The Zeal of Biblical Evangelism – Romans 10:1-4

What are some of the synonyms for the word “zeal”? (Fervency, intensity, enthusiasm, passion, fire, etc.) Generally speaking, is zeal a good thing when it comes to good things? Is zeal a good thing when it comes to bad things? The word “zeal” is found 6 times in the New Testament; sometimes in a good sense and sometimes bad. In speaking about the Lord Jesus, “And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” Was the zeal of the Lord a good thing or a bad thing? In speaking about some of the saints: “For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” “For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.” “For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.” Is the zeal described in these verses good or bad? But then in a negative way, first Paul and then others displayed a sinful kind of zeal. In Philippians 3:6 Paul confessed that persecuted the church with zeal. And the Jews, according to Romans 10:2, had this testimony: “that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.”Actually the Greek word which is transliterated “zeal” is translated a number of other ways as well. Strong’s Concordance tells us that the word “zelos” (zay-los) is used 17 times in the Bible. It refers to an “excitement of mind,” “ardour,” and “fervour of spirit.” And that explains why it is translated “zeal,” but also “envy,” “indignation,” “fervent mind,” “jealousy” and “emulation.” “Indignation” can be a fervency of spirit, as can “envy” and the other things. Can indignation be a good thing? Can it be evil? Can envy be a good thing? Is it usually good? Similarly, zeal can be either good or bad.

There is obviously such a thing as zeal without knowledge.

I know that some of you have spent time studying Baptist history – a very worthwhile pastime. The broader subject of “Christian history” hasn’t been given as much time by most of us. But a quick survey of Christian history would show that there have been periods of more missionary energy preceded or followed by periods of more theological energy. And modern evangelicals seem to delight in telling us that these latter periods are not good. They suggest that unless there is aggressive, successful missions, we aren’t serving God properly. If we aren’t successfully spreading the gospel, we aren’t being obedient to the Lord. Is there any truth in that? (Yes there is some truth in that.) But as we suggested last week, any old “good news” isn’t necessarily the “gospel.”

What was the major event noted by most Baptists as the beginning of modern missions? (William Carey.) Was he the first missionary since the Apostle Paul or the death of the Apostle John? (No.) Was he the first scriptural missionary since Paul? (No.) Was he the first missionary since the Reformation? (No.) At the beginning of what century did William Carey begin his mission work in India? (About 1800.)

Do you know who John Eliot was? Eliot was a missionary to the American Indians sent out in 1646 by the Corporation for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England. He was the most famous missionary of his era and sacrificed a great deal to evangelize the Indians. Was he a good man? Is he an example worthy of emulation? Was John Eliot a Baptist? Did He start any scriptural churches? Did you know that a hundred years before Eliot, the Calvinists in Geneva sent missionaries to Brazil? About that same time Swedish Christians sent missionaries into Lapland. And again about that same time Hungarian Christians sent the gospel into Muslim Turkey. I know that it’s a touchy subject, but how pleased do you think that God was with those evangelistic efforts? Despite its importance, the gospel is not the end all and be all of the so-called great commission. What else is attached to the gospel in the Great Commission?

Using Saul of Tarsus as an example, could we say that the Jews were evangelistic in their corrupt sort of way? With probably lots of exceptions did they want the world to agree with them in their faith and customs? I know that Romans 10 isn’t directly talking about a Jewish form of evangelism, but it is related. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” There such a thing as evangelistic zeal without knowledge. Judging from Paul’s words, what do you expect is the Lord’s estimation of zeal without knowledge? Could that include zeal in regard to corrupted forms or limited forms of the true gospel? It could be that there has never been a man more evangelistically zealous than John Eliot, but it was without a full knowledge of God’s commission, and therefore not totally pleasing to God.

