Tuesday, 10 September 2013
For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Romans 10:2
Paul begins verse 2 with “For” as he so often does. In Greek, “for” or gar will normally follow the thought such as “I bear witness, for to them…” but the conjunction comes first in our translations. “For” then joins verses 1 and 2. What he will explain comes from his direct knowledge of the situation, “I bear them witness.”
What this means is that he can fully testify to the statement he will make; he is qualified to make the case. Being a Jew, Paul had a right to speak on behalf of his people, but a commoner, one lacking knowledge of the law, wouldn’t be able to speak on behalf of a leader who had proper training in the written word. However, Paul could. In Philippians 3, he lists his credentials –
“If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:4-6
Elsewhere in Acts and in his writings, more of Paul’s proven right to speak on such matters is given. Because of his ability to bear this witness, he now ties his desires for Israel in with his knowledge of Israel. “For… they have a zeal for God.” Zeal for something can be a good thing or a bad thing. Many adherents to Islam have a zeal for their belief in God, going so far as to blow themselves and others up in crowded bus stations. But this zeal is misdirected. The same is true with the Hindu zeal to make a trek to bathe in the Ganges river – “I will go wash and God will be happy with me.” The Jew, likewise, had a zeal for God, but Paul explains, “not according to knowledge.”
The Jew looked at the law as an end in and of itself, and thus set to establish righteousness based on adherence to the law. But even their law, as has been shown in many previous commentaries, reveals that righteousness is not of the law, but of faith. And in the end, that faith must be in the provision of the Lord. Jeremiah 23 gives an explicit rendering of where our righteousness lies –
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Jeremiah 23:5, 6
However, failing to pick up on these Old Testament concepts, Israel looked to adherence of the law as the final goal. But, unfortunately, this type of zeal was “not according to knowledge.” In the coming verses, Paul will explain what he means by “knowledge.” But it should be noted that because of the path they took, it actually set up a division between them and those with the needed knowledge. It became such a point of difference that Jesus explained what the outcome would be –
“They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.” John 16:2, 3
Being blinded to their need for Christ, Israel actually thought that their service to God was to kill those who rightly called on Him. This is documented in the book of Acts. There it relates such accounts, including the actions of a man named Saul who would later be known as Paul.
Life application: The Bible says that those who please God do so by placing their faith in the finished work of Christ. Nothing else can satisfy the righteous requirements of the law. Either Jesus is all-sufficient or no person can be saved. Let your zeal for God be found in Christ Jesus.
Heavenly Father, Your word says that it is my sin which separates You and I. Your word says that Jesus died for my sins so that we could be reconciled. What could I add to that? May I boast in nothing, but the cross of my Lord Jesus by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Amen.