Paul said that “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up,” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Knowledge is amoral, but it can be used in moral and immoral ways:
- Morally when it’s combined with love and builds up
- Immorally when it’s combined with pride and leads to condemning others over nonessentials
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Table of Contents
- Sermon Lessons for Knowledge Puffs Up but Love Builds Up
- Family Worship Guide for Knowledge Puffs Up but Love Builds Up
- Sermon Notes for Knowledge Puffs Up but Love Builds Up
- Lesson 1: knowledge is amoral, but the way we use it is moral.
- Lesson 2: having knowledge doesn’t always mean determining who’s right and wrong.
- Lesson 3: knowledge is used morally when combined with love.
- Lesson 4: knowledge is used immorally (part 1) when combined with pride.
- Lesson 4: knowledge is used immorally when (part 2) condemning others over nonessentials.
- Lesson 4: knowledge is used immorally when (part 3) stumbling others.
Sermon Lessons for Knowledge Puffs Up but Love Builds Up
Note: Lessons 1-3 are from the previous sermon: Concerning Things Offered to Idols (1 Corinthians 8:1) – Using Knowledge Morally to Build Up Others
- Lesson 1: Knowledge is amoral, but the way we use it is moral.
- Lesson 2: Having knowledge doesn’t always mean determining who’s right and wrong (1 Cor 8:4-8; Rom 14:5).
- Lesson 3: Knowledge is used morally when combined with love (1 Cor 8:1; Eph 4:15; Phil 1:9).
- Lesson 4: Knowledge is used immorally when:
- (Part I) Combined ________ __________ (1 Cor 8:1).
- (Part II) ____________________ ____________ over nonessentials (Rom 14:1-4, 10, 13).
- (Part III) __________________ others (Rom 2:12-15; 1 Cor 8:9-10)
Family Worship Guide for Knowledge Puffs Up but Love Builds Up
- Day 1: Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-7 and discuss: Why did the Corinthians’ knowledge puff them up? What does it look like to use our knowledge to build up others? What about using it to build up ourselves in pride? What are some ways we can use knowledge to build up others? What are some ways we can work to prevent knowledge from building us up in pride?
- Day 2: Read Romans 14:1-3 and discuss: What does it look like to condemn others with our knowledge? When should we condemn others with our knowledge? When shouldn’t we? How do we know the difference? What makes something an opinion (nonessential) versus an essential? Why does the person with more liberty condemn the person with less? Why does the person with less liberty condemn the person with more liberty?
- Day 3: Read Romans 2:12-15 and 1 Corinthians 8:9-10 and discuss: Why are Jews condemned before God? Why are Gentiles condemned before God? Describe our consciences and how they work. What does it mean to stumble others? Why is it an immoral use of knowledge to do so?
Sermon Notes for Knowledge Puffs Up but Love Builds Up
This morning we’ll continue in 1 Corinthians 8.
The title of last Sunday’s sermon on verses 1-8, was, “Using Knowledge Morally.”
The title of this morning’s sermon on verses 9 and 10, is, “Using Knowledge Immorally.”
I shared that I wanted to begin a series on wisdom to help us navigate through trials and difficulties.
And I think we must understand the differences between knowledge and wisdom…and there’s no better place – at least in my opinion – to understand knowledge than 1 Corinthians 8.
Let me briefly review…
Last week we discussed that knowledge is amoral, but the way we use it is moral. I left this lesson your handout…
Lesson 1: knowledge is amoral, but the way we use it is moral.
Knowledge can be used in moral and immoral ways, and some of the Corinthians were using their knowledge immorally.
They were facing a situation that was dividing their church: “Should we eat meat sacrificed to idols?”
Two groups developed. The first group is in verses 4-6. Look there with me…
1 Corinthians 8:4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
Notice Paul used the used the words we and us b/c he was in this group.
This first group would say…
“Idols aren’t real – there’s no being named Zeus, or Hermes, or Mars – so whatever is offered to them isn’t really offered to anything. I can go in an idol’s temple to buy meat, because it’s no different than any other meat except that it’s cheaper, which means I’m being a good steward of my finances if I buy it.”
The second group is in verse 7…
1 Corinthians 8:7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
This second group would say…
“I don’t want anything to do with meat sacrificed to idols, and no believer should have anything to do with it. You could give it to me for free and I wouldn’t take it.”
