Skip to content
Sep 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 19, 2021



Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us posses knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Intro: Are you like me, when it comes to reading the Bible?

I will come to a sentence and immediately my attention drops off – for instance:
The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael. These are their genealogies: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebaioth, and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam . . . (the list goes on – 1 Chr. 1:28-31)
– yes, it is still scripture, but it doesn’t interest me
• that happens when I read this first line in chapter 8
Now concerning food offered to idols
◦ I’ve never done this, have never been tempted to do this, have never even thought of it
• it would be easy to write-off the whole chapter and move on
◦ but that would be a mistake – I’d lose valuable insights
– this was a very real and practical concern for the Corinthians
• but it is not a cause of concern for us
◦ we do have our own situations that raise the same question
◦ “Is it alright for Christians to practice yoga?” “. . . to dance?”
• so the way Paul addresses their situation is relevant for ours

Although what Paul has to say is valuable, that will not be our focus
– we are listening to Paul for enlightenment regarding spiritual development
• for instance, what do we need in order to know God? the answer is in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians:
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him (Ep. 1:17)
◦ we need to receive the intangibles of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation
what do we need in order to know our true selves? again, the answer is in Paul’s prayer:
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe (Ep. 1:18-19)
◦ we need to have the eyes of our heart opened — and
to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ep. 4:22-24)
– all the way through this series we have seen that there is a larger reality than the world we inhabit
• and what we need is a new perception, a new consciousness of that other dimension and eternity
◦ and it is possible for us to have this new perception
• so what does Paul want us to discover in today’s revelation?
◦ what have we missed? What do we need to see?

Paul alerts us to the illusion of knowledge and frees us from it

Knowledge is a key theme in this chapter
– in these thirteen verses, “know” or “knowledge” occurs nine times
• Paul himself had received an advanced education in the Hebrew Scriptures
◦ he studied under Gamaliel and knew the value of his education (Acts 22:3)
◦ and after his conversion he continued his studies, looking for Jesus in the Scriptures
• later, this was the tradition carried forward in the first monasteries
– monks were required to have a general knowledge of scripture
• and a more specific understanding of the gospels and the Psalms
◦ they had to learn the way of life in the monastery and its remote wilderness setting
• they also learned the teaching of their abbots and elders
◦ and most likely listened to conversations between the most enlightened monks
◦ there is great value in having a foundation in scripture and theology

But here Paul gives us a different perspective
– he talks about the relative value of knowledge
• do you remember what he said about the wisdom of God? (1 Cor. 1:22)
• to the world it looks like nonsense – foolishness
– here he warns of knowledge acquired for its own sake; that it puffs up
• it inflates the ego and will always present a risk of arrogance
◦ we’ve all known people like this
◦ arrogance undermines spiritual development
• personally, I have a strong negative reaction to spiritual conceit
◦ these are the people who say,
“Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you”

◦ such a person is like smoke in [God’s] nostrils (Isa. 65:5)

Paul exposes the truth about knowledge
If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know (v. 2)

Richard Fynman, who made significant discoveries in quantum physics, said, “I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum physics. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, ‘But how can it be like that?’ because you will go “down the drain into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.” “I’m smart enough to know that I am dumb.”
The same is true for most every subject — including spirituality
– a lesson we learned from Jesus is that spiritual development dissolves the ego
• he who is the greatest of all made himself the servant of all
• he tells us
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Lk. 9:23-24)
– how I understand this: we have a sense of our “self”
• we see our self as a person in this world, trying to make a life in it
◦ we have all our personal traits; our personal fears and hopes
◦ but that is our psychological self – not the true self
◦ a person who has been conditioned by this world, for this world
• our true self is spirit – not our thoughts, not our conditioning
◦ our aware self – and we must step away from the psychological self to find it
◦ at first this comes in flashes, then longer periods of awareness
– I don’t think we’ll ever be able to sustain our focus on the aware self continuously
• our nervous system won’t allow it
◦ we still have to live in this world, and that requires a certain kind of thinking and acting
• but I also think that’s why Jesus said take up cross “daily”
◦ we revisit our aware self every day, and in our aware self we experience a larger reality
◦ and in that larger reality, we encounter God – that is where we pray and worship

If knowledge by itself is not our guide, then what?

Love builds up, Paul says
– an inflated self or ministry is all air – it is propped up by unfulfilled promises
• a built up self or ministry is solid
◦ the help it provides others is substantial
– for me, mystical Christianity is fascinating and exciting
• there’s a multitude of authors who want to teach it to us
• but the question I need to ask myself at end of every day
◦ is not “What have I learned today?” but “Whom have I loved?”

By itself, knowledge cannot take us where we want to go
– and where is that? To where we are known by God
• where God recognizes us as his children
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you . . .” (Mt. 7: 21-23)
• God does not know us through the knowledge we get from Bible studies
◦ it isn’t a prize for the brightest or most educated
◦ it is the person who loves that is known by God

Religious knowledge without Christian love can be dangerous
And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died (v. 11; cf. Rom. 14:15)

We need to really grasp the difference between knowing truth and living the reality of truth
– the difference between the idea of goodness and a lived experience of goodness
• spiritual knowing isn’t same as biblical knowledge or theological knowledge
• in fact, the goal of theology is not to be well-informed about God
Marshall Davis, “This is more than a theological doctrine. It is a living awareness available to everyone. Christian theology is practical and not theoretical. Theology is best understood as a description of our experience of God. To say that God is omnipresent is not just saying something about the nature of God. It says something about our experience of God. It describes my experience of God.”

Conclusion: Paul turns our world upside down

One of the chief values of our American culture is the freedom to assert our rights
– we know our rights and insist on exercising them
• Paul says, our rights cannot always determine our actions
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak (v. 9)
◦ it is not always about you
• we can forgo our rights in service to others
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never ear mean, lest I make my brother stumble (v. 13)
– what happens if we do not press our rights in order to serve others?
• and if and our hearts are sincere?
◦ sincerity is important because people can be charitable when their goal is to win recognition
◦ or if they feel that serving others enhances their spiritual status
• but if we deny our rights to serve others,
◦ and we do it because the action is the right thing for us to do,
◦ we can gain a scrap of enlightenment
We may leap from our psychological self to our aware self
We are taking up our cross, and in doing so we lose our false self and find our true self

People who have taken the time to visit someone in the hospital,
or taken a meal to someone who was ill,
or volunteered in a soup kitchen,
frequently report that they feel a little bit of guilt
They say, “I think I received a greater blessing than the person I served.”
They may not be able to describe the blessing,
but it had to do with the connection they made with the other person,
and what they learned from them

We practice contemplative prayer to nurture awareness
And we have other practices, like the spiritual reading of scripture in Lectio Divina
A spiritual practice that often goes unnoticed
is service to another person
But this too can be a significant eye-opener
It frees us from the old self and enhances our perspective of that larger dimension

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:43-45

Leave a comment