The Bible Says It’s Good To Be A Know-It-All

I ran across an interesting line in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight … (Philippians 1:9.)

What? Smart people are better at loving others? That seems like an odd thing for Paul to write when you consider his earlier letter to Christians in Corinth where he said:

We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1.)

So which is it: does love abound in knowledge like he told the Philippians, or is knowledge empty while love is substantial as he told the Corinthians?

It depends on what you do with your knowledge.

Here’s that line from Philippians in context, giving a better picture of the reason Paul prays for their knowledge and insight.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11.)

According to these verse, then, there are three ways for love to abound in your knowledge and insight.

First – knowledge and insight lead to discernment

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ …

Depth of insight means we know things more than just on a surface level; we have the ability to act wisely because we understand deeply the difference between right and wrong.

The handy thing about discernment, then, is that we can use it to see the difference between what is pure and what is not. Love abounds in this discernment when we act in ways consistent with our relationship with Jesus.

Second – knowledge and insight lead to bearing fruit

… that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be … filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ …

The fruit of righteousness is the fruit the Spirit of Christ produces in us: love, joy, peace, patience , kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23.) It is by keeping in step with the Spirit that we avoid some very unloving acts: conceit coupled with provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:26.)

Jesus said he produces much fruit in his people, in fact, and all they need to do to bear that fruit is rest in him.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5.)

And since God is love (1 John 4:8), the “fruit of righteousness” he produces in us is nothing less than his love.

Third – knowledge and insight lead to glorifying God

… that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight … to the glory and praise of God.

The love that abounds in our growing knowledge and deep insight of God has an ultimate purpose, the glory of God. In fact, everything we do should lead to that:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31.)

That is where love leads us, to God’s glory. Love is not an end in itself in our lives, just as knowledge and deep insight are not ends in themselves. Love and knowledge and wisdom have a single shared purpose: glorifying God.

Love abounding forever for the glory of God. That’s something worth growing in knowledge and deepening our insight about.

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7 Responses to The Bible Says It’s Good To Be A Know-It-All

  1. Laura Droege says:

    So much food for thought and application stuffed into this blog post! I’ll resist the urge to share every single thought that comes to my mind. That would turn this comment into a dissertation! 🙂

    But here’s one thing. Is the knowledge that Paul refers to only knowledge of God? or could it also apply to other types of knowledge (such as academic research, or increasing knowledge of an artistic craft) which hold the potential to glorify God?

    Years ago, I read a prayer by a scholar that asked God for wisdom as he went about his scholarly work: discernment, humility, love for others, and seeking to glorify God. My mother gave me a copy of the poem; even though my field of study wasn’t directly related to theology, it still seemed (seems!) relevant.

    I hope my question makes sense.

    • Tim says:

      If all truth is God’s truth, then all knowledge of the truth glorifies him whether we mean it to or not. I think this extends then to knowledge of his creation so that certainly the type of knowledge and use of it that you describe are encouraged by Scripture passages like the one I quoted above.

      As for all the other things you say came to mind when you read today’s post, any chance you might put them together in a guest post here for me, Laura? Just a thought.

  2. Jeannie says:

    There are many things to ponder here, Tim, but the idea of love abounding in discernment struck me the most. I think learning to discern what is best helps us become more clear about what love truly is — and isn’t. Often we do what we think is loving out of a sense of pressure, or guilt, or some other less worthy motive, when some clear wisdom and discernment would help us see the situation more clearly.

    • Tim says:

      Discerning between love that is an outflow of the love God gives us versus what we think is love stemming from less worthy motives is still hard for me sometimes, Jeannie.

  3. I love this perspective. It feels much more true to me than the old one I was taught, that righteousness that glorifies God meant performing better, and the only “fruit” that counted were the people I could say I had saved by my flawless execution of the Roman Road. Thank you for this.

    • Tim says:

      Would you believe that after I became a Christian 2 different people who heard about it each then sat me down, walked me through the Roman Road and asked me questions at each passage, then told me at the end “Congratulations, now you’re a Christian!”

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