The Twelve Apostles –

Simon The Zealot

I think it might be worthwhile to present a series on the twelve apostles. I do not know how many I will cover, but I definitely want to dig deeper in some aspects of the lives of these Bible characters. On Friday, I preached on Simon the zealot, or Simon Zelotes as he is referred to in Acts 1:13 and Luke 6. The Bible doesn’t say much about him, except stating that he was one of the twelve that Jesus chose to be with Him and sent forth to preach (see Mark 3:14). It is interesting that the word apostle means “one sent forth.” These twelve were uniquely sent forth to be ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 6:12-16 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines zealot as: “One who engages warmly in any cause, and pursues his object with earnestness and ardor. It is generally used in dispraise, or applied to one whose ardor is intemperate and censurable. The fury of zealots was one cause of the destruction of Jerusalem.”

From Treasury Of Scripture Knowledge: “Simon Zelotes. Canaanite. Kananites, so called, not from being a native of Canaan, Chanaan, which would have been Chananaos, but from the Hebrew Kana, to be zealous, whence he is called in Greek, Zelotes, or the Zealot, from Zeloo, to be zealous.”

Strong’s Concordance defines Zelotes as: “a Zealot, i.e. (specially) partisan for Jewish political independence.”

In the first century, a zealot was a person in Israel who promoted rebellion (sometimes armed) against the Roman government, and sought to establish an independent Jewish government. As Webster stated this was one of the reasons Titus came against Jerusalem and destroyed it in 70 A.D., but he doesn’t mention the fact that this was also the reason that the nation of Israel was scattered throughout the world in 135 A.D. due to the Bar Kochba rebellion.

Based on this name given to Simon (Zelotes, Zealot), it is assumed that he was involved in rebellion against the government before he became a disciple and was chosen to be an apostle. Perhaps this is even one of the reasons that he started following Jesus in the first place – there was confusion among the disciples in thinking that Jesus was going to set up His own government in place of Rome, that He came to overthrow Rome – not understanding that Jesus came first and foremost to die for our sins upon the cross. Yes, when Christ comes again, He will reign from Jerusalem, but that was not the purpose of His first coming.

Webster’s also defines zeal as: “Passionate ardor in the pursuit of any thing. In general, zeal is an eagerness of desire to accomplish or obtain some object, and it may be manifested either in favor of any person or thing, or in opposition to it, and in a good or bad cause.”

In the New Testament, we can see some examples of the right and wrong kinds of zeal.

Good Zeal:

1) Jesus, the Son of God.

John 2:13-17 And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

In an OT passage about the coming Messiah, it is interesting to note that it was prophesied that He would wear the same armour that later the apostle Paul would exhort believers to wear.

Isaiah 59:16-17 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.

Notice that it was zeal for His Father’s house, and zeal for doing the Father’s will that consumed Him and drove Him in His public ministry. Is that the kind of zeal that we have?

2) The Psalmist.

Psalms 119:139 My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.

Are we passionate about the Word of God? Do we stand for it in our lives, even going against our modern culture and Christendom when they oppose it? Does it grieve us when those around us neglect or have no regard for God’s Word? It should!

3) The Corinthian Church.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, we see that they were a mess and that they had a lot of areas that they needed to get right in – there was also sin in the church, including open immorality that should never have been tolerated. Paul wrote his letter to confront their sin and tell them how to deal with it. They grieved for their sin, humbled themselves and got those areas right in the sight of God. Once these sins were put out of the church and the erring member dealt with, their zeal was rekindled to do God’s will.

2 Corinthians 7:11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

2 Corinthians 9:2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.

Now their zealousness to serve the Lord stirred up those around them. Does your zeal for the Lord stir up and stimulate those you know to walk even closer to Him?

One of the exhortations the Apostle Paul gave to the Corinthian church is found in his first letter to them:

1 Corinthians 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

Are you zealous in seeking to edify your brethren? Are you using your gifts and talents to stir up and exhort the brethren to be more faithful to the Lord, to be more devoted to Him in their service and soulwinning?

