Misguided Zeal
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Before we get out the fine tooth comb here for this next chapter, let me say in a brief overview that once again I was struck by the amount of Old Testament Scripture that Paul quotes. 12 of the 21 verses of chapter 10 come from the Old Testament. It pops up everywhere and once again we see the great unity of thought in the Old and New Testament.

If you were paying attention as we went through Chapter 9, you would know that it dealt with Godís incredible mercy and patience as it concerns His promise of salvation. God does not give up on His game pieces easily! In chapter 10, we will move from mercy to the means of bestowal of the promise, the means of mercy. ....namely the Gospel, the Word of God which is the power of God unto salvation. (Rom. 1:16)

This is a chapter of the Word! It speaks of the necessity of hearing it, receiving it, and carrying it forth into the world. Sometimes I think we preachers rely far too much on clever speech rather than just proclaiming this Word and letting the Holy Spirit run with it. We could all learn from the apostle Paul who said,

 1Co 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (NKJV)
Ro 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.

Paul again starts out with his concern for the Jews. Oh how he prays for their salvation.  Just think about that for a moment. Think about the treatment he received from the Jews after his conversion to Christianity.  It wasnít Rome that was beating up on him, it wasnít fellow Christians, it was his brethren......the Jews!

Yet, he prays tirelessly, that they would be saved. This is true Christian intercession. Let me ask you something. How many people have you written off as not capable of being saved? How many people have you ceased to pray for as it regards their salvation?

But pastor, nothingís happening! You donít know that! Every time you pray for the salvation of a soul, you are availing them of grace. As the Lutheran commentator Lenski puts it, you are winning added opportunities for grace from God. Never weary of praying for the lost.

As I daily pray the Lordís prayer, I always stop at ďThy kingdom comeĒ and I ask for it to come to those people in my circle of acquaintances who have rejected Christ. I pray for the lukewarm, and I pray for everyone, I pray that Godís kingdom would come to each and every one of you, since it is impossible for me to know the true condition of anyoneís heart.

I pray that Godís kingdom, His salvation  will either come to you and others, or for those already saved, that it would come in deeper and fuller measure. Never weary of praying for the lost. Never weary of praying for Godís kingdom to come. If God broke through and saved a sinner like you, He certainly can save others!

 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Paul is an expert witness when it comes to the hardened and misguided Jews..... he was one of them! And he was a good one, he was a hall of famer!

Php 3:4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;  6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  (NKJV)

How about you? Do you feel this way about your faith? Baptized as an infant, in a long line of good church going Lutherans, knowing the Law well from the catechism and confirmation days, zealous for the doctrines of the Lutheran church...you know, infant baptism, the real presence in the Lordís Supper, pot luckís.

As others observe your life in relation to the exterior commands of the Law, they would call you blameless. (But away from other believers....well, thatís a different story.)Well, listen to Paul here. As wonderful as these things are, they are worthless without having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, by faith in this Word! And if you donít have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you need to start one! All you zeal, all your outside sheen will count for nothing.

Paul says here in Romans that the Jews have a great zeal for God, but it is a misplaced zeal that is far removed from the gospel. These days when I think of a zeal for God, I think of the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons. They have a great zeal for God, but it, just like the Jewish zeal, is far removed from the Gospel, because the bottom line for a Jew, a Jehovahís Witness, or a Mormon is salvation by works!

And the next time they come to your door, instead of debating them, remind them of their doctrine of salvation by works and tell them to leave. Just get your Bible out and tell them the way the One True God has told you to communicate with them.

 2Jo 1:9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him;
 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. (NKJV)

Then, pray for them. Pray for them as Paul prayed for his Jewish brethren. Do you believe that it is possible for God to save an entire cult! He did it with the World Wide Church of God In 1986 the entire cult which had been formed by Herbert Armstrong in the 1920's, came out of their religion of salvation by works, a religion that was so closely related to the Jews, that they even observed the feasts of the Old Testament, they came out of all of that and embraced salvation by grace!

And I think that God did that to show His church that we need to be like Paul and pray for the Jews, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons, and any other cults that are out there.

Yes the Jews were zealous. They had a tremendous hatred for idolatry, (thatís why they went after Jesus) a fanatic reverence for the Temple, (they never forgot the time that Jesus said He would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, ( a reference to His death and resurrection)  But they took it as a personal attack on their precious Temple.

In fact, just listen in on His trial....

Mt 26:60  Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward  61 and said, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'"  62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?"  (NKJV)

They had great pride in their Temple!

