Preaching

Zeal That Accords with Knowledge

First Presbyterian Church Missions Conference | Augusta, Georgia


The following is a lightly edited transcript.

I invite you to take a Bible and turn with me to Romans 9:30 we’ll read to Romans 10:4 in order to set the stage and provide the foundation and authority for these comments on preaching with zeal that accords with knowledge. And before I read it, let me just make a link with yesterday’s talk about worship and preaching.

Perhaps the most salient thing about that message in my mind was these two ways that God means to be glorified. One by being known truly, and the other by being valued duly. There is a right conception of God, and there is a right affection for God. The affection accords with the conception, and to the degree that the conception and contours of God are biblical and clear and accurate according to his infinite reality, those affections should be enlarged to fit that, which means they should be very large.

Any affections that are small are either owing to the fact that you don’t have a right conception of God or there’s something in your framework that is so broken and out of sync that you are only giving God half the worship he deserves. By thinking rightly about him, but not feeling rightly toward him.

Jonathan Edwards said, “I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with” (“Some Thoughts Concerning the Revival”). If the truth is a horrid truth like hell, the affections would be hurried affections like fear. If the truth is glorious truth, like heaven or like Christ crucified and risen, then the affections would be glorious affections like joy and gratitude and a thrill of exultation to have seen and known and be loved by such a God.

That was yesterday, and there is a form of communication that accords with worship made up of those two realities. Right conceptions and right affections, and it’s called preaching. Preaching is expository exultation. Expository meaning you help your people get a vision of biblical truth about God. Exultation means you respond to that truth in your preaching with the very affections that you hope you’ll bring them up to. You exult over the truth that you declare, now if all that is true from yesterday, then it doesn’t surprise you that I would take up a theme like zeal that accords with knowledge, which is right here in this text. Let’s read it and we’ll read enough verses around it, so that you’ll have a context.

“A person can have a zeal for God and not be saved.”

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
       and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 9:30–10:4)

Literally Romans 10:4 would read, “The goal or the end of the law is Christ for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Zeal Without Salvation

Now one of the shocking things in this text is that a person can have a zeal for God and not be saved. Let me show you that just to make sure you didn’t miss it. Romans 10:1: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them,” that is for his Jewish kinsman, “is that they may be saved.” So they’re not saved. These Jews that he is aching to see saved are not saved.

Then he says in Romans 10:2: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God.” Just stop right there and let it sink in. “I’m praying for their salvation, because they have a zeal for God.” So you can have a zeal for God and need salvation. Pastors can have a zeal for God and need salvation. Elders can have a zeal for God and need salvation. Deacons can have a zeal for God and need salvation. Seminary presidents and faculty members and deans can have a zeal for God and not be saved, which lands on me as a pastor very seriously because over the last five years or so at Bethlehem we have crafted a mission statement that puts zeal for God right at the center of things.

Our mission statement hangs on the wall in our church and says, “We exist to spread a passion,” and that’s just another name for zeal. “We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.” Now I read you can have that and not be saved, to which a pastor might, a small group leader might respond, or a leader of a campus ministry might respond, or a leader of a school might respond, “Well then, goodness by all means let’s not put any premium on zeal, let’s put a premium on things that are not that vulnerable to being there, yet salvation not be there. Let’s put a premium on something that’s got to be there with salvation.”

Zeal Is Essential

That would be a very grave mistake. There are some big problems with saying, “Well if you can have a zeal for God and not be saved, therefore, let’s not put any high premium on zeal and find out rather what’s essential here.” One of the main problems with that conclusion is that the Bible not only says that you can have a zeal for God and not be saved, it says you will not be saved if you don’t have a zeal for God.

Consider, for example, Revelation 3:16: “Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” That’s Jesus talking to the church in Laodicea. Well, I think not being cold or hot means at least feeling nothing special for Jesus, nothing approaching zeal. You’re going to get spit out of his mouth, vomited up — it’s not a happy place to be.

Romans 12:11: “Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the spirit.” That word “be aglow,” that’s the RSV. The Greek word there, zeontes, is boil. Fervent is the English word, which comes from the Latin fervens, which means boil. So to be a fervent Christian, a zealous Christian, is to be one whose spirit boils for God.

