But I say, walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof. If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk. Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another, (Galatians 5:16-26).
Thus Paul frames and discusses two contrasting categories of attitudes and actions, one that leads to sin and death and the other that leads to righteousness and eternal life. We have spent much time in analyzing each individual characteristic of both the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit; let us conclude by examining the whole context and therefore confirm the truths that we have discovered.
Paul begins the discussion with the contrast that will mark the rest of the discussion: walking by the Spirit versus fulfilling the lust of the flesh. This is confirmed in James 4:4 and 1 John 2:15-17:
Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Paul recognizes that the temptation to fulfill the desires of the flesh is strong, but is confident that walking by the Spirit– exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit– will strengthen us against that temptation and will allow us to break free of the law of sin and death and live forever to God.
Paul then lists the works of the flesh, yet begins his listing with the phrase “the works of the flesh are manifest.” The term “manifest” is also translated as “evident,” and for every Christian who seeks the will of God, those things which gratify the flesh to the detriment of the spirit are evident. There is no disputing if a given practice is a work of the flesh or not– they are self-evident. Only those interested in gratifying the lusts of the flesh would attempt to undermine this clear statement of Paul in Galatians 5.
Paul teaches that any who perform the works of the flesh without repentance will not inherit the Kingdom of God, and then contrasts these with the fruit of the Spirit, those characteristics “against which there is no law.” We then are given the truism that effectually sums up the whole discussion in Galatians 5:24-25:
And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof. If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk.
This message is in harmony with Romans 12:1-2:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
This is the end of the matter: flee from the works of the flesh by demonstrating that you walk by the Spirit by showing the fruit of the Spirit. Paul has listed what is sin, what is righteous, and how to use that which is righteous to avoid and counter that which is sin.
The listings of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit are by no means the only such lists present in the New Testament regarding works of iniquity versus works of righteousness; throughout our study we have touched on and quoted other such lists. It is hoped, however, that our in-depth examination of the specific list in Galatians 5 of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit has been useful to you in your walk with Christ and that your faith has been strengthened by realizing what is right versus what is wrong. Feedback regarding this study is appreciated, and may we always strive diligently to fulfill 1 Peter 1:13-16:
Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance: but like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy.”
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of your spirits. Amen.