Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies.
— Galatians 5:19,20
I pray that God is opening your eyes to see the works of the flesh from a new perspective. This is clearly very important; otherwise, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have included this list in the New Testament. Each word selected by the Holy Spirit to depict the works of the flesh is pungent and powerful. There is no room for misunderstanding. The Spirit of God wants us to be able to identify the works of the flesh so we can prohibit their activity in our lives.
As Paul continues listing the works of the flesh, he next moves to the subject of “strife.” The word “strife” comes from the Greek word eritheia. It is very similar to the word eris, which is translated “variance” in the King James Version and was discussed in yesterday’s Sparkling Gem.
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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 taking care of himself and getting what he wants is that person’s principal concern. In fact, he is so bent on getting what he wants that he is willing to do anything, say anything, and sacrifice any standard, rules, or relationship to achieve his goals. It is a selfish, self-focused attitude that is engrossed with its own desires and ambitions. It is so self-consumed that it is blinded to the desires or ambitions of other people.
When someone has this attitude, he is bound to hurt and to offend people. It makes me think of one pastor I know in the former Soviet Union. This pastor is so committed to his own cause that he can’t see anything but himself. If someone mentions a church other than his own, he immediately turns the conversation back to his own church because he can’t tolerate anyone talking about anything but his own work. This characteristic of his gives the impression of conceit. In fact, I know of no other pastor in the city where he lives who can get along with him! Other pastors have spent years trying to build bridges to this pastor, only to have him turn around and do something hurtful and offensive to everyone who has tried to befriend him. Simply put, this man’s flesh is out of control and has devastated many people.
If you hear yourself talking nonstop about your own projects, dreams, and aspirations, but you never stop to inquire about anyone else’s, maybe you need to get into the Presence of God and let Him speak to you about selfishness in your life. Do the people in your life know all about you, but you know nothing about them? If your answer is yes, what does this tell you about your attitude toward other people? Are you mindful of others? Do you think about ways you can be a blessing to them, or do you always think of how others can be a blessing to you?
It is simply the nature of carnal flesh to be self-consumed. Don’t let this be you! God’s Spirit is inside you — and if you will yield to the Holy Spirit, He will make you compassionate and caring about the needs of others. From time to time, you will have to deliberately speak to the carnal nature and tell it to be still so the life of Jesus can flow up from your spirit to recognize and then meet the needs of those around you.
The word “seditions” is derived from the Greek word dichostasia, which is a compound of the words dicha and stasis. The word dicha means apart, as in a separation, and the word stasis means to stand or to rebel. When these are compounded into one word, it 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.
The word statis is used in Matthew, Mark, and Luke to describe the insurrection that Barabbas had led in the city of Jerusalem. His rebellious deeds deemed him a terrible and notorious criminal in the mind of the Roman authorities. He had led an insurrection, a sedition — an act of dichostasia. Barabbas defied the powers, rejected their authority, and stepped away from their rule, taking other rebels with him as he went his own way. As often happens when seditious flesh has its way, Barabbas and his companions eventually united all the rebels in the city together in an attempt to overthrow the government. It was the ultimate act of defiance or disloyalty to an established authority.
Paul lists “sedition” as one of the works of the flesh. It is important for you to know that the flesh hates rules, regulations, and any order that is imposed upon it. This is why children rebel against parents, wives rebel against their husbands, churches rebel against pastors, and people in general rebel against God. Defiance and rebellion to authority is the source of most world wars, civil wars, and regional conflicts. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s conflicts are due to flesh that refuses to be told what to do and thus rises up to defy the authority or the rules it doesn’t want to accept!
This is even the reason a beautiful little baby throws his food across the room! When a baby acts like that, it makes one wonder how in the world such an innocent-looking child could behave so badly. But the reason a young child can act so defiantly is that he is wrapped in flesh — and one of the works of the flesh is to be rebellious and defiant! The flesh simply doesn’t want to be told what to do!
