Monday in the Last Week of Ordinary Time

Galatians 5:20-21

The Works of the Flesh which Destroy Relationships

The last group of the works of the flesh are those that destroy relationships with one another, and then by extension with our Lord and God.  We cannot be at war with God and at peace with our neighbor.  Our hearts will not accommodate love for God and hatred for neighbor.  Indeed, our Lord goes one up saying that we must not only not hate but that we must love our neighbor. 

And so these sins are ever so wicked and disruptive; they destroy fellowship and relationships bringing bitterness in their wake.  They are not to be named among us in our relationships with pagans, much less among the brethren.  And yet, these sins of the flesh are evident among God’s very people.  Paul’s catalog includes: “Enmity” which may be defined as hostile acts against various individuals or groups, and includes intentions as well; “strife” could also be rendered “quarrelsomeness” and suggests a fighting spirit.  The Greek word used here, Eris, was the goddess in Greek mythology who was responsible for planting the seed of the Trojan War.  “Jealousy” includes resentment with the successes of another or the rewards that one has not received.  The Greek word is zelos, from which we get our word “zeal.”  In Scripture one can be jealous or zealous for something good and holy; that is not what we have here.  “Fits of rage” indicates a loss of self-control or uncontrollable anger.  Scripture always counsels prudence and deliberation.  The Greek word behind “rivalries” comes from the world of commerce and can carry the idea of a mercenary spirit and selfish ambition.  “Dissensions” and “divisions” speak to party spirit and the creation of factions.  The Greek word behind “divisions” is haireseis from which we get our word, “heresy,” which literally means “to choose.”  In this context, Paul means those who choose that which is not in accord with the apostolic teaching.  Granted, division can happen as a result of teaching God’s word, and, indeed, often does.  But such cannot be helped.  There will always be those who reject God’s word, even in the Church.  But division over party spirit and non-essentials is an expression of ambition and hurts fellowship.  “Envy” begrudges the successes or possessions of others and thereby expresses discontent with what God has given oneself.  Finally, “drunkenness” and “orgies,” or just plain “drunken orgies” speaks to excess leading to a lack of judgment and moral control thereby bringing censure (F. F. Bruce, NIGTC, 248-50). 

Paul could have added more to his catalog and so he ended it with, “and things like these.”  I suppose no “works of the flesh” list could ever be exhaustive.  But what should grab our attention is, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  These are scary words, for we all can see ourselves in more than a few of those sins.  It’s a good thing Paul preached salvation by faith leading up to this discussion.  Still, those who name the name of Christ must live the name of Christ.  And those who are reborn of the Spirit, though they are still carrying about them the sinful nature, should desire to grow in grace and indeed find such a new God-given desire.  They want more of God and less of themselves.  They agree with John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease.”  And remember what Owen said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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