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When Zeal is Not Enough

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:1-3).

These Jews were lost. They prided themselves in knowing the law of Moses but they had not kept it. “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God” (Rom. 2:17). They scorned Gentiles for their idolatry and immorality but they had not lived up to their law any more than the Gentiles had lived up to theirs (Rom. 2:1-16). The unbelieving Jews were lost just as the sinful Gentiles were lost: “we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin” (Rom. 3:9). Neither of them can be saved without the gospel because it is God’s power to salvation to the Jew first and also to the Gentile (Rom. 1:16).

Did these Jews believe in God? Of course they did. Did they believe in the one true God? Yes they did, and yet they were lost. James said it is a good thing to believe in the one true God, but that belief alone is not enough to save one (James 2:19). Our world needs to hear this truth. Many think all they have to do to go to heaven is believe in God and live a halfway decent life in their own eyes. But the Jews Paul prayed for were not idolaters or atheists. They believed in God, and yet they were lost.

Were these Jews religious? Were they earnest in their religious observances? Yes they were. Paul said they were zealous toward God. They talked about God and worshipped Him. They were careful to follow the law of Moses on circumcision, the Sabbath, and the Passover. They were religious, even zealously religious, and yet they were lost. This fact is almost a lost concept today. Many will not accept that a person can be devout in his beliefs and be lost.

The reason these religious people were lost is the same reason religious people are lost now: they will not submit to God’s Word. They try to “establish their own righteousness” instead. The problem is often just that simple. Most people want to do their will, not God’s will. They are like Saul who claimed that he had done the will of God when he had only followed his own will (I Sam. 15).

Paul got no joy out of saying these Jews were lost. Some of them were his kinfolk, and that broke his heart (Rom. 9:1-4). The sorrow of knowing that loved ones are lost is one of the burdens we bear as Christians. Jesus said that because of His Word there would be “five in one house divided, three against two and two against three” (Luke 12:52). When the weight of this burden seems too heavy, remember that Paul felt this pain as well. But Paul did not just sorrow for them. He prayed for them. Paul believed in praying for the lost, and so should we.


West End Bulletin for September 20, 2020


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