Grieved over the rejection of Christ by so many of his own countrymen, Paul says in Romans 10: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”
Paul understood where his kinsmen were coming from. He was once there himself. A Pharisee of the Pharisees he called himself. He was as sincere and zealous as any.
Think of the cults of our day – the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons who come to your door – or more zealous still – Islamic militants who blow themselves up thinking this will send them to paradise.
Sometimes you hear people say about such zealous groups: “Well, their heart is in the right place.” In fact, it’s just the opposite. Their heart is in the wrong place – devoted to falsehoods and lies – and out of the overflow of such hearts comes all of that error and even bloodshed.
Do you sometimes wonder why false prophets and fanatics show greater zeal in promoting their false doctrines than orthodox, Bible-believing preachers and parishioners show in spreading the true doctrines of the gospel?
A fine old Lutheran teacher of the 19th century named Walther said it’s easy to explain why. Preachers of false doctrines are not hindered by their sinful flesh in spreading their errors. They are incited to their activities because it comes naturally to them as a fruit of their sinful nature.
Preachers of the pure doctrine, on the other hand, are forever assaulted and restrained by their sinful natures because the gospel of God’s free grace in Christ does not come naturally to us. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can we strive to proclaim this gospel which the world considers foolishness.
So Christ-denying cults and mega-churches which compromise the Good News of Christ may bust at the seams and their members open their wallets – because false doctrine comes naturally to human beings.
The true doctrine does not come naturally – but when it does sprout in hearts by the power of the Spirit, there is nothing quite like it. Does our zeal for the truth boil over? Does our support of the truth equal their support for the lie?
If not, why not? Let us live close to the cradle, to the cross, to the empty tomb – to the word and sacraments where we meet the One whose love empowers our own!