PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 13:4b; A Not Jealous Kind of Jealous Love

11/09 1 Corinthians 13:4b A Not Jealous Kind of Jealous Love; Audio available at:

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Paul swings the wrecking ball of God’s love toward the Corinthians. Their attitudes and conduct toward one another were incongruent with love, inconsistent with the God who is love, out of step with the Holy Spirit, who produces the fruit of love in the heart of the believer. He intends to hold up a mirror so that we can see how far short we fall of the divine standard, and in broken-hearted humility cry out to God for his transforming work in us.

The love that Paul is talking about is a distinctly Christian sort of love, a response in the heart of the believer to having been perfectly and completely loved by God. We love (says 1 John 4:19) because he first loved us. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved by God. Many people do many good things, many charitable deeds, but Paul says in the opening verses, without this distinctly Christian love, those who do these things become nothing, are nothing, and attain nothing. Even someone who in self-sacrificial generosity to the poor gives away literally every possession, even health, even life itself without this love that is rooted in God’s love for us, gains zero.

Paul gives us 15 verbs to describe this love; 2 positive, 8 negative, one contrast; and 4 always, actions that love either does or does not do. Love is patient, or long-tempered like our God who is slow to anger. Thank God he is slow to anger! Love is kind, generously good to the ungrateful and evil. God’s patience delays justice to make room for his kindness to lead us to repentance.

The first negative in the string of 8 is ‘love envieth not, or is not jealous. This is curious, because at the very last verse of chapter 12 was a command that we be jealous, and in the first verse of chapter 14 we are again commanded to be jealous. We have noted that these characteristics of love can be most clearly seen in God, but when we look at jealousy, God repeatedly in the Old Testament claims to be a jealous God, even claiming that his very name is ‘Jealous’, and in the New Testament we see Jesus acting jealously. What do we make of this assertion that love is not jealous, framed by two commands to be jealous on the backdrop of a God whose name is Jealous?


Let’s begin with a definition. The word is [ζηλόω] zelo-o. It is where we get our English word ‘zeal’. Literally it means to be heated or to boil. It means to desire earnestly, to strive after or pursue something or someone. This word is used in both positive and negative ways. The context determines whether zeal is a good thing or a bad thing.

Evil Jealousy

For instance, 1 Corinthians 3:3 Paul rebukes the Corinthians for not being spiritual but of the flesh, mere infants in Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

In this context the burning zeal is a typically human zeal for this or that favorite leader, pitting one against another and causing contention between the differing groups.

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul says:

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Galatians 5 lists zeal or jealousy among the works of the flesh, contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In Stephen’s sermon in Acts, the patriarchs are accused of jealousy toward Joseph.

Acts 7:9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him

Back in Genesis 37, we are told that Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons (v.3). Joseph had a dream that he would rule over his brothers and that his mother and father and all his brothers would bow down to him. His brothers were jealous of him (v.11). They hated him because his father treated him with special favor. They attempted to do away with him in a vain attempt to thwart his God given prophetic dreams. They didn’t want to bow down to their little brother; they wanted to be the one in charge to whom others would bow down. His dreams were a threat to their own self-importance.

In Acts 5, we are told that many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles (v.12), that the people held them in high esteem (v.13), that more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women (v.14), and that people were gathering from the towns around Jerusalem (v.16), and we are told that the high priest and the Sadducees were filled with jealousy and arrested the apostles. They were threatened by their power, their respect, and their popularity. They wanted the power the respect, the popularity for themselves.

In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are invited by the rulers of the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch to preaching the gospel. They said things like “God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised” (v.23). They accused the rulers of the Jews in Jerusalem of “not understanding the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath” and “not recognizing him” (v.27). They accused the leaders of fulfilling the prophecies by condemning him (v.26-29). They proclaimed that God raised Jesus from the dead (v.30). They proclaimed Jesus as the only begotten Son of God (v.33). They proclaimed the impotency of the law of Moses to free anyone from their sins, and they proclaimed forgiveness of sins to everyone who believes in Jesus (v.38-39). They warned against the danger of unbelief (v.41). They preached all this in the Jewish synagogue, and there was no opposition! They were not kicked out. No one complained. No on argued. Instead people begged them to teach again the next Sabbath. There was no opposition for the whole week.

Acts 13:44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.

Notice, the leaders of the synagogue did not dispute the doctrine of the apostles. Not until they saw the crowds did they begin to contradict what was spoken by Paul. They were filled with jealousy because they saw the crowds. Imagine, religious leaders upset at a whole city gathering to listen to the word of the Lord! They should be rejoicing! Instead, they are jealous. They want the attention, they want the popularity, they want the crowds for themselves.

The same thing happened in Acts 17, where Paul and Silas came to the Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica,

Acts 17:2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

For three weeks Paul proclaimed Jesus as the promised Messiah, and proclaimed the cross and the resurrection in a Jewish synagogue, and he was unchallenged! It wasn’t until some of the Jews were persuaded, a great many of the devout Greeks, and many prominent women, that the Jews became jealous. They perceived they were losing something that belonged to them, and so they incited a mob to riot. In their jealousy, they even followed Paul to the next town and stirred up the crowds there.

