The Arrogance of Knowledge: Caution in Contending for Personal Beliefs
by Lois E. Gibson
I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Do you as a Christian act in arrogance or in love? Do your actions cause harm or do they edify?
Within the Body of Christ will be found believers in various stages of understanding when it comes to matters of the conscience. Paul spoke of these things in letters written to the churches. It appears some contended for their views to the point where they judged others and/or brought harm or disunity to the Body. Hundreds and hundreds of years later, we see that some things have not changed. There are still people condemning others for doing or not doing things. We have denominations that separate themselves from other denominations on these issues, each believing themselves to be better than others.
Let's look at what Paul shared in 1 Corinthians 8:1-15 (NASB) and see how the principle applies to us today:
"Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble."
Listen again to what Paul shares, "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. ....For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died."
Knowledge makes arrogant. Let this sink into our understanding. Notice how Paul brings out the one with knowledge several times in these verses. He is emphasizing how the person with knowledge is acting in arrogance and not in love. Remember how Paul shared in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 how if he had all faith and gave all he had to the poor, and knew all mysteries, etc. but did not have love, he was nothing and would be as one just making noise, his actions not profiting him?
Knowledge without love is harmful and that is just what some in the early church had. Yes, they were biblically correct that it was not wrong for them to eat meats offered to idols and they had liberty to do so. Yet they had little regard for their brother who was without understanding in this area and their knowledge, not working through love, caused some other believers to stumble and sin. As Christians, we are to be known by our love, and if we do things to cause other Christians to sin against their own conscience, then we are acting in arrogant knowledge and not the love of God. We are lacking in the fruit of the Spirit and have instead allowed the works of the flesh to take reign.
"But I am right!" you may cry. "There is nothing wrong with my eating meats. I have the proper biblical understanding of the liberty I have in Christ in this matter."
Do you really? I say you do not and so does Paul when he shares, "If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know." If your knowledge is not wrapped in love, then you do not have a proper biblical understanding in this area. Yes, you have liberty to eat meats, but you do not have the liberty to harm your brother or sister that does not yet have this understanding and sin against them and Christ. You have become a noisemaker, profiting no one with your knowledge.
Paul shared similar thoughts in Romans 14, calling on us to not judge one another in these matters (NASB):
"Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, "AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD." So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin."
Once again Paul points out the believer acting on their knowledge without love: "For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil."
Do we really get this? While Paul acknowledges the believer has proper biblical understanding of the issues at hand, he sees he does not properly understand that his liberty in Christ does not allow that knowledge to harm another. And if that knowledge is acting through love, it will not. It is only in arrogance that the harm comes.
This works both ways. Paul taught that neither side had the right to judge or look in contempt upon the other. In other words, the one who was biblically correct in his understanding was still not permitted to judge his brother who was weak in this area and without proper understanding. His correctness did not permit the other brother to be harmed or judged. This was between him and God. The same holds true in reverse. The one who does believes it is wrong to partake is not to condemn the one who does.
The question we now face is do we as Christians put into practice what Paul taught? Do we hold to our beliefs in love or do we act out of arrogant knowledge and harm one another? I am afraid that too many times the latter is seen.
This site in part deals with some particular outward beliefs held by the United Pentecostal Church. There are some within the organization that hold to these beliefs in arrogance and look in contempt upon others who do not believe as they do. There are also some who have left the organization who now see their biblical liberty to partake in some things and yet they, too, hold this knowledge in arrogance and sometimes even attempt to push others to do as they do while they yet believe the matter is wrong. There is not love in either of these, just the arrogance of knowledge.
This site has operated a support group for some time now and two things I have consistently advised in this area are these:
1) Do not do anything you once felt was wrong to do until such a time as you are fully persuaded in your mind that the Scriptures do not teach against such. If you make changes before this time, you will be sinning because you believe the matter to be wrong and would be going against your conscience.
2) Do not ever push another person to make any changes. If you do so and they yet believe it to be wrong, you have sinned against that person and God and that person will have sinned in doing something they felt was wrong for them to do.
So, who is right and who is wrong; the one who allows something or the one who does not? In a way they both are, yet I think it needs to be brought out that with one of the cases, they are only right within their own conscience and not biblically correct.
Let's take eating meat; biblically we are free to eat any meat. Yet there are some that believe it is wrong to do so. While their conscience dictates this to them (due to their limited understanding or how they were taught, etc.), the Bible does not, though they may feel it does. Therefore I believe Paul shows they are not right in their understanding biblically, but yet they must live by what their conscience allows or disallows. To do otherwise would make the matter a sin, even though biblically to eat meat would not be a sin.
Just because one understands in part or incorrectly does not make them right on the matter. However, they must only do what their conscience allows. In this way, they are right if they are living what they believe and not sinning by doing something that they believe to be wrong. They just are not right biblically on the issue itself, but are biblical in how they are living what they believe. The one who eats meat answers only to God as does the one who refrains from doing so.
In addition, the one who refrains from wearing something, for instance, is made no better or worse for it. Likewise, the one who wears something is made no better or worse for it. Remember Paul's words: "But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat." A woman who believes she may only wear dresses and skirts is no better or worse for doing so. Likewise, the woman who believes she may wear women's pants is no better or worse for doing so. Because of this, these things should not be made battle zones among believers. You have as a believer, the liberty to partake or not to partake. You should follow what you believe in your heart is right or wrong.
When this involves non-essentials, and I realize some teach certain things to be essentials even though they are not so biblically, we are not to contend with one another to where we are broken into various groups over these things (and yet do not denominations do just such a thing?). And, if we follow what Paul taught on these matters, no church leadership should ever be contending with people for their private beliefs on these matters. And yet they do.
Which road will you walk? Will you allow your knowledge in these matters to cause you to be an arrogant noisemaker, causing harm to others for which Christ died? Or will you wrap your knowledge in love and edify your brothers and sisters in the Lord?
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant..." 1 Corinthians 13:1-4 (NASB)
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."
You may write Lois at the email address displayed in the image. No correspondence that seeks to debate will be answered as I have no desire to debate. Understand that due to the volume of mail, not every email may be acknowledged.
Posted April 21, 2006
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