“For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:2, KJV 1900)
I have run into many people who are zealous for things, but have no knowledge to back up their zeal. Let me give you one example from secular life. Early in my adult life, I thought to get involved in stock market investing. I received a brochure on a start-up company. It sounded good, so I invested a couple thousand dollars. In about a year, I had lost my total investment. You see, I had a zeal for investing, but knew nothing about investment strategy, fundamentals of the stock market, or how to analyze a company to determine if the investment was wise. Zeal without knowledge is a recipe for disaster.
Paul here, writes about his desire to see his Jewish brethren saved (v1). He then goes on to say that they have a zeal for God, but it is not according to knowledge (v2). This is an interesting statement, because I had always thought that they did not have a zeal for God. I was mistaken. They have zeal but it was without knowledge. This is similar to the zeal I had to invest in the stock market and yet without knowledge of it.
Israel’s problem was that they did not have a true knowledge of God’s infinite righteousness. They did not realize how far short they fell from this standard of righteousness and thought they could establish it on their own by legalistic obedience to the law (v3). The problem was that it was impossible for them, or anyone, to rise to the level of God’s righteousness by their own effort. They failed to realize that their only hope would be to receive a righteousness that was not their own. They needed the righteousness of God and this could only come by faith in Jesus (v4).
I venture to say, that there are many Jewish people today who do have a zeal for God and yet it is not according to knowledge. I believe that there are also others outside of Judaism in the same situation. Perhaps this will help us in our evangelistic approach. That is to realize that many have a zeal for God, but do not understand God’s righteousness.
How should we approach them in our witness? I see three things here in this passage. First, pray for them to be saved (v1). Second, understand their zeal and capitalize on it in your approach (v2). Third, look for those who are teachable and pour into them the knowledge of the truth (v3-4), for it is only the truth that will set them free.