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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

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Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Love Builds Up - February 1, 2015 - Forth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Have you ever played the game called “Trivia Pursuit”? Actually, today there are many such “trivia” games, games in which you are challenged in what you know about different areas of pop culture, television, movies, and life in general. Perhaps for us Christians, one of the most humbling “trivia” games is one in which our Bible knowledge is challenged. And I believe our Sunday School children have been challenged in a bit of a Bible trivia pursuit game. Of course, we understand that Bible knowledge is not “trivial,” and at the same time we also understand that knowledge simply for the sake of knowledge is not the goal of God’s Word either. We even have the warning from James that reminds us that the devil knows the Bible, probably better than many of us know our own Bibles, yet he is still condemned. Salvation is more than mere head knowledge or trivia knowledge. In our text for today, Paul speaks to us about our Bible knowledge, but even more, he speaks to us about how we live and love according to God’s Word.
 
Concerning knowledge Paul says, “1Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (v. 1-3). In essence Paul is making a distinction between what we might call head knowledge and what we might call heart knowledge. He tells us that the problem with head knowledge alone is that it puffs up, in other words it often makes one think more highly of themself. Heart knowledge is knowledge that thinks more of others than oneself.
 
True knowledge, which we may define as head and heart knowledge together, has its roots in being known by God.  Now, did you notice how this is stated in our text, not in our knowing God, but in our being known by God. Do you remember as a child, being out on the playground and it was time to pick teams to play a game. When your best friend was one of the captains, you wanted to be on his or her team. You actually chose, for yourself to be on their team. Of course, that did not matter. What mattered was that they chose you to be on their team. Most of us have heard the exhortation, by some, to choose Jesus as our personal Savior. Perhaps we might change that exhortation to fit the language of our text and say, we should know God. But go back and look at the text. The text runs the exhortation the other way. Instead of our running the show, God is running the show. Instead of knowing God, we are exhorted to be known by God. More important that our choosing God is His choosing us. And He has chosen us, even before the foundations of the world were set, even before He began creation our Lord chose us to be His people.
 
God has chosen us. He has revealed Himself to us through His means of grace and He gives us true knowledge of Himself. Thus, true knowledge is not simply knowing God but being known by Him. Even Psalmist and the writer of the Proverbs tell us that, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
 
True knowledge, then, might rightly be defined as using knowledge rightly. True knowledge is knowing with your head and engaging your heart in order to think, say, and do what is meet, right and salutary. Some have defined wisdom in this way, that is that wisdom is the right use of knowledge.
 
Now that Paul has given us some background on knowledge, he moves on to give us a concrete example of what he means. And his example is what he is dealing with among the Corinthians. Paul moves on to speak about idols, “4Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (v. 4-6). First, Paul reminds us that although there are other gods (notice, small “g”) meaning idols they really are nothing. An idol is not a living being. An idol is a figment of one’s imagination. An idol is a false god that needs, even demands the undivided attention of the idolater. An idol can do nothing on its own, it depends on its idolater to do everything for it, feed it, move it, and so on so that indeed the idolater is truly the false god of the idol worshiper.
 
So, on the one hand there may be many gods (small “g”), but there is only one true God. The only one true God is the God of Holy Scripture who has revealed Himself to us as God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The only one true God is our God who has shown Himself to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ who is true God, conceived by the Holy Spirit and true man, born of the human woman, the Virgin Mary. The only true God is our God who is Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. To reiterate Paul’s words, all other gods (small “g”) are nothing.
 
So, how do we use our knowledge correctly. Paul continues, “7However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (v. 7-13). Paul is encouraging us to always err on the side of grace. Paul is speaking of this thing we call adiaphora. Adiaphora means something that is neither commanded nor forbidden. So, exercise of knowledge in the area of adiaphora on a personal basis is okay. In other words, if I want to have some wine with my meal at home, then that is certainly okay.
 
However, exercise of knowledge in the area of adiaphora in public, which may be a stumbling block to those weaker in faith is not okay. In other words, to use Paul’s example, for a person who has come from a background of worshiping idols, to see us eat meat sacrificed to an idol, could cause them to stumble in their own Christian faith life, thus we would refrain from such eating for the sake of their spiritual well being.
 
The bottom line for Paul and for us is that the right use of knowledge is being guided to care for those weaker in faith. So, the right use of knowledge may mean our own abstaining for the sake of another.
 
What Does This Mean? This means that we want to get our knowledge right. We get our head knowledge right and we do that in the only way we can do that, through the means of God’s Holy Word. Here again, I encourage you, I exhort you, make regular and diligent use of the Word of God. Read the Bible on your own. Have personal and family devotions. Come to worship and to Bible class. Worship is where we go to hear the Word of God exhorted and expounded, even proclaimed. Bible class is that place where we have the opportunity, not only to hear the Word and grow in our faith and knowledge, but we also have the opportunity to ask questions, to discuss issues, especially questions we might have concerning our culture and the relationship of the culture and our own Christian lives. Bible class is the place we have to ask those questions our coworkers always asks us and we are not sure how to give an answer.
 
Not only are we to get our head knowledge right, we are also to get our heart knowledge right. Our heart knowledge is how we live our head knowledge. Our heart knowledge guides us to rightly living according to God’s good and grace will.
 
We rightly exercise our knowledge when we realize that we cannot rightly exercise our knowledge on our own, but only with the help and by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we attempt to exercise our knowledge on our own we tend to do so in the way Paul suggests in our text, in the way of being puffed up instead of in the way of building up. Remember, our nature is to sin. Our nature is to run knowledge in the way we would like to run knowledge, not in the way our Lord would have us run knowledge. We would run knowledge in the way of thinking more highly of ourselves, at least until we should meet someone who would have more knowledge than we have, of course, then we would humble ourselves, but only to the one with more knowledge. We would run knowledge in the way of lording it over others of “less” knowledge, at least according to our understanding of their having less knowledge.
 
We rightly exercise knowledge when the Lord runs our knowledge. We rightly exercise knowledge when we are guided by the means of grace. We rightly exercise knowledge when we are guided by the Lord to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace; when we are guided to come and be given the gifts our Lord has to give and to be given these gifts through the very means He has of giving them, namely through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. We rightly exercise knowledge when the Lord works in and through us to do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do and when they are done to His glory. We rightly exercise knowledge when we confess, not that we have chosen God, but that He has chosen us, that we are known by Him, that He gives and we are given to.
 
And thanks be to God, that even as we fail to rightly exercise knowledge, we are always reminded that there is forgiveness. This does not give us an excuse to sin, but it gives us the freedom to not be afraid of living. The Old Testament reading for this morning pointed to the One who would come, namely the prophet, Christ Himself. The Gospel reading also points to this same person, namely Jesus Christ who was the one to come and who showed Himself through the signs, wonders and miracles He performed to be the Messiah, the Christ, even God in human flesh. Jesus is the one who not only shows us how to rightly exercise knowledge, but rightly exercised knowledge for us, in our place. He is the One who is always with us to help us to rightly exercise knowledge even today. And rightly exercising knowledge is love which builds up. Finally rightly exercising knowledge is forgiving others as we ourselves have been forgiven. And we know that with forgiveness is life and salvation and to that we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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