Sunday, 30 June 2013

Zeal without Knowledge

Romans 10:1-2
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 
It is possible to be zealous for God but to be entirely wrong about the gospel. We can be energetic and enthusiastic in seeking to serve God, and yet be missing the whole point and not really be serving him at all.

That's the problem with having zeal without knowledge. The Jews knew the law, and they were enthusiastic in keeping it. They were legalistic and I'm sure that they thought they were doing great things for God. But in reality they were hindering the gospel. The Pharisees and Sadducees were working to kill Jesus out of their zeal. Paul was persecuting Christians out of his zeal for 'God'. But their god wasn't the same God as the one in the bible. They didn't believe the gospel. They thought they could save themselves with their works.

  • Knowledge versus Salvation
We are not saved based on how much we know or don't know about God. But to be saved, to genuinely put your faith in Christ and repent of your sins, you've got to know something. If you don't know the gospel how can you believe it? If no one preaches the message, how can anyone be saved? (Sure, God doesn't need us, but he chooses to use us in bringing people to him.)

True service to God can only come after genuine salvation and trust in Jesus. So we need to know enough to put our trust in God before we can serve him.

In fact the 'fear of the LORD' (trust in God) is the beginning of knowledge/wisdom:
Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
  • Knowledge versus ability to serve God.
Again, it's true that God doesn't only work through those who know a lot about him and about his word. But that isn't a reason not to be striving to know more about God. He can use anyone and anything to do his will, but he also calls us to be faithful with what we have.

A side point to this is that young Christians, and Christians who don't know a lot shouldn't be readily appointed to high positions in the church. Our leaders should know a lot about God, otherwise how are they going to teach us? Be wise in what leadership positions you take on in the church and be wise if you're appointing people to leadership positions. Jesus didn't appoint the 12 disciples to high places straight away, he taught them for three years before they became leaders of the church.

  • Is having knowledge about God important?
In short: Yes. It is very important. 

If we don't know much about God, then (humanly speaking) how are we meant to tell others about him? How are we meant to know how he wants us to live? How are we meant to know who he is? If we don't seek to know more about God then how are we meant to be encouraged by the gospel? How else can we know more about the certain hope of heaven? How else can we learn that there is full forgiveness in Jesus alone, not based on anything we have done?

There is always more to learn, and we should not be frustrated by that. We should rejoice in God's goodness in allowing us to learn about him and work hard to know more.

This also requires a lot of humility. Look at Apollos in Acts 18:18-28. He was humble enough to listen, and if he hadn't been then his zeal wouldn't have been as effective as it was. We need to be ready to listen and to be teachable. Always examine the word of God, and be ready to discuss with other people (especially those you don't agree with).

The other side of this is that if we have knowledge, if we know a lot about God (from his word), then we should be seeking to use it and to serve God with it. It is so easy to have knowledge without zeal, and this is just as useless as zeal without knowledge. We need to love God and serve him, not to be silent. We need to trust him and be courageous to share the gospel. Don't just sit back and read books! Trust God and obey him!

Do you have zeal for God? Work at gaining knowledge of the truth also.

Do you have knowledge about God? Word at being enthusiastic to see other people learn and to serve him.

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