THE WORKS OF THE FLESH MANIFEST—continued (Gal. 5:19-21a)
The second list here given by Paul consists of sins against the sixth commandment in the Decalogue: Thou shalt not kill! And the first of these is, of course, the sin of hatred, or enmities of every sort. When we look at this list we see the following enumerated: variance, emulations (jealousies), and wrath. No doubt we have here a catalogue of vices which are all of “such kind” that those who practice (oi ta toiauta prassontes) them, shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Eph. 5:5).
Let us now continue to analyze these vices which are fightings of our sinful flesh against the Holy Spirit of God, as that occurs within us as reborn saints. We must know our natural face in the mirror (James 1:23).
It ought to be obvious that the next vice, called “variance,” is better translated “strife,” as does the A.V. of the Bible. It then refers to the violent conflicts which erupt among the members of a congregation of Christ in this world; it is contention, which is motivated by the sin of pride and the desire for superiority. TheStaten Vertaling, (translation) given in our Dutch Bible, translates it with “twisten,” to dispute, to quarrel. It refers to the violent discord between brethren and sisters: contention and wrangling. It is the flesh lusting against the Spirit (Gal. 5:16). Paul, writing about this vice, in Romans 13:13 connects it with the sin of jealousy. There we read, “Let us walk honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” And James writes, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not and lie not against the truth” (James 3:14, 16). Paul also makes mention of this terrible contention and wrangling in I Corinthians 1:11: “For it hath been declared unto me of you, brethren, that there are contentions (erides) among you.” Where there are such contentions the unity of the Spirit in the bond bf peace is broken (Eph. 4:3). Where meekness is, there is no striving of the flesh against the Spirit. Then we see the upholding of each other with lowliness and longsuffering, forbearing with one another (Eph. 4:2). Here we have the answer to the prayer of Psalm 122:8, “I will now say, peace be within thee.” How pleasant and how good it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Ps. 133)
Furthermore, we should take notice of the “manifest” work of the flesh, called “emulations” in the KJV of the Bible. Emulation is, an attempting to be someone’s equal. It is closely connected with the sin of “strife.” Perhaps we may say that it is the very motivation of strife in the church here on earth or, for that matter, in any place in the world of men and angels. Someone has aptly said that this vice is “the feeling of sorrow that it goes well with your neighbor, which prosperity you do not desire him to have.” Now this is the very opposite of what Paul writes with poetic beauty concerning “love” in I Corinthians 13:4b. In that hymn of praise on true Christian love, we read, “Charity (love) envieth not.” The Dutch translation is very expressive here: “De liefde is niet afgunstig.” Love does not seek herself. Love is not sick with the neighbor’s health. What a sorry spectacle in the church of Christ! It is unholy zeal. The term in the Greek text is Zeelos. There is a reading in the Greek which gives this vice in the plural. Paul would then have reference to the concrete and actual manifestations of this false zeal in God’s churches in Galatia. This is a far cry from the “more excellent way” of I Corinthians 13. Perhaps there was much of this false zeal in the Galatian churches. In this false zeal they devour and utterly destroy one another (Gal. 5:15).
Here is really not the place for an in depth study of the term translated “emulations.” However, permit me a few observations nonetheless. We should observe, when we study the Scriptures, that the term Zeelos is sometimes employed in a very good sense. There is such a thing as holy zeal. We read of this in John 2:17, where the disciples of Jesus apply Psalm 69:10 to Jesus’ work of cleansing the temple, by driving out the money-changers, saying “make not (stop making) my Father’s house a house of merchandise.” Then the disciples remember what was written “the zeal of thine house hath consumed (eaten me) up) me” (Psalm 69:10). Many passages .could be quoted concerning the “zeal of the LORD.” We refer to such passages as Isaiah 9:7, 37:32, 59:17, Ezekiel 5:13. This zeal is God’s holy jealousy for His people, whom He loves intensely. Jealousy is the feeling which proceeds from wounded love. It is, therefore, employed as an illustration of the hatred of God toward idolatry, the breaking of His covenant (See Hodge on I Cor. 10:22). On the contrary, there is also a false zeal for God’s house. Paul writes concerning Israel, which believed not, in Romans 10:3: “for being ignorant of God’s righteousness and being zealous to establish their own righteousness, they have not subjected themselves to the righteousness of God.” Here is the zeal of God which is not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2). This is the very opposite of the true zeal for God’s house which consumed Jesus in the temple; it is the zeal of the flesh for an earthly house, which they defile grievously and which will be made a desolation (Matt. 23:38). It is a zeal which declines to gather Jerusalem’s children, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. It is, in a word, fleshly zeal which is unholy strife and emulation. But this zeal is manifestly a work of the flesh, a minding the things of man and not of God (James 3:14-16).
