Zeal & Knowledge

By Brooks Cochran

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:12).

Paul, in the verses above, gives his own personal commentary on the attitude of his own people toward Christ and the gospel. He desires Israel’s salvation; but realizes that in their current condition such is impossible. In verse 2 there are two words that I would like to consider and note some relationships that exist between them. The words are “zeal” and “knowledge.”

By “zeal” we mean “to be fervent, ardent”; and by “knowledge,” “to make a thing a subject of observation; hence, to arrive at knowledge of; to attain to a knowledge of” (Analytical Greek Lexicon 181, 155). Zeal for God and a knowledge of him and his will are required of all who wish to be saved (cf. Rev. 3:19; 2 Pet. 1:5; Eph. 5:17).

1. One can have zeal without knowledge. At one time Paul was in this condition. He had a “zeal” for God; i.e. “persecuting the church” (Phil. 3:6; cf. Acts 22:3,4). But he was lacking in “knowledge” regarding Jesus as the Christ of Old Testament prophecy and what he must do to get right with God (Acts 22:7-8,10,12-16).

Many religious people today fall into this category. They manifest much zeal for the false religious systems of which they are a part. Many, no doubt, are very sincere in their belief. But they lack a proper knowledge of God’s word. Sadly, those that remain in this state will be lost (Matt. 15:14).

2. One can have knowledge without zeal. This describes many in the church. They have heard and received God’s word; but like the church at Sardis they “are dead” (Rev. 3:1-3). They do very little work in the local church. To question their faithfulness is an insult and they quickly let the preacher and/or elders know their displeasure. As long as their names are in the directory they are content; and pity the preacher who accidentally misspells or omits their name from the roll! Yet, these individuals are only deceiving themselves. They are in a sinful state and as such will be lost (Jas. 4:17; Rev. 3:16-17).

3. One can have zeal and knowledge. This is the ideal state or condition God expects of his own. These individuals can be depended upon to do whatever work needs to be done. They are busy teaching Bible classes; inviting their lost family and friends to the services; assisting in any work program of the congregation of which they are a part; i.e., they are busy laying up “treasurers in heaven” (Matt. 6:20). By remaining in this state one can look forward to the crown of life which the Lord will give at the last day (2 Tim. 2:4-6; Rev. 2:10).

Which of the above states describes your spiritual condition? If you have zeal without knowledge or have sufficient knowledge but are just lazy (lack zeal), do you intend to make the necessary changes? If not, you will be lost!

Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 15, p. 4
August 5, 1993