THE WORKS OF THE FLESH

In yesterday’s article we looked at Galatians 5:16-18 where the Holy Spirit is seen as leading us out of the treacherous realm of the flesh and into the freedom of the children of God. In the verses immediately following, Paul, the writer of the Galatian letter describes what he calls the “works of the flesh,” – the dangerous, detrimental deeds that lead to destruction. These “works” are the things people do when they are away from God and from the guidance of his Holy Spirit. Take a look at his list of vile, repugnant things people then – and now – are continually engaged in. Just a brief look at these things should allow us to see the undesirable nature of these activities.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21).

In these verses Paul is contrasting the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians against the effects of being “in the flesh.” In these verses he gives a listing of some of the works of the flesh. Obviously these are things Christians are to avoid owing to their deleterious nature – these being contrary to what the Spirit is seeking to accomplish in our lives.

SEXUAL IMMORALITY would include such things as fornication – sexual relationships of people who are not married to each other. God has graciously provided the gift of sex to be enjoyed within the marriage relationship as an expression of love and permanent commitment of a man and a woman for their entire lives together. Fornication turns this beautiful gift into cheap, selfish, temporary gratification. So with other forms of sexual impurity, adultery, homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender identification and bestiality.

IMPURITY in thoughts that lead to impure and sometimes violent actions against others would likely include things like pornography and other forms of indecency that cause people to look on others as objects for their gratification and pleasure rather than people made in the image of God and who are to be valued and treasured because of it. SENSUALITY (or “lasciviousness” as in the KJV) would seem to be related to the previous two sins and perhaps would be expressed in various forms of immodest dress designed to provoke desire in the opposite sex as well as in language and lewd, sexually suggestive conduct.

IDOLATRY is not something that existed only in the ancient past. Oh, there are not many people who bow down before carved images in our society, but that doesn’t mean that idolatry is not practiced today. Anything to which one gives his time and devotion to is an idol. It may be our job, our leisure activities or money and possessions. It may be a hobby or a pastime. If we give anything the place God deserves in our lives that thing becomes our idol.

Perhaps you think we don’t have a problem with SORCERY, but when we examine the word from which sorcery is translated you may change your mind. The word in the original Greek language was “pharmakeia” which is the word from which we get  “pharmacy.” A pharmacy, of course is a drug store. Pharmakeia has to do with drugs. Witchcraft and sorcery was nothing other than the manipulation and use of drugs to gain control over the minds of others – even in some instances to kill them. Now do we have a problem with pharmakeia today? Of course we do! In spades! Those who ply the trade (deal drugs) may not use sleight of hand “magic” or chant “spells,” but they do deceive and control those whom they cause to be addicted so they may profit from their misery.

Sins such as “ENMITY, STRIFE, JEALOUSY, FITS OF ANGER, RIVALRIES, DISSENSIONS, DIVISIONS, ENVY” are sins of disposition, having to do with our attitudes and actions toward others which disrupt relationships and ruin cooperative, constructive activities. These have not gone away since Paul wrote these words. They are very much with us – witness the broken homes, ruined friendships, divided churches and nations.

DRUNKENNESS and ORGIES are still with us. Drunkenness, of course is just what it says – to be intoxicated, under the influence of alcohol (or drugs), rendered incapable of rational thought, mentally and emotionally impaired by the use of chemical, mind-altering substances. Orgies (revelings, drinking parties), involves drinking, but also excessive indulgence of food, lewd or immodest behavior as in dancing, etc.

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.” (Romans 13:13).

No list of sins is going to include everything that is against God’s will for his children and detrimental to their well-being. Paul concluded this brief listing of sins with the inclusive “and things like these.” That means that anything that bears a resemblance to any of the things listed is to be guarded against also.

Then he adds, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Paul was not telling these people anything new. He had warned them previously about the danger of the works of the flesh, probably when he first went among them with the gospel,.

There is danger in the practice of any sin, but what does Paul mean here that those who do these things “will not inherit” the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God has to do with his rule over the hearts and lives of men. His rule brings untold blessings that can never be realized by any other means than by submitting ourselves to become his obedient servants. Sin separates us from God and the blessings he has for all his children who love and obey him. As long as we are practicing sin we know God does not approve of us and so many people will remain away from God rather than repent and bear the fruit of the Spirit in order to inherit the many blessings we have in him.

The picture painted here of the works of the flesh is a sordid one, filled with all the meanness and misery the family of man suffers. There is nothing redeeming about any of these things. There is no excuse for any of it. We will not be judged guilt free if we practice any of these or similar sins.

The only way out of the dilemma we get ourselves into when we do any of these things is by way of the cross of Christ. He died to set us free from our addiction to sin – our habitual practice of that which God abhors. Faith in him is necessary, not just believing that someone named Jesus once lived and died on a cross, but believing that he is the very Son of God who freely gave himself on the cross for our redemption.

Genuine faith in him requires that we trust him to the point we will do whatever he commands us to do. Faith means that we will turn from every sin, every work of the flesh, no matter what it is and begin to walk in the way he has shown us. Faith means that we will be baptized as he commanded. Faith means that we will live for him and no longer for ourselves, conforming our very lives in his own image. Faith means that we remain true to him no matter what may come in this world – even if it means giving our very lives for him.

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