Feb 28, 2016
Galatians 5:19-26

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The year was 1988 and a start-up shoe company hired renown ad agency Wieden+Kennedy to create a new, fresh marketing campaign that would feature six to eight commercials showcasing the benefits of their footwear in various sporting genres. At the time this was a huge deal that brought incredible pressure as $25M had been allocated for the campaign. 

As chief creative for the project Dan Wieden recounts the night before his team was to present their campaign before the client he was worried each of these separate commercials were to fragmented. Basically, there really was no central theme that tied them altogether.

As the story goes, frustrated they were unable to come up with an adequate tag line they could hang the entire campaign upon (“A Sneaker is Forever” and “Got Kicks” were their two best lines), Dan made the bold decision to call it a night and send everyone home. 

The story turns when after packing up his briefcase and making his way out of the building Dan ended up having a chance conversation with a colleague in the men’s restroom about a book written by Norman Mailer that documented the execution of Gary Gilmore.

Dan had not only read the book, but was intimately familiar with the case as one of his friends Michael Gilmore (what was a writer for Rolling Stone) was Gary’s brother (they all grew up in Portland). In 1976 Gary had been convicted of a double murder in Utah and subsequently sentenced to be executed for his crimes by firing-squad.

While the conversation itself hadn’t immediately spurred any type of creative juices, later that night Dan woke up with a thought. According to Mailer’s account, as Gary stood in front of the firing-squad and just before a hood was placed over his head, his final words rang with an interesting sort of grit in the face of such uncertainty. Gary simply said, “Let’s do it.” 

After a little tweaking Dan felt confident he now had the tag line that would make this campaign as appealing to the mom going to the park for a run as it would the first class olympic athlete in competition. For the next 30 years Nike’s slogan would be “Just do it!”

Before we dive into our text, let’s recap what we discussed last Sunday when we set out to define what Paul meant when he references “the flesh.” The Bible presents the fullness of man as being a trichotomy meaning every human is made up of three distinct parts: A physical body that tethers you to the physical world, an immaterial soul that is the non-material essence of your being, and a spirit which provides life to both the body and soul. 

This means upon coming to Christ, when the spirit of sin is replaced with the spirit of God, you are “born again” as the Holy Spirit yields life to your soul as it reconciles you back to God (making you righteous, sinless, son, heir, etc.). And yet, while the Spirit now has the power to control the body because He resides in the seat of desire, the literal effects of sin still remain.

You see… When Paul refers to “the flesh” he’s referencing your unregenerated, mortal body which remains tainted and corrupted by sin and death. Note: This includes the mind (where thoughts, emotions, and feelings originate) as well as your genetic traits and tendencies (what drives your personality, habits, and predispositions). Unlike the soul and spirit, as part of the physical, natural world your body is still waiting to experience regeneration at a yet future resurrection. The body unlike the soul will die.

What makes Paul’s exhortation to “walk in the Spirit so you won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh” so radicle is that it fundamentally stands in opposition to our culture which not only encourages each of us to obey our flesh (in a real sense exhorting us all to “Just do it!”), but one that has brazenly declared it immoral to speak against someone engaging this pursuit.

Without thinking this dynamic out to its logical end, operating according to one’s desires is now the moral norm with anyone brave enough to speak contrary to this reality branded as being intolerant, bigoted, judgmental, hateful, and ultimately phobic. 

In America… If someone wants to engage in a behavior that does not cause physical harm to someone else, they have the moral right to do so and no one possess the moral authority to tell them they’re wrong. Today, “I was born this way” is used as the justification for all types of behaviors that just a few years ago were viewed as twisted and perverse.

Understand… While it’s true the desires of our flesh may be natural, it does not mean these desires are the intended result of our creation or the desired functions of the Creator. The Bible not only says you were fundamentally broken the moment you were born, but it affirms the desires of your flesh have been thoroughly corrupted by sin. Your flesh is naturally in active and continual rebellion to its design and Designer!

