In part 1 of this little series we looked at what matters most to God. It’s not what we know, what we do or how we view a specific doctrine (all those things are worthy of attention). What God cares about is our love for Him and our love for others.
In Paul’s letter to Philemon he commends his son in the faith by telling him, “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.” (v4-5)
Before we go any further I want to qualify this article and confirm that I am referring to true believers and not those who have no relationship with God. Dealing with those who don’t know the Lord is for another article.
Knowledge vs love
There often seems to be a tug-o-war that happens between those who promote knowledge as being primary to those who promote love. I can hear some saying, “If a person doesn’t know the truth how can they follow God completely?”
While it is true we should be searching the scriptures I wonder if the emphasis is placed on the wrong criteria. If knowledge of truth was the main goal then in essence only a very few people would actually be pleasing the Lord. But let’s step back for a moment and see what the Lord Jesus and the apostles say about this topic.
Many things still to say
The Lord Jesus takes the disciples to an upper room to give them His last few words before going to the cross. We can’t underestimate the importance of these words as they will leave an indelible mark on the minds of the apostles long after the Lord Jesus had gone back to Heaven.
He tells them that He can’t share all the details of knowledge with them but in time they would learn through the work of the Holy Spirit, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” John 16:12-13
So with only a few words to share, what did the Lord Jesus want to give as the words they were to focus on and remember? It was simply this, love, obedience and abiding in Him. Whatever the Holy Spirit would reveal to them they were to follow it. They were to stay close to Him and out of their lives would come fruit that pleased the Father.
The main commandment He left them was to love one another. (John 15:12) Of all the things He could have said there was only one thing that mattered above all others – love.
An incomplete knowledge
Let’s consider Apollos. It says in Acts 18:25 that, “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.” Here was a man who by all means was a great servant of the Lord. He was respected and being used mightily.
Yet he didn’t know the whole truth. That’s why Priscilla and Aquila had to take him aside and teach him the truth about baptism. It would be foolish for any of us to think that Apollos was not pleasing the Lord, or drawing close in his walk with God before he learned more about the truth.
Why does all this matter?
So we ask the question, why does it matter? Let me give just a few thoughts here before we close.
- The lack of love as the primary command to obey has caused countless divisions in the church.
- When we focus on knowledge above love we become isolated as we exclude any who don’t agree with our strain of doctrine or practice.
- Emphasizing knowledge ignores the fact that many believers are at a different stage in their spiritual journey (Apollos for example).
- Loving others no matter their understanding of truth is exactly the way the Lord Jesus lived His life.
- Knowledge puffs up ego and ego is a killer of church fellowship.
I believe that it’s time in our assemblies (in general) to evaluate if we are guilty of the pride of knowledge and start obeying the command to love others. We need to get back to the emphasis Jesus placed on love. It’s not about ignoring truth or neglecting what the Bible says. That should have a high priority in our church fellowships. But it does mean that we follow the example of Christ and place love over truth. In future articles we will look at this from a much more practical position in the church. For now I will leave you with these words from 2 Timothy 2:24-26
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.