Reformed Free Publishing Association
This article was written by Rev. Dale Kuiper in the 2/15/1992 issue of the Standard Bearer.
It is striking that both the Hebrew and the Greek words from which our KJV derives the words zeal, zealous, and zealot are words which have the basic meaning of heat. The Hebrew root means to boil with heat, to be hot. Metaphorically the word indicates excitement of mind, ardor, fervor of spirit, zeal in embracing, pursuing, or defending anything. The Greek word means to become very red, to be excited so that the face is red. Thus, this word also means to be zealous towards a person or thing, to burn with zeal. It should be noted that both these words can also mean jealousy or envy, and both words can have a negative or sinful implication; a bad, misplaced zeal in some contexts.
Men can be flushed in the face and burn with zeal in respect to that which is impure and sinful. The Jews had a zeal of God but not according to knowledge, so that they went about establishing their own righteousness (Rom. 10:2–3). With great zeal Paul persecuted the church of God (Phil. 3:6). The false teachers among the Galatian converts were zealous but not correct (Gal. 4:17). These biblical examples of false zeal serve as a warning to us. In religious circles today the watchword is sincerity. It is not thought important what a person believes or how he lives as long as he is sincere. Notice how sincere he is! Well, the Jews were sincere in their works righteousness. In fact there was a sect of the Jews, called the Zealots who ‘were rigorous in their adherence to Mosaic law, using force to get others to agree with them. (Perhaps Simon Zelotes, one of the twelve, was so named because he belonged to this sect before his conversion.) Today the Roman Catholics and members of various cults are also sincere. So much for sincerity if it does not burn with holy fire! God’s jealousy (self-zeal) burns against all those not in harmony with the holy scriptures.
The greatest example of holy zeal is that of Jesus Christ, whose zeal for the house where God’s honor dwelleth consumed him at all times! See him cleansing the temple at the beginning of his earthly ministry, driving out the merchandisers and their animals with a whip, upsetting their money tables, proclaiming the truth of his Father’s house. Remember another man after God’s own heart who was eaten up with an identical zeal (Ps. 69:9). Yes, the Jesus who is portrayed today as so harmless that he would never hurt a fly was red in the face, was incited to slash right and left with a scourge, spoke hard words, because there burned in his heart such a love for God, such a desire for his glory, such a longing for the perfection of his cause, that with utter self-forgetfulness he never considered his own name and standing. For these things he prayed more than any man; for these things he labored so arduously that he often forgot to eat. It was his meat to do the will of God who sent him and to finish the work given him to do (John 4:34). In all his work he was driven, filled with fire, consumed, until he gave himself to be consumed on the cross.
Are there men, women, and children filled with that same zeal today? Yes, there are. For not only did Christ give himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, but he also “purifies unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Every member of the body of Christ partakes of his anointing and partakes of his fire and zeal. Every child of God is concerned to bring forth good works which will be to the praise of his Father in heaven. A lukewarm Christian is a contradiction in terms (Rev. 3:15–16).
May the zeal of Christ consume you and me! May that be our meat and drink all our days.