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Christian Zeal


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Christian Zeal


We see the concept of zeal used many times in our studies of God’s Word. Like many words that we see in scripture, we sometimes don’t really know what is meant by zeal. I’ve read that the original Greek word contains the idea of fire or fever. From that, we often say that a person has a burning desire to be or do something specific. Some other words that are synonyms to zeal would be a strong passion, a reverent follower, or someone full of enthusiasm. The dictionary defines zeal as eagerness or devotion or strong interest in pursuing something. It is an intense, emotionally compelling action on the part of someone. Like all the other character traits, zeal must be acquired, developed, shaped, sharpened, and cultivated.

Galatians 1: 14


Paul was born a Jew. He advanced beyond others because he was more extremely zealous. 


In the bible, zeal is shown to be a burning desire to please God. This is not a raw enthusiasm such as being a zealous fan of your favorite sports team. Scripture shows us five essential qualities that set Christian zeal apart from simple raw enthusiasm. The Bible directly links these five qualities to the concept of zeal. One is courage. 

I Peter 3: 13


We have nothing to fear as long as we are zealous for the things that are good. That means the things that God has shown us to pursue through the scriptures. 


Another is wisdom. 

Romans 10: 2


The Jews had a zealous pursuit of God, but they did it without any wisdom or knowledge of the fact that they were now under the New Covenant. A Christian’s zeal is built up along with their wisdom through the knowledge of the New Testament. 


Another is energy. 

John 4: 1 - 3


A zealous Christian works hard for the Lord and in service to His people. 


Another is diligence. 

Ezra 5: 2


A zealous follower of Christ will not sit around waiting for things to get done. They will work rigorously and thoroughly in pursuit of what God has commanded. 


The fifth one is loving service. 

Romans 12: 11


A zealous Christian is not lazy. A zealous Christian doesn’t look for the least they can do to serve God. A zealous Christian doesn’t look for loopholes around the work that God requires of them. 


From this, we can see that Chrisian zeal is the courage to exercise great wisdom, great energy, and great diligence, in loving service to God. This definition gives us a standard against which we can measure our progress. 

I Timothy 4: 15


By what standard was Elijah’s zeal measured?

I Kings 19: 10


The measuring stick is the Word of God. 


There are several passages in the Old Testament that contain the thought that the zeal of God would perform or accomplish a specific action. Let’s look at two of them. 

II Kings 19: 31

Isaiah 9: 6


In each of these, God is going to accomplish something for the benefit of His people. God’s desire is always for their benefit, God’s motivation is righteousness, and His actions are powered by zeal. What lesson can we learn from this? 

We can learn that God has a zeal to do good things for those who obey Him.

Isaiah 59: 17


He wrapped Himself in a mantle of zeal as He went out to protect His faithful and obedient children. However, when their faith began to lack and they began to disobey, He removed this protection. 

Isaiah 63: 15


This is still true today. 

Romans 8: 28


In the New Testament, we clearly see how Jesus showed great zeal for the work He came to do. 

John 2: 13 - 17


Jesus speaks about His extraordinary concern for the temple of God, His intense desire that worship should be pure and approved by God the Father. His zeal was so strong that it engaged His entire attention and affection beyond all other feelings. His zeal was so strong that the wicked men fled from His presence, unable to withstand the power of fiery zeal.   Here is a lesson for all preachers and teachers, who must aim to purify God’s church with the proclamation of the gospel coupled with a strong zeal that will cause the wicked, slothful, and misinformed to shrink before the power of the Gospel of Christ.

Great care must be taken to follow ALL of God’s word or the power will be lost, as we read earlier about zeal without knowledge.

Romans 10: 2


Paul gives them credit for being zealous, but their application of God’s word was as misplaced as Saul’s had previously been. He had shown tremendous zeal for the Lord’s work as he understood at the time. His zeal was the power behind his work as a persecutor, he was totally sincere in his torment of Christians.

Acts 22: 4 - 5


Saul was fulfilling a prophecy that Jesus had told His disciples. 

John 16: 2


Saul believed, as many people today believe, that if they are sincere and zealous God will be pleased. However, Paul called himself the chiefest of sinners because of misguided zeal.

I Timothy 1: 15


Paul’s zeal was not according to knowledge when he was persecuting Christians. He was not enlightened, nor discerning, and he lacked intelligent zeal. Zeal without knowledge, often leads to much false doctrine and erroneous beliefs. 


Knowledge without zeal is just as bad. Knowledge without zeal often becomes cold, formal, and ineffective in saving souls. Zeal and knowledge must work together in our lives. When knowledge of God’s word is coupled with extraordinary zeal the saving power of God’s word will produce much fruit to the glory of God.

Titus 2: 14


That verse from Titus summarizes the mission of Christ on earth.

Luke 19: 10


God desires that every Christian be a knowledgeable, zealous person, working in His kingdom. To create this kind of person, we had to be redeemed from our past life of sin.  Christ willingly offered Himself to pay the ransom price. As a part of the process, He purified us unto Himself. Those who obey now belong to Him, bought, and paid for by His sacrifice. 

Hebrews 9: 14


We no longer belong to ourselves but to Him, redeemed for His service and to promote His glory. 

Romans 14: 7 - 8


He is the giver of life, the sustainer and redeemer, what claim do we have on anything, if we submit to Him?

James 4: 7


God created us to be a peculiar people, separate and apart from the world, even as we live in the world. 

I Peter 2: 9


He created us for a purpose, zealous for good works. 

Ephesians 2: 10


Let’s grow in knowledge by studying God’s Word. Let’s be zealous in using that knowledge to teach people that they are lost and need to come to faithful obedience of God’s commands. Let’s be faithful to Him and work in service to him, zealously sharing His Word with all who we can. 

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