Paul made the point that it didn’t matter which group they were in. Look at verse 8…
1 Corinthians 8:8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.
Neither group is better or worse if they do or don’t eat meat…and this gave us Lesson 2…
Lesson 2: having knowledge doesn’t always mean determining who’s right and wrong.
Paul didn’t side with anyone or commend one side and rebuke the other.
So here’s the question…
If it’s not about who’s right and wrong, what is it about?
Paul gives the answer in verse 1…
1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
Notice the words love builds up. You could say this is what it’s about.
This verse reveals how knowledge can be used morally and immorally. Last week we talked about how knowledge can be used morally: when it’s combined with love and builds up…this gave us Lesson 3…
Lesson 3: knowledge is used morally when combined with love.
Now we can talk about what it means when knowledge is used immorally.
Look at the words This “knowledge” puffs up…and this brings us to Lesson 4…
Lesson 4: knowledge is used immorally (part 1) when combined with pride.
Notice the parallelism:
- Knowledge puffs up
- But love builds up
Knowledge is going to build up one way or the other:
- We can use it to build up others
- We can use it to build up ourselves
Unfortunately, some of the Corinthians were using knowledge pridefully to build up themselves.
The verse is misleading. It looks like it’s saying knowledge puffs up as though knowledge is immoral and should be avoided.
But this should be interpreted in light of the rest of Scripture, and plenty of other verses present knowledge as something valuable that we should pursue.
Here are two examples:
- Proverbs 15:14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge.
- Proverbs 18:15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
It’s not saying knowledge is something that should be avoided b/c it make us proud. Instead, it’s saying knowledge is something that CAN make us proud.
The ESV translates this well. It adds the word this before knowledge. Instead of saying knowledge puffs up, it says THIS knowledge puffs up.
The knowledge the Corinthians had that caused them to say:
- We’re right and you’re wrong
- We know better than you.
This is why some translations – such as the NIV and ESV – put the words “all of us possess knowledge” in quotation marks. Paul was quoting the Corinthians. They were saying all of US possess knowledge.
You can hear the pride.
If we’re going to learn you the Corinthians, we should ask ourselves:
- Is knowledge a source of pride?
- Does knowledge cause us to act arrogantly?
If our knowledge puffs us up, something inevitably happens.
- We condemn others
- We look down on people who don’t know as much as us
And this bring us to the next part of Lesson 4…
Lesson 4: knowledge is used immorally when (part 2) condemning others over nonessentials.
Last week I said 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 are similar:
- In 1 Corinthians 8 they were arguing about food sacrificed to idols
- In Romans 14 they were arguing about food and days of the week
The Romans were using their knowledge immorally to condemn each other over nonessentials.
Turn one book to the left to Romans 14:1…
Romans 14:1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
It says weak in faith, but it would be better to understand this as weak in [knowledge] or lacking knowledge that others have, b/c this isn’t an issue of having strong or weak faith.
Paul says to welcome these people, versus quarrel with them over opinions.
Opinionsis such an important word, b/c it reveals what we’re NOT dealing with:
- We’re not dealing with Scripture.
- We’re not dealing with hills to die on.
- We’re not dealing with battles that need to be fought.
Instead, they’re nonessentials.
What makes something an opinion or nonessential?
Basically, it’s something that doesn’t have the weight of Scripture behind it. Scripture doesn’t forbid it or permit it.
Therefore, if you’re arguing your opinion, you have to argue without the Bible’s support.
Briefly look at verse 22…
Romans 14:22a The faith – again we should think of this as knowledge – that you have, KEEP BETWEEN YOURSELF AND GOD.
Paul is urging them to keep their knowledge – or opinions – to themselves, which is to say between themselves and God.
Look back at verse 2…
Romans 14:2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats DESPISE THE ONE WHO ABSTAINS, and let not the one who abstains PASS JUDGMENT ON THE ONE WHO EATS, for God has welcomed him. 4 WHO ARE YOU TO PASS JUDGMENT on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Notice it says despise. This is strong language. It reveals contempt.
Pass judgment – which Paul says twice – is also strong. It means to condemn or look down on.
So we knowledge is used immorally when it’s used to condemn others over nonessentials.
