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.
— Galatians 5:21
When I was young in the Lord and read the list in Galatians 5:19-21 of the works of the flesh, I was afterward afraid that I wouldn’t be admitted into the Kingdom of God if I ever unintentionally slipped into one of these fleshly works. That’s what I thought Paul meant when he said, “…they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” I wondered, Would an occasional, unintentional act of the flesh keep me or someone else out of God’s Kingdom? What does it mean when it says, “they which do such things”? If I fall into one of these vices once, does that mean it’s all over for me?
So when I first started to learn New Testament Greek, one of my top priorities was to study Galatians 5:21 to see exactly what the original Greek was saying. What I discovered brought great relief to my mind, and I believe it will bring assurance to your heart and mind as well.
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When Paul says, “…They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” he uses the word “do,” from the Greek word prasso, which means to practice. Had he used the Greek word poieo, which means to do, it would have referred to an occasional act, but Paul carefully chose to use the word prasso, which conclusively communicates the idea of something that is done repeatedly or habitually. These are the actions of a person who has put these things into practice in his life, performing them as a matter of routine. These actions are his ritual, his norm, his pattern of life. Thus, the verse could be translated, “…Those who put these things into practice in their lives and do these things routinely as a manner of lifestyle shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
For a review, let’s look quickly at the following list of the works of the flesh that are not to be routinely practiced or habitually performed:
- Adultery: The Greek word porneia describes any sexual relationship that occurs outside the sanctified boundaries of marriage. (See July 15.)
- Uncleanness: The Greek word for “uncleanness” refers to lewd or unclean thoughts that eventually produce lewd or unclean actions. It strongly suggests that these actions begin in the mind as unclean thoughts before they manifest as unclean deeds. (See July 15.)
- Lasciviousness: This word in the Greek text describes excess, but it primarily refers to the excessive consumption of food or wild, undisciplined living that is especially marked by unbridled sex. (See July 15.)
- Idolatry: The Greek word eidololatria depicts the worship of idols, or simply put, “idolatry.” The act of idolatry transpires when an individual gives his complete, undivided attention, devotion, passion, love, or commitment to a person, project, or object other than God. When something other than God takes first place in a person’s mind, he has entered, at least to a measure, into the sin of idolatry. (See July 16.)
- Witchcraft: The word “witchcraft” is from the Greek word pharmakeia, the Greek word for medicines or drugs that inhibit a person’s personality or change his behavior. We would call these mind-altering drugs. The Greek word pharmakeia is where we get the words pharmaceutical drugs or the word pharmacy. This word was used in connection with sorcery, magic, or witchcraft. However, for our purposes in today’s world, the word “witchcraft” describes the flesh’s attempts to avoid being confronted and changed. (See July 16.)
- Hatred: The Greek word echthra pictures people who cannot get along with each other. They have deep issues with each other, holding resentments, grievances, complaints, and grudges that go way back in time and have very deep roots. Something occurred along the way that caused one or both of them to be offended. Instead of letting it go, they are divided, hostile, and fiercely opposed to each other. They are antagonistic, aggressive, and harsh. They hate each other. They have a grudge and are determined to hold on to their offense. (See July 17.)
- Variance: The Greek word eris depicts a bitterly mean spirit that is so consumed with its own self-interests and self-ambitions that it would rather split and divide than to admit it is wrong or to give an inch to an opponent! This is exactly why churches end up divided and families frequently dissolve. Most of the issues that bring such division are not that important. Nevertheless, division occurs because the flesh simply hates to surrender, to admit that it’s wrong, to let someone else be right, or to compromise. Flesh would rather blow issues all out of proportion and wreak havoc than to let someone else have his way! (See July 17.)
- Emulations: The Greek word zelos is used in a negative sense to depict a person who is upset because someone else achieved more or received more; therefore, the first person is jealous, envious, resentful, and filled with ill will for that other person who received the blessing that he wanted. As a result of not getting what he desired, this first person is irritated, infuriated, irate, annoyed, provoked, and fuming that the other person did get it! In short, you could say that this person is really incensed and ticked off! (See July 17.)
- Wrath: The Greek word thumos is used throughout the New Testament to picture a person who is literally boiling with anger about something. Although the person tries to restrain this anger by shoving it down deeper into his soul, it intermittently flares up. When that happens, this person is like a volcano that suddenly blows its top, scorching everything within its reach as it hurls its load of deadly molten lava onto the entire surrounding landscape! (See July 17.)
- Strife: The word eritheia describes a self-seeking ambition that is more concerned about itself and the fulfillment of its own wants, desires, and pleasures than it is in meeting the same needs in others. When eritheia is working in someone’s life, it means that a person’s principal concern is to take care of himself and to get what he wants. He is so bent on getting what he wants that he is willing to do anything, say anything, or sacrifice any standard, rule, or relationship to achieve his goals. Because this self-consumed, self-focused attitude is engrossed with its own desires and ambitions, it is blinded to the desires and ambitions of other people. (See July 18.)
- Seditions: The Greek word dichostasia means to stand apart, as one who rebels and steps away from someone to whom he should have been loyal. Thus, the word “sedition” gives the impression of disloyalty. It is the ultimate act of defiance or disloyalty to an established authority. (See July 18.)
