The Corinthian church was a know-it-all, the sort of kid at school who raises a hand for every question, corrects other students, and shows a bit of disdain for those who aren’t as gifted. Paul writes to the Corinthians to bring them back to the main things: to the gospel instead of partisanship, to sacrifice instead of infighting, to caring for others in a culture where worship of foreign gods was part of the infrastructure of the region.
So when Paul writes that “knowledge puffs up,” he addresses not only the questions of a church about food offered to idols but the heart issue—that because of their arrogance what they know has not shaped how they live. Though today we may not worship idols of stone, we are all too familiar with using our knowledge to stay in our heads alone. We know the truths of the gospel; we know the goodness of God and God’s faithfulness to the covenant. We know that we are saved by grace, but often we live in ways that fail to reflect our knowledge of these essential facts. Instead our lives look as busy, frantic, and self-sufficient as the surrounding culture.
The solution for the Corinthian church—and for us—is to recall in word and deed that “love builds up.” Paul shows us that as we come to know God, we also realize how deeply we are known by God. True knowledge proceeds from our primary identity as being known and loved by God, and such knowledge leads to transformation. When we know how much we are loved by God, all the questions of what we know or one-upmanship fall away. It is not that morality is unimportant or that there aren’t looming questions about theology and practice. Rather, we learn that these fall into their appropriate place when we are in proper relationship with God.
God, I want to know you and be known by you. I want to be wrapped in your love and have that as my primary identity. Help me to put aside pride and to love others. Amen.
This week’s readings center on God’s authority. In Deuteronomy God promises to raise up a prophet to guide the people, and God warns the people not to listen to voices that do not speak for God. The psalmist overflows with praise for God’s great works. God is powerful and awesome, yet also gracious and merciful. Paul instructs the Corinthians to place the rights of others before their own rights. A person’s conscience may allow one to exercise freedom in Christ; however, with this freedom comes responsibility. We must surrender our own rights, if necessary, for the good of others. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus shows his power over the forces of darkness: Even the unclean spirits recognize and obey him.
Read Deuteronomy 18:15-20. To whom or to what setting do you turn when you yearn to hear God’s voice?
Read Psalm 111. For what are you praising God today? How have you experienced God’s steadfast love recently?
Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. What do you think of Paul’s statement, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”? Can you think of examples of this in your everyday life?
Read Mark 1:21-28. How do you react to the concept of authority? How does the authority of Jesus differ from the authority we may encounter in the world?
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