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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, July 30, 2011

“The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17).

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem the city was crowded with people. They had come to celebrate the passover. He went to the temple and saw the merchants and money changers. They were selling oxen, sheep and doves to be used as sacrifices. He saw the moneychangers doing business and making profits within the temple court. He made a whip and drove them out,

“And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise”
      (John 2:16).

Then the Disciples remembered what was prophesied in Psalm 69:9, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17). It could be translated, “Zeal for Thy house consumes me.” The Greek word translated “zeal” means “fervor.” It is from a root word that means “to be hot, earnest, fervent.”

The Bible says that Christ left “us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21). Jesus was zealous, earnest, hot and fervent for the honor of God’s house. We should follow His example. We should be zealous, earnest, hot and fervent for “the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (I Timothy 3:15). We should be “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14) in “the church of the living God.”

I. First, the preaching should be zealous.

We get the idea that Jesus preached with a very soft voice from Hollywood movies. But a little common sense shows that this could not have been true. He preached to thousands of people at a time. How could He have preached to so many without raising His voice? In John 7:37 we read,

“Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37).

He “cried.” The Greek word means “to cry out, hoarsely, or urgently” (George Ricker Berry); “to scream, to call aloud, shriek, cry out” (Strong). The Puritan William Perkins (1558-1602) said, “In the exposition of the doctrine in a sermon we ought to be more moderate, but in the exhortation more fervent and vehement” (William Perkins, The Art of Prophesying, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002 reprint, p. 75). Dr. John R. Rice said,

The greatest problem of the churches is the preacher problem...Preachers lack the divine fire, the Christ-like passion, the John the Baptist boldness, the Pauline urgency, the Holy Spirit enduement of power that will fire the churches of God...What all of us need and must have if we are to please God and do His work effectively is the fire from heaven, the fire in our bones that Jeremiah had...We need the Word of God to burn within our hearts, like a fire in our bones, so that we cannot stay (John R. Rice, D.D., The Soul Winner’s Fire, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1969, pp. 53-54).

Amen! And amen!

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is often remembered for his expository preaching. This is because most of his books come from his morning sermons, directed at Christians. Only a few of his Sunday night evangelistic sermons are in print. But if you listen to tapes of his Sunday night sermons you will hear fine examples of what preaching ought to be. Far more people came to hear him preach on Sunday nights than on Sunday mornings. In speaking of an unnamed preacher Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “There was no zeal, no enthusiasm...His whole attitude seemed to be detached and academic and formal...Where is the passion in preaching that has always characterized great preaching in the past? Why are not modern preachers moved and carried away as the great preachers of the past so often were?...What is preaching?...It is theology on fire...Preaching is theology coming through a man that is on fire” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Preaching and Preachers, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, pp. 88, 90, 97). Amen! And amen!

I am now seventy years old. I have to walk a half hour, and swim for another half hour each day, and not eat red meat more than a couple of times a year – to keep in shape to preach. I must spend long hours in my study, in prayer and reading – to keep in shape to preach. You can’t tell it by reading these sermon manuscripts, but when they are preached, they are preached with great zeal. They are preached sentence by sentence, with two translations. I give a sentence in English, then Mr. Song translates into Mandarin Chinese, then Mr. Mencia translates into Spanish – then back to me. These sermons, with the two translations, last about fifty minutes. They would be very boring unless all three of us poured our hearts out with evangelistic zeal, even preaching “vehemently” at times – as William Perkins advised!

Last night my wife, my son and one of the young men in our church watched a video of Dr. W. A. Criswell giving a sermon at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas on June 9, 1985. Dr. Charles Stanley was on the platform as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Paige Patterson, now president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave the announcements. The great choir sang and prayers were offered.

This was no charismatic or “emerging church” service. It was an old-fashioned Baptist church service. But there was something there that is missing in many of our churches today. It was exciting! The people at First Baptist broke into applause four times before Dr. Criswell stood to preach on “The Infallible Word of God.” They applauded three times during the sermon, interrupting Dr. Criswell with loud amens. The singing was great. The whole service was thrilling and exciting and full of zeal. As I watched it I thought, “Let us never be ashamed to applaud the truth! Let us never be ashamed to show our zeal for God!” But no matter how zealously we preach, or how enthusiastic we are, it will have no lasting effect on the lost unless God intervenes and uses the sermons.

“The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17).

Which takes us to our next point.

II. Second, the prayers should be zealous.

How zealously the early Christians prayed! For instance, we read in Acts 4:24,

“They lifted up their voice to God with one accord”
       (Acts 4:24).

Notice that “they lifted up their voice.” The Greek word means that they raised their voices, and prayed loudly. Then notice that it says, “They lifted up their voice with one accord.” Most commentators don’t know what to make of that! Only Charles John Ellicott seems to guess what it means. It seems most likely to me that one of them “lifted up” his voice rather loudly, and the others joined in by “amening” him. Notice that the only thing they prayed for was “grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word” (Acts 4:29). That was their only prayer request. Perhaps, also, when one had led that prayer, they all prayed aloud at once with the same request. That seems to be implied in verse 24, “with one accord.” This sometimes happens in times of revival, such as the great Korean revival of 1910. I witnessed this in one sweeping revival where I was present, at a Chinese Baptist church. We must all pray with zeal for God to use the preaching to convert the lost! May we pray with great zeal, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane,

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly”
       (Luke 22:44).

“The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17).

III. Third, the singing should be zealous.

Psalm 81:1 says, “Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.” If the singing is not done with zeal, then the hearts of the lost will not be moved. If the singing is mechanical and soft, I do not think God is pleased. I believe that the only good singing is loud, zealous singing! “Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob” (Psalm 81:1). Dr. John R. Rice said, “Sadly our churches do not have music that is Spirit-filled and reaches the heart, so usually is little help to soul winning” (John R. Rice, D.D., Why Our Churches Do Not Win Souls, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1966, p. 126).

Let us sing out, at the top of our lungs, every hymn – in every service, to the glory of God. “Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob”!!!

IV. Fourth, there should be great zeal in caring for the lost when they are brought into our services.

Sadly, we often find what David said in our own churches,

“I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul” (Psalm 142:4).

A lost person can go into such a church and find that the members are only interested in themselves. They have their own special places to sit. They have never learned to be warm and friendly to new people. They may shake hands with them and say a few words, but they say by their actions that they don’t really care. “No man cared for my soul.” Oh, let us be zealous, earnest, and fervent in taking care of the lost when they come into our services! Let us forget about ourselves and think only about caring for them, and helping them to feel at home in our church! Let us be like Jesus, who was always looking after sinners. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). May it be said of us, as it was said of Him,

“The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17).

Please stand and sing hymn number 6 on your song sheet.

Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying,
   Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
   Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save.
Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying,
   Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
(“Rescue the Perishing” by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915)

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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17).

(John 2:16; Psalm 69:9; I Peter 2:21;
I Timothy 3:15; Titus 2:14)

I.   First, the preaching should be zealous, John 7:37.

II.  Second, the prayers should be zealous, Acts 4:24, 29; Luke 22:44.

III. Third, the singing should be zealous, Psalm 81:1.

IV. Fourth, there should be great zeal in caring for the lost when they
are brought into our services, Psalm 142:4; Luke 19:10.