That’s what Romans 12:11 commands: “Never flag in zeal, be aglow [be boiling] with the spirit.” You have a church filled with people who don’t have that, you should be on your face before the Lord day and night that God would come and awaken them. That’s what is called revival. Revival is not a weekend. Hardly anybody in the south knows that, except Presbyterians.

You don’t hold revivals. You don’t have revival meetings. That’s just a terrible American misuse of the great concept of revival. Revival is a work of God that comes by his wonderful grace, in which he takes a dead or sleepy congregation and makes them wake up to the glory of God in Jesus Christ, so that they are transformed into boiling people.

Love for Jesus

Take a third text, 1 Corinthians 16:22: “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” It doesn’t say, “If anyone has not made a decision for the Lord, let him be accursed.” It doesn’t say, “If anyone does not believe in the Lord, let him be accursed.” It says, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” Isn’t that remarkable?

Loving Jesus is not icing on the cake of Christianity, it is Christianity because without it, you’re cursed. Oh how we’ve divvied up Christianity in remarkable ways. I remember hearing a well-known Reformed pastor preach on this text years and years ago. I was so stunned negatively at the way he handled this text. I just came out of that room saying, “God don’t ever let me become like that.” He never even touched on this issue, he never even came close to addressing what Paul is saying here, namely, you’ve got to love him or you die. He didn’t do anything to stun his people with the radical nature of that closing word in the book of 1 Corinthians. If you don’t love Jesus, you go to hell.

Do you love Jesus? Do you love him? We should be saying to our people, instead of just thinking do you believe things about him? Did you walk an aisle one time and sign on to you cause? Do you show up on Sunday morning? Do you read your Bible? Those are not the issue here. Do you love him? Otherwise, you perish.

That’s going to transform a church because either people will leave the church while you preach that, or they’ll start loving him. He didn’t seem to get it. I’ll tell why, it’s because so many Reformed people are scared to death of emotions. I tell you it’s a sickness in the church, it’s a sickness in the church when we’re scared of emotions.

Love is not equal to emotion nor is it less than emotion. It’s more, not less. I hear so many people, they’re so defensive at this point wanting not to equate love with emotions. They’ll say, “Well, Jesus said if you love me, you’ll keep my commandments, and so keeping the commandments is what it is to love Jesus.” That is not what he said. He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” He didn’t say, “Loving me is keeping my commandments.” If you love me, something will change in your life, and the love is far deeper than the physical activity of walking somewhere or doing something or saying a word. Those are just the shell that gives evidence of the reality of the life within. Do you love me, Peter? Feed my sheep. Do you love me? Feed my sheep. Do you love me? Feed my sheep.

The Cost of Discipleship

Now let’s look at a fourth text. I’m illustrating the point you’ve got to have zeal in order to be saved. I’m saying not only does the text say you can have zeal and not be saved, but other texts say you can’t be saved if you don’t have it. Jesus, it seems to me as I read the gospels, which every pastor should do all the time, reached for words and images that would cause people to be shot out of their neutral, lukewarm, non-zealous frames.

Jesus says, “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Or consider Matthew 5:11: “When men persecute you and revile you, rejoice in that day, for great is your reward in heaven.” Our people by and large are so far from that. What would the translation be for most of our people? It would be something like when you’re persecuted and reviled, murmur in that day, because they’re mistreating you, murmur in that day, grumble in that day, complain in that day, feel self-pity in that day, get depressed in that day.

I mean, where are you Jesus? What planet are you from? “Rejoice in that day”? I’ll rejoice when I get well, thank you. I’ll rejoice when people stop criticizing me. I’ll rejoice when I don’t lose my job. I’ll rejoice when our marriage works for a change. I’ll rejoice when my kids come home. Don’t tell me to rejoice in the middle of my misery.

Jesus says, “Excuse me, I’m God, I’ll decide when you should rejoice. I’m telling you, if you knew me, if you knew him who gave you, and if you knew him who was asking you for water (John 4), you would ask me, and I would give you living water. That’s what I’m giving you here, living water in the midst of your misery, and your reward in the end is infinitely great forever and ever. This slight momentary affliction is working for you an everlasting weight of glory beyond all comparison, so rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”

“Loving Jesus is not icing on the cake of Christianity, it is Christianity.”

