The Works of the Flesh / The Fruit of the Spirit (One More Time)

 We have looked at “The works of the flesh” and “The fruit of the Spirit”.  Yet, there are still some things left untouched in our study.  This writing will seek to deal with these untouched issues.

1.  Notice the wording “The works of the flesh” is plural; while, “the fruit of the spirit” is singular (Gal. 5:19, 22).  Why is this the case?  It seems to me the answer is this: (A) If one is fleshly minded, following the impulses of the flesh he’ll have at least some of these type fleshly traits.  He may not possess all of them, but still be fleshly minded.  He may not be a murderer, but be filled with hatred.  He may not be an adulterer, but yet a fornicator.  One can be a fleshly minded person by being lascivious, but having never practiced witchcraft.  (B) However, if one is truly following the Spirit’s teachings he can’t pick and choose.  He’ll strive to have all of these listed graces in his life.  They go together.

 May we remember the words of Paul, “They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace… for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body (the works of the flesh – B.H.; on the word mortify cross-reference Col. 3:5) ye shall live (Rom. 8:5-6, 13).

2.  What does it mean to be “led by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:18).  Some have thought that this refers to an overwhelming of the Spirit which leaves no choice in the human.  Let it be pointed out that the term “led” in no way implies that one is overwhelmed and without choice (see 1 Cor. 12:2; 2 Tim. 3:6 – which of these passages demand an overwhelming leaving no free will?).  Furthermore, the fact of choice is implied by the command “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16).  This is a command!  Being “led by the Spirit” simply  means to be submissive to what the Holy Spirit teaches [To resist the Spirit is to reject and not keep the law, and even to persecute God’s prophets (Acts 7:51-53)].

3.  Why is it called “The fruit of the Spirit”?  The answer is that it is so-called because the Holy Spirit is the revealer of God’s truth (Eph. 2:18, 20 cf. 3:1-5; 2 Peter 1:21).

This revealed message when followed produces fruit (Luke 8:15).  Each of the graces (or characteristics) mentioned are things taught in the word of God, and such was revealed by the Spirit (for instance ‘love’ John 13:34; 1 Cor. 13:1-ff).

4.  What does it mean when it speaks of “The works of the flesh”?

The wording “the works of the flesh” should not be taken as saying that flesh itself is inherently evil.  God called His creation very good (Gen. 1:26, 31).  We are marvelously created (Psalm 139:14).  Jesus dwelt in the same flesh that we do (John 1:1, 14; Heb. 2:14; 5:5-7; 10:20; 2 John 7).

The wording is simply a reference to man following His own will and desires apart, and even against God (cf. Jeremiah 10:23; with John 6:28-29).  We dwell in fleshly bodies.  These bodies have certain wants and needs.  These basic desires of men are not necessarily wrong.  However, there is a right way to deal with these things, and a wrong way.  Satan uses our fleshly needs, wants and desires to tempt us to do wrong.

5.  What does it mean when it says “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law”?  It certainly does not mean that man is under (that is amenable to) no law today.  If we be under no law as Christians, then it would not be possible for us to sin (see Rom. 4:15; 5:13; 1 John 3:4); Yet, we clearly do sin (1 John 1:8).  Moreover, many passages speak of our being under some law (Gal. 6:2; Rom. 8:2, 7; 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 9:21; Heb. 10:16; James 1:25; 2:12).

I have heard some explain it this way.  It has never been a temptation of mine to be a bank robber, or a homosexual, or a rebel against the government.  While the Bible has something to say on each of these things.  It is as if I am not under these laws because I have no desire for these things.  This is an explanation I’ve heard.  But, I think it is not the best, nor is it the correct.

 The answer is that this statement is elliptical.  Compare it with Galatians 5:23 which says “against such there is no law”.  Also compare it to Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” All that is being said is that “ye are not under the law” in the sense of it being against you.  It might be best viewed as saying “ye are not under (the condemnation of/or antagonism of) the law”.

6.  What does Galatians 5:17 mean?  It reads “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these things are contrary one to another: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”  This verse is speaking of one who hasn’t crucified the flesh and its passion (compare Gal. 2:20; 5:24; 6:14).  The one here-in described is a double-minded person, trying to hold to the things of the flesh, and the things of God at the same time.  James 4:4, 8 reads, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?  Whosoever therefore be a friend of the world is the enemy of God… draw neigh to God, and he will draw neigh to you.  Cleanse your hands ye sinners; and purify your hearts ye double-minded.”  Some try to please God and live a worldly centered life all at the same time; such will not work.  I believe a good commentary on Galatians 5:17 is Romans 8:6-7, “For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”  This type of person has been described as “having just enough religion to be uncomfortable at the beer bash, but not enough to be comfortable at the prayer meeting”.

We must decide where our aim is in this life.  We must decide what it is we wish to accomplish.  If we are to make it to heaven, we must be focused (Matt. 6:22-23; 6:33; Col. 3:1-2; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thes. 2:4).  May we strive to enter in through that strait gate for “wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction.” (Matt. 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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