• Dr. Mark C. Spellman

Sanctified Jealousy

“…for the Lord’s who name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14)

“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.” 2 Corinthians 11:4

When you hear the word “jealousy.” You more than likely begin to think negatively. The Apostle Paul said, “For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:3).

He includes jealousy in the catalog of characteristics he might find among the people he had come to love. His fear was that there would be “quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” among the church when he returned to visit them (2 Cor. 12:20).

Jealousy is resentful and bitter rivalry motivated by a selfish fear of being outdone by other’s talents, gifts, abilities, positions or possessions. It was a reality in the first-century church. It is a reality today.

Speaking to the first-century church, the Apostle Paul also speaks to the church today. All of us must be on our guard, lest we allow errors of doctrine and practice to lead us away from our whole-hearted devotion to our Lord.

We must not have too high an opinion of ourselves as if we are beyond temptation. We must not be so presumptuous to think we know so much that we could not possibly be deceived by false teaching or false practice. The ways of Satan are subtle, and we must always remain watchful, praying with our eyes open.

The Apostle Paul was “jealous.” As a pastor he had a great love for the Corinthians. His deep sense of responsibility regarding their spiritual welfare aroused in him “sanctified jealousy.” Paul recognized the intimate relationship between Christ and His people – that it can be compared to the relationship between a husband and wife. Just as one woman is to love one man, so our love for Christ is to remain pure and holy.

Paul wanted to guard the Corinthians against infidelity. But they were in danger because false teachers had come in among them to lead them astray. By exposing the Corinthians to false teaching and to the doctrines of another gospel (which, in fact, is not a gospel at all), the deceivers were putting the church in danger of committing adultery against its beloved husband and Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul was jealous for their fidelity.

Paul, the pastor, was jealous for purity. It is easy to fall into error. Conflict is not easy. Sometimes as we try to keep peace we allow unchallenged error to creep into our doctrine and practice. We begin to overlook, even accept, certain sins that are “private” and not public. In an effort to keep peace, we do not speak the truth in love. In doing this we fail to maintain faithfulness to God’s call - “Be Holy, for I am Holy” (Lev. 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16).

This attitude of “sanctified jealousy” speaks not only to people who lead in the church, but to anyone who is involved in training and teaching, discipleship and ministry, leadership and living. Those in these positions ought to be jealous for a balanced diet of spiritual nourishment – jealous for growth in grace – jealous for the purity of doctrine – jealous for sound teaching leading to piety in practice – jealous to be vigilant in guarding what God has entrusted to their care.

As a Christian, you must develop a sense of “sanctified jealousy” in your walk with the Lord. Remaining faithful to Him who has called you, studying the Scriptures regularly – praying that God would keep you from error in doctrine and practice – jealously protecting your ears from hearing, your eyes from seeing and your lips from speaking those things that do not bring glory to God, accepting with all humility the gentle nudge of “His rod and His staff” knowing that they are both instruments of comfort and protection – God ordained – to keep you within the protective boundary of His sovereignly sufficient Word.

—for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—” (Exodus 34:14, NASB95)