Knowledge Must Be Balanced by Love
1 Cor. 8:1-13
In our text today, Paul is responding to the question raised by the Corinthian Christians regarding
food, particularly meat offered to idols. This issue is not new, this was a question which was raised
after Gentiles began to come to faith in Christ. The apostles and early church leaders at Jerusalem
considered the matter and concluded that Gentile Christians should not eat meat offered to idols,
along with avoiding blood, things strangled, and fornication. A group of Corinthian believers, argued
that meats offered to idols could be eaten. They even went so far as to look down on those who
refrained from eating idol-meat. These meat-eaters seem to have taken pride in their superior
knowledge and spirituality. Paul has some things to say to these stronger brethren. Using their own
reasoning, Paul will show that they have fallen short of true spirituality. Three things are pointed out
by Paul here.
I. Knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1-3)
A. We all have knowledge as it is written here. So, we can say that knowledge is not
given to the few special or chosen people but all have it.
B. The knowledge being spoken here by Paul is knowledge which “puffed up” or causes
pride. This is the big problem of the Corinthian believers. Not only them but
modern- or present-day Christians. Believers who wants to be known for their
knowledge and accomplishments. People who have their master’s degree or
doctorate degree in the fields of science, medicine, technology, computer, theology
C. This type of knowledge exalts self and puts down others.
D. Those who thinks they are knowledgeable and knows more than others only reveal
their true ignorance (1 Cor. 8:2). Our knowledge in this life is partial, and even that
which has been revealed by God is never perfectly grasped (1 Cor. 13:8-13). Those
who speak arrogantly of what they know are ignorant and self-deceived, often
deceiving others as well (Rom. 1:28-32; 2:17-23; Gal. 1:8; Col. 2:18; 1 Tim. 1:7; 2 Pet.
E. Godly and true knowledge produces humility. The more the godly man increases in
knowledge, the more he realizes that he is nothing and that even his understanding
is a gift.
F. Christians are not to boast in how much they know or how knowledgeable they are,
but they are to rejoice in being known by God and this is the result of loving God (1
G. Furthermore, it is one thing to know doctrine and another thing to know God. It is
possible to grow in Bible knowledge and yet not grow in grace or in one’s personal
relationship with God.
H. Applying this to our texts, Paul is talking to those that had no problem in eating
meats offered to idols. They had enough spiritual maturity to realize that it was just
meat and nothing more. However, this was not the issue, the problem was that they
were allowing this knowledge to puff them up and in doing so they were sinning
against their fellow believers. “Knowledge puffs up, but; love builds up”. If you are
allowing your freedom in Christ to be used as a tool to hurt other people, then you
are not representing the love of Jesus to those around you.
I. Its wonderful to know that in Christ we have liberty and freedom to do many things.
But bear in mind that the foundation of our Christian liberty is our love for God,
because if we truly love the Lord; we will in turn love our brothers and sisters in the
Lord. We will not offend them or cause them to stumble.
Illustration 1: Limited Perception
When Paul says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly” in 1 Corinthians 13:12, he is not speaking
of seeing through a dirty windowpane but of looking into a shadowy mirror such as those
manufactured in Bible times in Corinth. All our attempts to look at truth as we see it reflected in
creation, in history, in our own consciousness, and even in the Bible, can give us only a dim and
imperfect idea of God and of heavenly realities because of human finiteness and sin. Our perception
of realities may be more or less the truth as far as our perception goes, but this is always dim and
imperfect. Illustrations of Bible Truths.
II. Love (1 Cor. 8: 3-6)
A. Love and knowledge must go together, “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). It
has well been said, “Truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is
hypocrisy.” Knowledge is power and it must be used in love. But love must always be
controlled by knowledge (Phil. 1:9-11). The strong believers in the church had
knowledge, but they were not using their knowledge in love. Instead of building up
the weak saints, the strong Christians were only puffing up themselves.
B. Love is the proof of knowing God (1 Jn. 4:19-5:1). By this we can say that:
1. Idols were nothing, so foods offered to idols are not defiled
2. All of the gods of pagan religions are false (1 Cor. 8:4-5). There are many that are
called gods in heaven and on earth, but they are nothing. This is why idols are
called “vanities” in the Bible (Jer. 8:19; 10:8; 14:22; Acts 14:15).
3. “But to us there is but one God…” (1 Cor. 8:6): A Christian knows that “there is
no God but one.” The worship of Jesus as God’s Son and the Holy Spirit does not
recognize three Gods, but one God in three persons.
4. Christianity is not a religion; it is a divine revelation of the one true God to man
through Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1:21). “One God” instead of “many
gods”; “one Lord, Christ,” instead of the “many lords” of heathenism; One God,
and one Mediator between man and God (1 Tim. 2:5).
C. “Love builds up” and puts others first. When spiritual knowledge is used in love, the
stronger Christian can take the hand of the weaker Christian and help him to stand
and walk so as to enjoy his freedom in Christ. You cannot force-feed immature
believers and transform them into giants. Knowledge must be mixed with love;
otherwise, the saints will end up with “big heads” instead of enlarged hearts. A
famous preacher used to say, “Some Christians grow, others just swell.”
