Zeal for the Righteousness of God
The apostle Paul prayed to God for the salvation of those
who “have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing
about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not
subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:1-3).
The apostle Paul was making his plea to his own people who
in their religious zeal had rejected God’s provision of His own perfect
righteousness for their own self-righteousness. They were intensely religious in
their own eyes, but not with the true knowledge of God. They were running well
but in the wrong direction. They labored to do good deeds, but for the wrong
goal. They were religious, sincere, dedicated, but in their anxiety, they would
miss their eternal reward.
“They have a zeal for God.” I meet people like that every
day. In their religious zeal, they knock on your door, too. Like the apostle
Paul, I am not against religious zeal or enthusiasm. However, they are zealous
in their religious ceremonies, prayers, observances, holy days, fasts,
visitation, teaching, etc., “but not in accordance with knowledge.” There is no
use being zealous if you are zealous for the wrong reason. It will not help you
if you are going in the wrong direction spiritually.
The apostle Paul was writing from his own personal
experience. He had been very zealous for the Law, and in that enthusiasm, he
killed men and women who had a different “knowledge” than his. He had a mistaken
zeal for God. He believed sincerely, but he was sincerely wrong. He had been
zealous, but his zeal was focused on the wrong object.
Then there came a day when he gained true knowledge of the
righteousness of God, and he counted all his self-righteousness as dung and
received salvation by free grace alone.
Paul’s zeal became refocused “with knowledge” when he met
the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. Knowledge of what? Before the
encounter with Christ he did not know about God’s righteousness and sought to
establish his own. In Philippians 3:4-6 he tells about that self-righteousness.
He said, “I still count all things to be lost in view of the surpassing value of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. . . that I may gain Christ” (v. 8). He gave up his
zeal for self-righteousness by good works “that I may know Him, not having a
righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in
Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (v. 9).
That is Paul’s “knowledge.” “For Christ is the end of the
law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4).
Spurgeon once said, “It is easier to get a sinner out of
sin than a self-righteous man out of his self-righteousness.”
Have you tried to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with
someone who thinks he can earn or merit a right relationship with God by his
What is the problem? In their zeal they “know nothing about
God’s righteousness, and seek to establish their own, they do not subject
themselves to the righteousness of God” (v. 3).
Any form of self-righteousness will never save you. In
contrast, the Lord God has provided His own perfect righteousness by which He
justifies the ungodly. Jesus Christ was obedient to the Law at every point, even
to the point of death. God in His righteousness imputes the perfect
righteousness of Jesus Christ to the believing sinner. He imputes to the
believer what Jesus did for you on the cross. God will accept the believing
sinner because of what Jesus is and what He did. Jesus Christ shall be your
If you say, “No, I will not have His righteousness; I will
have a righteousness of my own,” you are ignorant of God’s righteousness, and
you shall perish.
God would never have sent His Son to the cross if you could
be saved by our religious zeal. The death of Jesus on the cross was needless if
you could be saved otherwise (Acts 4:12). If you are trying to have a
righteousness of your own by being zealous for God, your church or denomination,
baptism, church membership, emotional experiences, etc. then you are in
competition with Jesus Christ.
Your eternal salvation lies absolutely outside of yourself,
in the person and atoning work of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not in what you do
in your religious zeal, but in what Christ Jesus has done on your behalf.
If you try to add anything to that finished work by your
own thought, feeling, good works, baptism, church membership, etc, you have
spoiled the work of Christ on your behalf. It shall never be Christ plus your
_________, regardless of what you may fill in the blank. If you are to be saved,
you must get out of the way and let God alone do it. The spiritual birth is all
God’s doing, not yours or mine. Sinners saved by grace through faith will
glorify Jesus Christ alone. Salvation is all by free grace of God in Jesus
“Going about to establish their own righteousness, they
have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” The righteousness
of God is salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Sinners are saved by
God’s grace. Salvation is through faith in Christ. It is based on grace, and
free grace alone through faith alone which is in Jesus Christ alone! It is a
gift from God freely received by the sinner.
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006
Click for printer friendly page
CLICK to E-mail SELAH! to a friend.