This Chapter on the Works of the Flesh will deal with a puzzling Work
that requires a fair amount of analysis to understand.
The Kings James Version
translates this Work of the Flesh as “Emulations.”
The New King James Version,
The American Standard Version and The New International
Version translate it as “Jealousies.”
The Greek word used by Paul is “Parazeloo.”
To see the richness of the word we must go further into the original
The word “Parazeloo” is made up of two words: Para and zeloo.
"Para" is a root word which may mean, “from, of, at, by, besides, near.”
Simply put, it means that which relates to or is connected to.
We have words in the English language that use the word “Para.”
Paramedics: medic means doctor: Paramedic means near, beside doctors.
That is, in emergency situations they do the work of doctors, to the
point where they can administer medical treatment and medications.
Paralegal: that which is related to or is near or beside lawyers. They
in fact do much of the work that a lawyer would do.
The word "Zeloo," according to Strongs Concordance means:
have warmth of feeling for and against. To covet earnestly, to
have desire, to be moved with envy, to be moved with desire, to be
jealous over, and to be zealous over.”
The primary meaning according to Thayer Lexicon is “Zeal, ardor
in embracing, pursuing or defending anything.”
In other words the main essence of the word is to have
In fact the word “Zeloo” derives from the other Greek word “Zelos” from
which our English word “zeal” derives.
Of course we can have positive or negative zeal toward something.
Because Paul mentions it as a work of the flesh, it must have a negative
connotation.To understand the meaning intended by Paul we must see its
use elsewhere in the New Testament.
“Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First,
Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that
has no understanding”
It was prophesied by Moses that God would have finally called Gentiles,
while temporarily putting on hold His involvement with Israel. One of
the reasons God would focus on Gentiles was to provoke Israel to
jealousy and to anger (To parazeloo them).
Why? This is explained in the next chapter:
“In the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and
save some of them” (Romans
This kind of provocation would have created jealousy and anger in some
Jews (And it did) and conversion in others.
Thus, in this example, “Parazeloo” was to be something positive for some
Israelites and something not so positive thing for most Jews who would
simply stop at the anger level and not go any further.
The word is again used in 1 Corinthians 10. The context is eating foods.
Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the
sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food
sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?
20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are
offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants
with demons. 21 You cannot drink
the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in
both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.
22 Are we trying to arouse (Parazeloo) the Lord’s jealousy?
Are we stronger than he?(I Corinthians10:18-22).
Paul is saying that Christians should steer away from activities
relating to idolatry so as not to “Parazeloo” God; that is, so as not to
“provoke” him to negative zeal which would lead to negative
It should be clear therefore that parazeloo can refer to positive
provocations, which can bring about positive results, or negative
provocations, which can bring about negative results.
Clearly Paul did not have the positive in mind, when he used parazeloo
as one of the Works of the Flesh. The meaning intended by Paul,
therefore, has to be “provoking to negative zeal.”
When we, therefore, parazeloo others, we may provoke them negatively, or
we may provoke them positively. We can also parazeloo God. That is, we
can provoke God to act with zeal against us, which is something to steer
away from, as the consequences can be quite negative.
How can we therefore simplify the meaning of the word?
Parazeloo, when used in a negative sense, means, essentially, to be a
A bad apple “was” a good apple. In time it became a bad apple. Bad
apples are innocuous, if they are kept away from good apples. If they
are beside good apples, the good apples will be infected and become
The infection gets effectively and zealously passed on to the other
apples, which in turn zealously pass their infection to other good
apples. And they do so zealously. That becomes their new job: To infect
as many other apples as possible.
PARAZELOO BACK IN TIME
How and when did Parazeloo start back in time? The first example, as you
well know, is Lucifer and the angels he stirred to negative zeal.
It all began with him. He became unhappy with the status quo and decided
to change things "violently." But to reach his aims he had to Parazeloo
others—many others. And he did. He was able to provoke to negative zeal
1/3 of the angels, to the point of violence.
Of course that in turn led to Parazeloo from God who smashed the
rebellion and humbled those involved.
Later on, we see Satan at work again with the first two humans. Satan
provoked to negative zeal Eve, who then provoked to negative zeal Adam.
The same provocation to negative zeal is also seen later on with the 12
children of Israel provoking each other to negative zeal toward Joseph,
which led to his being sold into slavery.
One very enlightening example of provoking to negative zeal, is
described in great detail in Numbers 16.
Let’s read it carefully and let’s learn from it.
Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son
of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On
son of Peleth—became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses.
With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had
been appointed members of the council.
3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and
Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is
holy, every one of them, and the
is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the
When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. 5 Then he said to Korah and
all his followers: “In the morning the
will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that
person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him.
6 You, Korah, and all your followers are
to do this: Take censers 7 and
tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the
The man the
chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”
Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you
that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite
community and brought you near himself to do the work at the
tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them?
10 He has brought you and all your fellow
Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too.
11 It is against the
that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that
you should grumble against him?”
Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab.
But they said, “We will not come!
13 Isn’t it enough that you have brought
us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the
wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us!
14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a
land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields
and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves ?
No, we will not come!”
Then Moses became very angry and said to the
Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not
taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”
Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to
appear before the
Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his
censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before
You and Aaron are to present your censers also.”
18 So each of them took his censer, put
burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the
entrance to the tent of meeting. 19
When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the
entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the
Lord appeared to the entire
assembly. 20 The
said to Moses and Aaron,
“Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at
But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the
God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the
entire assembly when only one man sins?”
Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly,
‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”
Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders
of Israel followed him.
26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from
the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them,
or you will be swept away because of all their sins.”
