In one of the most concise, and yet comprehensive, character sketches in the Bible, the apostle John outlines the qualities of a man named Gaius. We might summarize John’s description, in his third epistle, using four of his own well-chosen words: truth, faithfulness, love, and beloved.
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 (1 Corinthians 8:1-2). Paul, writing to two groups in the Corinthian church who were split over what to do with idol-food, interestingly does not at first even mention idol-food. Instead he talks about “knowledge” and “love” and how they must relate to one another.
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another (Romans 15:14). Paul, writing to everyday and average Christians in the church at Rome, insists that every Christian should be “able to instruct.” Paul gives two criteria for our being ready and able to give the right kind of counsel: being full of goodness, and being filled with knowledge. We can’t help others draw closer to God if we are not ourselves walking closely with God.
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts… (1 Corinthians 14:1). Christians should desire giftedness. Although any spiritual gift is useless unless it is practiced in love (1 Corinthians 13:1-2), Paul exhorts the saints to desire the spiritual gifts. When was the last time you prayed for spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts can only come from the Spirit, and so prayer is the best way to pursue them.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father… (Ephesians 3:14). In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul gives us four specific prayer requests he had for the people of God. And all of them center around the person and work of Jesus Christ: that Christ’s Spirit give you strength, as Christ lives in you by faith, giving you an ever-deepening, familiar knowledge of Christ-love, that you may enjoy the very best, the fullness, of what God has to offer: Jesus!
Dr. Paul Brand dedicated much of his life to investigating the disease of leprosy in India. Anyone could see that lepers lost parts of their extremities—like fingers, or a foot—but no one knew exactly how leprosy caused this decay in the body. Dr. Brand discovered that leprosy does not actually directly cause this damage. Leprosy prevents the affected part of the body from feeling pain, and so a broken ankle, or injured hand, goes untreated. It is in this indirect way that leprosy causes many other difficulties. Similarly, sin deadens us to the danger we are in.
“All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12). It seems as Paul writes his first letter to the church at Corinth, that the Corinthians were taking Paul’s own words — his principle of freedom in Christ specifically — and twisting it to their own sinful purposes. The problem was that some were quoting Paul regarding the freedom we have in Christ, but ignoring the balancing truth of what grace sets us free to do:
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). This is a familiar verse for many Christians. But how should we apply it practically? What does it mean for the Lord to “build the house?”
A very mature Christian came to me recently and said, “I want to learn more about doing family devotions well.” Not long after, I had a very edifying conversation with a gray-haired saint who was wanting to study a particular Bible topic together. These encounters just reminded me of this fact: the wise person is always seeking to become wiser still. The truly spiritual person recognizes his or her constant need for spiritual growth.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). In the middle of this famous chapter on spiritual gifts, Paul makes it clear that partaking of the Spirit of God is something that every Christian experiences. The physical baptism we experience in the church is a symbol of the spiritual baptism of every believer by the Spirit!
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking we must choose between knowledge and passion; but in fact the two feed each other, especially in relation to Jesus (2 Peter 3:11-18). The more we learn about Jesus, the more we will love and trust him; on the other hand, it is impossible to genuinely love or truly trust someone you don’t even know (Matthew 11:28-29; Romans 10:14). This is why knowledge is so important. And this is why every Christian should be a dedicated, life-time learner. A heart cannot be renewed by knowledge that the head never took in.