The Works Of The Flesh

It is written:

Galatians 5:19-21-Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

When a person chooses to follow “the flesh,” his life will manifest this decision in various ways.

Quite often in the New Testament, Paul discusses “the flesh.” While we may be tempted to think of this as a reference to our physical body, it actually goes far beyond this. Paul himself tells us that “the flesh” is a mindset where a person chooses to focus primarily on the sinful things of the world.

Romans 8:5-9-For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9  But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

Notice that those who are in “the flesh” are carnally minded. As long as they focus their minds on “the flesh,” they will be unable to enjoy the “life and peace” that comes from being spiritually minded.

Also, do not lose sight of the fact that those that Paul refers to as being in “the flesh” can encompass Christians as well as non-Christians. In fact, that is Paul’s emphasis in both Romans 8 and Galatians 5. Christians (those who have been saved from sin) may apostatize and return to the ways of the world. When they do this, the lifestyles of sin which they exhibit will demonstrate their decision not to be true to Christ.

Let’s notice each of the “works of the flesh” that Paul mentions in Galatians 5:19-21.

Adultery-The breaking of the marriage covenant through sexual sin.

Fornication-A blanket term for all sexual sin. In the Old Testament, fornication included such things as adultery, rape, homosexuality, prostitution, pedophilia, and bestiality. See Leviticus 18 for more detail. Many today teach that fornication in all of these forms is acceptable. How often have people proclaimed that it is acceptable for couples to live together and have sexual relations before marriage? The facts show that such relationships often do not endure.

“In truth, though, cohabiting couples tend to do quite poorly when it comes to partner selection. First, many cohabiting relationships do not lead to marriage. One study suggests that in more recent years only 50 percent to 60 percent of first time cohabiters end up marrying the person they live with.’ When the number of these cohabiting couples who break up were added to the number who cohabited, married, and subsequently divorced, as many as 80 percent of couples who cohabit will end their relationship at some point!’-This is an important statistic, not to be lightly passed over. It’s apparent that in most cohabiting relationships, a poor partner choice is made. Think, then, of all the turmoil, disappointment, and heartache that go along with all this breaking up and divorce. Further, one study in Canada found that most cohabiting relationships do not endure for long periods. Fewer than half, in fact, survive for just three years.` Another study indicated that 40 percent of cohabiting unions do not continue for even a year, only one-third survive for two years; for couples who remain in a cohabiting relationship without marrying, only between 25 percent and 33 percent survive for five years. And the survival rate for ten years is only between 12 percent and 15 percent.’ In contrast to all of this, nineteen out of twenty first marriages survive for two years,’ and 90 percent survive to ten years.” The clear conclusion is that only in a modest number of cases do the partners chosen for a cohabiting relationship prove to be long-term companions. If, then, cohabitation does not lead to marriage, about 90 percent of these relationships are doomed to failure. And even if the couples marry, they will more than likely divorce; those cohabiting unions that end in marriage are “almost twice as likely to dissolve within ten years.”‘ (Jeff VanGoethem, Living Together: A Guide to Counseling Unmarried Couples, 539-551 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kregel Publications)

Uncleanness-Though the word was often used of various kinds of sexual sin, this was not its’ only meaning. For example, Demosthenes uses this word to have to reference to a man who committed perjury against his friend in betrayal.

Lewdness-Thayer says this word has reference to “wanton manners as filthy words, indecent bodily movements, in haste handling of males and females.” Bruce points out that this word carries with it also this interesting definition:

“…vice that throws off all restraint and flaunts itself, unwed by shame or fear,’ vice paraded with blatant impudence and insolence, without regard for self-respect, for the rights and feelings of others, or for public decency.” (F.F. Bruce, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistle To The Galatians, j4444-4447 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

This describes many in our day and age who flaunt wickedness and wear it proudly. I am reminded of some of the people that I have known who proudly advocate for various kinds of sexual sins in our day and age.

Idolatry-Elevation of anything that comes before God. This could include pagan gods and goddesses (1 Corinthians 10:14) but is not limited to them. Colossians 3:5 describes greed as a form of idolatry, and the Prophet Ezekiel discussed those who elevate their idols in their hearts (Ezekiel 14:1-4).

Sorcery-The Greek word pharmakeia is used here. The word originally had reference to the good use of drugs, then to the abuse of drugs. Finally the word came to reference the ways that witches would use potions in carrying out their spells. The Jewish people understood that this word condemned all forms of witchcraft as well as forms of drug abuse. They also pointed out that this practice opened up a person to demonic influence.

Hatred-This word had reference to hostilities between individuals or communities especially because of political, racial, or religious grounds. This was contrary to the law of Christ, which is rooted in loving your neighbor as yourself (cf. Romans 13:8-10).

Contentions-The Greek word here has reference to feelings and actions of strife that may be manifested especially through unresolved anger, bitterness, and an unforgiving spirit.

Jealousies-There is a good type of jealously and a bad type of jealously. The word used here has reference to a person who strongly coveted something which rightfully belongs to another person.

Outbursts Of Wrath-This had reference to allowing unresolved anger to build up and “explode” towards another person in a sinful and destructive way.

Selfish Ambitions-This had reference to a competitive spirit that was based on an acquisition of power and/or wealth. It elevated self to a terrible and terrifying degree.

Dissensions-The ones who foster division willfully and without repentance.

Heresies-The formation of denominations and divisions based primarily upon teaching which is opposed to the Word of God.

Envy-An attitude that cannot rejoice in the success of another person.

Murderers-The unjust taking of life.

Drunkenness-The state of being intoxicated. Many today defend such concepts as social drinking. However, this is opposed to the Word of God, which condemns the recreational use of any drug (cf. Titus 2:11-14). Indeed, Ephesians 5:18 commands Christians to not even begin the process of becoming intoxicated!

Revelries-Sinful parties or orgies. While many in our world defend such, the Word of God condemns it. Peter reminds us that these things should be in the past of the child of God (1 Peter 4:3-4).

Christians can go back and live in these wicked lifestyles, which was one of the problems taking places in the churches of Galatia. Paul tells the Christians that they need to repent of these things and make it their aim to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

Galatians 5:16-17-I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Christians must always attempt to walk in the Spirit and allow Him to bring forth His fruit in our lives:

Galatians 5:22-23-But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

What a contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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