Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath…
— Galatians 5:19,20
I once heard our six-year-old son tell his nine-year-old brother, “I hate you!”
I quickly went to my son and asked him, “What did you say to your brother?”
He firmly told me, “I hate him!”
I didn’t know what my older son had done to provoke this reaction, but I knew I had a responsibility to teach our sons this type of language was not acceptable in our home. I took our six-year-old into the bathroom, pulled out a bar of soap, and said, “Son, in our house, we don’t use language like you just spoke to your brother. Your mouth has said some pretty ugly words, so it’s time to give your mouth a bath! We’re going to wash out your mouth with soap!”
Taking a bar of soap, I inserted it into his mouth, pushed it this way and that, until I knew his mouth was full of a soapy taste. Then I pulled it out and told him to spit into the sink.
My son exclaimed, “Daddy, that soap tastes so bad!”
I answered, “Yes, it tastes just as awful as those ugly words you spoke to your brother!”
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
Our two other sons stood outside the bathroom watching as their middle brother spit bubbles out of his mouth. I could visibly see they were inwardly resolving that they would never say the words “I hate you!” As far as I can determine, that was the last time those words were ever spoken in our home!
When Paul wrote Galatians 5:19-21, he included “hate” in his villainous list of the works of the flesh. In Greek, this word “hate” is from the word echthra. This word expresses the idea of an intense hostility that one feels toward someone else. It is often used to picture enemies in a military conflict. In the New Testament, it primarily denotes a personal enemy.
This is the very word used in Luke 23:12 to depict the animosity, hostility, and hatred that existed between Herod Antipas and Pilate before they became friends at the time of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Prior to that moment, they hated each other. To say they were enemies is not even sufficient to express the deep animosity they felt for each other. They were bitter, sour, hardened enemies who despised one another — and all of this is expressed in the Greek word echthra.
This 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 go of the offense, they became divided, hostile, and fiercely opposed to each other. Now they are antagonistic, aggressive, and harsh. They hate each other. They have a grudge and are determined to hold on to it. Doesn’t that sound just like the flesh?
If you have hatred in your heart, the Spirit of God wants you to forgive and release your offender. I realize your flesh wants your offender to feel bad, to emotionally suffer, to be paid back for his actions. Even if your flesh does finally rally around to offer a very weak version of forgiveness, it will probably still try to inflict a little punishment on your offender. You see, that is what the flesh produces! That is why it must be crucified! If you will pull the plug on the flesh and walk in the Spirit, it won’t be long until that hostility and animosity is replaced with love, joy, peace, and longsuffering!
Paul next lists “variance” as one of the works of the flesh. This old English word is the Greek word eris, which was used in a political context to describe political parties that had different platforms or agendas. For this reason, some newer translations of the New Testament translate it as a party spirit.
In a democratic system, people tend to align themselves politically with people of like opinions. Once they congregate, discuss the issues, and concur about their political views, they then proceed to build a platform from which they can promote their own political agenda. Once the agenda is decided upon and the competition has begun, the fighting can be fierce.
As you are well aware, political races can become very ugly. Often nasty words are spoken. False representations are sometimes publicized by opponents who wish to discredit their contenders. Lies are often told and repeated as facts. As unfortunate as this behavior is for people who are running for public office, it has been this way since ancient Greek and Roman times, and it will continue to be this way because this is the nature of the flesh!
When Paul writes to us, he uses this word eris to depict how flesh erupts to divide families, destroy relationships, ruin churches, and pull apart people who once stood side by side. Those who have been offended are drawn like a magnet to others who have been offended or who feel hurt. Once they discuss their feelings and realize they have similar stories or opinions, it isn’t too long before they start thinking they are right and everyone else is wrong! That’s when they begin the process of building their own platform from which they can divide and promote their own agenda!
The apartment where my family lives in Moscow was vacant for a very long time because the family who owned it got into a terrible family fight about how the apartment should be rented, how much they should charge for rent, what should be done with the rent money, and so on. The family members who were once so close to each other all took sides in the bitter fight, and the quarrel finally divided the family in half! Both sides had their own view and were not willing to compromise. This horrible attitude is exactly what Paul was talking about when he used the word eris in Galatians 5:20.
This case may sound extreme, but it happens all the time in families, churches, and businesses. The word eris (“variance”) 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 give an inch to an opponent! This is exactly why church splits occur and families frequently dissolve. Most of the issues that bring such division aren’t even that important. But the flesh simply hates to surrender or compromise — to admit it is wrong or to let someone else be right. The flesh would rather blow issues all out of proportion and wreak havoc than to let someone else have his way! Don’t allow this work of the flesh to operate in you!
Paul goes on to state that “emulations” is also a work of the flesh. This word “emulations” is not used much in our contemporary world, so what does it mean?
