning and growing in his faith before his public ministry officially began. Paul was a learned man, strong in doctrine and knowledge.
It is interesting, then, to consider what Paul taught the Corinthian church: “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor 8:1). What an important concept for the Christian to understand. This foundational principle undergirds Paul’s teaching about meat offered to idols. However, the principle applies to all Christian behavior, too.
We have heard the colloquial phrase, “people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” Demonstrating love for others is incredibly important in the Christian life and, Paul would argue, even more important than knowledge. To be certain, Paul is by no means disparaging proper doctrinal truth, belief, and knowledge. Yet he readily admits that knowledge so easily and readily puffs up the individual possessing knowledge, making him/her arrogant.
Arrogance and love cannot intermingle. Biblical love is, in fact, not arrogant. Paul wrote in the same Corinthian letter, “love is not arrogant” (1 Cor 13:4). It should not be our goal to make much of ourselves, but to make much of our God, and to lovingly build up the body of Christ.
Jesus said, “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, indicating that unbelievers would make the connection to our Christianity by the love that we display towards one another as Christians). When unsaved people walk into the doors of our churches, they will evaluate a lot of things. Sure, they will listen to the preaching, but they will especially note whether our people show a genuine love for one another, as well as for them. Are we as churches more known for our great knowledge or for our love? According to Christ, it is our love that is more important.
Paul also told the Corinthians that “though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2).
To be sure, Paul is not saying to throw out knowledge. We need it. But of even greater importance is that we show true, biblical love—for God first, but have that play out in expressions of biblical love for one another, too.
Arrogance is something that should not characterize any believer. While arrogance can stem from various aspects of a person’s life, the one that Paul points out is knowledge. As individual Christians, and as church bodies, we should desire to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 3:18). However, we must never allow our knowledge to grow apart from love. Our love for God and others must shape and inform our knowledge rightly, otherwise we will become arrogant Christians.
May God help us to allow our love for him and others to grow in such a way that would edify the body of Christ and be used to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
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