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What the Bible says about Knowledge, Puffing up
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Ecclesiastes 7:23-29

This entire section examines wise judgment, whether the source of our problems is God, fellow man, or ourselves. We must ask ourselves if we are truly making an effort to pursue holiness, without which, Paul says in Hebrews 12:14, “no one will see the Lord.” Is that where our problem lies? Are we really making an effort worthy of the treasure we have been freely given? Do we have something to repent of regarding the time and energy we expend? Our conclusion will parallel his conclusion to some degree: It is no wonder that salvation must be by grace!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 balances this: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” We will never have complete answers because God in heaven is also working things out in our lives, and His purposes take precedence over our weak efforts and conclusions. Much is beyond our control.

Two major truths are revealed from Solomon's confession: First, a truly wise person will be humbled realizing that he does not know everything, and this lack of knowledge will affect his choices and conduct because he knows he is terribly ignorant. Second, the humbling will move him to be cautious in his judgments so that he does not condemn God, others, or even himself. Recognizing these truths tends to balance our thinking because we know that what we have now is marvelous—but crumbs compared to what is coming. Thus, we can see that a study of the path Solomon took, though difficult, can be beneficially humbling.

The children of God must be constant learners. Why? We are not merely looking for salvation but also preparing for the Kingdom of God and for service to Him and mankind in that Kingdom. However, we must submit to the fact that the knowledge of God is like a distant star, a destination so far off that we will never reach it in dozens of lifetimes. This reality points to why we need everlasting life. We must humbly accept this truth now, knowing we will never reach it, but keep earnestly working toward it to be as prepared as possible.

I Corinthians 4:1-8 presents a hurdle we must deal with regarding the accumulation of knowledge or position:

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you have not received it? You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!

A pitfall exists even in the earnest search for wisdom and truth: Human nature sometimes follows the path of flaunting it. We must be strongly resist this. The wise person knows this is true and resists self-glorification, making him wiser.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Thirteen): Confessions

1 Corinthians 8:1

"Puffs up," when opposed to "edifies," implies tearing down, destruction. Paul is saying that pride has the power to corrupt the bearer of knowledge. This statement is part of the prologue to the great chapter on love, written because the Corinthians had allowed their emphasis to drift into the wrong areas. Even as a gift from God, knowledge has the potential to corrupt its recipient, if it is unaccompanied by love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love

1 Corinthians 8:1

It is almost axiomatic that the one with the least reservoir of experience will appear as the most cocky and unyielding, while the one with a vast reservoir of experience - who has concluded that there are even vaster funds of knowledge yet to be learned - will appear as the more provisional and tolerant. In Speech 101, my professor referred to this process as "small pot soon hot." A reason why peer-group instruction sometimes fizzles is the cocky attitude displayed by the person who first "catches on" to some elementary step, lording it over the later bloomers. In the beginning stages of learning, knowledge has the tendency to "puff up", but as one continues to grow in it, a quality of meekness replaces intolerant rigidity.

David F. Maas
Servant Leadership: Practical Meekness

1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Pride makes those who have it bold and rash. It renders them careless of the feelings of others. It leads them to ridicule and condemn others who do not believe exactly as they do. Pride is an aggressive self-confidence.

There is an old saying: "When people learn a little, they imagine a lot." We remember the tag-end of this saying most frequently: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Thus, proud people, using a little bit of knowledge, are often hair-splitting and hypercritical, setting people against each other, dividing congregations and families. Paul is asking, "Is this love?" No, it is certainly not. He is warning against dependence on simply knowing something, since a person never knows all that he ought to know about a given subject. Such an attitude exhibits a complete dependence on one's self-sufficient knowledge. He is "puffed up."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Six)

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I Corinthians 8:1 says, "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies [builds up]." "Puffs up," when opposed to "edifies," implies tearing down, destruction. Paul is saying that pride has the power to corrupt the bearer of knowledge. This statement is part of the prologue to the great chapter on love, written because the Corinthians had allowed their emphasis to drift into the wrong areas. Even as a gift from God, knowledge has the potential to corrupt its recipient, if it is unaccompanied by love.

Paul thus begins chapter 13 by contrasting love with other gifts of God. He does this to emphasize love's importance, completeness, permanence, and supremacy over all other qualities we consider important to life and/or God's purpose.

Prophecies end because they are fulfilled. The gift of tongues is less necessary today as then because of the widespread use of English in commerce, politics and academia. Its value depends on specific needs. Knowledge is increasing so rapidly that old knowledge, especially in technical areas, becomes obsolete as new developments arise. Yet the need for love is never exhausted; it never becomes obsolete. God wants us to use it on every occasion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 




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