Do not be slothful in zeal
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11(ESV)
These three things go together. The first two tell us how we are to serve the Lord. Negatively, we are not to be to “weary in well-doing” (Gal. 6:9). Positively, we are to be fervent in the service of Christ – the word suggests boiling over in our spirit.
There is some debate whether or not “spirit” here refers to the Holy Spirit or to the human spirit. I think the latter, because as the zeal in the previous phrase is located in the human spirit, so by parity of reasoning is the fervency. But that does not mean that we can do this apart from the Holy Spirit. If we are fervent in our spirit as we serve the Lord, it is only because – as some translate the phrase – we are “aglow with the Spirit.”
This is illustrated by Apollos, who was said to be “fervent in spirit” as “he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus” (Acts 18:25). As a result, “he greatly helped those who through grace had believed” (ver. 27). Like Apollos, we are to be highly motivated people, not for the things of this world, but for the kingdom of God and its advancement. We must be, for the nature of the truths we believe and the glory of the God we serve demand not a half-hearted, lethargic response, but the full measure of our lives. As John Murray put it so well in his commentary on this verse: “When discouragement overtakes the Christian and fainting of spirit as its sequel, it is because the claims of the Lord’s service have ceased to be uppermost in our thought.”