27 So they moved away from the tents of
Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were
standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to
Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the
Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it
was not my idea:
29 If these men die a natural death and
suffer the fate of all mankind, then the
has not sent me. 30 But if the
Lord brings about something totally
new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything
that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead,
then you will know that these men have treated the
As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under
them split apart
32 and the earth opened its mouth and
swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah,
together with their possessions. 33
They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they
owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from
the community. 34 At their cries,
all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to
swallow us too!”
And fire came out from the
Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the
Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of
Aaron, the priest, to remove the censers from the charred remains and
scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy—
38 the censers of the men who sinned at
the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the
altar, for they were presented before the
and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”
So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought
by those who had been burned to death, and he had them hammered out to
overlay the altar,
40 as the
directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no
one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the
Lord, or he would become like Korah and
The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against
Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the
Lord’s people,” they said.
But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and
Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered
it and the glory of the
Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron went
to the front of the tent of meeting, 44
said to Moses, 45 “Get away from
this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense
in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the
assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the
Lord; the plague has started.” 47 So Aaron did as Moses
said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already
started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made
atonement for them. 48 He stood
between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.
49 But 14,700 people died from the plague,
in addition to those who had died because of Korah.
50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the
entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped (Number 16:
Korah and company, like Lucifer, provoked to negative zeal at first a
few, then dozens, then hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands,
then the whole congregation. And it was the work of just a few people,
a few bad apples.
They succeeded in provoking many Israelites to negative zeal, but they
also succeeded in provoking God to negative zeal and the result was
Provocation to rebellion is therefore a major way to commit this
dangerous sin of Parazeloo, but not the only way, and we can be guilty
of doing so as well.
HOW WE CAN PARAZELOO OTHERS
Remember Parazeloo provokes, stirs up a negative reaction in others. How
can we do that?
OFFENSES: Offenses can and have moved to negative zeal many members over
the years, especially if they are new or weak. Jesus warned about this
possibility with very intimidating words.
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in
me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone
hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
7 Woe to the world because of the things
that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the
person through whom they come! (Matthew
Why is Christ so adamant about not making new Christians stumble?
Because stumbling can kill, not temporarily, but eternally.
Over the years, offenses have taken place in many and various ways. When
people teach that God’s laws are done away and provoke Christians to
zealously embrace the way of freedom and sin, they are leading the
little ones to sin. The offenders are in grave danger, as are the little
The false leaders have and still are provoking the little ones to
negative Zeal and, in so doing, in the future they may provoke God to
respond with a harsh correction. Parazeloo in both counts.
INSENSITIVE WORDS: Sometimes we are not in tune with our brothers and
sisters’ sensitivities. Some among us are very frail. Are we careful
with what we say? Do we talk first and think later. Are we too hasty to
speak and slow to listen as opposed to doing the opposite?
Most of all are we persisting in our approach, though we have offended
others before. Do we learn from our errors? If we do not, then we end up
using Parazeloo. We provoke others negatively. We offend others and thus
create a negative reaction in them, which could lead to temporary
friction or prolonged anger, or bitterness and then quitting the way.
2. IINSENSITIVE HUMOUR: What often will make many laugh might make
someone hurt. We all have sensitive areas. We all carry psychological
hurts. Something humorous said unintentionally may “Parazeloo” (provoke
to negative zeal or reaction) someone who is very frail. In which case,
it is not wise to blame the person but to apologize to the person and be
more careful next time.
If our “kidding” which has hurt someone continues, it reveals
insensitivity and even callousness on our part. If we have created a
hurt reaction in a person, why do it again? And yet at times some people
have done it. The result may be a provocation to negative zeal, that is
a provocation to friction and anger.
SETTING THE WRONG EXAMPLE: Another way we can offend is, of course, by
setting the wrong example. In other words, by doing that which can
influence others to spiritual deterioration.
Paul corrects some Corinthians for emboldening others to do things that
went against their conscience in
But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are
still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they
think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their
conscience is weak, it is defiled.
8 But food does not bring us near to God;
we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does
not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak
conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s
temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to
idols? 11 So this weak brother or
sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge (I
Unfortunately such insensitive people have always been among us. Some
started well and over time became bad apples. Some, at times, get
planted among us by Satan to provoke to negative zeal and infect good
“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like
blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your
love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now
doing more than you did at first.
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that
woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads
(PROVOKES TO NEGATIVE ZEAL) my servants into sexual immorality and the
eating of food sacrificed to idols.
(AND THEN GOD’S RESPONSE) 21 I have given
her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.
22 So I will cast her on a bed of
suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer
intensely, unless they repent of her ways.
23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches
will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay
each of you according to your deeds (Revelation 2:18-23).
HOW TO PROVOKE POSITIVELY
As opposed to negative zeal we are encouraged by the New Testament to
stir up the brethren in a positive manner.
“For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting
about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in
Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of
them to action” (2
Corinthians 9: 2).
The word used here is not Parazeloo but a synonim, “Erethizo” which
means, "To provoke and to stimulate in a positive way." The principle
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love
and good deeds” (Hebrews
The word used is “Paraxusmos,” another Synonim which means "To provoke
How can we provoke to Love and to good works, therefore? First of all,
by example; Rather than being an example of compromise we can be an
example of zeal and obedience.
New Christians watch the older members for an example, and they do
follow their example. We are being watched, and this will multiply as
God brings more and more members into His church.
We can stir others to positive zeal by encouragement. By being
supportive when they get weak and become frail and discouraged.
Also by reminding others of what God expects from us.
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle
and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient
with everyone” (1
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so
that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews
What we need to do, therefore, is to make sure that we do not to stir up
to "negative zeal," but to exhort and encourage and to pray for one
another; that is, to help produce "positive zeal."
What we need to do is to totally clean our lives of negative Parazeloo
and to strive every day to be a source of positive Parazeloo, so as to
encourage, support and energize one another as the day of Christ’s
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The next section will address the next work of the flesh: