Understanding The Difference Between The Works Of The Flesh And The Fruit Of The Spirit
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Understanding The Difference Between The Works Of The Flesh And The Fruit Of The Spirit


Today I am continuing my series on the book of Galatians.

I have been teasing my congregation that when I got to this particular passage in Galatians 5 that I would preach my first hell-fire and brimstone sermon that they have heard me preach.

Now I have no intentions of doing so but this passage has been used and abused many times by those that have a penchant for preaching those types of sermons.

So we are going to take a look at what the Apostle Paul is trying to get across when he talks about the works of the flesh and the fact that those who engage in the activities associated with the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Then we will compare what he is saying about those works with the fruit of the Spirit and the accompanying signs of that fruit.

So let’s take a look at the passage found in Galatians 5:16-26

The Works Of The Flesh Bible Verse

Gal. 5:16

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Understanding The Works Of The Flesh

Now as we saw last week in my article entitled “Falling From Grace“, we are not called to be under bondage by trying to perform according to the law but we are called to liberty and we are to stand fast in that liberty.

However, Paul goes on to say not to use this liberty as an opportunity to walk in the works of the flesh.

This indicates that we have a choice to make concerning how we are going to walk. We have the choice of walking in the works of the flesh or walking in the leading of the Holy Spirit.

He wants us to walk according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

In order to give them an example of both lifestyles, he gives us 2 lists that show what each type of lifestyle looks like.

They were not meant to be lists that qualify or disqualify people from being Christians but are instead lists that show examples of each lifestyle.

Let me give you the list of things that show what walking in the works of the flesh looks like from a modern English translation.

Gal. 5:19 NLT

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Notice it says that the results are very clear.

This shows that this list is an example of what happens when you choose to follow after the works of the flesh.

It is not a comprehensive list, nor is it some type of litmus test to see if you are being a good Christian.

It is a list of examples of what to look for to see what you are following.

What is the consequences of living by the works of the flesh?

Here is where the hell-fire and brimstone come in.

Many preachers and teachers have taught that if you engage in these activities you will not go to heaven. They then conclude that if you are not going to go to heaven, then you are going to hell.

But is that what this passage really says?

In order to discern this, we have to look at two terms that are used in this passage. We have to find out what the word inherit means and what Paul is meaning by the term kingdom of God.

The Greek word “Kleronomeo” means to receive a lot, receive by lot, esp. to receive a part of an inheritance, receive as an inheritance, obtain by right of inheritance, to be an heir, to inherit to receive the portion assigned to one, receive an allotted portion, receive as one’s own or as a possession, to become a partaker of, to obtain.

So let me ask you a question?

When does a person receive an inheritance?

Do they receive it when they are living or when they are dead?

The answer is obvious when they are living.

So I believe that this passage is not talking about their eternal destiny when they die, but has to do with what they receive when they are living.

Let’s look at the term Kingdom of God.

I have taught many times that the definition of the kingdom of God is “the rule and reign of Jesus”. Where the King is ruling, is where His kingdom exists. Where He is reigning is where the boundaries of that kingdom abide.

So when we are talking about inheriting the kingdom of God we are talking about the fact that when we operate in the flesh, we are not inheriting the rule and reign of Jesus in our lives. We are not partaking in His kingdom.

We are walking out of the borders of His kingdom and back into the borders of the kingdom of darkness.

Thus we cannot expect the blessings and protection of the King when we choose to walk away from where His rule and reign exist.

Understanding The Fruit Of The Spirit

Gal. 5:22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Now I find it interesting that Paul uses 2 different terms in describing each choice. The first one is working and the second one is fruit.

One comes from trying, the other one comes from being.

The first choice is something that we have to work at.

The second one is something that comes naturally as we are changed from the inside out.

Also, I want to bring to your attention that Paul did not say fruits of the Spirit but used the singular word fruit. All of these things are part of the singular fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

So we have a choice. We can either work at following our fleshly nature by operating in our own strength or we can allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and produce fruit in our lives that we did not have to work at but instead have become a part of who we are. (Read strength Bible verses here.)

Paul concludes this chapter by encouraging us that since we positionally already live in the Spirit, that we should choose to walk in the Spirit rather than operating in the flesh with provoking one another, envying one another or being conceited.

So when it comes down to it, what is the decision you are going to make?

Both decisions have consequences however only one of those decisions has a positive consequence.

As far as I am concerned, I choose a relationship with the Holy Spirit that leads me to His fruit.

What about you?

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.