Hardly anybody does that today, hardly anybody is a Christian it seems. Matthew 5:29: “It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” How many men are gouging out their eyes or anything close to it to fight Internet pornography? Are you preaching that way? Gouge it out, take a screwdriver, gouge out your eye. Find words that are like Jesus’s words, don’t soften things. People are always trying to think, “Well, this must be symbol.” Well, so okay it’s a symbol, so what’s the next symbol you use? A lousy one, a weak one, a powerless one. Okay, it’s a symbol and you don’t want to use it lest somebody actually take you literally, find another that’s just as effective.

We do just the opposite, well, sort of try hard not to lust, or something that’s zero effective. You want to go to heaven, pluck out your eye. You want to go to heaven, chop off your hand. I’m just illustrating that Jesus in his teaching seemed to look for language that would shock people, stir people, move people, either make people mad and go away or make them zealous to follow him because he’s radical.

The last thing you can be in the presence of Jesus is lukewarm. You just can’t be neutral around Jesus. He won’t let it be. You shouldn’t preach that way. There’s so much boring preaching. It is so boring, and I could just give you reasons for this all over the place from Bible versions that are used to other things, but I feel like there’s a curse of generalization in preaching, just a curse of generalization and a fog of generalities is created.

The people are just floating out there. I think he’s talking about God or Christ or salvation, and nothing ever gets crystal clear and specific and poignant. You stop and think about it and you say, “I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about. I don’t think he had time to get ready.” Enough of that goes by, you will lull people into thinking that’s normal, that’s Christianity. What he feels is what you should feel, and he obviously doesn’t feel anything specific or powerful, and so I shouldn’t either. Over time that church just settles into a country club atmosphere, and everybody likes everybody, and they’re all cool and that’s church.

A Guide to Reading the Bible

The point stands that you can be lost and have a zeal for God. Now, why? It’s really obvious. In fact, some of you are upset that I stopped in the middle of the sentence in verse 2, but you needed to feel the force of you can have a zeal and be lost. Sometimes you stop in the middle of sentences. I’ll give you another illustration of that.

It’s good to read whole sentences in the Bible. In fact, it’s good to read whole paragraphs, but sometimes it’s good to read half sentences. When Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served,” stop. That’s shocking: Came not to be served? I thought I was supposed to serve him. If you read that verse really fast, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give his life to ransom.” If you start preaching on the second half of the verse, the first half never clobbers you. He came not to be served, thank you, don’t serve Jesus. When was the last time you preached a sermon don’t serve Jesus? I preach that everywhere I go, it’s one of my favorite sermons, how not to serve God, because Acts 17:25 says, God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Well, that’s just a parenthesis to illustrate how to stop in the middle of sentences.

The Free Gift of Righteousness

Let’s read the rest of verse 2: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” Now there’s the problem: they have a zeal for God, and it doesn’t accord with knowledge, and so it’s suicidal. There’s a life-giving zeal and there’s a life-taking zeal, and the difference seems to be how you know or what you know. Now what didn’t they know? Verses 2–3:

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

Now notice, there are three parts to verse 3, the righteousness of God, and then two responses to it: seeking to establish your own and the other one is not subjecting yourself to God’s. Those are not obviously separate, those are the same, two sides of the same coin. You are unwilling to submit to God’s, and so you seek to establish your own. That’s the way they were acting because they lacked knowledge of God’s righteousness.

Now let’s think about this. I think at this point, some of Paul’s Pharisaic listeners would protest. “Now wait a minute, you’re setting this up all wrong because you’re putting a negative twist on something that’s not negative, namely, what else would submission to God’s righteousness be if it’s not my effort to be righteous, to obey the law and to keep the commandments? God says, ‘Don’t commit adultery.’ I try not to commit adultery, and I succeed. The Bible says, ‘Don’t steal,’ the Bible says, ‘Don’t kill,’ the Bible says, ‘Don’t covet,’ and I obey those things. That’s my righteousness, and I’m doing that in submission to God who gave that law. What do you mean this is insubordination and unwillingness to submit to the righteousness of God? This is our submission to the righteousness of God, our law-keeping is.” Thus spoke the early Paul, the early Luther, and the legal Christian or non-Christian all through the centuries. What’s wrong there? What’s wrong with that conception?