In this passage Paul is boldly declaring there is not only a different way, but that there is a better way to live that stands completely contrary to our natural, fleshly desires. Sure you’re free to “Have it Your Way,” but you should understand there is a better way! Jesus not only created you, but He died so that you might finally be able to live the way God intended.

The question really boils down to this… Are you more than flesh? And if so, will you embrace a new way of living by “the Spirit?” To bring his point home Paul is now going to contrast “the works of the flesh” with “the fruit of the Spirit” in order to emphasize how important it is we “walk in the Spirit” so that we no longer “fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”

Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are evident…”

In the Greek this word “ergon” or “works” literally means “business, an act, a thing done.” Paul says these works “the flesh” occupies itself doing are “plainly known.” Note: The list that follows describe the things your “flesh” will naturally manifest in your life if allowed.

Galatians 5:19-21, “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…”

“Adultery…” This describes any sexual activity that violates the marriage covenant between one man and one women established by God. Note: Adultery is listed first because it runs completely contrary to the picture of God’s love presented through human marriage!

“Fornication…” In the Greek this word is “porneia” was originally used to describe the services of a prostitute, but in Paul’s day referred to sexual immorality in a broad sense. In its cultural context this word described all premarital or extramarital sexual activities, which included things like heterosexual relationships outside of marriage, sexting, homosexuality, bisexuality, orgies, transsexuality, besteality, incest, etc.

“Uncleanness…” This Greek word “akatharsia” described “lustful living.” It was the opposite of purity was intentionally broad to include things like mental filth, dirty speech, sensuality, or prevalent sexual improprieties. Example: “We didn’t go all the way!”

“Lewdness…” This Greek word “aselgeia” spoke of an “unbridled lust, shamelessness, or excess.” The idea behind this word was to describe someone who sins brazenly or publicly. Someone who flaunts their immorality… Who has no shame, seeks to shock public decency. A lewd person doesn’t just engage in such practices, but they take pride in their deviancy.

“Idolatry…” or simply the worship of false gods. Note: An idol can be defined as anything that occupies the rightful place of Jesus! It can be a god of your own opinion, imagination, or making. Example… “I don’t believe in a god who’d send people to hell for eternity.”

“Sorcery…” From this Greek word “pharmakeia” we derive our English word “pharmacy.” The word spoke of the drug-use associated with the magical arts and was anything that altered your consciousness. Note: Hallucinogenics have a long standing history with the occult for they tend to open doors that should be left closed. Examples: Mushrooms, acid, LSD, etc.

“Hatred…” or literally “enmity” referred to the ill treatment of others.

“Contentions…” In the Greek “eris” meant “strife or wrangling.” This word was used to describe a person who possessed “a competitive and argumentative spirit.”

“Jealousies…” In the Greek “zêlos” spoke of someone who had a “punitive zeal, or an envious rivalry.” Basically, it described the desire to have what someone else has. 

“Outbursts of wrath…” This Greek word “thymos” literally described “anger boiling forth.” This word described the person who has a terrible temper and is unable to control their passion.

“Selfish ambitions…” This Greek word “eritheia” originally meant to work for pay, but came to describe those who only worked for pay. In Paul’s culture is was customary for this word to be used to describe politicians. A person with “selfish ambition” possessed no desire to service the greater good, and was only motivated by a desire to enrich themselves.

“Dissensions…” In the Greek “dichostasia” simply meant “divisions” and described those who intentionally “stood apart.” This person directly capitalized on division verses unity.

“Heresies…” When we hear this word we think of wrong or false doctrine. Originally, the word meant “to choose,” but with time came to describe someone who communicated their positions in a dividing way. Another translation is “sect.” The word describes a person hardened in their decisions - an unyielding intolerance. They’re right and everyone is wrong. 

