Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 5, 1956

An Unbalanced Religion

Mason Harris, Saratoga, Arkansas

As the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints in Rome his heart was filled with "great heaviness and continual sorrow" for his people, Israel. The reason for his sorrow is expressed in the first part of chapter ten in this epistle. "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 righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."

The condition of Israel was enough to make Paul sorrow. They had made the terrible mistake of forsaking God's righteousness and going about to establish their own system of righteousness. In doing this they became guilty of two evils. They rejected God, "the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water". This became their besetting sin because man can not rely upon his own righteousness for salvation. Isaiah said that "all our righteousness are as filthy rags". (Isa. 64:6) Again, the Lord spoke through Ezekiel saying, "When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall surely die for it." (Ezek. 33:13)

The Cause Of Israel's Trouble

Israel's trouble was not their lack of zeal for Paul said, "I bear them record that they have a zeal of God". However, their trouble is revealed in the latter part of that same verse, "but not according to knowledge". These people had a driving urge to do something in the name of religion and being ignorant of God's righteousness they appeased their zeal by going about to establish their own righteousness.

Zeal without knowledge is without control and is therefore dangerous. It is like a racing car without a driver or a sailing ship without a pilot! The story of Saul of Tarsus demonstrates the danger of misguided zeal. In making his defense before the people of Jerusalem he spoke of his zeal toward God. Yet, as he wrote to Timothy he said, "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief". (1 Tim 1:1243) Saul of Tarsus, who is also called Paul, was very zealous before becoming an apostle of Christ but his zeal was not according to knowledge. His zeal, like Israel's outweighed his knowledge. As a result he brought sorrow and heartache to many.

As we turn back the pages of sacred history we find other cases of zeal used in the wrong way. In second Samuel, chapter six the story is told of the ark of God being moved from the house of Abinadab. The ark was placed upon a new cart and the sons of Abinadab, Uzzah and Ahio, drove the cart. When they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to hold the ark. This kindled the anger of the Lord and God smote him for his error. Can any say that Uzzah was not zealous? He was assisting in the moving of the ark but his zeal was lacking knowledge or else he deliberately disobeyed God. Is it not written in the Chronicles (1 Chron. 15:13) that God made a breach upon them because they sought him not after the due order? Anytime the Lord has spoken as to how a thing should be done it must be done that way, or else we become accursed. (Gal. 1:6-9).

Same Trouble Now

We see many who, like Israel, are zealous toward God but not according to knowledge. The so-called Jehovah's Witnesses are to be commended for their zeal in going from house to house spreading their literature. But their knowledge and zeal are not equally related. Their zeal and their knowledge are unbalanced. In their lack of understanding they have established their own system of religion.

The same plague of spiritual ignorance that has come upon our religion friends is a threat to the church of our Lord. For a great part, the church is in a state of confusion. Some are confused as to how they should care for orphans while others are confused as to how churches may safely cooperate, not to mention the questions of located preachers, church supported schools, Bible classes on Sunday morning, — Is there no end to it? Will there never be peace among brethren?

What Is The Solution?

The solution as applied by some is to be zealous whether right or wrong. Their idea seems to be that their abounding zeal will justify their lack of knowledge. Was it so with Israel? With Saul of Tarsus? With Uzzah? Wherefore my conclusion is, in the words of Paul, "Be ye not unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is". As we face these issues, decisions must be made. We cannot forever halt between two opinions! We must decide. To do this and do it properly we must have knowledge. The Psalmist said, "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple"; therefore, let us study to gain understanding lest we being ignorant of God's righteousness go about to establish our own righteousness.