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Knowledge without Love: What Can It Do?

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What do you think fastened Jesus to the cross by which he hung? Was it the nails? We could answer “Yes” to this question, because we know that Jesus did in fact hang on the cross by them. However, there is a another deeper answer.
Before Jesus was seized by Roman soldiers to be put on trial, he said to Peter who tried to stop it by sword,

“Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

What Peter tried to do, Jesus told him he could do without him. But what motivated Jesus to allow this injustice to be done to him without any interference? Jesus who miraculously turned water into wine, raised people from the dead, healed the sick, calmed the winds and waves on the Sea of Galilee, and fed the five thousand had already displayed the kind of power that could not be held by cords nor fastened by nails unless he was motivated by something more powerful than the feeble power shown by the ones who betrayed and tortured him. While hanging by nails, sinners said to him, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40, ESV). And if we believe in the power of Jesus, we know that he could have done so. Now, to answer the question, “What do you think fastened Jesus to the cross?” Thomas Goodwin answers,
300 Quotations for Preachers “Love Governed God”

There were no cords could have held him to the whipping-post but those of love; no nails have fastened him to the cross but those of love.

Philosophically speaking, the nails of love, not actual nails, fastened Jesus to the cross. But what led him there? At the age of twelve we can read that Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem amazed teachers with his knowledge (Luke 2:46), and that he “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). We can rightly and confidently say that knowledge and wisdom led him to the cruel destination of the cross on Calvary, but love kept him there.
What does this teach Christians as followers of Jesus Christ? To answer this question, pardon me, but I will ask another. What can knowledge do without love? Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and let us read together to find out.

Knowledge without Love Is Problematic

The first-century problem. Paul is dealing with a specific problem we are unfamiliar with. Most Americans have never worshipped an idol made of gold, silver, or wood, and therefore we do not have to be concerned with eating food offered to them in that worship. The recently converted Gentiles of Paul’s time who faced this problem could not conscientiously eat any food they knew was sacrificed to idols. However, some Christians in Corinth had more knowledge about this that gave them liberty to eat such food without offending their own conscience. They understood that an idol is really nothing and that the food offered to them was morally neutral and acceptable to eat. However, Paul wants them to be careful with such liberating knowledge. Although it was not wrong to eat such food, it would be wrong if it caused those who had qualms with eating it to do so. In dealing with this problem, Paul puts into the proper perspective knowledge and how it can be harmful when not accompanied with love. The Corinthians who understood they could eat meat sacrificed to idols, but not worship them, were not concerned about the conscience of others who could not. And Paul teaches them this is unloving.
The modern-day application. Now, the principles that drive Paul’s teaching in this selected text are not confined to the situation he was addressing. Therefore, in this sermon, we are concerned with the use of knowledge in general. We all have knowledge, sometimes what others do not have, and will ultimately share it or use it in our various relationships. Paul teaches us that we should share and use it in a godly manner. Why? Let us mediate upon this together as we put this text of 1 Corinthians under the microscope to magnify its “small,” i.e. perhaps seemingly insignificant, but powerful lessons.
We should not be in the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of itself, but in the pursuit of God who will give us the understanding we need to serve him acceptably (1 Corinthians 8:2). If we are pursuing knowledge for the sake of itself, it will cause us to be jealous of others who have it (1 Corinthians 13:4). If we are pursuing knowledge for the sake of itself it “puffs up,” (1 Corinthians 8:1) and leads to sharing it with a braggadocios and arrogant spirit. Paul teaches this is not love (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Knowledge without love becomes “a stumbling block” (v. 8). This is so because one may act “rude” with it (1 Corinthians 13:5). In doing so, we stand in the way of the truth and hinder others from getting to it.
Knowledge without love is destructive (1 Corinthians 8:11). This is so because it “insists on its own way” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Instead of putting others first, one who puts themselves and knowledge first lack the patience and kindness to lead them to it. You see my friend, knowledge is worthless without love (1 Corinthians 13:2). Even Jesus who has perfect knowledge could not have saved us without it, for he would not have died for us if he had knowledge alone.

Knowledge with Love Is Powerful

How important is love? It is so important that God’s word teaches...
We are to pursue it (1 Timothy 6:11). Because...
It is the fulfillment of what God commands (Romans 13:10). In other words it never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).
And it is the bond of unity (Colossians 3:14).
Without love we cannot be in fellowship with God (1 John 4:10).
If knowledge is hijacked by sin and love is taken hostage by pride and selfishness, then it becomes cold, heartless, and impotent regarding righteousness. However, knowledge with love takes on a whole new dimension because of its power of attraction. When the understanding of truth is adorned with love it becomes appealing to the heart that loves God. Love promotes unity and fosters an environment where learning can thrive. What does knowledge adorned with love look like?
Knowledge with love acts humble.
1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary A. Knowledge about Idols (8:1–6)

‘Knowledge is proud that it has learnt so much. Wisdom is humble that it knows no more.’

Knowledge with love guides into truth.

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth

Love shares knowledge patiently (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Love shares knowledge kindly (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Knowledge with love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1).


Just like Jesus was led to the cross by knowledge, and love kept him there, we lead people to the truth with knowledge, and love keeps them there. Jesus teaches us knowledge with love is persuasive, but that knowledge without love is destructive. So what can knowledge without love do? Nothing we should desire. However, the understanding of truth when shared in love is powerful to the building up of others. Love is the foundation which truth rests upon and it is the power by which we attract others to it. No wonder Paul teaches in Ephesians to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). May all the knowledge of truth we have be married to love and then we can know we are married to Jesus. Let us always remember that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”
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