Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When zeal for God is detrimental

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

Phil 3:7-10 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith...

Zeal for God would seem like such a wonderful thing, wouldn't it? But yet the zeal for God mentioned above was in vain. And not only was it in vain, but it was detrimental to those who had such great zeal, because in this zeal they had a certain form of righteousness, but it was their own righteousness - not God's righteousness.

In their zeal and devotion to God, they were actually kept from God, because they were trusting in their own righteousness and in doing so they fell short of the only righteousness that is acceptable to God - His own righteousness. This righteousness cannot be earned, but can only be received by faith, as a gift.

In this post I've underlined two distinct types of righteousness - Man's righteousness and God's righteousness. One type is an attempt to earn favor with God through self-effort (self-righteousness) and the other is a gift that can only be received by faith. One type is done with great zeal, but nevertheless falls completely short of the only type of righteousness that counts for anything.

The gospel is all about God's righteousness (see Romans 1:16-17) - and how it's freely given to all who believe. It would seem "logical" to the human mind that submitting to God's righteousness would mean trying as hard as we can to attain to it. But yet it's utter foolishness! If a person is trying to attain to righteousness by their own works, they have not submitted to God's righteousness. It can only be received in one way - as a FREE GIFT!


  1. I have seen people who have great zeal for God and righteousness but unfortunately most of it is self-righteousness. Even the words like 'integrity' comes with a heaviness in it and usually I smell legalism there. I am not saying integrity is bad but the way people use such words to promote 'righteousness' rooted in self-efforts. The root if any righteousness apart from what we have in Christ, is nothing but PRIDE.

  2. In my "zeal" for God I used to look at that scripture and think that I had a good zeal because I was doing all the right things (or at least thought I was)! I thought others had a wrong kind of zeal because they might have been "on fire" for God but they were still living in sin and didn't have the right doctrine (knowledge). Man... It's amazing what a little context will do... just looking at the surrounding words in a passage. LOL

    And yeah... words like "integrity" and "promise keepers" have put a very sour taste in my mouth in the past few years. Like you say, integrity is not bad in and of itself, but today it is so very rooted in self-righteousness and pride, and not a type of integrity that comes from Christ's life in us.