“Envy…” Unlike “jealousies” where you want what someone else has, this word describes someone who is bitter at someone else's good fortune and prosperity. This person can’t stand to see someone else doing well and they’ll ultimately hold a deep grudge as a result. 

“Murders…” Means what it says… Premeditated manslaughter!

“Drunkenness…” This word spoke of drinking alcohol with the direct intention of intoxication or being impaired. Understand… This “work of the flesh” is not concerned with “how much do you have to drink to be drunk!” Drunkenness is not the amount, but the intention.

“Revelries…” Literally, partying or having a good time, which you should note is not in and of itself a bad thing. What Paul is describing is an unrestrained partying. It’s partying with the intention of the activity satisfying a deeper need. “Party used to be a noun. Today it’s a verb.”

“And the like…” Not only does Paul understand this list is incomplete, but he uses this phrase to basically define a “works of the flesh” as being anything (even things that are good) that is pursued for the wrong intentions. Could food, work, or exercise be on this list?

Galatians 5:21, “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.

“Just as I also told you in time past…” It’s interesting to point out that Paul is revisiting a previous lesson he’d given to the Galatians when describing the “works of the flesh.” Note: Recognizing what “the flesh” naturally manifests is essential if we’re to see the actives of the Spirit at work in our lives. You see grace is diametrically opposed to the “works of the flesh.”

“Will not inherit the kingdom of God…” Paul is clearly speaking of heaven, which is not something earned or acquired but something that is “inherited.” There is no way around the reality that Paul is saying “those who practice such things” (the “works of the flesh”) will not go to heaven. “Will not…” There is a certainty and conviction to what Paul is saying. 

The key is what Paul means when he says “practice such things!” This Greek word “prassô” means “to be busy with.” Paul is not referring to someone who does such things, but rather the person who is continuing in such behaviors. This person has actively resisted the Spirit’s conviction in their lives. It’s a work not committed in weakness, but in rebellion.

The key is to understand Paul is referring to a life-style and not a mistake. You see, if Jesus changes your life by changing your heart it is then only natural He will also change your behaviors! Though it’s entirely possible for you to screw up and fall into sin, it’s impossible for a life to remain the same if it’s been filled with the Holy Spirit. Charles Spurgeon once said, “The grace that does not change my life will not change my soul.”

Never forget… These “works of the flesh” will naturally manifest themselves in your life apart from the direct intervention of God! Without His Spirit in control this list describes what your flesh will fulfill. So… How do we not “fulfilled the lusts of the flesh?” We “walk in the Spirit!” Which is amazing for not only will the Spirit refuse to allow the flesh to fulfill it’s sinful intent, but it will in turn naturally yield a counter-work in my life as a result!

Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

“But…” In contrast to the “works of the flesh” Paul now presents the “fruit of the Spirit.” While the flesh works (factory, sweat, manufacturing, human activity) it is by “walking in the Spirit” that “the Spirit” produces Godly “fruit” in our lives. Note: Fruit is a picture of a natural byproduct. Fruit isn’t birthed by working, but through abiding.

Understand… This list provided by Paul is meant to be seen as the evidence of a Spirit-filled life. In a sense Paul is presenting a description of Christ-likeness… Characteristics of the life found in Christ and walking according to His grace, which is only possible by “walking in the Spirit!” These things aren’t manufactured, but yielded. Fruit simply appears naturally.

Note: While we’re given “works of the flesh” (plural), Paul now set up his contrasts with “the fruit of the Spirit” (singular). And while there are those who see “love” as being the singular “fruit” that then manifests in these other traits, there is nothing in the text to imply this view.

In the Greek Paul is instead saying all of these things are the singular “fruit” yielded by the Spirit’s working in our lives. Though the Spirit provides “gifts” (plural) that differ from person to person, Paul is clear there is one “fruit” the Spirit is wanting to accomplish in all of us. “Fruit” is holistic. They all grow together. It’s all the fruit or it’s none of the fruit.