But I must press on!
Paul also speaks of the vice of “wraths” (Thumoi). These wraths refer to the concrete explosions, the emotions being violently stirred to a boiling point and overflowing. Such wraths are a sure earmark of a false and unholy zeal. It is an evidence of seeking what is one’s own and not that which is of our neighbor (Phil 2:4). These are the “great and transcient angers” (Luke 4:28;Dan. 3:19). (See Trench’s Synonyms of the New Testament, Paragraph XXXVII, page 123, for a study of this word.) How well we know this wrathful explosion as the very opposite of the “love suffering long and is kind,” that is useful in God’s church (I Cor. 13:4). Here we groan with a Paul: not that we have already attained, either are already perfect (Phil 3:12). Well does Paul write in II Corinthians 12:20, “lest there be debates, envying, wraths.”
The term wrath “thumos” is connected with the term “malice” in Scripture (Col. 3:8). The Dutch translation is “kwaadheid.” The term “malice” is evil with the intent to hurt the brother, wound him. It is the evil to hurt a man’s reputation, his honor and place in the midst of the brethren and sisters. It is the downright ill will, the contemplated desire to hurt. All of this expresses itself in the “great and transcient anger.” This wrath and evil is a very manifest and ever-recurring work of the flesh against the Spirit in the saints. Here we see a very grievous aspect of the “passions” of the flesh which we have crucified in Christ’s death and resurrection. It is seen in the smaller children as well as in the adult Christian.
The next term that engages our attention is the term which in the Greek text is “eritheia.” The AV translates this with the word “factions.” This refers to a party within a party. It is an irregular association of partizans. Perhaps this sin comes out quite frequently among men of like station: ministers, teachers, and peers in every level of society. The KJV translates “emulations.” It is the effort to equal or to surpass. It is a sinful vying for excellency, to have a place of prominence and influence among men, particularly in the church. Always there is the same vying of Diotrephes “who loveth to have the preeminence” (III John 9). The term in the Greek was used for those who electioneer for office, courting popular applause by trickery. It referred to a mean, sordid fellow! In the New Testament it refers to a courting of distinction, a desire to put one’s self forward (See Thayer’s Lexicon). In Romans 2:8 it refers to an active nonsubjection to God. Such factious souls obey not the truth but they obey unrighteousness. Well may we flee this sin, whether we be great or small in the church as to our position or influence. God is not mocked Who says: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Does not Jesus teach his disciples, “Herein shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”? (John 13:35)
The list grows! The sinfulness of sin is clearly set forth in its very ungodly nature in our sinful flesh, in which there dwells no good (Romans 7:18). For notice that Paul adds here also the sin of “sedition.” The term in the Greek is “dichstasiai,” which comes from a verb which means: to stand apart, to disagree. The KJV translates it: seditions, which is popular disorder, .tendency toward insurrection. In aggravated form it is stirring up insurrection and revolution, sedition and plotting insubordination. Paul speaks of this sin in Romans 16:17, where those who practice this sin cause division by teaching what is contrary to the doctrine, which is apostolic in character.
In close connection with the sin of “sedition” is the sin of “heresies.” In the AV this is translated “parties.” Perhaps this was associated with the bringing in of false teachings. However, the term also definitely refers to a “sect” or a party. This is the meaning in Acts 5:17; Acts 15:5; Acts 24:5; Acts 26:5; Acts 28:22, where reference is to the sects of the Sadducees and Pharisees. Those who stand apart in the church as insurrectionists must needs do so also in doctrine. They need heretical teaching to bolster their erroneous and sinful position. Jesus does not say for naught, “whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19). Only those who believe the gospel preach the truth according to the rule, “I have believed, therefore have I spoken” (Psalm 116:10; II Cor. 4:13). Conversely it is true: I have not believed the truth, therefore I preach and practice heresy! Here is the principle that a stream does not rise higher than its source. Sadducees denied the resurrection, because they did not know the Scriptures nor the power of God (Matt. 22:29-31). And thus here in Galatians 5:20 it is strongly suggested that heresies are a counterpart of divisions and of sinful vying to excel over our neighbor. At any rate, heresies and vying are very manifestly such that those who practice them are condemned of their own conscience (Titus 3:10, 11). What a fountain of evil which keeps on vomiting forth its iniquity in the church. Those who practice “such things,” shall not inherit the kingdom of God and of Christ!