THE WORKS OF THE FLESH MANIFEST Galatians 5:19-21 (Continued)
Paul masterfully continues to enumerate the “works of the flesh” of the reborn Christian. He speaks of three more evil works before he concludes with “and such like things.” All these voices fall under the breaking of the royal law of liberty. Let us continue to follow them in the order given by Paul in the text.
First, there is the sin of “envy.” Paul speaks in the plural: envyings (phonoi). This is again really the sin of outright hatred for the brother; it consists in not being able to rejoice with the prosperity of the brother. InProverbs 27:4 we read, “wrath is cruel and anger is outrageous (overwhelming, a flood: in the Hebrew) but who is able to stand before jealousy?” Rachel envied Leah, causing her to be cruel even to Jacob, by saying, “Give me children or I die” (Gen. 30:14). We read that “the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph” (Gen. 37:11; Acts 7:9). Pilate knew that the Sanhedrin had delivered Jesus into his court “for envy.” He hoped they would be reasonable if he placed Jesus on the nomination with Barabbas (Matt. 27:18). Envy is really rottenness of the bones; here is terrible unrest which consumes a man’s very life, his marrow and bones. Where envy is the ruling passion of the soul, peace born from a tranquil heart is not present. It is the fount of the deep warring and unrest of the soul (Prov. 14:30). All the fulfilling of the one word of the law is absent: loving the neighbor as one’s self (Matt. 7:12). When we observe this sin of envy raging in our members, bringing us into captivity, as new born babes in Christ, we cry out, “Oh wretched man that I am.” “I count not that I have already attained” then comes from our sanctified lips (Rom. 7:24; Phil. 3:12).
Secondly, Paul mentions the sin of “murder.” No doubt the Heidelberg Catechism is correct when it says that “envy is the root of murder” (Ques. 106). Murder is the desire to obliterate a man as image-bearer of God (Gen. 9:6). We do not speak of .murdering an animal, do we? We kill, we slaughter, an animal. But murder is hatred for man as the image of God (Gen. 4:8, 14, 15). It is the sin of Cain in whom the murderer from the beginning, Satan, revealed himself (John 8:44). Veritable children of the Devil murderers are. Haters of God and of their fellowman (I John 3:14-16). In war, a soldier fighting under the banner of the king does not commit murder when he executes the will of the general. He obeys the orders of authority. It is not a personal vendetta that motivates him. Perhaps he fears and trembles to do it. But where we kill from hatred for the brother we do so from desire of revenge, so that I dishonor, hate, wound, and kill my neighbor, by myself or by another, as did David in that awful hour of sin (II Sam. 11:14 ff.). This is how our sinful nature is described by God in many passages of Scripture, in which every mouth is stopped and the entire world is guilty before God (Rom. 3:9-19). Such is our sinful flesh as it wars against the Spirit in us, so that we do not do the things we would.
Thirdly, the sin of “drunkenness” is mentioned. Paul employs the plural: drunkennesses. This means to be intoxicated with wine or any other alcoholic drink. Sometimes drunkenness is spoken of in the spiritual sense of the word. It then refers to a lack of all spiritual soberness and sobriety; all spiritual self-control is then gone. Such do not gird up the loins of their mind to be sober, hoping perfectly for the grace which is to be brought to us in the revelation of Jesus Christ in the last day. All joy unspeakable and full of glory is lacking. Such have no hope of seeing God as He is, and, therefore, do not purify themselves as God is pure (I John 3:3). They are as men, who grope at the wall, and who do not make their calling and election sure, having been freed from deceitful and corrupt lusts (II Peter 1:8-10). Such walk in the night of sin, and not in the light of Christ Who gives light (I Thess. 5:7; Eph. 5:14).
However, Paul here in our text speaks of literal, physical drunkenness and stupor. They are overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, who are both drunkards and gluttons. Also such are not watchful unto prayer at every season, making supplication to prevail in the midst of all the woes which God sends upon mankind, and finally stand in glory before the Son of man (Luke 21:34). Also where this drunkenness is practiced as a way of life, it is evident that such will not inherit the kingdom of God, yea, they have no inheritance in the kingdom of glory. Here men live by the dictum: let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. This is the iniquity which will not be forgiven you till you die (I Cor. 15:32, Isaiah 22:12-14; Luke 12:19). The Bible does not know of the innocence of the “social drinker” in distinction from the debauchery of the drunkard. The safe rule is given by Paul when he says “it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (I Tim. 4:4, 5). This safe rule is the narrow way which few find. The social drinker walks with those who walk on the broad way which leads to destruction. Many are they in our day, in the church, who go into this wide gate against which Jesus warns (Matt. 7:13, 14).