Are there any in the world who say that missions should be carried out without denominational differences? The majority of Christian missions boards today are completely non-denominational or a-denominational. If you think about it that is somewhat akin to someone who is amoral. I googled the words “missionary organizations” and quickly found a site that listed about 150 different evangelical missionary societies and boards, with only half a dozen or so mentioning their denomination in their title. I guarantee that at least a hundred of them would not only minimize denominational importance, they would discourage and belittle the idea. It would be similar to the rules against discussing election and predestination in my Bible college. For the sake of saving souls, we are not suppose to believe the rest of the Truth of God. But can we properly serve the Lord if we don’t believe the Bible? Do Baptists believe the same thing as Methodists? Do we believe the same doctrines as Presbyterians? Could we say that these people without denominational preferences have a zeal but without knowledge?

Some people say that Bible Christianity is a life to live rather than a doctrine to believe. Which of those is the truth? (Both are true.) Doctrine is the skeleton which holds up the body. Does a well arranged bunch of bones constitute a body? Just as faith without works is dead, so is an apparent Christian life or Christian service without doctrine. And to change the simile just a little bit, truth is the very heart of Christianity. The reason that there are so many denominations in the world today is due to the lack of understanding God’s Truth.

Should the evangelist preach Christ? Should he preach the Christ of the Roman Catholics? Should he preach a Christ who can’t guarantee the efficacy of His work on Calvary? Should he preach the Christ of the Mormons – they want to be a part of mainstream Christianity today. Should the evangelist preach salvation through Christ? Should he preach the salvation of the Judaisers and Seventh Day Adventists? Should he preach a salvation which requires water to reach its full potential? Should he preach a salvation which can somehow be lost through the sins or neglect of the believer? These things all involve doctrine – they are all taught or condemned in the Bible. They are all one way or other Baptist doctrine. Along with a desire to spread the gospel there has to be care taken to make sure that it is GOD’S gospel. The good news about the birth of a baby, even a divine baby, is not the Biblical good news.

Was Paul a good missionary? Did he neglect theology? Was he mealy-mouthed and pussy-footing when it came to denouncing false gospels? Zeal for evangelism which is divorced from Biblical doctrine is zeal “not according to knowledge.” Evangelism that neglects to indoctrinate the believer in all the truth of God is not scriptural. But that is precisely the kind of evangelism which most of those 150 missions organizations propound. And that Biblical doctrinal indoctrination has to begin with the churches back home. The church which fails to indoctrinate its members and its children will eventually have no missionaries to send out, or at least no missionaries who have the truth to share.

There is a zeal which is according to knowledge.

Did Paul believe that God was sovereign? Did Paul believe that there is not a person on earth worthy of eternal life? Did he believe that every man, woman and child on earth is dead in trespasses and sins? Did he believe that in eternity past God elected certain people to give eternal life? (Ephesians 1:4.) Did he believe that Christ died specifically to save the people whom He had chosen to save? Did he believe that those elect would be saved apart from any form of evangelism? (Absolutely not.) Is it necessary for the unsaved to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? (Yes.) How important is it for the unsaved to repent of their sins before God? How likely is it that the unsaved will believe on Christ or repent, if they aren’t told about their responsibility? Should the doctrine of sovereign election hurt evangelism or encourage it?

To whom was the Great Commission given? (The Lord’s churches.) By Whom was the Great Commission given to the Lord’s churches? What was God’s purpose in giving that commission? Is there cause to be zealous about evangelism? Was Paul zealous for the gospel? Finish this verse: “Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I……….” (preach not the gospel). Why did Paul believe that it was important for him to preach the gospel? Why did Paul consider himself to be the least of all the apostles? Was he? Despite being the least (or last), he testified that he laboured more abundantly than all the rest; why?

In the modern approach to missions, extreme emphasis is placed on the work of the missionary. Should we be surprised when the missionary seems to take credit for all his success on the field? If that missionary suggests that it is the faith and repentance of the believer that saves him, who is more glorified, the missionary, the believer, or the Lord? If the missionary preaches the kind of gospel that Paul preached, who is most glorified? Should the Christian be interested in bringing glory to the Lord? Should he be interested in how the Lord is glorified?

So the Apostle Paul, believed in sovereign grace and election, and yet it appears that he strove harder than all the rest of the apostles in the work of missions and evangelism. Did Paul’s doctrinal position hinder his evangelism? Should the acceptance and belief of those doctrines hinder anyone else?

Should WE be zealous for the Lord and His gospel?