For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The Syriac version renders it, “a new people.” And they who are redeemed and purified by Christ, through the power of his grace upon them, become a people “zealous of good works;” not in order to [gain] their justification and salvation, but in obedience to the will of God, and to testify their subjection and gratitude to Him, and for His honour and glory, and for the credit of religion, and the good of men. These not only perform them, but perform them from principles of truth and love, and with a zeal for the glory of God, and the honour of his Gospel.
GEORGE SWINNOCK (1627-1673): Zeal is the heat or tension of the affections; it is a holy warmth, whereby our love and anger are drawn out to the utmost for God, and His glory.
THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): It maketh us spare no cost, yea, it judgeth that best done for God which costs us most, as David would not serve God with that which cost nothing, 2 Samuel 24:25. That is worth nothing that cost nothing in religion…Therefore they that will be at no cost for Christ, maintaining His truth, upholding His worship, relieving His people, have no zeal.
WILLIAM S. PLUMER (1802-1880): He who has no zeal has no love to God.
JOHN ROBINSON (1575-1625): As nothing lives without natural heat; so neither does he live the life of Christ indeed who is destitute of Christian zeal to warm him in his affections and actions―especially in the matter of God’s worship and service; in which, whether wrong or right, lukewarmness is odious and loathsome. The Lord will spue out of His mouth the lukewarm, Revelation 3:16.
THOMAS WILSON (1601-1653): Lukewarm men call zeal fury; God’s Spirit names it a “live coal,” that hath a most vehement flame, Isaiah 6:6.
THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): A childlike heart is a zealous heart. It is impatient of God’s dishonour. Moses was cool in his own cause, but hot in God’s. When the people of Israel had wrought folly in the golden calf, he broke the tables. As we shall answer for idle words, so we shall answer for sinful silence. It is dangerous in this sense to be possessed with a dumb devil. David says that the zeal of God’s house had eaten him up, Psalm 69:9. Many Christians, whose zeal once had almost eaten them up, now they have eaten up their zeal. Let some talk of bitterness, but I can never believe that he has the heart of a child in him, that can be patient when God’s glory suffers…Though we should be silent under God’s displeasure, we must not be silent under His dishonour.
WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): And I am sure zealous lovers of truth count it as melancholy living in evil times, when that is fallen in the streets.
THOMAS MANTON: Oh! we should not let one dust of truth perish. This is to be zealous for the truth, standing to, and striving for the defence thereof, in our way and place. If God had not raised up zealous instruments in every age to plead for his truth, what a sad case would the church have been in? Truth would have been buried under a great heap of prejudices, and Christ’s kingdom have been crushed in the very egg, and religion strangled in the cradle. But there is a cloud of witnesses gone before us.
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): It is desirable to enlist the feelings on the side of truth and excellence. Impulse is useful and even necessary to exertion and success; but in proportion to its force, it requires guidance, if not restraint. It is good to be always zealously affected in a good thing; but, without knowledge, zeal may even in a good cause carry us astray; so that our good may be evil spoken of, and even produce evil…We are not therefore pleading for a zeal without knowledge; but we are not satisfied with a knowledge without zeal.
ASAHEL NETTLETON (1783-1844): Zeal without prudence will defeat its own end. Zeal, untempered with love and compassion for souls, will soon degenerate into harshness and cruelty of manner and expression, which will have no other effect on an audience than scolding, or even profane swearing.
THOMAS MANTON: The true cause of holy zeal is love to God and what belongs to God…It quickens us to our duty, and makes us publicly active for God: Galatians 4:18, It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing. Oh! how remiss and sluggish would we be otherwise in matters of God’s kingdom and glory, if we had not a strong degree of love to stir us up to appear for God, in the worst times, and in the way and places that is proper for us! Paul, when he saw the whole city given to idolatry, it is said, his “spirit was stirred in him,” Acts 17:16; he could not contain; and again, Acts 18:5, Paul “was pressed in spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.”
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): I doubt not the warmth of his zeal, in this respect, has disgusted many in the present day, wherein a seeming candour and forbearance is pleaded for and extended to almost every sentiment, except the truths in which Paul gloried. There is little doubt but many, if they had the courage and honesty to speak out, would add Paul himself to the list of those whom they despise as uncharitable and hot-brained bigots; for who has offended more than he against the rules of that indifference to error which is at present is miscalled charity?
JOHN ROBINSON: Worldly wise men despise zeal, as prejudicial to wisdom and discretion.
THOMAS MANTON: Zeal for God is so little understood by men of the world, that it always draws down opposition upon those who are inspired with it; they are sure to be accused of sinister motives, or of hypocrisy, or being out of their senses.
THOMAS WILSON: Festus called Paul mad with a loud voice, when he spoke but words of truth and soberness, Acts 26:24,25. Christ’s kinsmen thought that he was beside himself, Mark 3:21.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Lastly, let us be zealous: “Let not thy hands be slack,” Zephaniah 3:16. Now is the time when every Christian should do more for God than ever. Let us plan great things for God, and let us expect great things from God. “Let not thine hands be slack.”
SELINA HASTINGS, COUNTESS OF HUNTINGDON (1707-1791): None know how to prize Christ but those who are zealous in good works.
GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Has God wrought in you a spirit of zeal and love? Has He wrought in you a love to His name, and a zeal for His cause?