Misguided Zeal

Cubs fan (friend) at a Cubs game

Romans 10:1-13
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge, since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” (Leviticus 18:5) But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”(Deuteronomy 30:12) (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” (Deuteronomy 30:14) that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Isaiah 28:16, LXX) For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32)

I think this part is easier to understand in the context of 9:30-33. I typed up a blog post once about how and why the Jews will not automatically be saved. Paul knew this fact and his heart burned because he would prefer that they were saved automatically. But the Jews are God’s people!

  • Children of Abraham
  • Descendants of Isaac and Jacob
  • Servants of King David
  • And just as Paul, I’ve also seen many Jews who are very devout in their religion.

But salvation and righteousness are gained by faith, not by following the Law. But what then about the Jews’ zeal for God?

Paul agrees that their zeal is misguided, but not based on the facts. This is a problem, not just for the Jews, but for the many that believe and follow other “ways”. For example, Muslims are some of the most religiously-devout people that the world has seen in a while, as well as extremely zealous people. But their zeal is misdirected, for though they believe Allah is the same God as Yahweh, they are greatly mistaken. If they were to research or look into this, they would recognize the many differences in character, Will, personality, mission, love, requirements for righteousness, theology, etc. But like Paul said about the Jews, “Their zeal is not based on knowledge.” In fact, Muslims are actually discouraged from researching their faith, questioning, and some even from reading their Koran, being told to just believe what they’re told by their leaders (sounds like the Roman Catholic Church, doesn’t it?) And so, therefore, they cannot, and will not, attain God’s righteousness, which is needed for salvation. The same goes for other religious cults.

You know, I’ve heard friends and relatives say that they believe that it doesn’t matter which religion you belong to, just that you’re following it fully. But that’s messed up for so many reasons:

  1. If all religions are equal, then who’s in ultimate authority, since all religions claim different deities?
  2. Some religions, when followed fully, require violence towards others. A god who sets up religions to enact violence towards another and say that it doesn’t matter which one you follow is a lunatic, psycho, tyrant, and somebody I (and no doubt others) would consider rebelling against/from.

If you’re driving to New York from Chicago, but drive West instead of East, and keep going in that direction, even if your intention is to go to New York, you won’t make it to your destination, correct? So how can you make it to your intended eternal destination if you’re fully, zealously following/worshiping the wrong (or a non) god?

If/when Iran invades Israel, will either side peacefully accept people from the other country, especially if the people are fully patriotic towards their own side? Iran → Israel: When Iranians shoot up the nation, do you think they will show mercy to the Israelites who hold strongly to their Judaism? No, for they’re residents of an opposing kingdom/nation. And the same is with the Kingdom of God. If you’re a zealous servant to another kingdom (religion), then it’s not for/towards God’s Kingdom. So if you have rights in an opposing kingdom, then what makes you think you’ll have rights in God’s, simply because you were a patriotic servant in yours?

If you’re dating Samantha, but not Jean, and you marry Samantha, are you also marrying Jean? No, of course not. Well, OK, maybe if you’re in a religion that allows many wives, but since Jean refuses to marry you because she belongs to a faith that’s against polygamy, have you married Jean? No. Why? Because you’re not in a relationship with Jean. So it doesn’t matter how well you treat your other wives, if you’re not married to Jean, then you’re not married to Jean, as it is with Christianity. God is a jealous God in that He refuses to share us with any “other god”, religions/beliefs, or idols. If you’re not solely with Christ, then you’re simply not at all with Christ. And only trust and belief in Christ brings salvation.

Unlike these other beliefs and faiths, only through Christ is the righteousness of God attainable, and only with this righteousness is salvation granted. But again, this righteousness is not attained by works, no matter how hard you work (another reason such examples above don’t work), but faith in Christ alone.

“Both faith and confession of Jesus are essential for justification and salvation.” –Oxford NRSV Bible Notes.

So “if we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, then we’ll be saved.” – Romans 10:9

“The Affirmation of ‘Jesus is Lord’ is the earliest Christian confession of faith, for saying such claims Christ’s deity…In Biblical terms, the heart is the seat of not only the emotions and affections, but also the intellect and will.”NIV Archaeological Study Bible Notes.

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