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 a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Oh, what zeal these people had for the Lord! If asked, they would say that their purpose was to please him and him alone. They shunned the trappings of this world, eschewed wealth and lived in a manner that was clearly different from the world. Their difference from the world and its people was clear, but their reason for being different was flawed. Their fathers were separate from the world because their faith informed their actions, but the works of this later generation became not the fruit of their faith but a replacement of it. They saw holy and right living not as the result of justification but the way by which one is justified. In doing so, they ignored the truth of the word and their fathers’ teachings, and they devised their own way of salvation.
Being on fire for God is awesome, but we must have the knowledge to fuel that fire correctly. Paul’s words here refer to Israel’s pursuit of righteousness through works as contrasted with the Gentiles’ pursuit of righteousness through faith. Both groups sought to attain the same thing through God, but only one group went about it with the knowledge of the mechanism by which it is gained. Those who have tried and are trying to gain God’s righteousness through works alone well gain nothing in the end. Their zeal and fervor are not to blame for this result, but it is their lack of knowledge or ignorance of truth that will keep them unrighteous. Passion is not productive unless it is supported by truth.
Our zeal for the things of God must be founded in knowledge of those things if we expect it to produce fruit. If we are following or chasing our own inventions of how things work in the Spirit, we will simply be chasing our tails. True zeal for the things of God opens us up for him to show us how we may be wrong or have been misled. It is a desire to know the things of God fully, which should lead us to the pursuit of knowledge. Passion that lacks this knowledge or even discounts it only leads us away from God, placing our energy and attention on that which will not bear the fruit we seek. Father, give us a desire to increase our knowledge of spiritual things so that our zeal would be substantiated and bear good fruit.