In addressing the saints in Rome, the Apostle Paul made this observation about some of the Jews. Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, Romans 10:1-2. Paul describes the Jews as being fervent in their devotion to God. They stood opposed to the polytheistic and idolatrous society of the day. They were ardent supporters and defenders of the Mosaic Law, especially the ceremonial aspects of it. In His rebuke of the Pharisees, a sect of the Jews, Jesus said they had great zeal for converting heathens to their traditions; crossing land and sea to make one convert (Matthew 23:15). The fervor of their devotion was unquestionable, but the fallacy of their actions was undeniable. Paul proclaimed that their devotion to God was lacking a key element, knowledge. In today’s vernacular one might say, their hearts were in the right place, but their actions were wrong.
In their misguided zeal, the Jews rejected the Gospel of Christ, renounced Christianity and persecuted Christians. This they did with great zeal because they believed they were doing the right thing. Herein lies their problem as Paul exclaimed. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God, Romans 10:3. (Emphases MS). They were on fire for the Lord in all the wrong ways because they substituted God’s Word for their own beliefs. If the Jews studied the Scriptures as they were commanded, they would have recognized Christ as the fulfillment of the Law for which they were so zealous. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes, Romans 10:4. Indeed, the words of Hosea still rang true centuries later My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, Hosea 4:6.
It is imperative that we learn from the Jews’ mistakes; zeal is not enough. There are many people today who are sincere in their service to the Lord. They are zealously worshiping Him, working for Him and crossing land and sea to convert souls to Him. The zeal they display for the Lord and the sincerity with which they serve Him is no doubt pure. However, their zeal is misguided because it is based on the traditions and creed books of man. Many have established their own righteousness in the areas of 1. Salvation. Jesus said: He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned, Mark 16:16. (Emphases MS) Yet some say all one needs is a mental assent; a mere verbal exclamation that one believes in Jesus, no baptism required. Is this doctrine according to God’s righteousness? It cannot be, for Jesus has clearly and plainly established that baptism is essential for Salvation. 2. Veneration. Many today are worshiping the Lord in diverse ways. Anything and everything goes, from rock concerts to rodeos. Yet the Bible says: God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth, John 4:24. (Emphases MS) What is truth? Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth, John 17:17. When we approach the altar of God our zeal must be accompanied by God’s Truth. Our actions in worship to Him must be in line with His Word. Salvation and worship are two of the most fundamental concepts of Christianity. We would not know how to be saved or worship the Lord if it were not for the Word of the Lord (Cf.1 Corinthians 2, 2 Timothy 3:15-17). To promote zeal and reject the Word is tantamount to rejecting Christianity altogether, the very thing for which the Jews stood condemned in Romans 10.
The Jews were on fire for the Lord, but it was not in line with the Word of the Lord. In doing so they were labeled by God is being ignorant of what He deems right (Romans 10:3). They were on an emotional high but a spiritual low. What about you? I hope that you are on fire for the Lord, I hope your service to Him is akin to a blistering cauldron. Yet, I pray fervently that your zeal is accompanied by knowledge. Make sure that what you do for the Lord can found in the Word of the Lord.