Thursday, March 20, 2014
The Vision (3.20.14): “The Works of the Flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21): Paul’s Spiritual Pathology
Note: I preached last Sunday morning on Paul’s listing of The Works of the Flesh from Galatians 5:19-21, a catalogue of seventeen dreadful sins. This Sunday we move on to their opposite, the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-26. Here are some notes from the introduction to last week’s message:
Thus far in our study of Galatians we have seen that Paul has described the existential dilemma of the regenerate man. He is saved, yet not fully sanctified. He is not what he used to be but not yet what he will be.
An internal civil war rages within his heart (see v. 17a: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh”). On one side there is the flesh (remaining sin) and on the other side there is the Spirit (the indwelling presence of God). There is no doubt who will ultimately prevail in the life of the believer. Still, he must persevere in this life, and so Paul’s encouragement is: “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (v. 16).
A failure to acknowledge this existential condition in regenerate man results in one of two equal and opposite errors:
First, to fail to acknowledge the flesh leads to the soul destroying errors of works righteousness and perfectionism (see 5:1).
Second, to fail to acknowledge the indwelling Spirit leads to the soul destroying error of antinomianism (see 5:13).
Paul continues in our passage today to let this argument run its course and to add further detail. In vv. 19-21 he offers a list of “the works of the flesh” and in vv. 22-26 he will list “the fruit of the Spirit.”
Today we look at the first list (the works of the flesh) and next week the second list (the fruit of the Spirit).
Many of our children know that second list from a song we have sung in Vacation Bible School. We have, as far as I know, no such ditty to help in memorizing the the works of the flesh. In medicine the systematic study of disease is known as pathology. We might call what Paul does in vv. 19-21 a work of spiritual pathology. It is a taxonomy of sin. Why do doctors study pathology? They do so in order to know how to prevent and cure the various diseases. And Paul, as a doctor of the heart, working as an intern under the Great Physician, provides us this list to serve a similar goal—that we might know these things and avoid them as we walk in the Spirit.Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle