"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissentions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God'. (Gal. 5:19-21.)
Here is a catalog of terrible sins. There are fifteen specific "works of the flesh" listed here; and the phrase "and such like" shows that Paul had not enumerated them all. There are many others and with a close study of the New Testament one can discover those not listed. It would be of great value if every child of God could be made fully aware of the significance of the apostle's remark that they who do such "shall not inherit the kingdom of God." This is a plain, positive declaration from an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ that must be taken at face value. The letter was written to the ecclesias (Christians) in Galatia and they were being warned AGAIN about the consequences of doing these things. This proves beyond doubt that a child of God may commit any one or all of these sins and IF he or she does so and dies without being forgiven, he or she cannot enter the everlasting kingdom heaven itself. So beyond question even a child of God may so sin as to be finally lost in hell. How much clearer would this fact need to be stated? Let it be emphasized that an individual would not have to be guilty of ALL these sins to be condemned; just being guilty of any one of these sins is enough to condemn us.
There are two levels of life or two planes upon which children of God may live: a lower or a higher, a carnal or a spiritual. The one who pleases God must live upon the higher, spiritual plane. Only by living in this way can the child of God finally be saved in heaven. This means living "in the Spirit," by the direction and leading of God's Spirit, which is accomplished when one lives according to teaching of God's word.
Those who live upon the lower plane live as the world does. They are those who "live after the flesh". "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the Law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom. 8:5-8.) Today many among the Lord's people are living upon this low level, engaging in these sins. Perhaps it would not be difficult in many cities today to find among the saints an example of every sin in this catalog in the lives of those who claim to be disciples of Jesus. Even among the leaders, elders, deacons, and preachers, such sins are often practiced. It is a shameful condition. Such conduct, if allowed to go without correction, will condemn to eternal torment those who are guilty and it will destroy the credibility of the saints who tolerate and excuse such behavior. H. Leo Boles said: "It is a sad fact that membership in a local church bearing the name of Christ is not what it should be, a guarantee of regeneration 'born of water and the Spirit.' Many who claim membership are still in the world and doing the works of the flesh. Some who have been 'born anew' do not bear the fruit of the Spirit because they live on the lower level of a church member life."
The higher, spiritual level is where every Christian should live, and that is where the fruit of the Spirit is manifested. The lower level of life is the fleshly, the carnal level, the level of the world. A congregation composed of those living upon this level is a blot upon the Cause of Christ and certainly can not be truthfully called saints or His holy people.
Paul says: "the works of the flesh are manifest." This means that they are plain and easily recognized. But are they?. Seemingly not many among the saints recognize and oppose such sins. How many saints could give a satisfactory definition of each of these fifteen sins? If we do not know what they mean, how can we know that we are not practicing them? Several years ago in a class a black man was asked what the word lasciviousness meant. He said: "I don't know what it means, but I know I ain't guilty cause it sounds so bad." Likely this represents the real sentiment of many of the saints. Can it be that for the most part we are so ignorant of God's word relative to sin that, like the Hebrews (5:14), we are not able to "discern good and evil ? We should know what this catalog of sins mean. Also, we should have a clear understanding of what would be in the "such like," as well as knowing the dire consequences of engaging in such things.
If someone were to offer us $100,000 if we would not commit any of these "works of the flesh," we would search out what these terms mean and refrain from the doing of such in order to obtain the money. There is something involved in this matter that is far greater than $100,000. It is the destiny of our soul! Should we not be more concerned about our soul than obtaining any amount of money? Let us learn well the meaning of "the works of the flesh" and see that we do not practice such things.
This catalog of shameful sins may be grouped into four classes: First, sins of impurity: immorality, fornication, uncleanness and lasciviousness. Second, sins of irreligion: idolatry and sorcery. Third, sins of the disposition: enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, and envying. Fourth, sins of intemperance: drunkenness, reveling, and such like.
There is an old adage which says, "Birds of a feather flock together." Here is a case where "birds of a feather" are put together and all are listed under the heading: "the works of the flesh." Can it be that the sins of the disposition stand on a par with the sins of immorality? In this listing they do and it is God's listing! No sin listed is said to be better or worse than the other. Each one is sin and any one will keep us out of heaven. We are prone to make a difference where the Spirit of God made none. Let us be careful about doing this.
Another thing: If we should make up a list of what we consider to be sins, would we name ALL of the ones Paul did? Certainty we would put down the wicked things which others may do and which may not be our practice: but would we list those which strike home?
Our definition of what is sinful is often decided upon a basis of personal factors what we like and dislike. With our limitations we should never be willing to try to simply avoid only that which we have decided within ourselves to be wrong. We should let God's word tell us. Truly as J. W. McGarvey says, "Verily all professing Christians would do well to take heed to what the Bible designates as sins, and not trust too much their own fallible sentiment and judgment in such matters."
In this article an attempt has been made to give a clear and positive meaning to the various sins so rampant in today's world and even among saints. We must refrain from "the works of the flesh" and give ourselves to serving God in truth and righteousness. We must be the "salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." CAH