Zeal: Friend or Foe?
Titus West | January 28, 2022

There are at least 46 verses in the bible that contain the word “zeal.” The definition of zeal is: a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes someone very eager or determined to do something. This word is often used to describe people in the church as well as local churches themselves. One would think that a word like zeal would always be a good thing for the Christian, but that isn’t always so.

Paul writes in Romans chapter 10 about the attainment of righteousness by faith. The Gentiles were able to attain righteousness by their faith in Jesus whereas the Jews were not able to attain righteousness because they chose the Law by works instead of faith through Christ. Though Paul is comparing righteousness unto salvation obtained by the Gentiles verses the Jews, he is careful to mention that the Jews (although lacking in faith and righteousness) had a zeal for God. Their zeal was misplaced though.

Romans 10:1-4, “Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Simply put, Paul states that he wants the Jews to be saved. They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, meaning that by rejecting Jesus for the Law of Moses, they rejected the righteousness of God. This made their zeal worthless and Paul states that by continuing to follow the Law instead of Jesus, they were now seeking to establish their own version of righteousness.

As someone who is zealous for Christ, this passage makes me careful of how I spend my energy. It is important for a Christian to be zealous, but not just in works. Because we are “working for God” in a zealous manner, this doesn’t always mean we are doing what’s right according to God and His plan. A Christian must be zealous to be correct according to the Word provided by God. Let not our zealousness cloud our judgement and make us follow our own rules instead of God’s.