Summary: Zeal for the work of the Kingdom of God is a wonderful thing as long as that zeal is put into action according to God’s will and God’s Word.
by Pastor Jim May
Romans 10:1-3, "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."
Don’t you just love to be around people who have a dream, a vision, and a plan of action to get something done for the Lord? I get excited about people with zeal for the things of God. It’s like their energy spills over on to me and I get a renewed zeal to join in with them.
I think that the Apostle Paul had a lot of zeal for the kingdom of God too. Even before he was converted on the Road to Damascus, Paul had a lot of zeal after God. But like so many in the church world today, that wonderful zeal, that great desire to see the laws of God fulfilled in the nation, that Paul had was totally misdirected.
Here he was, a well educated, Pharisee that lived by the Law of Moses to the letter, who was sold out to the God of Israel and to the religious leaders of the temple. He was doing God a service by bringing tremendous persecution upon these heretics who were being called “Christians”. Don’t these people know that they are deifying a man? Don’t they know that the man they worship is dead? How can a dead man, who once led a revolt against the established church, possibly be called God? That kind of blasphemy just simply could not go unchallenged and unpunished, and Saul was just the man to do it.
He stood by, holding the coats of those who stoned Stephen. I wonder what he thought as he heard Stephen and watched him die from the rocks crushing his body when Stephen said, “I see the Heavens opened and Jesus is standing at the right hand of the Father.”
How could anyone die so peacefully and be so disillusioned at the truth? Was this Stephen a madman, or was there something really true about all of this talk about Jesus being the very Son of God?
It was about this time that Saul, seeking to continue his work of eradicating the followers of Jesus, started out with great zeal on another of his trips. This time he would carry letters of recommendation from the very High Priest of Israel, to carry out his duties as a bounty hunter.
Acts 9:1-2, "And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem."
I can just see Saul, as he rode out of Jerusalem with blood in his eye. He was a man on a mission to right the wrongs of his day. Young or old, men, women and even children; anyone who dared name the name of Jesus was fair game. The land of Israel had to be cleansed of such heretics for the good of the nation.
In fact, Paul bragged a little about his zeal for the work of God in Philippians 3:6, "Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." There was no one more “righteous” in the eyes of the Law than Paul, but his was a self-righteousness and not the righteousness of Christ. There was no one more zealous than Paul, but his zeal was misdirected.
Yes, zeal is a wonderful thing, but only if that zeal is aimed in the right direction. Otherwise, our zeal can become a deadly weapon to destroy the lives of other people.
How often have we seen this in the church? How often have I seen a young Christian, who was really on fire for God, zealous for the work of the Lord, chomping at the bits to do something useful, and the first thing you know, they either can’t be found anymore, or their zeal is utterly destroyed and you can’t get them to do anything anymore. It’s not hard to find the reason. Most of the time, they step into uncharted waters, where their zeal leads them into the deep where the “church sharks” are just waiting to pounce on “new blood”.
Some dear old “saint of God” who has been “in the way” for a long time, and I do mean “in the way”, will quickly put a stop to the misdirected zeal and passion to work for the Lord that the young Christian exhibits because it makes the old “saint” look bad. “What makes you think that you can do that? I sure couldn’t and I’ve been trying for a long time.” I think some folks carry a wet blanket with them everywhere they go just to put out the zeal and fire of a “newborn” Christian.