By Doug Mamvura
Apostle Paul was deeply concerned about his fellow countrymen, and wanted them just like the Gentiles to be saved. The Jews were very zealous for God, but not according to knowledge, meaning that they were spiritually blind. They were ignorant of their heavenly Father and of His Son Jesus Christ.
“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” (Romans 10:1 -2).
The Jews were very zealous about their religion, but that wasn’t enough. It’s not enough just to believe, you have to believe the truth. Even those who are sincere can be sincerely wrong. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Having the right knowledge is more important than having the right actions. The Jews were doing some great things. They were praying, paying tithes, and doing many of the commands within the law. As usual I would like to speak the truth in love as we examine the lives of some of these Jews which is so identical to what we see in the church today.
A Pharisee, a religious Jew would be accepted into any modern church today. As I write about this matter, I can also see how I used to behave like a modern- day Pharisee before God revealed to me this message of Grace. These Pharisees were prayer warriors, faithful attendees, and diligent tithers. I am sure most of us can identify with this. We have men and women who are zealous for God however the zeal lacks knowledge.
Please note that I am not saying we should not pray, pay tithes or attend church. Very few churches would ever deny membership to diligent tithers. In some of our churches, these are men and women who are given special seats in church. They have reserved seats in front while the rest are relegated to the “junk class”. They are also given leadership positions regardless of their maturity or knowledge in the things of God. The focus is on ensuring that we don’t loose these people lest we find ourselves in financial dire straits as a ministry.
The Pharisees were very holy people, but their zeal was for the letter and form of the law, and not for God Himself. I am reminded of the time when I received Christ at the University of Zimbabwe as a First-year student, there was a brother who was given a task to “disciple me”. This brother, if we were to grade him, he deserved to have a Platinum badge as a modern-day Pharisee. He wanted to know what time I woke up and if I had prayed and read my bible. How long was my prayer time? How many chapters did I read in the Bible? What was my plan for fasting during the week? I ended up dreading this guy. He became a source of terror and anxiety during my first year at the university.
I see this type of behaviour in some of our churches where there is so much zeal for God but it is misdirected. The emphasis is on the law and performance as a way to “earn our salvation or acceptance” by God. Those who make long prayers during prayer time in church are considered holier than those who make short prayers. Those who can recite scriptures are also considered to be “truly saved”. Everything is exterior and yet “For the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
There are people who believe that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something. They teach that there are many ways to God. It doesn’t matter if you believe in ancestral worship or you belong to any other religion, in the end they all come together. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. Some of these people are immensely committed to their religions and very disciplined in observing the laws. They believe that they are worshiping the true God. Even among Christians, some of us are very zealous and committed to observing the law. We believe that it’s through our “good works” that we will be acceptable to God. While there is nothing wrong with good works, these should emanate from our faith in what God has already done for us and then we reciprocate by spending more time in fellowship with Him or reading the Word or praying. These works should be the fruit of our salvation. We don’t start with good works to earn salvation. It is our salvation and the love of God that then “compels” us to do the good works.
One of the main challenges we have in church today is that some of us don’t know the Word of God. We don’t read the Bible for ourselves. Because of this we become fodder for our cunning ministers. You get told that even if you don’t study, if you buy an “anointed ball point pen” you will pass your exams. If you buy an “anointed wrist band”, God will protect you. Where do we find that in the Bible? This is why the Bible says “my people perish because of lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Personally, I don’t blame some of these fake ministers, I blame the congregants. If we all knew the Truth, these fake ministers would never have a market.
The zeal that these Jews in Romans 10:1 -2 had, wasn’t according to knowledge. What is this knowledge? This refers to saving knowledge. These people were very sincere just like we see in some of our churches today, but they were sincerely wrong. They believed the wrong thing. My prayer is that we all come to the full and accurate knowledge of the Word of God.
“They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about establishing their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).
There are two types of righteousness. These are God’s righteousness and self-righteousness. We obtain self-righteousness by trusting in our own actions. We receive God’s righteousness through having faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). The only righteousness that will put us in right standing and relationship with God is the righteousness of God that is given to us as a free, unearned gift. Most people are seeking after a righteousness that comes based on their own performance. It is very sad to note that there are still many people today who are ignorant of God’s righteousness. When you use the word righteousness, most people think about their own actions. They think about their own performance. If I say I am righteous some people will definitely criticize me and yet that is what the Bible says about us believers (2 Corinthians 5:21). In our born-again spirit, we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Compared to God’s righteousness, ours is like filthy soiled rag (Isaiah 64:6). God’s righteousness is infinitely more and ours is pathetically less. The Jews were ignorant of God’s righteousness and so are most religious people today. They don’t understand that we are made righteous, the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t become righteous gradually as we improve our actions. When we get born- again we receive God’s righteousness. It is a gift.
Let us take time to examine ourselves and see which righteousness are we depending on lest our zeal is in vain.
- Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: email@example.com or Twitter @dougmamvura