1. Jealousy. There isn't a person in this room who has not experienced the emotion of jealousy at one time or another in your life.

2. And we normally think of jealousy as being sinful, as it is in Galatians 5.20, where the plural Greek word for jealousy is translated "emulations."

3. But as I have so often found since I began my lifelong study of God's Word, things are not always as they first appear. There is more to this thing called "emulations" than first meets the eye.

4. So, I propose a very simple plan. In three straightforward steps we shall seek a clear understanding of emulations. And we shall succeed by seeking, first, a definition of the word, second, a determination of the word's usage, and, third, a discrimination of this subject of jealousy, or emulations.


1B. The work of the flesh which is called "emulations" translates the common Greek word "zhloi," which is the plural form of the noun, and is frequently translated by the word "zeal" or the word "jealous" in its singular form.

2B. In most lexicons the word "zhlos" is defined as zeal, ardor, jealousy and envy. But most people that I know would find that such definitions do little to help us understand the essence of the word, so, I dug a little deeper and came up with my own, personal, definition of the Greek word translated "emulations" and "jealousy."

3B. With a definition that is broad enough to properly span both the good and the bad senses in which this single word is used, I define "zhlos" as the eager and energetic pursuit of an objective in which vigilance is required to cope with a real or a perceived rivalry.

4B. This would mean, with both the good and bad sense of the word, the person experiencing "jealousy" or "emulations" thinks or acts as though there is a competition or a rivalry of some kind going on, and that he must be on guard to make sure that his objectives are met.


I want us to examine some examples of "emulations" or "jealousy." And as we read these examples we will look for clues to tell us whether the jealousy is proper or improper, sinful or spiritual, in that case.

1B. Read Numbers 5.11-31: "11And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 12Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him, 13And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner; 14And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled: 15Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance. 16And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD: 17And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water: 18And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse: 19And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: 20But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband: 21Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell; 22And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen. 23And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water: 24And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter. 25Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the offering before the LORD, and offer it upon the altar: 26And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water. 27And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. 28And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. 29This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled; 30Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. 31Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity."

1C. Is jealousy sinful in this case, or appropriate in this case?

2C. We know that it is entirely appropriate because the LORD gave the husband recourse in this type of situation.

3C. Had the husband's jealousy been unspiritual the LORD would have moved Moses to rebuke him.

2B. Read Exodus 20.1-5: "1And God spake all these words, saying, 2I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."

1C. Is jealousy sinful in this case, or appropriate in this case?

2C. Because of the character of God, we know that jealousy, in this situation, is spiritual.

3B. Read Acts 5.12-18: "12And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. 13And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. 14And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) 15Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. 16There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. 17Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison."

1C. The word "indignation" in this passage is our word for jealousy.

2C. Is the jealousy of the high priests and the Sadducees right or wrong here?

4B. Read Acts 13.44-45: "44And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming."

1C. How about this passage, where our word is translated "envy?"

2C. Obviously, the jealousy of the Jews, envy here, is because of the Gentile crowd drawn by Paul, and was, therefore, sinful.

5B. Finally, Read Second Corinthians 11.2: "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."

1C. Here Paul refers to his jealousy over the Corinthians as a godly jealousy.

2C. Yet another example of spiritual jealousy.

6B. What can we say after reading these various passages? From our reading we can say two things about the spirituality of jealousy:

1C. First, it is possible for jealousy to be a tremendously spiritual response. As a matter of fact, jealousy can be so godly and Godlike that numerous times in the Old Testament God ascribes to Himself the attitude of jealousy.

2C. On the other hand, jealousy can also be so wicked and so sinful that the exhibition of this attitude marks one off as a lost man or woman, as Galatians 5.20 makes very obvious.

3C. Clearly, then, the exhibition of eagerness and energy in the pursuit of a goal in the face of some kind of rivalry is not necessarily wrong, though it can be wrong. This much we have determined.


Let us learn to discriminate the sinful from the spiritual jealousy. Let me share with you what criteria determines whether the attitude of jealousy is spiritual behavior or a work of the flesh.

1B. You will remember my definition of jealousy earlier. In that definition I pointed out two important ingredients in jealousy: pursuit of a goal, and the perception, whether real or imagined, of rivalry. It is in the discrimination of those two aspects of jealousy that we find out whether your jealousy is right or wrong, spiritual or carnal.

2B. First, Pursuit Of a Goal.

1C. Examine each of the examples of jealousy that we have read. In each case there is a detectable goal that the person's jealousy is striving to achieve. Sometimes it is good. Sometimes it is evil.

