Last week, we had a fun conversation about the differences between the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. This week, we’re going to continue on with the same section. In there, we’ll dive into the categorization of the works presented and define some of the more confusing ones. (For you optimists out there, never fear, we’ll talk about the fruits of the Spirit next week).
Now, please stand and open your Bibles to Galatians 5:19-21.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do (HCSB: Practice) such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The word evident is quite interesting because it is a reminder that everyone can see people are doing these things. If someone is living in the flesh, they are going to be committing these sins. For context, we must remember that at this point in history, there were only a relative handful of Christ-Followers anyway. All of these sins were practically fair game for non Followers. Just imagine how much more obvious they would have been. It was and is much more rare to see people producing fruits of the Spirit.
If you’ve read all of my posts, you might have caught on to the fact that I like to know why verses are split up into the way that they are. After spending way too much time in this coffee shop, I think* I understand why these verses are split this way. Verse 19 is quite obviously different than the others because they are sins of sensuality. Verse 20 seems to be put together because they are all specific violations of the law. Then, verse 21 is probably grouped together because those works of the flesh are the, as I call them, “too much” sins.
Let me explain what I mean by “too much.” Envy doesn’t mean wanting something. If you say, “I want coffee,” you aren’t envying anything, but if you say, “I’m upset because I want his coffee,” you want their coffee and are upset about it. You want it too much. Drunkenness doesn’t mean drinking alcohol; it means drinking too much alcohol. And the last one is also taking the gift of sex and taking it too far or doing it too much.
Now that we kind of understand the categorization of these works, let’s talk about some of them in particular.
Idolatry: It’s pretty uncommon for modern Christ-Followers to struggle with worshiping Buddha, but false worship was definitely something that needed to be addressed while Paul was alive (Acts 17).
Even still, this is relevant for modern Christians because we can accidentally worship things other than God. We might accidentally make a person, hobby, or sport more important than God, and that is obviously not okay. Practically, we need to remember to make God the focus of whatever we do.
Sorcery: Like idolatry, on the surface level, this one doesn’t seem too terribly important, but it was at this time. People did (and do) actually tried (and try) sorcery, and that goes along with idolatry in that they are trying to reach the supernatural in an unholy way.
Also, for the modern and practical lifestyle, one of the translations for the Greek word sorcery is, “The use or the administering of drugs.” Tell me the Bible isn’t relevant anymore. In this time period, sorcery was often pretty much drug usage anyway.
Dissensions & Divisions: These are slightly different, but they can be talked about together. Paul says that disagreements and divisive groups are works of the flesh.
This is an interesting one for church members. How can we disagree and argue about the direction for a church if we are adhering to what the Spirit wants? He won’t lead half of a church one way and the other half a different one. And if we’re walking in the Spirit, how could we be selfish to choose the direction of a church according to our comfort level or preferences when the the actually Spirit-filled body knows to go another direction? We’d be refusing to listen to the Spirit’s guidance. I say these in question form because there’s not a direct answer, but I think they’re interesting thoughts to ponder.
If church leaders are walking with the Spirit, they will be open to moving in the direction with which the Christ-Following body will agree even if they are uncomfortable with it.
As a side note: When those leaders are making those decisions, it’s important to remember that a church is not an oligarchy organization based on a select group’s opinions but a member equal organism based on the Spirit’s guidance. We won’t always agree with each other, but Followers of Christ will be willing to work together so that they can stand on the same ground. Love, Understanding, Compromise. Let us move forward.
The final part of the text that I want to hit on is fittingly the last phrase of these verses. I put the word practice from the HCSB in those sets of verses because it gives imagery. Every single one of us, Followers included, have committed nearly all of those sins, but we are still part of the body. However, as compared to just doing them, the word practice implies that people in the flesh will do these sins repeatedly with no care about it.
Think about it. A guitar player doesn’t practice once. She practices everyday. If she practices guitar once every now and then, she’s not really a guitar player. If she’s practicing very often, then it’s fair to say she’s a guitar player.
Someone who does these works everyday are probably not in the body, but Christ-Followers do mess up regularly. In other words, those who do these works can still be a Follower. Being a Follower isn’t about whether we do or do not do something. We are saved by faith alone. (Galatians 2:16)
Right about now, many well-meaning pastors and following writers would usually give a spill on how we should doubt our salvation if we commit these sins a lot. The problem is that, as I talked about last week, the Follower should be more concerned about what fruits they are bearing.
So while that might be somewhat enlightening, I think a better way to understand where we stand would be to talk about what fruits we are producing, and that’s what we’ll discuss next week.
Cover Photo: SAPhotography