Then when He was hanging on the cross and dying, Mr 15:29 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, "Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days,

They were zealous for God, proud of the Temple, but their zeal and pride were without proper knowledge. Hence they allowed the moneychangers in. I mean how could you be zealous for a holy God and revere  His building and at the same time allow thieves to operate inside its walls.

You know how donít you. The moneychangers were no doubt providing a little extra profit for the Temple and the leaders. Never mind the people, if itís good for the Temple, then it must be good for God, and Jesus storms in and overturns the tables! This is a house of prayer!

A house of a personal relationship with God, a place where He communicates with us and we communicate with Him, not something to be marketed at the expense of the gullible masses.

They embraced the physical structure of the temple, but they missed the spirit of the temple and it was the same way with the Law of God. They embraced itís structure, but missed the spirit, because they lacked knowledge.

There is a school of thought that says, it doesnít matter what you believe about God, as long as you are sincere, you will be saved. This passage in Romans should stop that line of thinking in itís tracks. The Jews were sincerely zealous in their beliefs about God and salvation and Paul spent a great part of his ministry, using the Jewish Bible to show them the error of their ways.

I received an e-mail this week that relates to the idea of religious tolerance in the matter of sincerity of belief.
If there were a glass of clear liquid in front of somebody and they sincerely believed it was water, but you knew that it was hydrochloric acid, would you allow them to drink it, or would you do everything in your power to convince them otherwise?

Thatís what Paul continually tried to do for his Jewish brethren. They sincerely believed in the poison of a salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ. He repeatedly sought to use Scripture to show them the error of their ways.

Godís Word makes it clear that there is only one way to salvation, and though it may seem intolerant to the world, we cannot deny itís truth.

 Joh 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.  (NKJV)

 Ac 4:12 "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."  (NKJV)

No one will be saved by the sincerity of their belief unless it is a sincere belief in the personal application of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. You must come to God through His Son...there is no other way!

The Jews had allowed their zeal to blind them to Godís plan for righteousness.

3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

Now, I want you to understand the importance of the word ignorance here. What does it mean to ignore something? Does it mean that it is not in plain view? No! You have to be able to see something in order to ignore it.

Personally I and I suppose along with other men here today have the gift of ignorance. Our wives can make all sorts of decorating adjustments to the house, or to their own physical appearance and we may remain ignorant of those changes for weeks. This is not a good thing for us husbands.

How much more is it not a good thing as it relates to remaining ignorant of the righteousness of God which He has clearly placed before us! As Paul will show in this chapter of Romans, Godís way of righteousness has always been placed before the Jews, in plain view, but they refused to see it, they refused to accept it.

And since they missed Godís way, it is only natural that they would seek to establish their own righteousness, and they chose to create it through works.

How about you? God so loved the world that He sent His only Son into the world to do a little redecorating. Oh the decorating scheme was always there. The death and resurrection of Jesus was always spoken of by the prophets.

The redemption of mankind through the seed of the woman was mentioned as far back as the Garden of Eden. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. The element of faith in Godís Word for salvation, a Word that constantly and consistently pointed to Jesus,  has always been there.

It has never been salvation by feelings, or sincerity, or zealousness for religion. It has always been salvation by trust in God and His promises.  All these things in the Old Testament were foreshadows of what was to come.

But the crowning touch of Godís redecoration was the cross of Christ. And the question for you today is how many times are you going to walk by the cross before you really notice it? When are you going to stop long enough and ponder what it means.

As you look at the Son of God, dying, bleeding, stricken, smitten, and afflicted, tell me what works, what righteousness of your own, would you like to add to be saved? Where is your zealousness and pride at the foot of the cross? Where is your good Lutheran heritage now? How are you better than anyone else, how are you worse? Stop your religious games and come to the cross!

 Joh 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  15 "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (NKJV).

 1Co 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

 Eph 2:16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross,

 Col 1:20  having made peace through the blood of His cross.

1Co 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Itís time to stop ignoring the cross of Christ. God redecorated the world forever when He placed it  high on a hill outside Jerusalem some 2000 years ago and it still decorates our world today. It still calls and beckons today.  It calls for you and I to come to Jesus, bringing nothing of our own. It calls for us to surrender to Him, to live for Him.  For He is the righteousness of God, there is no other, and no one will be saved unless they submit to Him.

Donít ignore it, come to it, run to it, yield to the One who suffered it for you and be saved! Survey the wonderful cross on which the King of Glory died, your richest gains count as loss and pour contempt on all your pride. For this love, so amazing, so divine, demands our soul, our lives, our all.