I think Paul would say that he’s not putting a negative twist on something positive, he’s showing the essential negative nature of something devastatingly wrong in our awareness of the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God is a gift of free and sovereign grace to you. It is a gift of grace that comes through faith to be received. It was wrought out and purchased for you by Jesus Christ, and I give it to you as a gift, the gift of righteousness. To submit to a gift is not to perform anything to demonstrate yourself as having fulfilled what the gift imparts and gives. “What I’m doing,” God says, “is giving you righteousness, a righteousness that my Son lived out for you, brought to consummation in his death. ‘The end goal of the law is Christ for righteousness for all who believe.’”

Now submit to that means receive that. Don’t put before it or in its place a set of performances on your part that show yourself right, so that God acknowledges your rightness. Recognize you have any rightness that you can commend to God. The only hope of being right with God is to receive rightness from God as a gift and submit to that gift — and that’s called faith.

That’s the alternative, and they were ignorant of this. That’s what they were ignorant of — being ignorant of the righteousness of God. Those Jews listening to Paul said, “That’s all we think about is the righteousness of God. What do you mean we’re ignorant of the righteousness of God?” He would say, “You just don’t get it. You think that the righteousness of God is his righteous demand for you to measure up to a certain standard, by which you will then be accepted, and he’s telling you it’s a free gift now, and it comes through Jesus Christ.”

An Awakening of the Soul

Now, what’s wrong here? What kind of ignorance is this? Is it ignorance that is lacking in information? I don’t think so because Paul argues in Romans 4 from the Old Testament that Abraham was justified by faith. He develops all of his underpinnings for his doctrine of justification out of the Old Testament, not laid onto the Old Testament.

I think, rather it is a kind of ignorance that’s owing to spiritual blindness and pride, and therefore, miracles are needed to overcome it. For example, the miracle of 2 Corinthians 4:6, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

I’ll read it again. Listen for the word knowledge. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’” in other words, the God who at the beginning of creation put things in place and created, is the one who “has shone in our hearts.” The same miraculous creative activity is needed in my heart as was needed to bring light into existence at the beginning. The one who “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” When Paul preached, or when I preach, or when you preach, in and through that preaching there must be a divine creative supernatural impartation of light, of knowledge.

“The only hope of being right with God is to receive rightness from God as a gift.”

This is an awakening of the soul to see glory and beauty and truth in the gift of righteousness, among other things, rather than the earning of righteousness. I conclude then there is a zeal for God that does not accord with knowledge. You can have it and not be saved, and in order to get it, there has to be the impartation of word knowledge, but in and through that a supernatural work of creative divine activity by which our hearts are made awake to truth and beauty.

Closing Application

Now let me apply this in three ways. I want to apply it to the issue of knowing, the issue of being, and the issue of doing.

1. Knowing

First, knowing. One of the implications of what I’m saying here is that all you pastors and those that you care about and are bringing along in your mentoring of one or two as you pray toward God raising others up among you, is that you would make careful, accurate, grammatical, historical, spiritual, penetrating, passionate, practical study of the Bible the center of your ministry, and if you can, in the original languages.

You might say, “Where did that come from?” Why do you bring that in here? I know many of you don’t have that privilege right now and never had it or you lost it. Some of you have it and might lose it. I know I’m speaking to a mixed bag. We’re all over the map on what we’re able to do with Greek and Hebrew, but I want to argue that if you have it, labor to keep it, and put it at the center of your labors.

If you don’t, esteem it rather than resenting it and pray towards those who are coming behind you getting it. Maybe make it your aim to get it. Why? Why do I bring that here? Because of what Martin Luther, who was so big on this issue of the righteousness of God and knowing it truly said. Here’s what he said, March 15, 1545, he wrote about the great discovery, which it happened earlier, 1518. A word in Romans 1:17:

“In it the righteousness of God is revealed” stood in my way. I hated that word, “righteousness of God,” which I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner . . . Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place most ardently desiring to know what Paul meant.

