“The Works of the Flesh are Manifest…”
I would like our readers to consider a serious study of the “ works of the flesh .” Please take the time to examine carefully this ugly series of sinful things. We need to realize the imminent danger of these in our lives today, because the apostle Paul closes Galatians 5:19-21 by saying that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. It cannot be simpler to understand!
In the context, Paul has encouraged the churches of Galatia to allow the gospel to influence their hearts and minds so that they may control the fleshly part of life (Gal. 5:16-18). He has warned them about the danger of fulfilling the lust of the flesh and how that there was the battle that is ongoing between the lust and our inward man that has as its purpose and its intention to serve the Lord. When we think about the pagan society that was in existence in the first century, these were sins that were prominent among them. Some of them were prevalent even in relationship to idolatrous worship, which Paul indicates within these “ works of the flesh .” Yet, when we look at our society today in view of these things, then we can see that society has not changed much. There is not a great deal of difference in our world and the pagan society in which Paul lived, which tells us that as these things increase more and more, there is less and less influence of the Bible in the hearts and the lives of the people. Therefore, these things are very prominent today.
Thus, beginning in Galatians 5:19, Paul will begin a list of the works of the flesh: “ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these ….” Notice carefully some thoughts as we begin to consider these sins.
First, let us notice the term “ works .” Paul is referencing certain things that come out of a fleshly life by the way that he utilizes this word. We contrast “ works of the flesh ” (Gal. 5:19-21) with “ the fruit of the Spirit ” (Gal. 5:22-23), and while Paul engages two distinct terms, he is still contrasting products in both scenarios. For example, Jesus said, “ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves ” (Matt. 7:15). In other words, these men were teaching certain things, and out of that false teaching, certain things would follow:
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt. 7:16-20)
Therefore, certain things are products of a fleshly lifestyle, which Paul details, but please note that he has not listed all of them, because he notes, “… and such like .” These are only some of the works of the flesh that Paul provides to give us an idea or portrait of what a fleshly lifestyle indicates.
Second, as we examine the term “ flesh ” in view of the greater context, we ought to see that the following list of things is revolting to the child of God! There ought not to be anything about any single one of these sins that ought to appeal to us! In opposition to these horrific sins, Paul will contrast with the beauty of spiritual things— “ the fruit of the Spirit ” (Gal. 5:22-23). It truly is “ flesh ” versus “ spirit .” As we consider these various products of a fleshly lifestyle, we can see how Paul will group these, and we often see how these dovetail together. Avoiding these fleshly works will not come automatically—we must diligently work to avoid/remove these from our lives, and as we remove these, we are to replace them with the necessary attributes that describe “ the fruit of the Spirit ,” which we will examine next month.
Third, Paul says that the works of the flesh “ are manifest .” In other words, they show themselves. They come out. The literal Greek word is phaneros , which really means that they are shining. Thus, we can see the consequences, the outcome and the product of a fleshly life. If these works are in our lives, then we can tell that these are products and the harvest of the flesh.
Therefore, it is imperative that we need to get these things out of our lives, and to prevent them from developing in our lives. Please study carefully these “ works of the flesh .”