- Heresies: The Greek word hairesis carries the idea of a group of people who adhere to the same doctrine or who ardently follow the same leader and are sectarian. The adherents of a sect are usually limited in their scope and closed to outsiders, staying primarily to themselves. In New Testament times, these groups were considered to be unauthorized because they were not submitted to the authority of the church leadership. In today’s contemporary language, we would call them “cliques” — a group of people who believe or conduct themselves as if they are exclusive. (See July 18.)
- Envyings: The Greek word phthonos implies a deeply felt grudge because someone possesses what a person wishes was his own. Because this person has a chip on his shoulder, he begrudges what the other person possesses and is covetous of that person’s belongings, accomplishments, relationships, or titles in life. Every time he sees that other person, he inwardly seethes about his success. He deeply resents that person’s blessing and tries to figure out a way to seize it away from the person he envies in order to make it his own. (See July 19.)
- Drunkenness: The Greek word methe refers to strong drink or to drunkenness. The consumption of wine for the sake of intoxication was common in the first century due to many pagan religions that employed wine as a part of their religious practices. A drunken state suppresses the mind’s ability to think correctly and releases the flesh to fully express itself. The believers in the first century were trying to walk free from the power of their flesh. The last thing they needed was to drink wine, inhibit their ability to think correctly, revive the flesh, and then do things that were sinful or damaging! This is why Paul urged them to leave the wine alone! (See July 19.)
- Revellings: The Greek word komoi describes a person who can’t bear the thought of boredom and therefore constantly seeks forms of amusement or entertainment. This person is actually afraid of being bored, so he constantly contemplates what he can do next to have fun or to be entertained. The word komoi can refer to a person who endlessly eats at parties or who seeks constant laughter and hilarity. Although there is nothing wrong with laughter, this person is consumed with the need for comedy, light moments, fun, pleasure, entertainment, or constant eating. He lives for the next meal, the next restaurant, the next movie, the next vacation. (See July 19.)
- And such like: Paul ends this list with this Greek phrase, which alerts us to the fact that this list of the works of the flesh is not comprehensive; it is just the beginning of the works of the flesh! Many more examples of works of the flesh could be added to this list, but Paul uses these as examples of how the flesh behaves, ending the list once he has sufficiently made the point to his readers.
Remember, when Paul wrote, “…They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” he used a Greek tense that categorically means he is talking about those who perform these things as a manner of lifestyle or who are habitually controlled by fleshly thoughts or deeds. To such people, the works of the flesh are their ritual, their norm, their pattern of life. So I must ask you:
- Do you routinely commit adultery?
- Do you routinely live in fornication?
- Do you routinely allow yourself to think unclean thoughts?
- Do you routinely overindulge in sexual sins or gluttony?
- Do you routinely give your heart and devotion in idolatry to other things besides Jesus?
- Do you routinely run from the truth, like those who participated in witchcraft?
- Do you routinely allow hatred to thrive inside your heart and soul?
- Do you routinely exhibit a bitterly mean spirit that is consumed with its own self-interests?
- Do you routinely permit yourself to be jealous, resentful, and envious of what others possess?
- Do you routinely lose your temper, fly into a rage, and give way to destructive outbursts?
- Are you routinely so self-consumed that you are blinded to the desires or needs of others?
- Do you routinely rebel and live in defiance to authorities or show yourself to be disloyal?
- Do you routinely act as if you and your exclusive “clique” are superior to other people?
- Do you routinely begrudge other people’s belongings, accomplishments, relationships, or titles in life?
- Do you routinely and deliberately allow your flesh to freely follow its temptations?
- Do you routinely live for the next moment of fleshly pleasure?
If you routinely do these things, you need to be very concerned about whether or not you are genuinely a child of God.
As you will see in tomorrow’s Sparkling Gem, it is impossible for a real believer to continue habitually in sin. If these works of the flesh are the norm, the pattern, the routine of a person’s life, it may be an indication that he was never born again — thus providing the reason he will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
If you occasionally struggle with sin, then go to God and allow Him to show you how He sees your sin. Get a revelation of what sin is — how grievous it is to the heart of God and how damaging it is to your own soul. Then ask Him to forgive you and to cleanse you — and He will! But if you routinely do many of these things as a manner of lifestyle, I believe you need to go to God and ask Him to tell you the truth about your spiritual status! You cannot afford to make a mistake about this eternal question!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I thank You for saving me by the power of God. Help me put aside the works of the flesh once and for all. Please teach me to walk in the Spirit. I know that You have designed a powerful life for me, and I want to enter into that life in all its fullness. My heart’s desire is to know You better and to walk with You, so today I am asking that Your Spirit propel me forward into this newer and higher way of living!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I do NOT routinely perform the works of the flesh. As a genuine child of God, I live to please my Heavenly Father, and I am repulsed by sin when it tries to operate in my life. My spirit is sensitive to God, and my heart is tender to the voice of the Holy Spirit. I hate sin and its consequences, and I do everything I can to live and to stay in the Presence of God!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Are any of the above works of the flesh routinely performed in your life? If yes, how does today’s Sparkling Gem affect you?
2. Has the Holy Spirit been trying to deal with you about certain works of the flesh that are operating in your life? What are those areas? Are you going to permit Him to purge those grievous actions and attitudes from your life?
3. Do you need to take some time today to get before the Lord and confess your sin? If your answer is yes, please don’t leave your quiet place until you have done so. You need to respond to God while your spirit is sensitive to what He is speaking to you.