The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:2) How many people do you know who truly love God and openly express it in public? Yet, how many of those enthusiastic people actually know what they are talking about? … That sounds a little harsh and judgmental, I know, but this is exactly what Paul is dealing with here in this verse. He is saying that he knows people who shamelessly talk about God and display their faith with fervor, but they don’t really understand, or know the God they claim to love so much. In reality, they are still missing the mark.
Personally, I enjoy being around people who constantly talk about Jesus, who frequently praise God for everything, or who are just so enthusiastic about Christianity that they cannot contain themselves. Their zeal is so contagious! It lifts me up and helps me to start expressing my own faith more boldly and openly. The truth is, we could all stand to be more intentionally open and candid about our faith.
However, it also saddens me at the same time that many of my zealous, religious friends are not as knowledgeable in the Word of God as they should be. In fact, some of them have admitted that they have never read the whole Bible. They may have read bits and pieces, but certainly not in its entirety. So in a sense, they are very similar to the Jews that Paul was writing about in that they have zeal without knowledge.
Did you know that even Paul himself once had that enthusiastic fervor, that overarching zealously for God, but without full knowledge? In his letter to the Galatians, he wrote, “And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (1:14). But, he later came to realize the error of his ways and explained, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Cor 15:9) Partly due to his former conduct against the Lord’s church, Paul also considered himself the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim 1:15).
There is no doubt that Paul loved God dearly. He had a strong faith. After all, He was a “Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Phil 3:5-6) He thought he was doing the right thing by defending the faith of the people of Yahweh, but he was dead wrong! He thought he was serving God and His people, but instead, he was persecuting His people (Acts 9:4-5). At the time, Paul considered himself obedient to God, but in reality, he was disobedient. Paul certainly had zeal, but he lacked the one thing that was needed to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, as was written about Him in the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24:27). Paul needed the right knowledge and to apply that knowledge correctly … and he eventually did! (cf. Acts 26:19)
Being zealous for the Lord is a wonderful attribute to have. To openly and regularly express one’s faith with enthusiasm and boldness is a much needed and encouraged behavior among the Lord’s disciples. Talk about Jesus more. Give God the glory every chance you can. Let your faith be on fire! Just remember that it is not okay to believe whatever you want simply because you are zealous about it. Instead, let us have a strong passion for things that are of sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and for doing good (Galatians 6:10). Zeal combined with knowledge can be a powerful force for good.