D. Knowledge and love are two important factors, for knowledge must be balanced by
love if we are to use our Christian freedom in the right way.
E. Paul also teaches that delicate questions in life cannot be settled from the
standpoint of knowledge and its rights, but must be determined by love and its
F. Again, here in our text, Paul was telling the Corinthians that love is more important
than liberty. “Don’t live only for yourself; live for others. Don’t merely edify yourself;
edify others. Be more concerned about the testimony and program of Christ and the
needs of your brethren than about yourself.”
G. In application, Paul is telling that though he has the liberty to eat any type of food,
even that which is offered to idols, (no dietary laws in the New Testament) he was
willing to give up eating meat for the rest of his earthly life if it were necessary to
help his brethren (1 Cor. 8:13) so they would not stumble.
Illustration 2: The Christian Grocer
A Christian grocer was in financial difficulties because his customers thought they could run up their
bills indefinitely. They felt that such a saintly man would never press them for payment or take them
to court. Their ready excuse was, “We don’t have money to pay our bills.” “How can I pay my
creditors, if the people I have trusted do not pay me?” puzzled the grocer. What should a Christian
do in such a case—believe all things and all men and go bankrupt? A novel idea came to him. He
posted the following notice on the bulletin board in front of his store: “On this bulletin board, thirty
days from now, will appear the names of all persons who have been indebted to me for one year or
more and who, after repeated requests, have refused to pay! Some have told me that they are
unable to pay, but they are able to build homes, drive cars, and have other things that I could have if
I had the money due me. I hope I don’t have to put any names on the board, but I won’t be put off
any longer!” Results followed immediately. Many paid their old accounts, while others promised to
do so on the next payday. This grocer’s action was wholly consistent with Christian love. He refused
to believe the falsehoods of others and by so doing didn’t allow them to continue in deceit and
dishonesty. Love believes all things that encourages honesty and virtue in others. Love does not
believe lies but endeavours to correct them. Illustrations of Bible Truths.
III. Conscience (1 Cor. 8: 7-13)
A. The word conscience simply means “to know with,” and it is used thirty-two times
in the New Testament. Conscience is that internal court where our actions are
judged and are either approved or condemned (Rom. 2:14-15). Conscience is not
the law, it bears witness – to God’s moral law. But the important thing is this:
conscience depends on knowledge. The more spiritual knowledge we know and act
on, the stronger the conscience will become.
B. The conscience is not infallible. The cause of a weak conscience is a lack of biblical
training and understanding. The conscience needs to be trained so that it convicts
according to God’s law and not mere human tradition.
C. The conscience can be defiled (1 Cor. 8:7) and wounded (1 Cor. 8:12). If a person sins
persistently against his conscience, it corrupts the conscience so that it grows weak.
Defilement of conscience can lead to searing of conscience (1 Tim. 4:2).
D. In applying this to our text, Paul tells them that not everyone is one the same
spiritual level and that some of their brethren could not consciously eat this meat
that had been offered up to mere idols. Some were newly saved and they were
literally spiritual babes. Some within the church were freshly out of paganism and
the idea of eating this meat was disgusting to them and sinful in their thinking. This
group had believed in the one true God, but maybe they still needed to be educated
in the fact that idols were false and foolish. If this group participated in any form of
eating this food, it might prompt them to revert back to their former lifestyle. The
spiritually immature could not participate in this due to fearing any type of
E. Let us consider this insight from Paul, even though the act of eating this meat was
not morally wrong or spiritually wrong, it is deemed as wrong when it violates a
person’s conscience. The defiled conscience is one that has been polluted, stained,
or contaminated. There were certain ones in the church that were facing having a
defiled conscience if they participated in eating any of this sacrificed meat. This can
only occur if one ignores or violates one’s conscience. If a person does violate their
conscience then they will face confusion, guilt, and deep feelings of resentment. If
someone does this willingly then to that person, they have committed a sin in their
life, as far as their own mindset.
F. The final point is that, if we know we are offending our weaker brother, we need to
use love rather than liberty and try to not make someone defile their God given
Illustration 3: Perils of Conscience
It is essential that we should exercise conscience, but let us not forget that in this matter, as in all
others, privilege is linked with responsibility. Of course, we may attribute unworthy motives to
authoritarian churches that proclaim the right to dictate to the individual what is right and what is
wrong. We may say, as many have said, that they adopt this standpoint for their own ends to acquire
power and control. But that is not a satisfactory explanation, and it is an unworthy charge. Their
action is generally based on the danger of individual judgment and the peril of the individual
conscience, because this privilege that we all claim does have it perils. It is so perilous, indeed, that
while we pay lip service to its sanctity and sacredness, we are compelled to curtail its freedom.
There is no community that can or dare base its life upon the freedom of each individual’s
conscience. It would result in chaos. Jesus Christ allows us a certain freedom. Freedom is the basis of
joy, but if it oversteps the bounds of moral responsibility it is too perilous.
Illustrations of Bible Truths.
Knowledge must be balanced by love. The more we know, the more we should be
humble and the more we must be willing to help our weaker Christian brothers even to
the extent of not eating something that is not morally or spiritually wrong. Let us edify
and be not a stumbling block. Will you do that for Christ? You should.