Have you done anything like that recently? I’m preaching through Romans and I come to some places and I sometimes hit my head on my desk just like this. I say, “Lord, I don’t get it, I don’t get it, I don’t get it, please give me a breakthrough here.” I cry out to God, and I wait, and then I look in fresh places. Here’s what he wrote:

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night I gave heed to the context of the words. There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that which the righteous lives by the gift of God, namely by faith. He who through faith is righteous shall live. Here I felt I was altogether born again and had entered Paradise itself through open gates.

Now, what did he attribute that breakthrough to? Two things: God in his wonderful grace, and the original languages. Listen to what he wrote:

Without the original languages, we could not have received the gospel. Languages are the scabbard that contain the sword of the Spirit. They are the casket which contains the priceless jewels of antique thought. They are the vessel that holds the wine.

If the languages had not made me positive as to the true meaning of the word, I might have still remained a chained monk engaged in quietly preaching Romish errors in the obscurity of a cloister. No sooner did men cease to cultivate the languages than Christendom declined.

No sooner was the torch relighted than this papal owl fled with a shriek. If we neglect the literature, we shall eventually lose the gospel. It is certain that unless the languages remain, the gospel must finally perish.

I believe that’s true, which is why I say to all of you who don’t have Greek and Hebrew, esteem it highly in your church. Get the best literal translation you can, lean on those that do have it, and raise up those among your number who will count it precious and go get it and learn it, love it and dig deep, and so keep the gospel, keep the gospel. The gospel will be lost if all pastors only know English in America, or German in Germany, or Spanish in Spain, or Portuguese in Brazil.

If we only know translations, we will lose the gospel. I say that corporately, not individually. I don’t mean you will have to lose it, I mean over time, if there are not strong coteries of pastors, and I don’t just mean university professors out there who have all the luxury time to learn that stuff, I mean pastors, we’ll lose it.

We live in a day brothers, as you know, with such theological subjectivity and doctrinal lack of vitality and confessional confusion, that all around us objectivity and vitality and clarity are crumbling. One clear test of our faithfulness to the absolute truthfulness of the word of God and the preciousness of the gospel is the strength of our commitment to the original languages in principle if not in practice.

Will we promote them? Will we love them? Will we esteem them? Will we encourage seminaries? Will you, if you sit on a board of the seminary, insist they make it the center of their curriculum and not let them water it down in the name of all kinds of practical courses? Because you feel like you’re drowning in practical how-to’s, and when they leave the seminary, the students come back bellyaching that nobody taught them how to counsel, or nobody taught them how to run a church, or nobody taught them. The poor seminaries are so intimidated, they have such a theological loss of nerve, they believe so little in what they do, that they let these complaints dictate their curriculum and go change everything. In twenty years they go back and change it all over again, because they’ve got the reverse problem on their hands.

You mature pastors, and I’m taking a risk because I hope and do pray that you will agree that at the route is what’s needed in our seminaries is the word of God studied in the original languages. There are a thousand things you will not know when you come out of seminary, and seminary couldn’t have taught you anyway. You learn it in the trenches, and that’s where you’ve got to learn it, so don’t blame the seminaries, let them do what they can do. They can do exegesis, they can do some systematic theology. They can do some church history, they can give you a few pointers and some practicalities and that’s about it.

It’s the nitty-gritty life of the church. I skipped every practical course at Fuller Seminary I could because I thought I would never be a pastor in 1971. When I wound up eleven years later entering the pastorate, I was glad I skipped all those courses because I had so much substance with which I could deal.

When they said, “Okay pastor thirty-four-year-old guy who’s preached fifteen sermons in your life, never run a church, never baptized anybody, never married anybody, never led the Lord’s Supper, never dedicated a baby, never done anything, never led a committee,” and you called me to be the pastor of this church, I could figure that out.

I had a Bible, I can figure this out, so they said, “In three Sundays we’re going to dedicate babies.” I said, “Okay. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those. Tell me about it, what’s the point of that? What do you do?” They said, “Well, you walk up to the front and the pastor says some words and prays for the baby and we dedicate the babies.” “Really?” I went to the Bible to try figure if that was biblical or not, and I found just a little teeny foothold for it. I said, “Okay, well, it’s not unbiblical, so we’ll keep that tradition. I don’t want to make any waves here.” I’m twenty years there, I still dedicate babies, and I figured out the whole thing from scratch. They loved it, I made up the words, I made up the choreography, I made up everything from scratch.

