Glory and honor

Zeal and knowledge

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:1, 2).

A shepherd once strode into the palace of the most powerful man on earth and made a stunning demand: “Thus says the LORD the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go.'” Do you remember Pharaoh’s dubious response?

“Who is the LORD that I should obey his voice and let Israel go,” he wondered derisively, “I do not know the LORD, and moreover I will not let Israel go.”

Interestingly, the king of Egypt had a point: The more one knows of God, the more one obeys his voice. The less one knows of God, the less one obeys his voice. It could be argued that the story of the ten plagues was a case of Pharaoh and God getting better acquainted. As successive plagues fell on Egypt, Pharaoh might have been excused for declaring, “I’m sorry I asked who Yahweh was! Please, I do not care to learn any more about him!”

This brings us to the question asked in Paul’s passage: In the church, which characteristic do we need most? Zeal, or knowledge? Of course we should already recognize the false dilemma behind the question. The answer is that we need both!

You know, I heard it again just this week. A young person pointed to the “dead” worship and “uninvolved” manner of his older brethren, and used this as the reason for leaving the church. Though we might deplore his judgmental attitude, we need to ask if there is any truth in these charges. Could we do better?

I think of worship services I have witnessed in Zimbabwe: To hear the matchless harmony of Shona voices raised in song still brings tears to my eyes. Even those American congregations that sing very well could hardly be expected to compare. It breaks my heart to see row upon row of God’s people sitting like bumps on a log during a song service, consulting IPhones or balancing their checkbooks when they should be worshiping an incomparable God. This is not the way God envisioned it. The Psalmist calls on us to offer the praise that God deserves:

“Ascribe to the Lord, O families of peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name, bring an offering and come into his courts!” (Psalm 96:7,8).

We might respect many people – magistrates and rulers – but we can only properly worship one individual. That is why the twenty-four elders fell before God’s throne and cried: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

To praise anyone less would be “over the top,” mere flattery. For God it is right and proper, for he is indeed worthy.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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3 thoughts on “Zeal and knowledge

  1. Thank you for humbling me. I know I fail at times to give my undivided attention during the worship service. We are examples to new members and we are always being watched. Better to show humility and attentiveness than robotic responses. God bless you.

  2. It’s a shame that the Church is struggling to maintain members considering the growth that occurred when I was young. Many of the young people of today, along with some older people also, are not grounded in the Faith and try to let their feelings or worldly influences dictate their ideas on worship to GOD. When we worship GOD we are supposed to please Him not us. If we are putting our hearts into the worship services then we are pleasing to GOD. But if we are not doing that then we will not please GOD and could suffer the way the Israelites did in Exodus 32 when they went their own way in worship. Aren’t we supposed to do things ” decently and in order ” as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:40 ? If that seems “robotic” then how could it be changed and be faithful to GOD if we are worshiping with our hearts ?
    About 10 years ago a new church started 1/4 mile down the road from our congregation and that group ended up luring over 1/3 of our members to their church because they put their “feelings” into their worship. This year that church replaced the sign by the entrance to their lane . The old sign said ” The Church in ______” at the top and at the bottom in small letters it said ” a church of Christ “. When they replaced the sign they removed the words
    ” a church of Christ ” from the sign all together. They definitely are headed down the wrong path.

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