(1Cor 8:1, 2) …We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.
Sometimes we begin to think we have really gained a great understanding of God’s Word, then begin to get puffed up in that knowledge. In the context, Paul mentioned the knowledge of the freedom of believers to freely eat meat regardless of whether it had been a sacrificial offering to idols, but that we should willingly lay aside that knowledge for the sake of a weaker brother or sister. Those who insisted on exercising that freedom at the expense of another’s conscience were puffed up, full of self-righteous pride, rather than walking in the greater freedom of love for another. But this has wider applications, too.
Sometimes we begin to think we know enough of the Word that we become unteachable. My pastor tells the story about a message he was preaching, when he accidentally misquoted a Scripture, saying that the lion and the lamb would feed together. What it actually says is that a wolf and lamb will eat together (Is 65:25). One of the church members went to him after church to correct his quote of the Bible. This person had missed the whole point of the sermon because of this one little knowledge which made no difference to the lesson.
It is easy to memorize Scripture and think that makes you spiritual. Fact is, God does not measure us by how much Word we know, but by how much Word we live unto Him. Even more, He measures us by how much we believe Him and go to Him. While certainly it is good to know His Word, God is more impressed with the one who knows just a few things about it and lives them to honor God than He is in the one who can quote the Bible backward and forward but makes little effort to honor Him in his life. The knowledge of Scripture puffs such a one up and they think it means they have life. But Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, thinking in them you find life. But you refuse to come to Me that you may have Life.” We show that we know Him and love Him by doing the things He says, not by memorizing Scripture.
Sometimes believers are called to be teachers of the Word. Those who are called to this office should be learning to hear from God how to apply Scripture to everyday life, how to correctly teach it. This is not understood with a natural mind through mere human effort (though diligence is also required), but is revealed by the Spirit of God (1Cor 3). But it is easy for a teacher to judge those who are not as knowledgeable (we think), especially if our understanding of a passage is not the same as another person’s.
The Christian world puts greater confidence in those who have been to seminary, who have degrees in theology “proving” they know what they are talking about. Yet often these theologians disagree with each other on some point or another. They each can cite all the Scriptures which supports their opinion. They miss the fact that the Pharisees and Sadducees, who continually argued with Christ, were the trained theologians of their day. They also disagreed with each other on many issues. We can become so caught up in what we think the Word means, that we miss what it really teaches. We become so trapped in our traditions that we nullify the Word of God, and in effect become unteachable.
Here is how my pastor (who is theologically trained, btw) explains the calling of the Kingdom. God does not call the trained, but trains the called. While, of course, we must have some knowledge, some equipping, before we can teach God’s Word, we do not have to be able to recite all the doctrines of the Bible, know all the man-made interpretations. We are placed into ministry by God not because we are fully trained and ready, but because we must first realize how little we actually know, so we can grow into teaching. You can increase in knowledge by going to school, but you can only learn to teach God’s truth God’s way by learning to depend on Him as you teach. In God’s Kingdom, you do not learn His ways merely through knowing the letter. You learn the Kingdom through living the Kingdom.
Let me give you an example. I was a naughty boy when I was a younger man, and went to prison. While there, I took a class on basic small gas engine repair, and later became a student aide. You start off in class by learning the letter, by learning the basics from books. Only when you have reached a certain point in your studies do you go out into the shop to begin putting into practice what you learned. When it comes to mechanics I learned something about myself – I am good with the letter, with the theory, but I have little aptitude for actually doing mechanical work. I was good enough at the books that they made me student aide in the classroom, but my talents do not lie in mechanical practice. I could teach other students the math, how to read a micrometer, how the engine works, but broke things when I tried to do the repairs.
This is a lot like God’s Kingdom. We may have the knowledge of the letter of God’s Word, have a lot memorized chapter and verse, and be able to argue doctrine until we are blue in the face, but if it is not working something in us it is of no spiritual value. We can quote Scripture, know all the “Thou shalt not’s,” but without the life of Christ it is only so much noise. Many can quote the Bible all day long, but they cannot lift so much as a finger to show you how to live it.
But the Kingdom is first and foremost about love (1Cor 8:3). Love edifies, builds up. Instead of standing over each other showing how much we think we know, we must walk in love. If we love God, then we are known by Him. Love of God and our brothers and sisters in Christ is the motivation of all things spiritual.