The word “emulations” comes from the Greek word zelos, which often denotes enthusiasm, fervor, passion, devotion, or an eagerness to achieve something. It is where we get the word zeal. In a negative sense, it depicts a person who is upset because someone else achieved more or received more. This person is therefore jealous, envious, resentful, and filled with ill will for that other person who got what he wanted. As a result of not getting what he desired, he 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! He can’t rejoice with the other person because he is so jealous.
A perfect example of the negative aspect of the word zelos is found in Acts 7:9, where it depicts the jealousy that Joseph’s brothers felt for him. It says, “And the patriarchs, [Joseph’s brothers] moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt.…” The words “moved with envy” are from the word zelos. This indicates that the brothers were incensed with Joseph. After seeing him richly rewarded over and over again by his father, they couldn’t bear it any longer. Rather than rejoice that their younger brother was so loved, they cringed every time Joseph received a blessing. Eventually, they were filled with so much ill will toward Joseph and were so overcome by their jealousy that they sold him into slavery.
It is very important to note that Acts 7:9 says they were “moved with envy.” This word zelos — envy or jealousy — is such a strong force that it will move you to action when it starts to operate in you. Unfortunately, it will usually move you to do things that are hurtful or that you will later regret. So don’t allow “emulations” or jealousy to work inside you! It is a work of the flesh that brings great hurt and destruction.
Next, Paul lists “wrath” as a work of the flesh. The word “wrath” is the Greek word thumos, which 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 it does, it 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. Have you ever seen someone blow his top like I’m describing to you right now?
The Greek word thumos (“wrath”) vividly paints the picture. People get hurt, offended, or upset. Rather than take the offense to the Cross and deal with it there, they choose instead to meditate on the perceived offense. The longer they think about it, the more upset they become. Soon they are inwardly boiling. They know if they don’t do something quick to restrain themselves, they are going to say or do something really ugly — so they shove it back down deep inside in an attempt to keep it under control. But if those angry emotions were never properly dealt with in the first place, one day something will happen that triggers their release.
Perhaps this has happened to you. If so, you may think those vile emotions are gone, but if you never let the Lord really deal with them or the situation that created them, they are still lying dormant inside you, just waiting for the right moment to be released. Finally, when that person who made you angry in the first place does something to make you angry again, it will be like someone opens a door on the inside of you, releasing a flood of vile and rank emotions that immediately rise to the surface! That’s when you’ll come unglued, saying things you later regret and speaking in tones you should never use!
The word thumos perfectly illustrates the way the flesh tries to deal with problems. Rather than confront the problem head-on when it happens, the flesh says, “Just shove it down deep, and keep it to yourself!” The problem is, when you shove down unresolved issues, they just keep boiling and boiling deep inside. You may think that the matter is over, but the truth is, those issues are simmering and waiting for the moment of eruption. Even though the flesh is attempting to avoid confrontation, in the end its eruption creates a confrontation more scorching and hurtful than ever. It would have been far better to deal with the issue when it first happened!
I know that confronting people and problems can be challenging, but the mature path is to take care of the problems when they first occur. It is the route of the flesh to delay issues and then to erupt in madness.
If any of the works of the flesh called hatred, variance, emulations, or wrath are trying to operate in your life, it is time for you to put an end to these strongholds right now. Go to the Lord and confess that you have allowed these fleshly works to operate in your life. Ask Him to forgive you; then ask Him to fill you with the power and fortitude you need to say no to these ungodly attitudes. With God’s help, you can allow the Holy Spirit to produce His godly fruit inside you!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I thank You for opening my eyes to the truth about how You see these works of the flesh. Forgive me for being too tolerant of these areas in my life. Help me to see these fleshly works the way You see them and to detest them as much as You detest them. Teach me to hate sin! Show me how to say no to ungodliness and to yield my mind and my body as instruments of righteousness. After what You have shown me today, I never want to be the same!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I think clean thoughts and that I don’t allow the devil to mess with my mind. My mind belongs to Jesus. It is filled with the Word of God. That Word renews my mind to think God’s thoughts; therefore, Satan has no entrance into my mind or emotions to deceive me with thoughts of sin. I crucify my flesh, and I bring my body under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I am no longer the servant of sin — I am the servant of righteousness!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
- Have you ever had one of those moments when you erupted and said hurtful things that you later regretted? Were you shocked that such ugly things could proceed from your mouth? What was the immediate result of this behavior? Did it help the situation or make it worse?
- When this occurred, what did you do to let people know you were sorry for your actions? If you did nothing to let them know you were sorry, what do you think you should have done? If someone did that to you, what would you expect that person to do or say to make it right with you?
- Have you ever been a part of a church split? If yes, what was the reason for the division?