Works of the Flesh

As a Christian, you are to walk in the Spirit and not to follow the lusts of the flesh.  Galatians 5:16-17 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”  While your emphasis is to walk in the Spirit, you should also be aware of the works of the flesh.  A banker rejects counterfeit currency because it contains characteristics that are different from genuine currency.  In the same way, you need to be aware of the works of the flesh so that you can reject them.  You should also be able to recognize a counterfeit Christian who is walking according to the flesh.  Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Let us look at the definition of each of these works of the flesh so that you can recognize such actions.

The works of the flesh include sins of sensuality.  An adulterer is one who has sexual intercourse with the spouse of another.  The scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery.  John 8:4 “They said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.’”  Jesus taught in Mark 10:11-12 “So He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.   And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”  He also taught in Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Fornication is any illicit sexual intercourse.  It may include adultery but typically includes all other illicit sexual activities besides adultery.  It might include indulging in pornography.  Uncleanness is the opposite of physical or moral purity; it could include almost anything that is contrary to the righteousness of God.  Lewdness is excessiveness, licentiousness, or absence of restraint or decency.  There may be overlap between adultery, fornication, uncleanness and lewdness.  They all describe sins of sensuality and fleshly indulgence.

The works of the flesh include spiritual sins of false religion.  Idolatry is the worshipping of idols.  It includes the worship of some god rather than worshipping God the Father and Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul describes covetousness as idolatry (Colossians 3:5) since covetousness makes money or possessions into a god that is worshipped.  Sorcery or witchcraft can include the use of power gained from the assistance of evil spirits.  In includes divining, fortune telling, incantations, magic and use of psychedelic drugs.  Idolatry and sorcery give worship and allegiance to something other than God.

The works of the flesh include sins against your fellow man.  Hatred is hostility towards another.  Contention is debate, disputes, lawsuits, strive or variance with others rather than working for peace and harmony.  Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”  Jealousy is strife to excel at the expense of another.  Outbursts of wrath are turbulent passions producing all sorts of conflict and disharmony.  Selfish ambition is strife, contention, and division motivated by a desire of one to have it his way.  Dissensions are divisions or parties.  Heresies are divisions based upon personal opinions and desire rather than the truth.  Envy is displeasure when one sees that another has success or some advantage.  Murder is the destruction of human life.  The apostle John equates hatred to murder.  1 John 3:15 “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”   Hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy and murders are all contrary to the love we should have for one another.

The works of the flesh include sins of intemperance.  Drunkenness is being intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol.  Today there are other drugs that produce similar effects and control over the mind of an individual.  Revelries are parties, feasts, or riots appealing to the lustful, sinful nature.

“And the like”.  The above list of works of the flesh is not all-inclusive.  People seem to invent new ways of satisfying their lusts of the flesh.  They follow the slogan of “if it feels good, do it.”  All of this is contrary to God’s way and to walking in the Spirit.  Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’”  As a Christian, you are to deny yourself the works of the flesh.

My encouragement to you is to recognize the works of the flesh which would keep you from inheriting the kingdom of God.  Instead, deny yourself and walk in the Spirit.