Unless a person comes to the knowledge of the truth by God’s sovereign grace, he will be forever lost in his unbelief (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25). So it was with an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. As Luther focused on Romans 1:17, God caused a divine ray of grace to fall upon the troubled monk. Suddenly, the righteousness of God was revealed to Luther—bringing him from darkness to light.
The battle cry of the Reformation was post tenebras lux, meaning “after darkness, light.” The entire movement of the Reformation was filled with light and heat. The possession of God’s knowledge among God’s people should result in a proper passion to serve God. Knowledge and zeal are closely connected. Martin Luther and the Reformers understood the balance of doctrine and duty.
Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, writes, “So we also labor by the Word of God that we may set at liberty those that are entangled, and bring them to the pure doctrine of faith, and hold them there.”
A PROPER LOVE OF GOD
Five hundred years ago, the Roman Catholic Church suppressed the promulgation of God’s Word. They demanded that everyone come and listen to lectures of the Bible in Latin, as they refused to allow the Word of God to be printed in the common man’s language.
God raised up the Reformers to bring the Bible out of the shadows. God raised up these faithful men who courageously labored to give us God’s Word in our language. Certainly, it must be recognized that the Reformation was a return to the Scriptures. The biblical words, sentences, and phrases matter because knowledge matters. God’s people love the Bible because of their love for God—not merely because of their love of knowledge.
Jesus, in quoting the Shema (Deut. 6:4–5), said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). God wants all of us—including our minds.
A proper pursuit of God involves knowing and worshiping God with the intellect. To focus on one’s heart, soul, and strength but to bypass the mind would be a tragic mistake. James Montgomery Boice once said:
We live in mindless times, days in which millions of people are drifting along through life, manipulated by the mass media, particularly television, and hardly know it. Few give thought for their eternal souls, and most, even Christians, are unaware of any way of thinking or living other than that of the secular culture that surrounds them.
ZEAL FOR GOD
Have you ever known someone who wasted his life? How many Christians waste their knowledge? Perhaps out of timidity and fear of man, they hide their light under a basket. Consider the fact that many people join the right churches, read the right books, and attend the right conferences—but seem to lack zeal.
If you travel to Geneva and walk into St. Pierre Cathedral where John Calvin proclaimed his rich expositions, you will find the passionate motto post tenebras lux looming in the backdrop of the pulpit. This battle cry is likewise etched into the Reformation Wall on the grounds of the University of Geneva. Calvin was passionate in his pursuit of truth. He was the towering theologian of the Reformation.
However, from Calvin’s passionate preaching arose an army of zealous-hearted missionaries and preachers of God’s Word. Not only was Calvin himself zealous to serve God, but he trained many others who were filled with holy zeal. Edward Panosian writes:
From that city [Geneva], hundreds of missionaries, evangelists, and pastors traveled to all corners of the continent preaching the gospel. Their efforts, sometimes sealed with a martyr’s blood but always crowned with success, thrilled Calvin.
John Calvin’s ministry was fueled by a high view of God, and this transcendent knowledge produced a proper zeal to serve God. In a sermon on Isaiah 12:5, Calvin said:
[Isaiah] shows that it is our duty to proclaim the goodness of God to every nation. While we exhort and encourage others, we must not at the same time sit down in indolence, but it is proper that we set an example before others; for nothing can be more absurd than to see lazy and slothful men who are exciting other men to praise God.
In his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul urges his hearers on to spiritual maturity and says, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29). The word translated “struggling” conveys the idea of strenuous effort. Paul was struggling or wrestling with all of his spiritual strength for the glory of God.
If you love to gain knowledge about God, but you lack a proper zeal to serve God, you must examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. We must remember the warning of James—faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Even demons are capable of possessing knowledge (v. 19). The torchlight of the gospel and the ongoing protest of the Reformation demand both knowledge and zeal for the glory of God (Rom. 12:11). Knowledge without zeal is no real knowledge at all.
*This article was originally written for and published by Tabletalk Magazine.