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How Jealousy Can Destroy a Church

The apostle Paul’s initial visit to Thessalonica can be described as the tale of two Sundays.  As a former Jewish zealot, Paul visited the local synagogue and consecutive Sabbaths.  According to Luke, a first century doctor and historian, Paul engaged in a series of discussions and friendly debates.  Paul used the Scriptures to persuade these Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.  By the third Sabbath, some Jews, a large number of God fearing Greeks and many leading women placed that faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.

And Paul entered the synagogue, as was his custom, and for three Sabbaths he engaged in discussion and friendly debate with them from the Scriptures, explaining and pointing out [scriptural evidence] that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I am proclaiming to you, is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed),” Acts 17:2-4.

This rejection of Judaism didn’t sit well with a majority of the synagogue leaders.  Instead of continuing their friendly debate, unbelieving Jews became filled with jealousy.  Envious spirits provoked synagogue leaders to become hostile toward God, Romans 8:5-8.  The sinful nature influenced synagogue leaders to go down a slippery slope, combing Thessalonica for lowlifes and thugs to intimidate Paul and Silas.  This group stirred up trouble, forming a mob and throwing this city into an uproar, surrounding the house of Jason like a modern public protest.  This is an example of how jealousy can destroy a church.

And some of them were persuaded to believe and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and many of the leading women. But the [unbelieving] Jews became jealous, and taking along some thugs from [the lowlifes in] the market place, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and then attacking Jason’s house tried to bring Paul and Silas out to the people. But when they failed to find them, they dragged Jason and some brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too; and Jason has welcomed them [into his house and protected them]! And they all are saying things contrary to the decrees of Caesar, [actually] claiming that there is another king, Jesus.” They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things, Acts 17:4-8.

Jealousy has a long and undesirable past that is documented in the Bible.  Jealousy led Cain, the first human being born on earth, to kill his younger brother.  Jealousy persuaded King Saul to make several attempts on the life of David his predecessor.  Envy isn’t limited to the Bible as acts of the sinful nature prey on souls who deviate, rebel or stray from God.  As someone who spent 7 years as an elder in a church, it only takes one influential leader on a board to follow in the footsteps of this synagogue in Thessalonica.  To prevent a future event from escalating, Paul writes two letters to set high standards for church leaders.  Titus 3:6-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 detail qualifications to guard against jealousy from destroying another church.

by Jay Mankus

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