Monday, May 15, 2017

Works of the flesh, or Spiritual Fruit?

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance--as I told you before--that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23 HCSB)

It always amazes me how passages of scripture are totally ignored, especially in their context. Galatians chapter five is certainly no exception. This is a most important passage in its greater context, especially when asking the question that always follows the gospel. What question you ask? How then shall we live? Paul answers the question in verse 16: "I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16 HCSB) What I would like to unpack in this post is what it means to WALK in the Spirit. Paul clearly states that if one is walking in the Spirit they will NOT carry out the desires of the flesh. Why? I believe the answer to be a change of mind.

For the sake of clarity, let's look at the works of the flesh in a bullet list:

  • sexual immorality
  • moral impurity
  • promiscuity
  • idolatry
  • sorcery
  • hatreds
  • jealousy
  • outbursts of anger
  • selfish ambitions
  • dissensions
  • factions
  • envy
  • drunkenness
  • carousing
  • all other things similar
When one looks at this list it should become OBVIOUS that much of evangelical doctrine and practice is way off the mark. Paul's main message in Galatians 5 is that the believer is NOT under the Law but under Grace! While he is speaking about circumcision, he is in reality speaking about every fleshly way of being made right before God. The list he gives however, is not an exhaustive list of the works of the flesh. He points out at the end, that it is EVERY fleshly endeavor. Every fleshly endeavor is a work of the flesh. The contrast he makes in verses 19-23 is the between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. First, look at the words works and fruit. Work is something one does and fruit is something that grows naturally.

Now then, if you look at what a new Christian is taught, you would think that the fruit of the Spirit is simply NOT DOING those things on the list. Further, you will find that evangelical doctrine puts most of the emphasis on just a few. The Christian right, seems to believe that selfish ambitions is a fruit of the Spirit, but that is for another post. Isn't it obvious, that all of our religious denominations are factions? That alone renders most of the efforts of evangelical Christianity as a work of the flesh. People in factions are NOT walking in the Spirit! Hmnn----interesting. In case you prefer a different version of the bible, Let me make clear that the Greek word Paul used for factions is hairesis which means sect, or faction.

Again for clarity, look at the fruit of the Spirit in a bullet list:
  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • faith
  • gentleness
  • self-control
The fruit of the spirit is made up of qualities not actions. While it is true that the qualities will result in certain actions it is NOT action focused. I also think that fruit singular, and not fruits plural is very significant. They all emanate from truly believing the gospel.  First, it is caused from God's love for us found in Christ. It is in peace with the Father from believing the gospel of grace. This in-turn creates love for the Father, and joy from believing the gospel. The presence of the top three, love, joy, and peace, naturally produce all the rest. It makes the person believing the gospel patient, kind, good gentle, and it also provides self-control. However, it must come from faith in the gospel of grace. This is precisely why it is so important to make sure that the gospel is preached over and over; even to seasoned saints. It is also the reason that the continual preaching against sin is so ineffective, and why all the preachers who do so are so misguided.

This is why the Apostle Paul wrote that he was determined to know nothing among the saints except the gospel, Jesus Christ crucified. This is yet another proof of how far off the mark evangelical Christianity really is. It is also the reason that ALL that ever should be preached by preachers is the gospel. The Spirit uses the gospel to produce its fruit.

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