Having already discussed the fact that love is patient and love is kind and now turn my attention to the fact that love “is not jealous 

In 1 Corinthians 13:4, we are told that love “is not jealous” (NAS) or “does not envy” (NIV). As I have pondered this idea over the last few weeks, I have found myself at odds with certain truths. For example, 1 John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Thus it seems evident that our love flows from the knowledge of God, which by necessity means knowledge of His love, because He is love.  Thus the knowledge of God acts as the backing so that we might know what love really is. Yet we see in several passages that God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5, 34:14, Deut. 4:24, 5:15, 32:16, Josh. 24:19, Nah. 1:2). How is it that God can be a jealous God and a loving God, if love is not jealous?

I have heard it explained away as follows. Clearly since 1 Corinthians 13 refers to believers, specifically in the context of misused of spiritual gifts, one cannot apply the descriptions of love mentioned here to God, because the same rules do not apply to Him. For example, God can be jealous because He is the one deserving of all praise, but we cannot because we do not deserve the praise that is offered another.

I do not agree with this simply because it seems to deny the very goal of salvation. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). If we are to be conformed into the “image of the Son,” it does not make a lot of sense to say, “Well I know God is jealous, but you should not be. God to express His character in jealous, but you do not have a right to reflect that character to others.” Therefore, I am left to conclude that God must be both a jealous God and a God who is not jealous, and that we are to reflect both His jealousy and His lack of jealousy to the rest of His creation.

For my purposes here, I have limited myself to that of which God is jealous. I hope to at a latter date discuss the issue of that for which God is jealous (or zealous).

Who is God Jealous of?

For the sake of those who think that I am mistaken in my previous assumption, I will begin by addressing that which God is jealous of. First, I will not hesitate to affirm that God is jealous of all that which would rob Him of the glory and honor that are rightly due to Him. So the second commandment sets forth, “You shall not worship them or serve them (idols); for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5). And later the Israelites are warned, “For you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). It seems clear that God is not jealous of His people, but of the idols which have stolen their affections.

Second, it seems clear that those whom God is jealous of are not His friends, but His enemies. At the end of the book of Deuteronomy in the Song of Moses we read, “They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deut. 32:21). It is interesting that Paul applies this to the nation of
Israel in Romans 10:19ff, but in pointing out that God has not abandoned
Israel completely (Rom 11:25-29), he tells the Gentiles that “from the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies” (11:28).

Finally, I would add that those of whom God is jealous will not be privileged to the blessings of God but to the eternal wrath of God. This is especially set forth in Ezekiel where we see God’s jealous linked with His wrath:

“I will bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy” (16:38)

“So I will calm My fury against you and My jealousy will depart from you” (16:42)

“I will set My jealousy against you, that they may deal with you in wrath” (23:25)

“in the fire of My jealousy” (36:5)

“I have spoken in My jealousy and in My wrath because you have endured the insults of the nations” (36:6)

“In My jealousy and My blazing wrath” (38:19)

Those who find themselves face to face with the jealousy of God have only to find wrath, fury, and indignation. They will not see the love of God, but His holy hatred of sin and the necessity of divine justice.

What God is Not Jealous of?

However, we see that God is love, and as I will attempt to demonstrate, that God is Not Jealous of those whom He loves. First, we must consider the love demonstrated between the Father and the Son, as it is the image of the Son that we are to be conformed into. In John 17, we see Christ offer up a prayer to the Father in which He says, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (17:4-5). Christ purpose on earth was not to be jealous of the Father, but to seek to honor and glorify Him. Likewise, the Father is not jealous of the Son, but will give to Him the glory that is due to Him (cf. Php. 2:9).

Second, we must consider the love God has for the elect. It seems abundantly clear from scripture that God is not jealous of His people. In fact, it is an evidence of His love that He turns His jealous anger away from them. “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them.” (Hos. 14:4).After all why would God ever be envious of His people? He is the one who has “blessed them with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Furthermore, the Father has honored them by betrothing them to the Son as His beloved Bride (2 Cor. 11:2, Eph. 5:25-32, Hos. 2:19). And He has placed their name in the book of life and has prepared a place for them to spend eternity with Him. So I find it extremely unlikely that God will be jealous of any of His people’s enjoyment of spending an eternity with Him. Nor do I think that Christ is in the least bit jealous of the fact that God has made us co-heirs with Him (Rom. 8:17).

Are We Jealous of God?

I think it is fair to say that jealousy of God is the motive of all sin and the most pointed demonstration of a lack of love of God. It is the nature of the wicked to be jealous of God. It is the nature of the human heart to want to set itself in the place of God, to desire the position and power that come from being the sovereign God. It is like the king of
Tyre of whom it was said, “Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods in the heart of the seas’; yet you are a man and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God” (Ezek. 28:2).

In our sinful condition, we all desire to be the center of our own universe and we find no place for God. We are resentful of the idea that someone else has control of our lives. We find it find it infuriating that God is God and that He does not do things the way that we believe that they should be done. We consider His character and find it to be flawed. We would rather that God was confined to space and time, a finite and weak creature, who knows no more than us. We find repulsive the idea that God is holy and righteous and that He would find fault with us and condemn us to an eternal punishment.

Yet for those who have experience the love of God, we are no longer jealous of God, but find our confidence in the greatness of His character. “We exult in hope of the glory of God” (
Rom. 5:2). Having recognized our own inability, we are overjoyed to know that God is omnipresent and eternal, the infinite and omnipotent Creator, who knows the beginning from the end. We delight to know that God is holy and righteous and that He has taken the condemnation that we rightly deserve and bore it on the cross.

Are We Jealous of Others?

So it is no wonder in the end that we are instructed that love “is not jealous.” When we love someone else we find joy in celebrating the blessings that God has brought into their life, knowing that neither we nor they are deserving of them. Christian love thus demonstrates itself in the humbling of oneself so that others might be exulted.

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