2C. With God, in Exodus chapter 20, holiness in the lives of His children was God's commendable pursuit. With the jealous husband, it was justice in the home with his wife and preservation of the sanctity of his marriage. With Paul, it was godliness in the lives of Christians he loved and had charge over.

3C. Either directly or indirectly, when the jealousy is spiritual and godly, it is because the goals and the pursuits that the spiritual jealousy strives for are goals and pursuits that glorify God.

4C. But what about the ungodly jealousy of Acts chapter 5 and Acts chapter 13, where the high priest, the Sadducees, and then the Jewish populace of Antioch in Pisidia, are zealously opposed to the observable success of God's men?

5C. Does the jealousy these men display seek God's glory? Are they seeking to advance and build the kingdom of God? No. Their goals and objectives are selfish and erroneous. Whether they are aware of it or not, they care only to build their personal reputations and their personal egos.

6C. And what about the work of the flesh in Galatians 5.20? Does "emulations," in that verse, exalt Christ? Not when we understand that it's the Holy Spirit's ministry to exalt Christ, and those who are lost and doing the work of the flesh are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

7C. Is it natural for men and women to develop feelings of jealousy? Yes, it is. A most natural response. But if your goals are always Christ's goals, if your desires are always to lift Him up, your jealousy can be of the godly variety.

3B. But There's A Second Aspect Of Jealousy, Perception Of Rivalry

1C. A competitive drive is inherent in this thing called jealousy. The sense of rivalry is always a part of it.

2C. To determine whether or not your jealousy is carnal or spiritual you must examine, very carefully, your perception of rivalry. Who do you consider the opposition to be?

3C. Turn to Mark 9.38-40: "And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. 39But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40For he that is not against us is on our part."

4C. Do you see the disciple's jealousy? They were jealous because they perceived a rivalry and a competition between their Lord Jesus Christ and an unnamed man of God. The disciple's only problem was that what they thought to be a rivalry didn't really exist.

5C. Now read Romans 10.1-3: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."

6C. Here Paul tells us that the Jews had a "zeal of God," or a jealousy for the Lord, which would have been great, except for their ignorance. You can't be anything but spiritually ignorant if you don't know Christ. And part of their problem, because of this ignorance, was that they had a sense of rivalry with the Gentile believers, not knowing that the Gentile believers were actually on God's side, while they were not.


1. So you see, this passionate emotion called jealousy and emulations and zeal can be a great thing or a terrible thing.

2. If you are a Holy Spirit controlled person, if the battles you fight are not personal battles but the Lord's battles, and if the cause you hope to advance is not your personal cause but the cause of Christ, zeal, jealousy, emulations, can be a great part of the passion and drive of your Christian life.

3. But if you are self-centered, if you are ignorant of God's Word, if you seek to build your personal kingdom and promote your personal cause, if you do not know the Savior, your jealousy will be carnal and fleshly.

4. Do you feel a sense of competition with others for the affections of the pastor? Do you actually believe that there is a rivalry within this Church for positions or prominence? If so, you have sinful jealousy. You need to be quite content to being a servant of God in the grand scheme of things, a door keeper in the Temple.

5. Does it grieve you when God blesses a Christ-honoring Church that you are not a part of, while not blessing your Church the way you think He ought to? If so, you have a sinful jealousy. You need to rejoice when God blesses ministries that are true to the Gospel.

6. Do you have a difficult time enjoying God's blessings in the lives of other people, while asking yourself, "Why won't He bless me that way?" If so, you have a sinful jealousy. You need to rejoice with those blessed by God. You should have no competitive spirit where they are concerned.

7. Are you jealous? If you are a spiritual Christian your jealousy is likely a healthy and wholesome zeal, and is a good thing. But if your jealousy is a work of the flesh it needs to be repented of, and it may be that you are not a Christian at all if your jealousy is a prominent feature of your personality.

8. As a matter of fact, some girls are jealous of all other females, because they see all girls and women as competitors in the game of manipulating and influencing men and boys. Such is great wickedness and is one of the primary forces in the lives of very immoral women.

9. Your jealousy may not be so extreme, but if your jealousy does not reflect a zeal for the things of God because you are an unbeliever, then your jealousy can only be sinful, since you cannot pursue godly goals and objectives if you aren't a Christian. Not when the Bible says you are God's enemy.

10. No, my friend, if you have never trusted Christ as your Savior your goals can only be your goals and your rivalry is ultimately a rivalry with God. Be very sure that you will not, finally, reach your goals. Neither will you gain the upper hand in your rivalry.

11. Strive for a zeal according to knowledge. Ponder your spiritual state and come to Christ.