Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Lewis Johnson remarks that the deeds of the flesh, “…are the evidence that the life is not under the control of the Spirit. Where these things are the individual’s pattern of life, there is no evidence that they belong to the holy Triune God.” Charles Spurgeon said, “The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul.” The call to holiness is no small matter, and today’s verses present us with a challenging question: If you find your own sin(s) residing within Paul’s list, does that mean you are not going to Heaven?
I struggle with this passage, myself. There are several sins from the list that I still struggle with, so does that mean I am actually NOT a born again Christian? Have we not been studying Galatians under the premise that we CANNOT be saved by obeying the Law? The categories these sins cover are wide-ranging and should cause every Believer to sit up and pay attention. Sensual sins. Religious sins. “People” sins. Social sins. Surely you find yourself in there somewhere, so where do we go with this teaching?
Firstly, nothing has changed regarding salvation. Keeping yourself completely off Paul’s list will not get you into Heaven. You could not earn your way in before Galatians 5:19-21 and you won’t be able to find a way in by studying what comes after it. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. BUT…what is the evidence that you have made that Holy transaction? You no longer live a life marked by unrepentant sin.
This translation uses the phrase “those who do such things” but a better translation is “those who practice such things.” Theologian James Boice wrote, “The tense of the verb (present) indicates a habitual continuation in fleshly sins rather than an isolated lapse, and the point is that those who continually practice such sins give evidence of having never received God’s Spirit.” Do you continue to struggle with anger? Lust? Jealousy? Drunkenness? Or, has your heart become so hardened that your on-going sins don’t really bother you at all? You don’t feel the need to confess them any longer and you certainly are not even trying to repent and walk in victory. If that is the case, then you need to take Paul’s warning very seriously and get on your face before the Lord.
This excerpt from a sermon by Pastor Jack Arnold is helpful summation of the main point:
“Paul is obviously talking about habitual practice rather than an isolated lapse into sin. Every Christian has certain weaknesses and areas of sin in his personality that keeps cropping up over and over again. The issue is desire not perfection. The Christian will desire to bring his sin nature under the control of the Spirit. If a professing Christian has no desire to control the sin nature, then it is time to question the reality of one’s salvation. The Christian may lapse into the flesh because of his failure to depend upon the Holy Spirit. If he does, he will have the conviction of the Holy Spirit and be a miserable person. He will not have inner peace until he confesses that sin to God, purposes to turn from it, and gets up by faith and again walks in dependence upon the Spirit. Christians can sin but their action will always be followed by great conviction from God.”
May we all be found walking in the Spirit.