They loved it, they still love it, one of the favorite Sundays we have. I’m so glad I didn’t take a course in dedicating babies, that would have been the biggest waste of time. I want Romans, I want Galatians, I want the Sermon on the Mount, I want doctrine. No laypeople could help me get that.

That was my first application of knowing is love studying the Bible as the center of your ministry. You know, I hope you know I’m a real live pastor. I really deal with everything that’s out there. I really do get involved with all the pain of everybody’s life. I’m not speaking to you out of some ivory tower that says, “Oh, sure, that’s the way a professor would talk, but you’ve never tried to deal with anybody who is 150 pounds overweight and cuts herself every Friday night, so she has to go to the emergency room because she likes the way people touch her when she’s getting stitches.”

I’ve dealt with people like that, I know what bullying is about, I know what anorexia is about. I know what marriage is breaking down at every stage along the way are about. I know what wayward kids are about, and I don’t have any answers but the Bible. If the Bible isn’t the answer, I quit. I don’t go to a new seminar. I quit. If the Bible does not have the answer for these things, if God’s word is not sufficient to help me breakthrough into this marital situation, into this eating disorder, into this young woman’s life, I quit. Why play games? Why go borrow from the world what works and then fake it in the pulpit, holding this community of something or other together?

2. Being Godly

Second application, being godly. Here’s my point, one brief application. There is a zeal for God that won’t keep you out of bed with your secretary. In fact, there is a zeal for God that will almost ensure that you get in bed with your secretary. I’ve been trying to figure this thing out. Ten percent of the pastors in the Minnesota Baptist convention have been disciplined for sexual immorality in my denomination.

Where does that come from? A lot of it comes straight from zeal for God in a counseling room, in prayer, holding hands with Jesus, feeling warm and loved and accepted. “I felt loved for the first time in my life,” a pastor will say, “I felt the acceptance of God, I felt grace.”

My wife, she’s so hard and legalistic and inattentive, and this woman, when we prayed together, sparks flew, zeal for Jesus flew. What’s wrong? Listen to these words from 1 Thessalonians 4:3–4: “This is the will of God, your holiness, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each of you know how to possess his own vessel” — and that might refer to sexual organ, or it might refer to your wife — “in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God.”

“Love studying the Bible as the center of your ministry.”

Isn’t that amazing that he’d say that? Don’t deal sexually in lustful passion like the nations, like the Gentiles. Then he defines the problem, “who do not know God.” There is a knowledge of God that will keep you out of bed with another man’s wife. What kind of knowledge is that? The answer is it’s not just knowing God as a warm touchy-feely sensation; it’s knowing God with contours of character and as the treasure of your life. In Greek, the word for zeal is zēlos, and you know another translation for zēlos is jealousy, jealous.

I am jealous that God gets all my affections, all my passion, all my zeal belongs to God. If it’s God’s, it can’t be depleted with this woman. Now to keep you there is a knowing God. We sang about it, that’s a great song we just sang, knowing God. That kind of knowing, that kind of knowing as the one who is, “You’re my all, you’re the best, you’re my joy, you’re my righteousness.”

I love you Jesus so much, that I keep my eyes on your blood flowing down the cross. I say Christ died to purify for himself a people zealous for good deeds, that is to keep me out of bed with any other man’s wife. Therefore, for me to crawl into that bed would be like taking a sword and thrusting it right in your throat. I won’t do it because I know you as my treasure and my life and my all and my righteousness.

You know Jesus like that you won’t do it. You will cut your hand off literally if you have to.

3. Doing Ministry

Last application, doing ministry. The first was knowing, the second one was being godly, and now the third one is doing ministry. This one I take right here from Romans 10:1–2: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness.”

Did you hear two ministries there? “My prayer to God,” there’s one. “I bear them witness,” there’s two. I intercede for them with God, and I intercede for God with them in word. I pray to God about them, I talk to them from God, that’s my life Paul says. I want them saved, we want our people saved. Saved from immorality, saved from hell, saved from insignificance, we want them saved. How do you do it?

You pray and you preach, and you pray and you preach, and you teach and you counsel and you love. You go to God for them and you down all the mercy, and you go to God or go to them with God’s word. That’s the ministry that will flow when you are full of this kind of knowledge.