There are two reasons we’re not supposed to despise or pass judgment on others…
First, verse 1 says to welcome people with different opinions, b/c – as the end of verse 3 says – God has welcomed him. If God is going to welcome people, who are we to reject them?
In other words: if God doesn’t have a problem, we shouldn’t have a problem!
Second, verse 4 says who are you to pass judgment?
We’re not the judge. People don’t stand before us. They aren’t our servants. We aren’t their masters.
A few verses later…
Romans 14:10 Why do you PASS JUDGMENT ON YOUR BROTHER? Or you, WHY DO YOU DESPISE YOUR BROTHER?
Again, passing judgment, despising.
And then again…
Romans 14:13a Therefore let us NOT PASS JUDGMENT ON ONE ANOTHER any longer
Again, don’t pass judgment on those with different convictions.
And you want to know what’s interesting?
It goes both ways!
Look at verse 3…
Let not the one who eats DESPISE THE ONE WHO ABSTAINS, and let not the one who abstains PASS JUDGMENT ON THE ONE WHO EATS.
It’s equally tempting for both sides to condemn the other.
The person with MORE liberty is tempted to condemn the person with LESS liberty and think:
- He doesn’t understand his liberty in Christ, and what Jesus did for him.
- He’s legalistic and self-righteous.
- He probably thinks he’s better than me and looks down on me…while I’m looking down on him.
The person with LESS liberty is tempted to condemn the person with MORE liberty and think:
- He is a liberal, carnal, compromising Christian!
- He doesn’t know what holiness is!
- He probably thinks he’s better than me and looks down on me…while I’m looking down on him.
If we’re going to learn from the Romans, we should ask ourselves…
Does knowledge cause us to condemn and look down on others?
Go ahead and turn back to 1 Corinthians 8.
Here’s the question…
What happens when we combine knowledge with pride, versus love?
Paul gives the answer in verse 2. We seem like know-it-alls…
1 Corinthians 8:2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.
Notice Paul says IMAGINES he knows something versus knows something. He’s referring to people who think they know-it-all…versus people who actually know something.
When people think they know everything it’s evidence they don’t know as much as they think they know.
I said something like this in a sermon a couple weeks ago…
The only people who think they know everything are people who don’t know enough yet to know how little they know.
People who actually have knowledge know enough to know how little they know…they know they’re scratching the surface.
Don’t miss the connection to verse 1…
The pride and lack of love is evidence that we don’t know as much as we think we know.
If we knew as much as we thought we did, we’d know we should be humble and loving too.
Look what Paul says in verse 3 to help the Corinthians – and us – have the humility we should…
1 Corinthians 8:3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
This verse starts with the word but b/c Paul is making a contrast.
- There are those in verse 2 who imagine they know something…but don’t have love and don’t know as much as they think they know.
- There are those in verse 3 who love God and are known by Him.
In other words:
- It’s one thing to have knowledge, or to know something.
- It’s another thing to know God and be loved by Him.
More important than having knowledge is doing what pleases God, which means combining knowledge with love.
When we have knowledge without love it’s evidence of spiritual immaturity, or evidence of weakness in our relationships with God.
Warren Wiersbe said, “A know-it-all attitude is evidence of ignorance. It is possible to grow in knowledge yet not grow in grace or one’s personal relationship with God.”
Now let me remind you about something from last week, so you can understand what’s happening in the following verses:
- In verse 1 – regarding the first group – Paul said Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “ALL OF US POSSESS KNOWLEDGE.”
- In verse 7 – regarding the second group – he said not all possess this knowledge.
The people in verse 7 didn’t have the knowledge the people in verse 1 had, so we would expect Paul to tell the people with knowledge to straighten out the people without knowledge, but he didn’t do that.
Now we need to talk about why this is the case, but we must have a biblical understanding of the conscience.
Turn one book to the left to Romans 2.
Here’s the context so this makes sense…
Paul is discussing two groups of people, the Gentiles and Jews, and they both think they’re good, or sinless, or free from judgment for different reasons.
The Gentiles think they’re free from judgment – or sinless – b/c they don’t have the law. They think they aren’t accountable b/c they didn’t know better! They never received a law telling them not to do something…which is true: the Ten Commandments, or Mosaic Law, was given to the Jews.
The Jews think they’re free from judgment – or sinless – b/c they DO have the law. They thought having the law meant they were good.
