But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. How did we come to love God? Know God? Have any advancement spiritually? Grow in our understanding of God? If anyone loves God, he is known by God. One precedes the other. The only way we come to have a love relationship with God is that God knew us first. This is similar to 1 John 4:19, We love because he first loved us. The only way we have anything – any knowledge, any forgiveness of sin, any hope of life eternal when we die, any peace or encouragement in this life – is completely the byproduct of God knowing us, loving us, bringing into our experience the hearing of the gospel of Jesus Christ; the granting to us of faith, the regenerating of our dead hearts, the precious gift of having God’s Word, having minds that can apprehend spiritual truth, knowing fellow Christians who teach, encourage, and model it, and a local church within which to live in community. It is all of God! What do I have that I have not received from God? These truths don’t puff us up, they crush us.
So you are all proud that you have figured out that an idol is nothing? You’re proud that you can eat meat offered to nothing? This is what’s got you full of yourself? Big whoop! If what you think you know puffs you up, you really don’t get the gospel. The important thing is not what we know but who knows us – God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Many of us here come from backgrounds where there was tremendous pride in being right, in having our idol meat doctrines all figured out. And many of us were disillusioned with the puffed up attitudes that went along with it. Some of you might be tentatively giving Christianity another try and you are here hoping to find something real. Does this resonate with you? Doesn’t this explain so much of the rancor and division that has happened on non-essential idol meat eating kind of issues in the church? In other words, that kind of Christianity isn’t real Christianity. What has turned you off is not the real thing. Paul is all about right doctrine. It’s just, for him, love is a doctrine too.
I remember attending a conference of a group that would trend toward this kind of thing. The speaker was a long revered leader in the organization. He said, You know, our problem isn’t our doctrine, our problem is that we just can’t get along. My friend leaned over and said to me, Since when is love not a doctrine?
When non-essential, non-gospel related issues rise to a level where I am willing to spiritually judge my brother for not agreeing with me, I have forgotten the most important knowledge of all, that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.
What should that mean in a church like ours where we care a great deal about teaching and biblical doctrine? It’s not that we shouldn’t care about doctrine, but that our doctrine of love shapes our attitude and our tone. It is said of Charles Spurgeon that he quietly prayed a prayer every time as he mounted the stairs to preach, God be merciful to me a sinner.
In the body life of our church, as we interact about many important things, some of which we hold as convictions, we should do so with the attitude of that prayer, God, be merciful to me a sinner. It’s not about the meat. That’s a secondary issue. It’s primarily about Christ and Him crucified, the hope of glory.
This may not change what we believe but it changes our attitude about it. It seeks to say what will be building up. It maintains a learner’s spirit. It refrains from having to say, I know, even when we do. It doesn’t have to show off or make sure others realize who we are. And foundational to the rest of the chapter, it is willing to personally adjust lifestyle for the sake of our fellow Christian’s conscience. Pride won’t do that. Love will.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2009 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.