Imagine someone driving down the freeway. The car is going over the speed limit, zipping in and out of traffic. But the driver has no idea of his destination and refuses to stop and ask for directions. Is he likely to get anywhere useful? This is a picture of zeal without knowledge (Romans 10:2). The Scriptures command us to be zealous for the things of God (Romans 12:11; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 3:13). But zeal without knowledge can be a dangerous thing. The most important area in which this can be so is salvation (Romans 10:3). The usual idea most people have is that we are saved by living a good life. But the Scripture makes it clear we are all sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) and cannot save ourselves by our own good works (Romans 3:19,20; Galatians 2:21; Titus 3:5,6). Rather, Jesus on the cross paid the whole price for sin (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21), and we are saved by putting our faith in what He has done for us (Ephesians 2:8.9; Romans 4:4,5; Galatians 2:16). But the modern response is, does it really matter what I believe as long as I am sincere? I would have to say Adolf Hitler and Pol Pott were very sincere. You have to be sincere to kill that many people without compunction. Being sincere does not make you right. But is God being horribly narrow for not accepting all sincere people? God has, at great cost to Himself, provided a way to be reconciled to Him as a free gift to those who will simply put their faith in Him. All He requires is that we come His way (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Isaiah 45:21,22). Is it really so unreasonable that He will not accept anything we decide to offer in place of what He requires?
But even for those of us who have put our faith in Christ for salvation, it is still possible to have zeal without knowledge. But Scripture calls us into a knowledge of God (Jeremiah 9:23,24; Colossians 3:10; Romans 12:2) and of His Word (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16,17; John 17:17). Now there is a danger in accumulating knowledge that is purely academic and is not applied and in becoming puffed up based on that knowledge (1 Corinthians 3:18; 8:1-3; 2:1-5). But as C. S. Lewis points out in the Screwtape letters, one of Satan’s strategies is to get us running as quickly as possible away from the error we are least likely to commit. While there have been and still are those who have a large technical knowledge of the truth of God and do not apply it, the grave danger I see in the Evangelical church today is of a superficial knowledge with no deep understanding. And we cannot apply what we do not know. Rather, we need to be deeply rooted in God’s truth so that we may know and apply it (Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 2:6-10; Hebrews 5:12-14).