Romans 10:2 – For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
Romans 9-11 sets forth the inspired explanation of the great dispensational change that has occurred in God’s dealings with man in view of Israel being set aside. The subject matter of these chapters is the nation Israel and the purpose of God with her in view of her past (Rom. 9), present (Rom. 10) and future (Rom. 11). In Rom. 10, Paul is specifically addressing the issue of the blindness that Israel presently experiences as a result of her shame concerning Jesus of Nazareth as her Messiah & King. Paul leads into this explanation in the closing verses of Rom. 9 and illustrates how Israel was ashamed of Him as her lowly Christ. In view of her stumbling, Paul then sets forth the remedy for her salvation from that shame in Rom. 10.
In vs. 2 Paul speaks of his national brethren and says, For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. Zeal can be a good thing. It is fervor of spirit, enthusiastic devotion, passion and ardor for some person or cause. The LORD Himself has it for the accomplishing of His word (Isa. 9:7) and the Apostle Paul speaks of it as an outcome of the grace life (Titus 2:14). Such is sufficient proof to me that I dare say that zealousy can indeed be a good and godly trait. However, there is also a great danger with zeal when it is not originated and controlled by knowledge. When it is so, rather than producing fruit which is godly, wholesome and good, it may well work to the disadvantage of the possessor and zealously affect [him], but not well (Gal. 4:17).
Such was the case with Israel and her religious leadership. She had a zeal of God: an enthusiastic devotion & fervor of spirit that could not be tamed; a passion and faith so strong that she thought she did God service while opposing the very things God Himself was doing in the person and ministry of Christ. The problem was that this zeal was not according to knowledge. It was her ignor[ance] of God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3) that caused her to go about to establish her own righteousness; her own system of “pleasing God” and doing God service by speaking against and persecuting the way of truth. How zealous were those religious traditionalists! How vehemently loud they were in their accusations against the Lord, passionately deriding and condemning His doctrine; name calling and publicly shaming the very one who was there to tell them the truth and show them how they might know it. How grievously they erred, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God (Mt. 22:29)! Why? Because their zeal of God was not according to knowledge!
See how zeal works to the disadvantage of these Israelites and learn a lesson for today. Their zeal in ignorance caused them to become blind to the way of truth and speak evil of it, not knowing what spirit they were of. They were so zealous; so assured that their understanding of things was correct because of the tradition of their fathers! So confident were they that their high learning, superior age and religious observances every sabbath day put them into a position to “know better” than a simple man with a Bible. They thus could not be troubled with an ask to reexamine their positions in view of scripture and shed some part of their religious garb that they had not (to that point) seen more perfectly. In all their vanity & religious exercise, the very law in which they professed to trust was unto them as a book that was sealed! They read it every sabbath day and held it up as their guide of life, but they never profited from it by way of spiritual understanding! The suggestion that they were in such a condition could not be tolerated and thus must be dispatched with as error and foul. No time for honest inquiry! No time for investigation whether these things were so! No time to go and learn with Christ’s sayings meant! Religious zeal could not dare to come and see lest it be faced with the embarrassment of being wrong for so long! How dreadful the condition of a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge!
Dear friends, do not allow zeal to become the enemy that keeps you hardened in ignorance! Do not allow religious zealousy to close your ears to the word of God such that you refuse to hear! Do not construct for yourself a “safe zone” which is built upon insults and pejoratives for others, but founded nothing upon contextual, black and white scripture. Such is a delusion and a zeal of God that may well have you speaking evil against those who are simply exhorting you to refine your understanding with the truth of God’s word, as did Aquila & Priscilla toward Apollos (Acts 18:25-26). Be careful who you are labeling! Have enough honesty of heart to look at the scripture before making premature judgments, for He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him (Prov. 18:13). Quit taking the word of others for what you believe about God (or otherwise), and go to the Book! Ask questions of your teachers! Seek the truth from the Source and allow God to teach you what to think and believe for His honor and glory! He is the only One who you can know will always tell you the truth, and there is no zeal like that which comes from being established in the truth according to knowledge!
Despite the sincerity of Israel’s religious leadership, God held them accountable for their ignorance. It is not enough to be sincere. Zealous dismissiveness and angry dissension will not cut it at the judgment seat of Christ, and the shallow hiding place of human pride and religious arrogance will burn as dross when it passes through the fire of God’s word. Tread cautiously, my brethren!