THE WORKS OF THE FLESH MANIFEST (Galatians 5:18)
Paul writes, “manifest are the works of the flesh.” No one needs to be in doubt whether he is walking according to the Spirit or according to the flesh. The fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh are as far apart as the poles of the earth. For the works of the flesh are indeed manifest as being such works of the flesh. No Christian need be mistaken!
The writer to the Galatians is still persuing the subject of the inner battle which the Christian wages with his flesh by the power of the sanctifying Spirit. The believer must walk at liberty; he must not walk as do those who are under law, under the power of sin. For the power of sin is the law, as a law-principle. (I Cor. 15:56; Rom. 4:15; Rom. 5:13; Rom. 7:5, 13) He must crucify the flesh with the passions and lusts thereof. For the heirs of the kingdom “have crucified the flesh” once and for all. All who are the possession of Christ, all who have been redeemed with Christ on the Cross of Calvary, stand in a new legal relationship to God. They have legally died unto sin. There are no longer debtors to live unto the flesh. (Rom. 8:12) Such we were once when we did not yet have the Spirit of Christ, when we were not yet led by the Spirit of Christ. Then we were under the Spirit of bondage to fear; we were under the sting of death in our heart and conscience. (Rom. 8:15) In a sense at that time we were free from righteousness. (Rom. 6:20). Then we were yet married to the old husband. By the law of that husband of sin and death, yes, by that law were we legally married to sin. We did not yet know of the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. We were not yet Spirit in-dwelt. We were not the temple of the Holy Ghost. But now we are legally married to another, namely, to Jesus. Who is raised from the dead, to bring forth fruits unto God. (Rom. 7:3, 4)
It is of paramount importance in this battle between the flesh and the Spirit to keep in mind that the right(authority) of the sinful flesh to assert itself in our members has been taken away, wholly taken away, by the death of Christ on the Cross and by the power of His resurrection! He who fights sin in his members is standing on solid ground! He looks for the hope of righteousness, legal righteousness; yes, he looks for the final justification to receive the inheritance as a chosen heir in the day of Christ. For he is by faith righteous before God and is an heir of everlasting life. And everyone who has this hope upon God, the hope to see God as He is, purifies himself. Such is the saved status of those who must fight the good fight. (Gal. 5:5; I John 3:3) Here is the basic Christian ethics of the liberated sinner.
Yes, the regenerated, called, elect sinner has flesh. He has a law of sin in his members which wars constantly against the Holy Spirit of God, as He powerfully and efficaciously sanctifies us in the hope of eternal life and glory. Paul enumerates these “works” ‘of the “flesh.” He does not simply list some possible lusts, a mere cataloging of them for easy study-reference, but he is turning you and me inside out. He holds, as it were, the mirror before our eyes. We are so dull and slow to recognize ourselves for what we really are, that Paul tells us who are before the bar of God, where we must fight sin with a free and good conscience. Paul writes of “the” flesh in us. And this flesh we must recognize in our sinful affections. Perhaps a better translation of the Greek tois patheemasin is “the passions.” These are the inner, driving, sinful inclinations and powerful forces of sin as an impelling sin-law. And these passions reveal themselves in lusts, which are unlawful desires of every color and hue. Paul does not give a complete and exhaustive list here. It is, however, such a representation that Paul can say “and such like.” (Gal. 5:21) From here on, we can recognize any lust of the flesh, whenever and wherever such lust reveals itself in our life, wherein we are Spirit-led. Paul is free from our blood, having given sufficient instruction and warning on this point. We now know the kind of works of the flesh to recognize in our flesh. Paul really says; Which are of such a kind! (atina) We find many more manifestations of the flesh in us than what is here listed.
THE LIST OF WORKS OF THE FLESH GIVEN HERE BY PAUL (Galatians 5:19-21)
Paul gives the following list: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Most interpreters find that Paul gives a certain order and classification here.
