Knowing vs Doing – Knowledge Puffs Up But Love Builds Up

Question from a Site Viewer

Knowing vs Doing — You Know It — But Do You Do It?

I spend an inordinate amount of time reading God’s Word and it really nourishes my soul. But lately I’ve been feeling convicted to get out more — to try to interact with people more and put into practice what I’ve been reading. Sometimes I don’t even get to church. I feel that today’s churches do not feed my spiritual hunger the way that God’s Word does. What are your thoughts on knowing vs doing God’s Word?

Tim’s Answer

Jesus’ emphasis was not on knowing the right things, but doing the Father’s will.

  • Matthew 5:23 — seek reconciliation
  • 5:37 — speak the truth
  • 5:42 — be generous
  • 5:44 — love your enemies
  • 5:48 — be perfect
  • 6:3 — give in simplicity
  • 6:6-13 — pray rightly
  • 6:14-15 — forgive
  • 6:17-18 — fast secretly
  • 6:19-20 — place your treasure in heaven
  • 6:25-32 — do not worry
  • 6:33 — seek God’s kingdom
  • 7:1 — do not judge others
  • 7:7-8 — pray with persistence
  • 7:12 — treat others as you would like to be treated
  • 7:21 –do the will of the Father
  • 7:24-27 — the one who does His will is like a house built on the rock

And this we find just in one sermon of Jesus Christ. He states in Matthew 12:50 that those who do the will of the Father are His family. At the end of His last sermon, Jesus tells us the coming judgment is based on what we did or did not do (Matthew 25:31-46). Of course Paul says the same thing with respect to the judgment in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10 and 1 Timothy 5:24-25. Our judgment will be based on what we do. And no, Christ and Paul are not teaching salvation by works, but both agree with James that without works faith is dead. As Jesus said before in Matthew 7:20, one’s fruit shows what sort of tree we are. Thus, the focus on what we do is not in any way at odds with salvation by faith.

Jesus Himself practiced what He taught. Look at John 4:34 (this was referring to His engagement with the Samaritan woman).

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

In John 5:17, He said that He has been working.

But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

He says in John 5:19 that He does what the Father does.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

In John 5:28-29 He again bases the coming judgment on what we do.

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

In John 7:17, He says that if we will to do His will, then we will know doctrine. This, of course is what He taught us in the Old Testament (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 16:3).

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

God’s knowledge comes to those who practice His will. He said in John 9:4 that He must work the works of the Father while it is day.

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.

He said in John 10:37-38 that if He did not do the works of the Father, then the people should not believe Him.

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

At the last supper, He washes their feet and then states that we should do as He has done (John 13:16).

Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

He said all will know that we are His disciples, not by a list of doctrines to which we adhere, but by the love we show one another (John 13:35).

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

And at the end He commands Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17).

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

What we find consistently throughout Scripture are practices to follow. Is this not what Paul says in Romans 12-15, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians 5-6, Ephesians 4-6, Philippians 4, Colossians 2-4, 1 Thessalonians 4-5, 2 Thessalonians 3, 1 Timothy 4-6, 2 Timothy 2-3 and Titus 2-3? The doctrinal passages at the first of these books never concludes with, “These things you must believe.” The flow of thought in each of Paul’s writings is that because these doctrines are true, therefore these are the things you must do. At one point, Paul even places the doctrine in contrast with love, stating that knowledge puffs up but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1).

In Matthew 21:28-32, Jesus told the parable of the two sons and then likened the elder son to the tax collectors and harlots and the second son to those who knew the law. He said the tax collectors and harlots (those who did not know and were not trained in the law of God but believed what John the Baptist had said) would enter into the kingdom of God. The publican went away righteous because He asked for God’s mercy (Luke 18:14). I think sometimes we make knowing God and His will too complicated. God is not demanding that the publican, the harlots, the tax collectors, the sinners, and any others get all of their doctrine straight to get to heaven. He is asking only that they believe in Jesus Christ. Once they believe in His Son, they are part of the church and are my brothers and sisters. I then have a responsibility to engage, encourage, strengthen, love in tangible ways, be around, and embrace them even as my Master embraces them, even as the father embraced the prodigal son.

When I read Scripture, I find the thrust and heart of Scripture is that we be the type of people known for peace with one another and good works in this world, to be blessings to our enemies, and to practice the traits of heaven with a lost world and a flawed church. Given the difficulties Paul had with the Corinthian church, Paul never withdrew from them because they did not hold the right doctrine; rather he engaged with them. It is interesting to me that in Revelation 2-3, many of the seven churches had wrong doctrine, as Jesus said. But when He wrote to them He had not yet withdrawn the candle from any of them, but called them to repent. His long-suffering with bad doctrine does not mean that he will not judge them, any more than Gaius’ endurance of wrong doctrine would continue forever (John would deal with it if and when he came — 3 John 9-10), but He does give us an example of what long-suffering looks like when dealing with bad doctrine. Ultimately, however, He does not ask us to separate from the tares, but to build up His church.

I have long thought the reason to go to church involves both the collective worship of God by His saints (something that is both commanded and is one of the great offerings and privileges of the saints) and to find people to whom we can minister the grace of God.

Always increase and abound in love, as we are all taught to encourage one another to do. Love does not withdraw, but rather engages. Love is not a distant thing, but a relational thing. Love is defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 and shown supremely in Christ, who came to be with us. As Paul states, God’s testament is written in us by the Holy Spirit, known and read by all men. But if we hide that love by withdrawing so that men cannot see us, then we are hiding the light of God under a bushel. We need to be among people so that all may see the goodness of God working out in us.

So — knowing vs doing. It’s good to know, but it’s better to do.

knowing vs doing

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