4) Ephaphras.

Colossians 4:12-13 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.

Epaphras was one of Paul’s co-labourers, earnestly desiring to lift up his brethren in prayer, to do what he could to encourage and strengthen their walks with the Lord. He had a fervent zeal to see that those believers he came in contact with were fulfilling the will of God for their lives, that they were growing and maturing in their relationship with their Saviour. Is this the kind of zeal you have?

Bad Zeal.

1) Paul’s Zeal Before He Got Saved.

Acts 22:3-4 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.

Galatians 1:13-14 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

Philippians 3:5-6 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Before he got saved, Saul of Tarsus (later known as Paul) had a zeal for the religious traditions he grew up with. He was diligent as a Pharisee and zealous for their traditions – so zealous for the wrong things that it led to him persecuting, imprisoning, and even being involved in killing Christians. Until one day the Lord Jesus Christ stopped him on the road to Damascus and blinded him with His glory – while at the same time opening his understanding to the truth of who Jesus really was. Then Paul repented of his misplaced zeal and received Jesus as his Saviour.

The rest of the Apostle Paul’s life was marked by a earnest zealousness to do the will of God, to follow the Scriptures, to draw even closer to the Lord. What about you? Is your life marked by a zeal for your religious traditions – or for knowing and obeying the truth? From Paul’s early life, we can see the tremendous damage that the wrong kind of zeal can do to so many people – but from the moment of his salvation on to the end of his life, we can see the effect that righteous zeal can have on those it influences. What is your zeal like?

2) Israel’s Zeal.

Romans 10:1-4 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

This is probably one of the saddest commentaries in the Word of God. So many of the Jews who knew the Scriptures were blinded to the righteousness it revealed through the Messiah. They were too caught up in trying to obtain their own righteousness through the works of the law – the law which no one has ever been able to fulfill completely (no one but Jesus Himself – which is why He is the only one righteous!). Instead of realizing their righteousnesses were as filthy rags in God’s sight – worthless, incapable of earning salvation – they did not turn to the Messiah when He came to die for their sins upon the cross.

Jesus did pay for all our sins, He did take the full penalty for them upon Himself, and He finished the work of redemption that was needed to purchase mankind back from the slavemarket of sin. When we repent of our sins and turn to Him in faith, our sins are not imputed (credited) to our account – instead His righteousness is! There is no way any of us can earn or attain righteousness – righteousness is only through faith; when we receive Jesus’ gift of salvation, then His perfect righteousness becomes ours. Christ IS the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth in Him – in Him, we have His perfect righteousness, the only righteousness that could ever please the Heavenly Father and fulfill the righteous requirements of the law.

Jeremiah 23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Do you have the mistaken zeal to obtain your own righteousness – or have you humbled yourself in the sight of the Lord and realized you could never do enough good works or works of the law to please God and ensure a home in heaven? Have you accepted Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as your righteousness, as your Saviour? If so, are you zealously telling others how to know this same Saviour?

Titus 2:13-14 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.

Are you living for the Lord, serving Him day by day, zealous of good works? Or are you like the Laodicean church, lukewarm, couldn’t care less about the things of God? Are you zealous for the truth, or wishy-washy? Are you zealous to know Jesus Christ more each day, or does your relationship with Christ (or lack thereof!) even matter to you? Are you hot or cold? Jesus does not want you to be lukewarm – He does not want you to sit on the fence. He wants you to be for Him or against Him. Ultimately, for you, it is better to be zealous – HOT – for the things of God, zealous in your service, warmly devoted to the Son of God who died for you.

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

It is interesting that the name Simon means “hearing.” Are you zealous to apply what you have heard today?

Simon, how’s your zeal?

July 11th, 2006
Jerry Bouey

More studies in this series on The Twelve Apostles:

The Twelve Apostles #2 – Bold And Rash Peter

The Twelve Apostles #3 – Thomas The Doubter

The Twelve Apostles #4 – Jesus Loved Them To The End

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