“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” (Romans 10:1-3, NASB)
Knowledge precedes zeal. In other words, knowing why you are doing something is more important than how enthusiastically you are doing it. Paul writes in today’s passage, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” Paul felt sympathy towards the Jews because he saw that they were passionate about God but without accurate knowledge of what He wanted from them. Have you ever known people like this who were enthusiastic about something but enthusiastically wrong? We usually say things like, “Well, he’s wrong, but at least he had the right heart.” This is how Paul felt about his own people. He loved how they had the heart for God, but hated the fact that they did it without understanding. Knowledge must precede zeal. In describing them, he said, “For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” The Jews were zealous about keeping the laws of God but they did not know why He had given them the Law. The purpose of the Law is not to save us from sin, but to point out that we are sinners and that we need a Savior. Had the Jews really understood about the purpose of the Law, they would have been passionate about receiving Jesus as their Messiah and enthusiastic about welcoming the seekers of God whether they were Jews or Gentiles. Knowledge precedes zeal. In the same way, there are too many Christians and churches today who are passionate about Christianity without knowing why God had commissioned them on earth. To those who are zealous about serving God without knowledge of His purpose, He will say to them in the end, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk.6:46). We are zealous, enthusiastic, and passionate about calling Him, “Lord, Lord,” but we lack a clear understanding of what He has said and what He requires of us. We need the knowledge of what God wants of us before we can enthusiastically serve Him. Having zeal without knowledge is like driving down the freeway best that you can, obeying the speed limit, and enjoying the ride, but you are driving on the wrong freeway or going in the wrong direction. Imagine that your destination is San Francisco, but you are driving down toward San Diego. What good will it do if you are driving perfectly, but going the wrong direction? The principle of knowledge precedes zeal can also be applied to other areas of our spiritual life and not just our salvation. You can be passionate about the what of prayer, Bible, worship, evangelism, and ministry, but without an understanding of why you should do them. You can be passionate about your church but without an understanding of why your church exists. You can be passionate about your role as a father, a husband, a son, a daughter, a brother, or a sister, but without understanding why God has put you there in your family. Let us learn from today’s reading and put understanding before zeal rather than zeal without understanding.