So when you find your flesh rising up in anger because your boss, your parent, or your pastor acts like he or she has authority in your life, it’s time for you to settle down and mortify the deeds of your flesh! Don’t give in to your carnal desires by stepping away from your God-appointed leader. If you do, you may find yourself in a company of rebels like Barabbas, who got so caught up in his rebellion that he tried to lead an overthrow in the city of Jerusalem. Your loyalty is important; your disloyalty is hurtful and destructive. Stick close to those whom God has called to be your leaders, and be faithful!
“Heresies” is next in Paul’s list of the works of the flesh. This comes from the Greek word hairesis. In the New Testament, it has a meaning that is unique and used differently than in secular literature. It carries the idea of a person or group of people who are sectarian. The word “sectarian” refers to a group of people who adhere to the same doctrine or who ardently follow the same leader. 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 might label these sectarian groups “cliques” — referring to groups of people who believe or conduct themselves as if they are exclusive. Such groups often function in secret to keep their dealings, associations, contacts, and interactions unknown to others. They give the impression that they are better or more enlightened than those outside the group or that they have a special assignment that no one else can know about. This is the reason they keep outsiders on the outside and allow so few to have an inside peek at their fellowship, meetings, conversations, or activities.
Although the word hairesis can describe different schools of thought, branches, or arms of a movement, it primarily suggests a division, a faction, or as noted, an unauthorized group. Because this type of group was viewed to be so disruptive to the Early Church and because it didn’t fall under the spiritual covering of church leadership, the apostle Paul viewed it to be heretical — which, in this sense, meant divisive. The adherents usually followed a leader who was not the pastor but who acted as if he had spiritual authority, even though authority had never been given to him by the church leadership. This leader usually demanded the highest commitment from group members, even demanding that his followers’ commitment to himself and to the group be greater than their commitment to the overall church body.
Let’s face it — the flesh delights in deceiving itself into believing that it is better, more spiritual, or more enlightened than anyone else. It thrives on being puffed up, prideful, and boastful. It enjoys thinking too highly of itself. It adores being selfish, self-consumed, and self-focused, and it takes pleasure in caring for its own selfish interests. And if allowed to do so, flesh will separate into a faction, a division, or a sect. It will gravitate to others whose flesh also wants to believe they are better than others. When all that flesh gets together in one place, they will inevitably form a super-elite clique inside the church that is so tight no one else will be able to get in it — including the pastor!
Paul was against spiritual elitism and even forbade it! He even included it in his villainous list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21.
Never lose sight of the fact that you are a part of the whole Body of Christ. God has not given you or anyone else a revelation or truth so special that it is only for a handful. You are a member of the Body of Christ, so act like it! Don’t let your flesh deceive you into thinking that you are a member of the higher spiritual class! Tell your flesh to come back down to reality and get busy loving and serving other brothers and sisters in the local church!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I don’t want these works of the flesh to be active in my life! I stand against them in Jesus’ name, and I yearn for the Holy Spirit to produce His divine fruit in me. Please help me to be sensitive to Your Spirit and to the needs of others and to stay alert for those times when my flesh is trying to take me in one of these wrong directions!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I have the mind of Jesus Christ and I think the thoughts of God! I crucify the flesh; I mortify its deeds; and I release the resurrection life of Jesus Christ in me! Although I live in the flesh, it is no longer I who live, but Jesus Christ lives in me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Do people in your life know all about you, yet you know very little about them? If your answer is yes, what does this tell you about your attitude toward other people? Do you spend much time thinking about how you can be a blessing to them, or do you always think about how others can be a blessing to you?
2. Consider again the fact that flesh hates to be told what to do and that it rises up to defy the authority figure or the rules it doesn’t want to accept. Can you think of any areas of your life in which your flesh is rebelling against God-appointed authorities or rules right now?
3. Have you ever allowed your flesh to deceive you into thinking that you are a member of a higher spiritual class? Have you ever seen a group act like this in your church? If so, how did it affect you?