A Study of the Works of the Flesh
“Idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies” (Galatians 5:20).
Topping the list of sins God disliked the most among the Israelite nation was the sin of idolatry; yet Israel seemed not to be able to abstain from it anyway. Idolatry brought on more punishment for Israel than any other sin.
Idolatry is generally understood to be the worship of a physical image that is set up to represent an invisible god. Jehovah was the leader and protector of the Israelites, and He wanted their devotion to be directed only to Him.
Idolatry in our world is a much less visible image but is not diminished in power. Idols for us have more to do with those things in life that we place great importance on and that we devote ourselves to in place of making a commitment to God. He is no less pleased with us when we do so than He was with Israel so long ago.
Sorcery is witchcraft or the art of black magic, and it appears to have been prominent in New Testament times. Some pagan priests often used hypnotic drugs in their idolatrous practices to make participants be deceived into thinking there really was magic involved. God condemned such then and now.
A Study of the Works of the Flesh
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness” (Galatians 5:19).
The Apostle Paul writes to the churches in Galatia, attempting to convince them of the superiority of the law of Christ over the Law of Moses, emphasizing that the sins he names were not acceptable under the Law of Moses and they will not be overlooked under Christ. In this verse, he clusters sins of the flesh that have to do with sexual morality.
Adultery is a violation of the marriage relationship while fornication can be either a general term for such immorality or it can refer to relations between unmarried parties. Uncleanness means impure practices generally or homosexuality specifically. Licentiousness can begin in the heart but manifests itself in any kind of indecent, immoral movements of the body—it is described in scripture as shameless behavior.
Sins condemned in this passage are not dependent on acceptance by a particular society or by individuals: they are named as behaviors God does not accept.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
All Christians need encouragement as they deal with life with all of its disappointments and troubles, but the encouragement this verse provides would have been especially meaningful to Hebrew Christians.
These Jews who had accepted Jesus evidently were expecting life to be quite different after they obeyed the gospel. When persecutions persisted, some of them were really disappointed and discouraged to the point they were considering returning to worship under the Law of Moses.
The writer strongly urges them not to do so; rather they were to cling to the hope that came with their coming to Jesus—that is, the hope of salvation. And they were to remember God who gave them that hope and who is always faithful to keep His promises.
The reassuring message of hope these Jewish Christians had received is the same message we receive today: it keeps us strong in times of temptation and it keeps us going when life gets tough. And holding fast our hope will be worth it all when we receive the benefit of God’s promises in eternity.
“Great peace have those who love your law, And nothing causes them to stumble” (Psalm 119:165).
The psalmist here picks up on something the world craves but has little idea about how to find: peace. Many believe peace is achieved when one manipulates people and situations into a comfortable position in which there is no conflict.
Real peace comes, however, for those who love the law of the Lord and internalize it so much that it becomes the dominant factor in their lives. Then it will guide them so they can make decisions that lead to contentment and serenity rather than dismay and heartache.
It is not that their lives are free from difficulties: but it is that they have the spiritual resources readily available to cope with whatever comes in their lives.
Peace with God is a peace experienced only when a person has a covenant relationship with Him. When we have that kind of relationship, the word itself becomes our line of defense against stumbling or leaving the Lord.