Romans 10: 2- “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” NKJV
Paul spends a lot of time in Romans addressing Jewish beliefs that should have led to Jesus, but only led to the keeping of the Law. His heart was burdened for the Jewish nation, as he once again expresses his pain at their spiritual condition:
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.Romans 10:1 NKJV
Not only does Paul desire for them to get saved, but he prays to God for the salvation of Israel. He realizes with clarity, that if they continue down the path they are on as a nation, they will not be saved. So his prayer is for them to see the truth that they might be saved.
Paul then address a very important point, that I will camp at today. They have a lot of zeal for God, but it is not zeal based on knowledge:
“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”Romans 10:2 NKJV
If anyone can recognize zeal that is not according to knowledge, it is Paul.
As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.Acts 8:3 NKJV
Luke wrote that Paul created such havoc in the church, that he was personally responsible for finding those who believed in Jesus, going into their homes, and dragging them off to prison, both men and women. He was no respecter of persons.
Paul explains what he did and why he did it:
I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.Acts 22: 4-5 NKJV
Paul admitted to going after those who believed in Jesus, the Way! He even referred to the high priest as his witness. He spoke of going to Damascus to do more of the same that they may join fellow believers in Jerusalem to be punished and put to death. So when Paul refers to having zeal but not according to knowledge, he is not criticizing or judging them, he is just stating facts based off his own experience of what he had done.
But this is not the only reason Paul was saying this about zeal for God that was not based on knowledge. In Acts 21, the mob was ready to stone him to death for defiling the temple:
“Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”Acts 21:28 NKJV
Paul was a devout Jew and understood Jewish customs better than most. They accused him of teaching everybody, everywhere he went, against the Jewish people, the Law, and Jerusalem. And on top of that, he had brought Gentiles into the temple and defiled it. Shame on him! These things were not true, but the mob was supposedly zealous for Judaism, like Paul before them, and they wanted to deal with all those who opposed it.
Zeal in the Vine’s dictionary means a fierceness of fire, and this fierceness is because of a jealousy for God. But this type of passionate zeal, especially as demonstrated in this chapter was not about God. Look where this zeal led them:
And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy. They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul. Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to make further inquiries concerning him; but we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”Acts 23:12-15 NKJV
Can you believe this? They went to the church leaders, told them of their plot, and asked for help. And guess what? The church leaders were on board! The killers were “fasting” to kill Paul, and the church leaders added their support! Unbelievable! Or is it?
Throughout church history and even today, people have gotten caught up in some cause or another that they attributed to God, which was harmful to others. Those people had a zeal to stand against some “wrong” that they felt was intended towards God or the people of God, and in His name have done some shocking things. Why did I choose a picture of the Capitol? Because after all of the violence of breaking windows and doors, climbing the building, and preparing a noose for our Vice President, they had the nerve to bow their heads in prayer and thank God for what they had done!
We may not be willing to admit it, agree with it, or believe it, but God doesn’t need us to be involved in violence against others to defend Him. And in doing this violence, based on a scripture, that doesn’t make it biblical or godly! It just makes it violence!
I agree with God’s word that homosexuality and abortion is a sin. But I know that He isn’t for us attacking them physically, calling them the scum of the earth, or treating them as if they are not worthy of respect because of their sin. Can you have a zeal, or a burden against sin and not sin? Yes, you can! But if it is Christ-like to attack them, then there are some other things that are an abomination to God that should be on the list of things and people to attack! Be careful, you just might find yourself in this list:
- These six things the Lord hates,
- Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
- A proud look,
- A lying tongue,
- Hands that shed innocent blood,
- A heart that devises wicked plans,
- Feet that are swift in running to evil,
- A false witness who speaks lies,
- And one who sows discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19 NKJV
News flash! God doesn’t have or need a vigilante committee; and if He can fight our battles, He most certainly can fight His own! And He did! On the cross! Those who promote violence, even if they are church leaders, are WRONG!
Zeal is a beautiful thing in accordance to knowledge. Paul took his zeal against the church and used it for cause of Christ:
If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.Philippians 3:4-7 NKJV
After Paul came to Christ, he no longer participated in the type of activities he had previously participated in. He didn’t stop persecuting Christians and then started persecuting Jews! Certainly not! God forbid! And absolutely not!
Paul gave us a way to get things done in the kingdom of God, prayer and a life of truth. That should be our strategy for the entire population that is lost! Our zeal should always be according to knowledge, the knowledge of Jesus and His word! Nothing else! When the church connect the two, zeal and the knowledge of Jesus, we will become that light in the midst of darkness, that city set upon a hill! Wonderful Jesus!