The problem with these groups thinking they’re sinless, or free from judgment, is it prevents them from seeing their need for a Savior.
So Paul wants to convince them they’re sinners.
Look at verse 12…
Romans 2:12a For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law,
Those without the law are Gentiles and Paul says they’ll perish, b/c they’re sinners. He’ll elaborate on this in verses 14 and 15.
Romans 2:12b and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
These are Jews who have the law, and they’ll be judged b/c…
Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
This might seem obvious to us, but apparently it wasn’t that obvious to the Jews: it’s not enough to simply have the law. You must obey it, which they didn’t do!
Having the law made them guiltier before God, not more righteous.
The law told them right from wrong and increased their accountability.
Since the Gentiles didn’t receive the law they thought thy didn’t know right from wrong, which allowed them to be innocent, but look at verse 14 to see what condemns them…
Romans 2:14a For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires,
This means obey parts of the law. Even people who have never heard the Ten Commandments still recognize certain things – lying, stealing and murder – are wrong.
They’re able to choose between right and wrong, and they still choose wrong.
If you became a Christian later in life – like I did – you know that even though you didn’t know the Bible, you still knew certain things were wrong.
Before I became a Christian I knew plenty of things were wrong, but I did them anyway. That left me as guilty as before God as people who had the Law…b/c it was as though I had a law too…and that’s what the rest of the verse says…
Romans 2:14b they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
When people lie, cheat, steal, or murder, they’re disobeying their consciences, or breaking the law God gave them and…
Romans 2:15a They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while THEIR CONSCIENCE ALSO BEARS WITNESS, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
These are the two things our consciences do:
- Accuse us when we do something wrong.
- Excuse us when we do something right.
Even though people have consciences telling them not to do certain things, they do them anyway, so they do something they know is wrong.
Verse 14 says their conscience is a law to [them], so they’re breaking the law they have, which leaves them as guilty as the Jews who break the Ten Commandments.
Now let me reveal the important connection to 1 Corinthians 8 by asking you a simple question…
Is it bad when people violate – or disobey – their conscience?
Yes. It’s sinful. It leaves them guilty before God.
Now another question…
If it’s bad for people to disobey their conscience, then how bad do you think it is to lead people to disobey their conscience?
And this brings us to the last part of Lesson 4…
Lesson 4: knowledge is used immorally when (part 3) stumbling others.
Turn back to 1 Corinthians 8 to see this is the point Paul makes. Look at verse 9.
1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?
So you have believers whose consciences forbid them from eating, but other believers convinced them to eat…and violate their conscience in the process.
This is a warning against using our knowledge to lead others to sin.
There are lots of words for sin in the Bible, such as transgress, trespass, abomination, and iniquity. Each word is meaningful, b/c they each describe different ways of sinning.
Stumble is another word for sin. It refers to believers using their knowledge to lead other believers to sin by violating their consciences.
Scripture uses the language of believers walking together. Picture that image.
Stumbling is when one believer trips another believer…but spiritually versus physically.
This is one of the worst ways to use knowledge immorally.
This resolves one of the questions that came up last week…
Why didn’t Paul tell the more knowledgeable believers to share their knowledge with the less knowledgeable believers?
It could cause them to sin by violating their consciences.
This is important to understand b/c we tend to think it’s a good thing to convince people to do things they think they shouldn’t do…but if their conscience forbids it, then they shouldn’t do it.
When we get people to do things they don’t want to do, we almost see it as a victory b/c we think we’re getting them to embrace their freedom and liberty in Christ, but Paul says it’s a failure, b/c it’s causing them sin.
Let me conclude with this…
The theme of this sermon is using our knowledge immorally, and it stems from pride.
Paul wanted to prevent the Corinthians from being prideful, so he gave them a great reason to be humble.
I want to share this to hopefully humble all of us.
Look back at verse 3…
If anyone loves God, [it’s b/c] he is known by God.
In other words:
- We didn’t choose God. He chose us: John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you.
- It’s not that we loved God. It’s that He loves us: 1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us.
Basically, we have a relationship with God b/c He first had a relationship with us first: Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If we keep this in mind, it helps prevent pride and produces humility.
We recognize regardless of how much knowledge we have, we’re no better than the most ignorant person.
We’re all wretched sinners who need Christ.