"The Deeds Of The Flesh"


In another article in this issue, I wrote about "The Works of the Flesh", based upon the Apostle Paul s teaching on the subject in Galatians 5:19-21. Paul named fifteen specific sins and then summed up the others under the expression "and things like these." "The deeds of the flesh" are identified in Scripture to be sure, but they may appear in many forms. Having given the Galatians a broad sample of these sins, he leaves it to them, and to us, to identify other such sins and avoid them.

What sins did Paul have in mind when he wrote about other "things like these"? Perhaps it embraces many more sins than most of us realize. It would be impossible for me to detail all "the deeds of the flesh" because sin takes a thousand forms. However, by turning to the Divine Record we can easily discover many other sins which can be placed in the company of the specific sins listed by Paul in Gal. 5:19-21, which are also condemned. Let us note some of them briefly:

1. MURDERS. In Gal. 5:21, the King James version gives murders as one of the works of the flesh. The Revised Version does not have this word because the genuineness of the original is extremely doubtful. However, we do know that murders might well be included. The word signifies the destruction of human life and it springs from a lack of due respect for human life. The word "murders" does appear in other passages which prove its rightful place as a work of the flesh (Matt. 15:19; Rom. 1:29).

Murder has always been wrong and sinful even from the beginning when we find God condemning the first murderer -- CAIN. In 1 John 3:15, John tells us "Every one who hates his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him". One may never go so far as to actually murder another person, but how many of us are murderers in our hearts? Have you ever wished someone dead? Rev. 21:8 says that all murderers will have their part in the lake of fire.

2. Evil thoughts. In Matt. 15:19 and Mark 7:21-22, Jesus tells of some sins which proceed from the heart and defile the man. One of these sins, evil thoughts, definitely comes out of the heart. We know that the others identified by the Lord are of the same nature as those Paul listed. Surely these can all be included in the "such like". We are responsible for our thoughts. We are endowed with the power to control our thoughts and we must work at doing so. We may not be responsible for an evil thought entering our mind, but we can keep from retaining it there. "Evil thoughts are the preparation of all other sins, and have a pernicious influence on the character. We are very much what we think. That on which our minds are fixed, that which is the chief object presented to our inward sight, shapes our disposition and life" (Pulpit Commentary). Let us beware of this "such like".

3. Thefts. This is another sin condemned by the Lord in Mark 7:21. This would include stealing in all its forms and degrees. Cheating on a test or in any other form is sinful.

4. False Witness. (Matt. 15:19) This has to do with giving the wrong testimony in court or anywhere else. It would include concealing the truth, or stating what we know to be false. Such proceeds from a desire to injure others, to take away their character or property, to do them injustice in any way whatever. Can there be any doubt that such is sinful and belongs to the works of the flesh?

5. Blasphemies and Railings. (Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21) The King James uses the first word and the Revised uses the second. One may be guilty of blasphemy and railing against both his fellowman and God. The word revile is a kindred word. When applied to men it means to speak injuriously of their persons and character. Barnes says: "The word blaspheme originally meant to speak evil of anyone; to injure with words; to blame unjustly; to ascribe to him acts and attributes which he does not possess; or to speak impiously or profanely." All of us recognize that this a sin which is wide-spread in our day.

6. An Evil Eye. (Mark 7:21) This is an eye that is sour, malignant, proud: or an eye of lust and passion. (cf. Matt. 5:28: 20:15) In 2 Pet. 2:14, we read of some described as "having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin; unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children..."

7. Foolishness. (Mk. 7:21) This does not mean the want of intellect: man is not responsible for that. It has to do with "moral folly, consisting in choosing bad ends, and bad means of gaining them; or, in other words, sin and wickedness. All sin is folly" (Barnes). In this same connection, perhaps we should note filthiness, foolish talking and jesting, which are condemned by Paul in Eph. 5:4. Filthiness would embrace anything vile or unclean in words or acts. The other two terms signify "a light, bantering, jesting kind of talk, seasoned with double entendres and obscene allusions, very pernicious in its moral effect.

There is no reason to suppose that the apostle meant to condemn all play or humor, which is a Divine gift, and which in moderation has its own useful place as a means of refreshing and invigorating the spirit: it was the jesting associated with ribaldry that drew his reproof." (Pulpit Commentary) Think of all the course, low, vulgar, obscene words, jokes and books of our day! Would not all such come within that category?

8. Deceit. (Mk. 7:21) This means fraud: concealed dishonesty, cheating in trade and trying to benefit one's self by doing injustice to others.

9. Wickedness. (Mk. 7:21) The original word means malice, or a desire of injuring others. It has to do with evil dispositions, wicked counsels and acts.

10. Pride. (Mk. 7:21)Arrogance and self exaltation. It is an improper estimate of one's own importance: thinking that he is of more consequence than he really is. "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall."

11. Fearfulness. This must be a work of the flesh because in Rev. 21:8 we read: "But the fearful ... their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death." This has to do with the fear that makes one a coward in the face of duty and afraid of the present consequences of serving God faithfully. It would include the fear to own the name of Christ, the fear of persecution, fear of want, fear to preach the truth of God, fear of ridicule and all other instances of cowardly fear that keeps one from meeting duty's demands. Certainly fear in any of these forms is a work of the flesh. I wonder how many of us have seriously considered fear in this light.

12. Time and space fail us in completing this list. Here are a few others in the terrible "such like" category: Passion, evil desire, covetousness (Col. 3:5), maliciousness, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents (note that one, children and young people!), covenant breakers, and those lacking in mercy. (Rom. 1:29-31) One might continue this list almost indefinitely. Some of these words may have the same meaning or be degrees of the same evil. Yet we need in these increasingly evil times to learn that any one of these works of the flesh will keep us out of the eternal kingdom of God.

In view of the almost inexhaustible number of the works of the flesh, there is no wonder that Paul said "and such like" embracing all kinds of sinful acts. Let us make sure and certain that none of the "such like" or any other sin, whether listed here or not, keeps us out of heaven. Indeed "the deeds of the flesh" are increasing in this day and age. CAH