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The Works of the Flesh

A Study of Galatians 5:16-21

[This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told [you] in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. [Gal 5:16-21]

If you have followed this study of Galatians from the beginning, I am sure that there is a well-worn path between Galatians and Romans, especially to Romans 3&8. Romans 8 brings us to our life of victory as walking in the Spirit. Please read and re-read this wonderful declaration of the victorious life that the Lord has for the one walking in the Spirit. In our passage in Galatians, we are again instructed to this path of victory. The victory is NOT won by dwelling on the greatness of our sin, or thinking about how we can control sin, or cleaning up our act, or self-loathing, or any such thing. All of these are the flesh trying to gain mastery of the flesh. They are Adam working by Adam’s methods to change what Adam is by nature. But there is no victory here. Adam will prove himself to be Adam every time. Praise God that He did not save us into a sin management program, but into the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And the instruction is not to press down sin and gain mastery over the body of sin. The instruction is:

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, [Who is] our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory. [Col 3:1-4]

The work of the Spirit in us, the Spirit that is “life because of righteousness” is so completely contrary to the old man that they are said to “lust against each other”. They are not just opposed, but militantly opposed. The flesh enjoys when the believer fights against it, because the works of the flesh are manifested in the fighting, even if the fighting is with it. We need not fight it. We need a new life, and that is what God gives to us:

But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you. [Rom 8:11]

Notice that He shall quicken our mortal bodies. This is not a promise of resurrection as much as it is a promise of new life now. The question becomes then, why do I still struggle and why do I still feel defeated? The Spirit does not seem to be at work in me. These questions still come to me as well. The one thing that we can do while our feelings are contrary to what the Lord has said in His word is that we need to trust the Lord and have faith in His Word, not in our feelings. We need to be “led” by the Spirit. Now one will not be able to discern the leading of the Spirit if he is not reading and listening to the revealed and written Word of God.

Notice how Paul continues:

But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Notice the exact phrasing here-not under the law. If we are walking in the Spirit submitting to His leading, or possibly the sense here is submitting to the leading of the new man in us, then we are not under the law. He does not say that we are “outlaws”, or that we live above the law, but that we are not under it. When being led by the Spirit, the law has absolutely no claim on us. We are walking in the sphere where the law has no jurisdiction. We are under grace. This is the life that defines us.

Now all believers are called the children (“born ones”) and sons of God:

For ye are all the children [sons] of God by faith in Christ Jesus. [Gal 3:26]

But those who are led by the Spirit are truly living in the full capacity of that position of sonship.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. [Rom 8:14]

Paul then enumerates several “works of the flesh”. This list, when broken down, looks to be a list of what is on the entertainment schedule, or a list of weekend plans. This should be no surprise. The world walks in the flesh as God has said, so why should we be surprised when the flesh acts like it. We should not be surprised when an unsaved sinner acts like one. These are the works of the flesh. What WE should be doing is walking in the Spirit so as to not be accomplishing the works of the flesh. We walk by faith and trust God. Notice then Paul says that: they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

The idea of inheriting the kingdom of God is found in Paul’s epistles, and it is quite interesting that it is related to behavior, except in 1Corinthians 15 where he is about to unveil the secret of the resurrection at the rapture:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. [1Co 15:50]

Our bodies as they are now cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

The other times that Paul speaks of what or who will not inherit the kingdom of God, he speaks of unrighteous behavior as defining the person who will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. [1Co 6:9-10]

For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. [Eph 5:5]

Now, let it be said that this is not a “qualifier” for grace through faith righteousness, or grace through faith sanctification. It is important in this matter to remember that in these passages the works of the flesh and the unrighteous are being described. The one who is living as a son of God, led by the Spirit, will not behave in this way. It is not required that a law be made for us to live under when we are led by the Spirit. The one who is saved and trying to live by the power of the flesh will fail. See Romans 7, and the good news that Paul tells us to fall back on as he leads in to the wonderful truth of no condemnation:

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. [Rom 7:24-25]

This idea of inheriting the kingdom of God is an important study point that needs to be further developed. One thing is certain however, that the believer in Jesus Christ is commanded not be involved with the things that they were saved from:

Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. [Eph 5:6-7]

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. [1Co 6:11]

God forbid that the works of the flesh should ever define the believer in Christ.  The children of disobedience have no inheritance with you.  You should never be a partaker with them either!


Galatians Study

Charles Miller View All

Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.

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