|Volume 19 Number 11 November 2017||
Affirming his interest and concern in his own Jewish people, the apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans that his heart’s desire and his prayer to God was that they may be saved, but then he said, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). They were not consciously rebellious to God; in fact, they manifested an apparent zeal for God in their pursuit of the righteousness that they believed would come to them by obeying the Law of Moses (Romans 9:31-32). However, they were not enlightened concerning the righteousness that God grants to all who will accept it in faith (Romans 4:16), even the righteousness that is through the faith of Christ (Philippians 3:9). It was their ignorance of the righteousness that comes from God which prompted them to continue in their vain efforts to obtain their own righteousness through their own religious, good works. They were not deliberately resisting God’s will; they just did not understand what His will truly was. While it was commendable though that they had a zeal for God, yet, zeal without knowledge is dangerous. It’s like someone wanting to fly an airplane without any knowledge of flying an aircraft. That would destroy both the airplane and the flyer if flight were attempted. There is such a thing as a blind, misguided zeal.
In the religious world today there is a great deal said about the Holy Spirit, especially about the feeling many have concerning a direct leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Numerous people believe that the Holy Spirit is working today in the same way He did in the past when the Scriptures were being written—directly and miraculously. This concept that so many have today concerning the Holy Spirit causes them to have a tremendous enthusiasm and zeal. Certainly, this is a response based upon their emotions rather than on the revelation of God; their zeal is without the knowledge of the written revelation of the Holy Spirit, which is evident in their preaching of contradictory and conflicting doctrines that has produced religious confusion and division. They all claim to be led by the Spirit of God, but they believe and teach differently. They are neither consistent nor in harmony with what the Spirit actually teaches through the Scriptures. Is God the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33)?
The point is that the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit is no longer available to man today. The Holy Spirit works today by and through the written revelation of God’s Word, the Bible, and not directly or independently of the written Word. “All Scripture,” says 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
There was a time in history when men did not have the Scriptures, God’s instruction to man, in its written form as we have the Bible today through which God speaks to all men. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says, “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). The Son, Christ, while He was on earth, chose twelve men to be His spokespersons. To them He promised that after He would go back to the Father, He would send upon them the Holy Spirit, who would guide them into all truth and teach them all truth. Further, the Holy Spirit would remind them everything that Jesus had taught the apostles while He was with them on earth (John 14:25-26; 16:12-13).
This promise of Christ was fulfilled on the Jewish Day of Pentecost fifty days after the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Acts 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit was given to the apostles to enable them to speak in languages that they had never learned (Acts 2:6-11), to give them power to perform miracles (Acts 2:43), to confirm the Word and to make believers (Mark 16:19-20). This was during the time before the New Testament had been given in its written form. Once it was completed, however, then there was no longer any need for miraculous works and direct revelation. Therefore, miracles ceased. That was to happen according to 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, when the perfect would have come, that is, the perfect will of God as we have it today in the New Testament of the Bible. James 1:25 describes it as “the perfect law of liberty.”
We are, therefore, living in an age when God speaks to us by His Son Jesus Christ through His New Testament (Matthew 17:5; Hebrews 1:1). According to Romans 10:17, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Both the Old Testament and the New Testament contain the revealed will of God for mankind. The whole Bible was written by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 2:21). God gave the Old Testament Law through Moses to His chosen people Israel, who lived before Christ’s death on the cross. After His death, resurrection and Ascension to Heaven, the New Testament of the Bible was written, which is God’s law for us under which we live today.
Surely no one can deny the essentiality of zeal in the life of the child of God. It is this quality that should move us forward with great energy and eagerness to do the will of God. However, it is not enough to realize that we should be zealous, but something must produce that zeal and fuel the fires of fervency in our daily walk with God. The knowledge of God’s Word, not a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, ought to produce this zeal. The Holy Spirit leads God’s children today by the written Word of God in the Bible, not separately, apart from or independently of the written Word. Thus, it is most important that people read and study the Bible, meditate and learn to gain knowledge of the Word of God, His will, and live by it.
There are many who zealously preach Christ today and who are claiming that the Lord is performing many miracles through them. They are on television, on radio and in large assemblies of people everywhere. They are not less zealous and sincere in their claims than those whom Christ described in the passage of Matthew 7:22-23 by saying, “Many will say to Me in the last day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” What was the problem? They did everything in their zeal without realizing what the will of the Lord is.
Many will diligently, selflessly and zealously serve the Lord, only to hear the Lord say, on the Day of Judgment, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” What is lawlessness? That which is not done in accordance with the law, in this case the law of Christ, the New Testament, is lawlessness. This warning of Christ should stop every person short and suddenly until he is sure beyond all possibility of deception that he truly is doing God’s will. To do God’s will, one must first learn His will.
Long before the days of the vacuum cleaner, rug beaters were commonly used as a cleaning tool to rid a home from dust, dust mites and other little nasty bugs that could infest a person’s house and cause discomfort or make for an unsightly home. To clean the rugs, one would drag them outside (well away from the house), hang them on a line and then use what looked like a giant metal flyswatter to beat out the dust. It was hard, time-consuming, dirty work that seemed almost counterproductive at times, since you would drag half the dust back in the house after it clung to your sweat-covered body.
When I was growing up, we had a vacuum and did not need to beat the rugs. Yet, one day while rummaging through an attic, we found one of these rug beaters. Mom explained what it was, and we set about the task of beating the dust out of every rug in the house, just for fun. Of course, the fun ended rather abruptly when we were covered with dust and started coughing. It was, however, amazing to see the amount of dust that came out of the rugs. We normally never got to see it, since it was usually sucked up into a bag and eliminated pretty much without us having to witness it. We were stunned at just how much dust came out, filled the air and choked us.
As children of God, purity must be our constant pursuit. Oddly enough, it seems that at times we want purity while never having to beat the dust out. We want maturity while never putting forth any effort to actually move toward maturity. Why? Because such endeavors are painful and often heart wrenching, requiring vast amounts of energy and commitment.
Instead, we treat God as if he were some cosmic vacuum for the soul, who has no interest in us actually seeing or dealing with the dirt and the impurities in our lives or the effort required to help us grow. He silently and carefully vacuums them away without us ever even knowing about them. We lay all the dust and work off on Him.
Folks, salvation is surely from God (Ephesians 2:8), just as it is God alone who takes away our sins. Yet, may we ever be reminded of the fact that there is an obligation on our part to beat the rug of our heart and expose the impurity. Paul said, “Examine yourself, whether you be in the faith…” (2 Corinthians 13:5). We must look inside, see clearly what sin is, and then lay it before Him. Is it hard? Sure it is. Yet, it is certainly no harder than being nailed to a cross for those very sins, which Christ did for each of us so that the sins, once exposed, can be eliminated.
In this day, may we realize that out of great pain and effort grows the wonderful blessings and pathway of God. May we realize that the “strait [difficult, hard-pressed] and narrow” is that way for a reason. It is difficult because it leads to fullness of understanding, which leads to life.