Summary: Man's religion is at war with God's revelation.
A number of years ago I had an experience while working on my undergraduate degree in biblical studies that so shocked me that it has stayed with me. For the final exam in a systematic theology course, I understood the assignment to be to write a series of brief essays on several Christian doctrines. Well, I worked feverishly on the project. I really wanted to get a high grade on the project since this class was a part of my major. When I submitted the project I was convinced that I had done a great job on the project and I was sure to get an “A.” When I received back the graded paper a week or so later I was shocked! I had received a big bold “F” on the project. My heart sunk. I thought for sure there had been some kind of mistake. So I flipped to the back of the paper and there in big red letters were just four words, “Great job – Wrong test.”
I had misread the instructions for the project and instead of writing a series of short essays I had chosen just one of the subjects from the list of ten and developed a full blown thesis! I had poured my heart into the project… but I had come up short… because though I had done a great job… I had taken the wrong test. The professor was kind enough to let me redo the project and in the end I did get an “A.” So the story does have a good ending. But I wonder… how many of us… when we pass from this life to the next will stand before our Lord and hear Him say, “Nice boat, great car, wonderful reputation, your knowledge far surpassed what was expected of you.”
Followed by the simple words… “Great job. Wrong test.” The real test is love.
In Genesis 3:5 the Bible records the words of the serpent to Eve. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (NIV84) Of course, humanity ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and we have been judging ever since.
Knowledge is not inherently evil, vile, or wicked. That is of course not at all what the Apostle Paul is saying in I Corinthians 8:1-3 and it was not the central problem in the Garden.
The problem is that knowledge – when coupled with human frailty, imperfection, and sin – begets pride and judgment and it quickly becomes an idol unto itself.
There is a tension between knowledge and love in this text. The Apostle contrasts knowledge and love. The tension between these two ideas may not seem immediately obvious at first. However, perhaps you, as I know this struggle.
I have long been a student of theology and the Bible and know the lure of knowledge leading to pride. The best application of knowledge is to cut the legs off of our pride as we acknowledge in our much learning how truly little we know.
The highest aim of education is not to fill our minds with data but to open our eyes to the beauty of what God has created. When we answer one question usually its answer leads to 10 more questions to be asked and answered.
The goal of instruction in knowledge is the attainment of wisdom, which is to know God. It is not enough to know about God. Is it not a higher aim to be known by God than to know some things, even many things, about Him?
CIT: The use of Christian liberty involves the obligation of love.
CIS: Religious knowledge only puffs up pride. Love builds up the Church.
The first part of Romans 8 is specifically dealing with the question of whether or not to eat the meat that had been sacrificed to idols. There is apparently a division in the Church at Corinth with regard to what is the right way to deal with this pressing issue. In the Roman world, it was common for meat that had been used in or had been a part of an animal used in pagan ritual sacrifice to be used later in celebrations and what was left over to be sold in the market.
The question of whether a Christian should eat this meat raised broader questions. Should a Christian attend a feast where that meat was being eaten in part of a feast or a dinner? Should a Christian buy the meat in the market? If a Christian did eat the meat did it somehow corrupt them spiritually?
We don’t have to wrestle with such questions in our day but this conversation does raise an immediately pressing concern for us today.