13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, NKJV)
The word translated “ignorant” means “not to know.” While knowledge can produce arrogance when one thinks too highly of himself, decided advantages also come with knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1-2). Jesus said knowing the truth (His word) “shall make you free” from sin as you abide in His word (Jno. 8:31-32, 33-36). Today’s passage declares knowing the future of Christians who have died removes our sorrow and gives us hope (v. 13). More specifically, knowing and believing Jesus rose from the dead supports our hope (desire and expectation) that Christians will be raised from the dead and be with Jesus when He returns (1 Thess. 4:15-16). Such blessed assurance replaces the sorrow of death’s loss with bold confidence that invigorates our faith when death separates us from beloved saints. God has a future planned for His people. Whether living or dead, when Jesus returns and raises the dead, the saints of God will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). Knowing what will happen to those who have died in the Lord empowers us to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).
11 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:11–14, NKJV)
Jesus, the Son of God, was humble. He lowered Himself, humbled Himself, to help the helpless, to save His enemies – sinners, like you and me. We are not humble when we only bless those who can repay us. Such conceit arrogantly judges others as it says, “I will only treat you nicely because I expect you to be nice to me in return.” That is not loving, merciful, or the attitude of God (Matt. 5:43-48). Reciprocity is not the Christian’s motivation for being kind and pleasant. The gospel goes out to all, and we must try to bless all with whom we have contact, trying to save some (Rom. 12:17-21). So, keep and show godly attitudes, even toward those who mistreat you (Matt. 5:10-12). Always treat others kindly, even when they are not kind toward you (Matt. 7:12). The Lord will repay you at the resurrection (Jno. 5:28-29). That will be enough.
12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. (Proverbs 8:12–13, NKJV)
Wisdom is the insight and discernment that applies knowledge sensibly and carefully. Solomon will go on to say that wisdom begins by fearing the Lord: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psa. 111:10). We cannot miss the point that wisdom hates evil because it fears the Lord. Wisdom does not love, endorse, or promote evil. Instead, wisdom knows and despises the evil of pride, arrogance, the path of sin, and the profane, perverse mouth. The contrast is vivid: Should we make life choices out of pride and arrogance, we are not fearing God, we are not doing His commandments – we are not wise. The gospel says, “See then that you walk circumspectly (carefully, JRP), not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). Today, choose wisdom as your companion. Live carefully by fearing God and doing His commands, and it will be so (Matt. 7:24-25).
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. (1 Corinthians 4:6, NASB95)
The apostle warned the Corinthians “not to exceed what is written.” His warning still applies. What does that mean? How does that happen? Another version translates this phrase, “not to think beyond what is written” (NKJV). We are not to entertain, have a sentiment for, be disposed to, or interested in reaching beyond what the apostles of Christ have written (Strong, G5426). According to today’s verse, this happens when we become arrogant. In his broader context (1 Cor. 1:10-4:21), Paul identified the “message of the cross” (the revealed mind of God) as that which we must not exceed (since it is the power, wisdom, and mind of God). By contrast, the “wisdom of this world” is the thinking that exceeds what is written. Due to pride, the wisdom of this world concludes the message of the cross is foolish. Pride’s deception rejects the apostolic traditions for the traditions that men put in their place (1 Cor. 3:18-20; 2 Thess. 2:15). The “pattern of sound words” is trampled upon as the philosophies, commandments, and doctrines of men advance, plundering the eternal treasures of the gospel in Christ (2 Tim. 1:13; Col. 2:8, 20-23). To guard against this, we must humble ourselves to the gospel of Christ. It is God’s power, wisdom, and mind (1 Cor. 1:23-24; 2:6-13, 16). Thinking that exceeds it takes one into regions of doubt, compromise, and unbelief – places the Father and the Son will never be (2 John 9; Gal. 1:6-9).