The first sins mentioned, lusts and passions, are those which pertain to the transgressions of the seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” All uncleanness is accursed of God. Let us briefly let these pass in review. Fornication refers to all illicit sexual intercourse, whether one is married, or not in the marriage-state. It must not once be named amongst the saints. The Bible does not use the terms of the modern church-world, who would gloss over the sinfulness of sin, by speaking of sexuality and sexualness. It calls sin by its real and proper name: fornication. And then it says: let it not be named amongst you. (Eph. 5:3) Sexual intercourse outside of holy wedlock is not mere creaturely “sexuality,” but is lusts of the flesh. It is the transgression of the revealed commandment of the LORD. Upon such comes the wrath of God. (Eph. 5:6) Fornication is the proper works of the children of disobedience, the reprobate world. (Eph. 2:2) Uncleanness is moral uncleanness in whatever guise. This is lustful, luxurious, profligate living. Such was the Graeco-Roman world, the pagan-world, which was not under the power of the Gospel in Paul’s day. It is the sodomy of men with men co-habitating, and women with women practicing the sin of lesbianism. Notice well, dear reader, that these are the sins in our flesh and in the flesh of our children!
Then Paul mentions lasciviousness. Such is the wanton excess, lewdness, debauchery, the shameless walking in sin. It is paraded even on the television of our day: it is the “in” thing, the acceptable form of our society: in schools, in churches, in homes, in men and women in high positions of government. All this we are to flee and crucify as the temples of the Holy Spirit. These are the lust of the flesh which war constantly against the Spirit within us.
But we must proceed. We notice that Paul now also cites all forms of false religions. He sums these up under the terms: idolatry and witchcraft. Idolatry and witchcraft are really the spiritual roof of fornication. The worship of idols is as foolish as it is wicked. It is foolish because it is the worship of a nothing: it is the worship of a mere appearance. It is trying to make a visible image of the invisible God. It is a mere figment of man’s sinful imagination. Paul tells the men of Lystra, who imagined that he was Mecurius and Barnabas was Jupiter, to desist from their contemplated worship of them by saying: “Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you and bring you Gospel-tidings, that ye should turn from these vanitiesunto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea and all the things that are therein.” (Acts 14:15) (Read Psalm 115:3-8) The sin of witchcraft is closely connected with idolatry. The term in the Greek used for “witchcraft” is connected with mixing herbs and drugs. There is much of this going on in pagan lands and also here in the United States of America, which is fast turning pagan. It is man grasping at the straws as a drowning man. Basically it is the sin of willing disobedience to the revelation and law of God. It is man in his final doom. (Rev. 21:8) It is rebellion, fighting against God’s clear revelation, keeping the truth down in unrighteousness. When there is a “dope-problem” in the church we must point the “victim” (?) to his sin of rebellion and disobedience to the clear commandment of God. Thus did Samuel addressing Saul, when Saul disobeyed the commandment concerning slaying the Amelekites: “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifice, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as the sin of idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (I Sam. 15:22) Those who “practice” idolatry and witchcraft shall not inherit the kingdom of God! They may have a “ride” in their dope and drugs, but it is the road which leads a Saul to the witch of Endor, and leads the hell-bound world to eternal destruction! They who are of Christ have crucified the flesh with these affections and lusts! Let us remember it.
Furthermore, Paul also speaks of the sins against thesixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” Also the murderous nature of our sinful flesh is mentioned. Here the vail is really lifted on our sinful flesh, in which there dwells no good at all! (Rom. 7:18)
The first sin mentioned is the sin in which is exhibited the very opposite of “by love serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13b) The Greek term echthrai is in the plural tense: enmities. The plural indicates enmities of every kind, in all and every relationship of life. It is the great and basic corrupter of human-relations in the world and in the flesh in the church. Always this enmity crops up in one form or another in the church of Christ here on earth. We must ever remember that we were reconciled to God when we were only filled with enmity toward God and our neighbor, full of enmities, when we were reconciled to God. Constantly the flesh makes it so that we are in need of reconciliation with our neighbor. Here we see that by nature we hate both God and our neighbor.
From this enmity is born contention, strife. All the wranglings in the church, in families, between individuals, sinful, hateful wranglings come forth from this hatred and envy. This is also a sin, a work of our flesh, which is evident. Paul writes in Rom. 13:13, “not in strife and jealousy.” Such was the strife in the Corinthian church. It was party-strife concerning Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and Christ. This is especially the sin of the “legalist.” We are told that amongst the Greeks there was the legend concerning the goddess “Eris” who was the goddess of dissension. She caused all the contention in the world. But Paul puts the finger on the hurt in our life: it is in our sinful flesh, which are lusts, and the evil affections. These must be crucified in our members with Christ.