Fourthly, there is the sin of revellings, which is mentioned. The Greek term koomoi is mentioned in close connection with the sin of drunkenness. These revellings (plural) refer to feasts and drinking-parties, that are protracted till late in the night, during which time there is continual indulging in revelry. This is the “rioting” which Paul mentions in Rom. 13:13, which refers to luxurious and profligate living. Such do not realize that the night is far spent, and that the day is at hand, and so they do not walk and hope in the daybreak of heaven’s joys, but walk in the same recklessness as did the men in the days of Noah before the Flood. There the judgment of the Flood overtook them in their marrying and giving in marriage. This they did till the day the flood came, notwithstanding the preaching of Noah, a preacher of righteousness (Matt. 24:37, 38; Luke 17:26, 27; II Peter 2:5; I Peter 3:20; Jude 1:12, 13). We must remember the wife of Lot, who was turned into a pillar of salt. We must crucify our old nature and walk in a new and holy life; we must not walk according to the flesh, but we must walk by the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh!
THE APOSTOLIC VERDICT ON THOSE WHO PRACTICE WORKS OF THE FLESH (Gal. 5:21)
The word of God is as a two-edged sword. It does not only speak peace to the believers who walk after the Spirit, but it proclaims to unbelievers and to those who oppose the Gospel, “that they shall not see life, but that the wrath of God abideth on them” (John 3:36; Rom. 2:8). God’s holy displeasure is eternally upon such who are disobedient. Of such Paul speaks here in Gal. 5:19, 20, 21a. He is speaking of those whose entire life’s practice (hoi ta toiauta prassontes) is doing the works of the flesh, the transgression of the law of God. Paul does not have reference to conscientious children of God, who are led by the Spirit, but who are overtaken in a fault, in a trespass. This does happen sometimes to God’s elect children when in “some particular instances they sinfully deviate from the guidance of divine grace, so as to be seduced by, and comply with the flesh” (Canons of Dordt, V. 4). This happened with David in the sin with Bathsheba, and with Peter in denying his Lord (II Sam. 11:1-5; Matt. 26:31-35). Of such a saint being overtaken in a trespass Paul speaks in Gal. 6:1-3. Of these Paul is not here speaking. He is speaking here of those who never truly repent of their sins in heartfelt sorrow, but who are unrepentant workers of iniquity. They are such that the spirit of the sons of disobedience is the only driving force in their life. They are the workers of iniquity (Jude 10, 11).
Paul is speaking here of workers, practicers of iniquity, who are not under the blood which speaks better things than Abel. They do not walk in thankfulness, but they continue in their wicked and ungrateful lives. Such do not, as David did, turn, to God in heartfelt sorrow, godly sorrow. At best they have the sorrow of the world which works death (II Cor. 7:10). Such is the horrible end, temporal and eternal death in all their sorrow which is not according to God (kata Theon). Evil trees such are, who are known by their evil fruits. And according to these evil works they shall be judged! And that divine verdict Paul gives here in this text under consideration.
Such who practice the works of the flesh are not sons of Sarah, Jerusalem which is above. They are not heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:15-17). They do not suffer for righteousness’ sake with Christ and for His sake, and do not hope for the glory of God’s grace which is to be revealed, uncovered, and displayed in the heir-sons (Rom. 8:17, 18; Eph. 2:7). Such are “servants,” sons of the bond-women, and, therefore, do not ever abide in the house of the Father (John 8:35; Gal. 4:29-31). Such are servants of sin; sin is their total master and lord. And these are they who “practice such things of the flesh;” They are adulterers, fornicators, covetous, haters, who do not serve one another by faith which works by love (Gal. 5:6b). These never say with all true believers, “We, by the Spirit out of faith expect the hope of righteousness,” that is, the hope of the final justification, the final receiving of the adoption of sons, who purify ourselves, even as He is pure, because we hope to see God (Matt. 5:8; I John 3:2).
Paul can, therefore, wield the keys of the Kingdom and say: they shall not inherit the kingdom of God (verse 21). Now the kingdom of God is the heavenly kingdom of God in Christ. It is the kingdom which is established in Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. It will ultimately be manifested in Christ’s return with clouds in the Parousia, and the consummation of the ages. Then shall the Son of man come in all His glory (I Peter 1:11, 12; Matt. 25:31, Dan. 7:14, 27). This is not a premillennial kingdom of Christ as an earthly kingdom in the earthly Jerusalem; nor is it the postmillennial dream of a worldwide peace among the nations. It is the kingdom of God in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness shall dwell (II Peter 3:13). Outside of this kingdom will be the wicked; only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, shall enter it as heirs, sons and daughters of the living God (Rev. 20:27). Those who work iniquity do not have inheritance with Christ, the chief heir, as the Son (Hebrews 1:2-4). Paul writes more than once, and that, too, very clearly and emphatically, that no fornicator, unclean person, etc.has inheritance in the Kingdom of God and of Christ. Such Paul denominates the “sons of disobedience.” (See Col. 3:6; Rom. 1:18 and Rev. 22:15.)