“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 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.” (Galatians 5:16-21)
What exactly are the desires and works of the flesh? To begin with, what is the distinction between the words desires and works?
The word “desires” (ἐπιθυμίαν; epithymian) means to covet, to lust and to have evil desires. The word “works” (ἔργα; erga) refers to acts or deeds. In other words, behavior. I do not believe it is a coincidence or an accident by the Holy Spirit, and the Apostle Paul, that the word desires precedes the word works. How we behave, especially in regards to sin, is preceded by how we think and feel.
James says much the same thing in James 1:12-15. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Notice what James says about desire and sin. Each and every person is tempted when he/she is lured and enticed by their own desire. This is the same word Paul used in Galatians 5:16. It is when an individual gives in to such desire that it gives birth to sin.
Notice the phrase “has conceived gives birth to sin.” Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Sin is not merely a spontaneous act, but the result of a process. The Greek words for “has conceived” and “gives birth” liken the process to physical conception and birth. Thus James personifies temptation and shows that it can follow a similar sequence and produce sin with all its deadly results.”
What sinful desires are you currently battling within your mind, emotions and will? Remember, God is the only One who determines what is sinful and what is not sinful. The definition of sin does not belong to the culture, a political party or candidate for political office or even a religious denomination or religious leader. Ask God to help you to meditate upon the Word of God in order to battle sinful desires (Psalm 1; Colossians 3).
We all battle with our remaining sinful flesh. The question is whether or not we give in to those desires. If we do, then it becomes sin.
We will look at some specific examples of the works of the flesh from Galatians 5 when next we meet. Ask God to give you the frame of mind to never accommodate sinful desires. Ask Him to give you the resolve to never act upon a sinful desire.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!