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Bible verses about Zeal, Perverted
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 5:8

"Blessed are the pure in heart" is a beatitude expressing a standard that is extremely difficult to achieve. Relating strongly to much of what is written in the Old Testament, this standard is something the Pharisees vainly pursued through an obsessive observance of thousands of cultic rules they and others added to God's inspired Word. Their desire to achieve purity before God is commendable, but Jesus clearly demonstrates that they chose to do it the wrong way, leaving their hearts unchanged. In this vein Paul remarks:

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1-3)

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 15:1-2

This ties in with Galatians 1:14, where Paul writes about being "zealous for the traditions of my fathers"—his description of the national religion of Judaism. Jesus' disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders, not the law of God. One cannot find a command concerning what they are accused of in God's law.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 24)


 

Matthew 16:6

The key to understanding the leaven of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:6, 11-12) does not hinge on their zeal in keeping the law, but on their zeal in finding loopholes to twist it to their own ends. Their motto could have been, "How close can we get to the edge without going over?" We could refer to this practice as brinkmanship (pushing a situation to the limit to force a desired result) or marginalism (taking an extreme position on an issue).

A former homiletics teacher, also an avid skier, conveyed to his class an analogy of the Ten Commandments as the boundary markers along the ski trail. Every year, when contemplating the boundary markers at Vail or Aspen, he reflected that only an idiot would ski as close to the edge as he could. Yet this describes many practices of the scribes and Pharisees!

The legalist and the lawbreaker both have a morbid curiosity about those boundaries rather than concentrate upon the vast latitude of choices between those markers. This is reminiscent of our parents Adam and Eve developing a morbid curiosity about the one tree that God forbade, ignoring the thousands upon thousands of varieties that He did not forbid (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6). This behavior dwells on the negative and ignores the positive.

These examples point out that the spirits of legalism and lawlessness are twin siblings. When we place the critical points of the law/grace and legalism/lawlessness issue in proper perspective, law and grace are powerful allies opposing legalism and lawlessness. They give Christians great freedom to do good for others while also doing what is right.

David F. Maas
Righteousness from Inside-Out


 

Acts 2:37-38

When the Jews killed Jesus, they did not believe they were sinning. They thought they were doing God a service. In his ignorance, the apostle Paul was guilty of hailing of men and women into prison, and very likely, people were persecuted and maybe even some were put to death. In regard to the death of Stephen, the indication is that Paul was a ringleader in it. He thought he was doing God service, a favor, but when he was stopped by the light of God on the road to Damascus, and the truth was suddenly revealed to him, he realized he was nothing but a hunk of junk lying blind on the road.

The Holy Spirit did that. It smote these people in the heart so that they could clearly see that they were individually responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, even if they had not been there when it actually took place.

Without the Spirit of God, the truth of God is like looking into the gloom. We see the shape and form of things, but without the Spirit of God, the truths—the doctrines, the teachings—that make up the mechanism of God's purpose do not make sense. They cannot be put in their right order so that they really add up or give a clear picture of what God is doing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 3)


 

Romans 10:1-3

Paul accurately records that the Israelites had a zeal, "but not according to knowledge." They were confused. The apostle Paul before his conversion is probably the prime example of such misdirected zeal. What did his zeal do to him? It so preoccupied his mind that it forced him to perceive Christ and Christians as enemies of the faith of his fathers. He was responsible for throwing many of them into prison, and some were even put to death as a result of his zeal. His mind could not tolerate anybody who thought a little bit differently from the way he did. God had to strike him down on the road to Damascus.

Even today, the Israelitish nations are dotted with church buildings, and the vast majority of the people are truly sincere, even zealous. However, true knowledge is still lacking. However, there is a difference between the Israelitish zeal of today and the zeal of Paul's time. The zeal in Paul's time reflects the Jewish belief that a person is capable of justifying himself before God on the basis of merit. In other words, as long as a person did what was considered "good works," he was earning "points," and God was obligated to mark this to his account and, therefore, owed him something.

Today's Israelites have gone all the way to the other end of the pendulum's swing, largely having thrown out responsibility to law and substituted a specious faith. Justification is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8), but that faith includes obedience to law, as Paul clearly shows (Romans 2:13; 7:7-12). If the law has been done away, then there is no such thing as sin—but sin certainly exists! James explains that the faith that is "living" obeys the royal law (James 2:8-12, 18-26). Thus, the faith that justifies—or is the basis by which God will justify—is an obedient faith. Most of Protestantism does not believe that way, holding to a "just-as-I-am" faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

 




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