The term “zeal” is not often used in our language today. It is, however, a very important part of the attitude and outlook of the Christian. Zeal is described by Webster’s Dictionary as, “enthusiastic, diligent devotion in pursuit of a cause, ideal, or goal.” Thus it has to do with the way in which we perform the works of Christianity and the attitude that motivates our actions.
Though zeal is very important, it can also be the wrong type of zeal. Paul described the Jews of his day by stating, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). Paul asserts that these individuals are very zealous in their belief in God, but that zeal is not supported by knowledge. Though these people believe earnestly in God, they have not accepted His new covenant, or the sending of Christ on their behalf.
There are many in the religious world today which fit the very same billing. They are very zealous in their belief that there is a God, and even in the fact that Jesus Christ died for their sins, but their zeal is misplaced because of a lack of knowledge. Sincerity and zeal are not enough to compensate for a lack of truth and understanding; all elements must be present in order for an individual to be acceptable to God.
There are also those who, though their zeal may have originally been misplaced, take hold of the opportunities afforded them to learn the truth and use that zeal in the proper manner. The preacher Apollos is an ideal example of such. He is zealously proclaiming the baptism of John when one first reads of him in Acts 18:24-26. When Aquila and Priscilla hear his preaching they take him aside, study with him, and he begins to preach Christ. He then uses that same zeal to proclaim Christ throughout the regions around him. Zeal may originally be misplaced it can be refocused in the right direction.
What about the Christian’s zeal? It is unfortunate to see many in the Lord’s Church today who do not have a zeal for God and His Word. It seems as though the things they do of a spiritual nature are done simply out of routine and responsibility rather than fervent desire. This was the problem for the church in Ephesus, for they were doing the right things, but had left their first love (Rev. 2:1-7). But such does not have to be the case. Paul found great zeal in the church at Corinth. He wrote: “For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many” (2 Cor. 9:2). Not only did Corinth have zeal, but that zeal was contagious among those which heard of it and saw it in use.
Brethren, we must be zealous for the Lord’s Church. We must have a zeal driven by knowledge and understanding, not just of our own situation, but of the eternal destiny of many in this world if we fail to reach them. Zeal is something that can grow and prosper in every single Christian if it is not beaten back by the fears, cares, and desires of this world.
Are we a zealous people? Are we ones who are willing to be bold in presenting Christ and are thankful for who we serve? Our eternal relationship with God is predicated upon our willingness to complete his will with zeal and love: let us always fulfill that responsibility.