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Op-Ed: Love Comes First for Christians – A Close Second Is This Key to Spiritual Growth

The primacy of love over knowledge is taught in many Scriptures. Using beautiful prose, in 1 Corinthians 13:1 the great Apostle Paul illumines how important love is to a believer: “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” The point is clear: Words matter little if love is absent from the heart. Paul echoes that truth in 1 Corinthians 8:1b: “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” Loving our Savior and loving others must be the primary pursuits of the believer’s life. But it’s important to understand that Paul’s keen observations in these Scriptures are not meant to discourage us from also pursuing knowledge. Some believers think “love is all you need” and tend to consider those who depart from this narrow point of view unloving. But the Bible teaches otherwise. In truth, the believer in office, or any believer, for that matter, can be both knowledgeable and loving at the same time. Those who pursue knowledge are not necessarily unloving; to say otherwise is to propagate a false dichotomy. In a spiritual sense, mental preparedness, the gaining of knowledge, is quite essential for any important kingdom assignment, such as serving Christ in city, county, state or national government, or in any other profession. The word “knowledge” appears 40 times in the book of Proverbs and is always related to and descriptive of a wise person. Proverbs 1:22 states, “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, and fools hate knowledge?” In Proverbs 1:28-29, knowledge is directly related to finding God: “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” These passages are but two of many that show the importance of pursuing knowledge. The underlying motive for gaining knowledge is often a determinative factor as to whether or not it is a holy pursuit. If we possess the right spirit of glorifying God, building his kingdom, winning the lost to Christ, and being a preserver and illuminator in culture, then our quest for knowledge is undoubtedly a wonderful pursuit that is both God-honoring and God-blessed! Perhaps the most powerful way to illustrate the point being made here — that the Bible teaches that our faith in Christ must be cognitive as well as loving — is to examine the three biblically identified stages of the believer’s spiritual growth as listed in 1 John 2:12-14:
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
This passage illustrates that knowledge is extremely important to the Christian’s life and growth in Christ! These verses identify an important progression in a believer’s spiritual maturation from a “little child” to a mature-in-faith “father.” In fact, without the pursuit of biblical knowledge, there will be no maturation in Christ. I invite you to read my Bible study, “The Essentiality of Knowledge,” to learn additional insights into this issue and why developing a love of the pursuit of knowledge is vital to your spiritual growth as a believer. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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