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 20 about a master who hired laborers early in the morning to work in his vineyard. He agreed with them for a fair day’s wage. He hired more workers at 9am, more at noon, more at 3pm, and more at 5pm, and when evening came he paid all of them a full day’s wages. Those who were hired first grumbled,

Matthew 20:12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

They were jealous of those who worked only one hour and received a full day’s wage. That’s not fair! The master responded:

Matthew 20:15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’

Do you begrudge my generosity? Literally, is your eye evil because I am good? They grumbled because they were treated differently than others. They looked with an evil eye on the generosity of the master, rather than celebrating his generosity toward others. We see the same in the parable of the prodigal son. The older brother hears the music and dancing from the celebration and “he was angry and refused to go in” (Lk.15:28). He compared himself and his performance with his brother and was envious of the extravagant love and generosity shown by his father toward his repentant brother. These are examples of a passionate response to something good being given to someone else, wanting it for self. This is the evil kind of zeal, and love is not jealous.

God’s Jealousy

There is a jealousy or zeal that is attributed to God. In Exodus 20, God warns:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…

God demands first place. God demands that we bow down to and serve him alone. In Exodus 34 he says:

Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

God identifies himself with jealousy as a name, demanding that our worship go exclusively to him.

In Ezekiel 16, God describes in graphic terms how he took Israel to be his own when there was nothing desirable in her. He took her in, cared for her, entered into a marriage covenant with her, cleansed her, made her beautiful, and blessed her with everything good. But she was unfaithful to him. He calls her:

Ezekiel 16:32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!

…35 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the LORD:

He accuses her of slaughtering his own children as offering to false gods. And then he says:

Ezekiel 16:38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. …41 And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more. 42 So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry.

God’s jealousy is the jealousy that a husband ought to have for his own wife, demanding the exclusive faithfulness from her that she promised in her covenant vows. Song of Solomon brings together love and jealousy.

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

Jealousy of Jesus

Jesus who is the image of the invisible God, showed his jealousy.

John 2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The religious leaders had prostituted the purpose of the temple. It was meant to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Instead they used it as an opportunity to oppress the poor and make a profit. Jesus passionately defended the honor of his Father’s house.

Clarifying the Difference

God is jealous, and God is love, but love is not jealous. In what way is God’s jealousy a loving jealousy, where our jealousy would be contrary to love? What is the difference between the good kind of jealousy and the evil kind of jealousy? In the examples we looked at, human jealousy was a heated response to something good that we desire being given to someone else. We could look at God’s jealousy and say that it too is a heated response to something good that he desired being given to someone else. God demands the undivided affection, devotion, worship and love of his people. When we give that to someone else it is considered adultery. But if we jealously desire equal respect, honor, attention, popularity, and praise to be given to us, it is sin. What makes the difference? We could add one phrase that makes the difference. God demands the affection, love and worship that rightfully belongs to him. When we are jealous, we make demands for things that do not rightfully belong to us. We demand of God’s generosity, that he not extend more generosity to others than he has to us. God is not obligated to extend any generosity to anyone. When we are jealous, we are looking sideways at others and asking ‘how come he got treated better than I did?’

This points us to an element in our jealous that distinguishes it from God’s jealousy. Our jealousy comes from our lack and our need. We desperately want to feel loved. We are jealous of others we perceive are being loved more than us, because we feel that takes away love from us. God’s jealousy has no connection to any need he feels. He makes it explicitly clear that he has no need that we could meet. He is complete in himself, lacking nothing.

Psalm 50:9 I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 ​I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

There is another difference. God’s jealousy is loving because it passionately pursues the good of the beloved. When a loving husband goes after his wayward wife to bring her home, and demands that she give her affection exclusively to him, he is doing a very loving thing. He is seeking her happiness, even at great cost to himself. Genuine happiness comes within the covenant relationship, not by violating the covenant relationship. God demands that we ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength’ because that is what will bring us true joy. He seeks our best, and he is our best.

My jealousy is not loving because it passionately pursues my own good, often to the harm of the other. And in my jealousy I am turning my affections away from God and toward other people or things, hoping to find satisfaction in them and outside of God, so my jealousy is adulterous and self destructive.

Commendable Jealousy

When we jealously defend the honor of God and point others toward him as the only source of true satisfaction, we act lovingly. Paul has the good kind of jealousy for the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

He is jealous with the jealousy of God. He is passionately fired up that they not be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. There is no hint of self-seeking in this. He passionately pursues their purity to present them as a pure virgin to Christ.

John the baptizer spoke in the same kind of way.

John 3:26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

This is an opportunity for human jealousy. John, you are losing popularity. You are losing followers. You are losing attention. The crowds are going to someone else.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

None of the attention, none of the praise, none of the respect, none of the followers belong to me. He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The joy of the friend is to step out of the way and see the bride united with her bridegroom.

This helps us understand how Paul can say that love is not jealous, but then command the Corinthians to be jealous of the higher gifts. He says:

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

The Corinthians had been jealous of the more spectacular gifts, because those gifts brought status and attention and praise and applause. Paul rebukes their selfish status seeking and points them to the higher way of love. Out of the more excellent way of love, without an evil jealousy of wanting something for myself that you have been given, in the pursuit of love, we are to be zealous for the higher gifts, gifts that build others up. I am to passionately eagerly pursue being of service to you. I am to zealously desire to be poured out as a blessing to you. I am to find my joy in becoming more useful to you, not because I want the attention, but because my joy is complete as I fade into the background and your sincere and pure devotion to Christ increases.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

November 9, 2014 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , ,

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