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7–9, NKJV)
We miss the point of this passage if we conclude God sent an ailment upon Paul to restrain his arrogance (John 9:1-3). His physical limitation was an opportunity for the grace of God to be magnified. Paul admitted he had been arrogant before his conversion, but also that he had been humbled by the mercy of God he received in Christ (1 Timothy 1:13-17). His thorn in the flesh was an occasion for the power of Christ to be glorified in him. And so, Paul trusted the Lord instead of his wisdom, strength, and accomplishments (Philippians 3:1-11). Most of us will face ailments and illnesses at some point in life. These are chronic for some and short-lived for others. But every one of them is our opportunity to learn to live with our limitations and to be strengthened in the Lord. His grace is sufficient for us to endure life’s temporary trials so we may live eternally with Him (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. (1 Corinthians 8:1–3, NKJV)
The next subject about which the Corinthians questioned the apostle was “things offered to idols” (that is, eating things that had been offered to idols, 1 Cor. 8:4, 10). Paul will explain that while we all know an idol is nothing and that there is but one true God, the consciences of some Christians were weak, informing them that the idol was still somehow consequential (1 Cor. 8:7). Rather than arrogantly dismissed them, their weak consciences were to be considered when deciding whether to use one’s personal liberty and eat things that had been offered to idols (1 Cor. 8:7-13). You see, knowledge, standing alone, invites arrogance (v. 1). Knowledge tends to inflate one’s opinion of himself. Humility, not pride, must inform and animate our knowledge (v. 2). We have not yet acquired the knowledge we ought to have if we view ourselves sufficient and superior in knowledge to others. Our goal is to be known by God, not to flaunt and force what we know upon others (v. 3). These principles inform our use of personal liberties. Paul’s call to combine knowledge with humility is needed whenever we are tempted to elevate ourselves above others (Romans 13:8-10).
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3, NKJV)
Speaking God’s word in order to address the spiritual needs of men and women is an action of divine grace. And, that truth applies “to everyone who is among you” – divine truth knows no partiality. Therefore, we are warned against a conceited, arrogant frame of mind toward God’s truth. Arrogance prevents the wisdom of sound judgment. Truly, arrogance is an attribute of the fool, who prideful trusts in his own reasoning: “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Prov. 18:2). Faith produces humility toward God’s truth, not hubris. Faith does not argue against God’s truth; it accepts it. Faith does not elevate human reasoning; it submits to the infinitely superior will of God. The word “soberly” in today’s text means “to be in one’s right mind” (Thayer, 612-613). When a Christian is arrogant, he is not in his right mind. We must have the mind of Christ (humble and obedient) – not the conceited mind of the world (Phil. 2:5-8).
Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips. (Proverbs 27:2, NKJV)
Nobody likes a braggart. Praising oneself is a prideful display of self-importance. Christians do not go around “tooting their own horn.” Their meek and quiet life will speak for itself (see Jas. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:11-12). Praising oneself is a mark of self-righteousness, not humble self-denial. The self-righteous Pharisee “stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’” (Lk. 18:11-12). Praising oneself indicates one is absorbed with selfishly demanding the spotlight. Christians do not seek the praise of men, but the praise of God. Therefore, we must not draw attention to ourselves through the vanity of self-adulation. Instead, let us be busy directing our attention toward serving others, and toward humbly obeying God. Then, we will have neither the time nor the inclination to draw attention to ourselves.
A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident. (Proverbs 14:16, NKJV)
Confidence is an admirable trait when it is governed by God’s truth, by godly fear and by an aversion to evil. But, remove the restraints of humility and caution toward sin, and self-confidence becomes one’s undoing. The rage that characterizes a fool describes acting arrogantly in defiance of truth and wisdom. It is foolish to become comfortable with error and self-confident toward sin. Self-confidence conditions the heart to place more trust in oneself than in God and His truth. Wisdom teaches us to fear sin and its effects in our lives and the lives of others. We must “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). It is utterly foolish to resist God and His will; such self-confidence leads to eternal ruin (2 Thess. 1:8-9).
16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:16–17, NKJV)
Pride prevents many from recalling the certainty and the brevity of life as they plan their strategies for life. Or, at least, pride prevents them from allowing these realities to turn their attention to God when making life choices. These arrogantly boast in themselves and their ability to live without God, to be the master of all they survey – even though they do not control life’s uncertainty or its brevity. Convincing themselves they are sufficient without God, they choose to live their uncertain and brief life sinning against the very One who gave them life. On the other hand, when we know and do God’s will (that which is “good”), we avoid sin and instead, attain the real purpose of life: to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13). May we ever humble ourselves before God to do His will. May we do the good His word reveals to us, and so by avoiding sin, equip ourselves for life, death and eternity.