Also notice “the fruit of the Spirit is…” Paul presents this work of the Holy Spirit producing fruit in the present active tense. The Spirit is presently producing these things in our lives.

“Love…” While there were four Greek words for love, Paul uses the word “agape.” Unlike the words that described the emotions of love, agape exists above natural affection. This word spoke of the mind. It described a state of being. No person would “feel” agape love. Agape love existed because you either decide to love or you chose not to. Agape is a love of the will. Regardless of how you feel you choose to act in a loving way.

“Joy…” Like “love” this word “joy” describes more than the state of emotional happiness. It’s a state of being the exists beyond my temporary emotions. It’s an abiding joy that exists even when circumstances are terrible. Example: Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail. James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials…”

“Peace…” There is no doubt the indwelling Spirit initially yields a peace with God that then fosters a peace with people and circumstance. Understand… Peace doesn’t mean the absence of strife, but rather describes a calm in the midst of strife. Because I’ve placed my faith in God and trust in Him, anxiety and stress are replaced with an internal peace. Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

“Longsuffering…” or literally, “Better patience” describes a person who is not quickly annoyed or irritated by others. This person has a thick skin that enables them to be measured in how they respond. They can bear injury and insults and refuse to be reactionary.

“Kindness…” The word describes a “moral integrity and inner character” in the way you treat people. You are always kind. 

“Goodness…” or “uprightness in heart” described a deep virtuous undergirding. It’s doing the right thing - in the right timing - and in the right way!

“Faithfulness…” Faithfulness to God and to others! The word describes someone who is reliable and trustworthy. James 5:12, “Let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your  "No," “No!”

“Gentleness” or “Meekness” describes strength under control. A meek person has a teachable heart and does not possess an attitude of superiority (a chip on their shoulder or sense of entitlement). They’re strong enough to stand strong, but even stronger to let it go.

“Self-control…” Which in some translations is listed as “temperance.” In the original language this word describes “the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions.” Note: This is not something the flesh can accomplish, but only as you ceded control of self to the Spirit.

Galatians 5:23-26, “Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Paul is clear that “no law” can produce in a person’s life what only the Spirit of God can yield! Apart from the indwelling Spirit not of these characteristics are impossible! Why? Did you notice the “fruit of the Spirit” deal with the inner workings of the heart?

“Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires…” Paul’s point is to remind us of the work of Jesus on our behalf. “Those who are Christ’s” can be free of the “passions and desires” of the flesh, because Jesus’ flesh was “crucified” on our behalf. 

“If we live in the Spirit” or literally, “Since we’ve been given life in the Spirit” it’s only logical we continue to “also walk in the Spirit.” Basically, continue in the life we’ve been given!

“Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Once again since our love for one another is the ultimate litmus test for the person truly walking in grace, Paul closes this section with a final warning to be on guard for the sneakiness of legalism. Even when the Spirit is yielding this fruit in it’s so easy for our flesh to “become” (happens gradually) puffed up with pride, “provoke one another,” or even be filled with envy. 

The flow of thought should be as follows… What is more appealing - the natural “works of the flesh” (operating how you were born, allowing the flesh to “Just do it!”) or the supernatural manifestations of “the Spirit” (operating as you were designed - rebirth)If you’d prefer the later, knowing these things are produced and not manufactured, you must consider the practicalities of how you’re then to “walk, be led, and live in the Spirit?” 

You see “walking in the Spirit” occurs when you’re constantly filling your life with opportunities to be supernaturally influenced by God knowing these things will naturally manifest a reciprocating, Godly result (“fruit of the Spirit”).

The law bids me act a certain way so that I’ll be more like Christ, but it is grace that simply invites me to hang out with Jesus (a relationship) knowing I naturally become like those I hang out with! Friend, “walking in the Spirit” is nothing more than spending time with Jesus, and the “fruit of the Spirit” nothing more than the result of this relational influence.


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