What the Bible says about
Works of the Flesh
(From Forerunner Commentary)
These verses are among those often quoted by those who believe that it is wrong to drink alcoholic beverages. They claim that this passage proves it is sin to drink wine, and by extension, any drink containing alcohol. However, this scripture does not say these things. What then does it say?
It warns that:
» The excessive drinking of alcohol is a sin. The winebibber drinks too much and too often.
» Improper use of alcohol is as poisonous as a snake's venom (verse 32).
» God's children should avoid company with winebibbers (verse 20; see also Matthew 24:49; I Corinthians 5:11).
» Poverty is just one potential negative result of drunkenness (verse 21).
» Other potential—even probable—negative consequences of chronic drunkenness include woe, sorrow, contentions, complaints, bloodshot eyes, hallucinations, nightmares, addiction, lack of self-control in speech and other matters, and bodily injuries without apparent cause—the cause being forgotten because of drunken stupor (verses 29, 33-34).
» We should not tarry long at wine (verse 30).
On this last warning, we know that a person who lingers where alcohol is consumed can so easily become a winebibber, or in plain, modern English, a drunkard. God, through Paul, lists drunkenness as one of the works of the flesh, warning that no drunkard will inherit God's Kingdom:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, . . . 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. (Galatians 5:19, 21; emphasis ours)
Is It a Sin to Drink Alcoholic Beverages?
Christ was met by the unclean men coming out of the tombs. These rock-hewn tombs were repulsive to the Jews and to dwell in them was deemed a sign of insanity. Because of the remains of the dead they contained, they were shunned by the Jews as unclean (Matthew 23:27). Under the Old Covenant, one could be physically defiled by touching a dead body. Even when a person died in a tent, the whole tent was regarded as unclean (Numbers 19:11, 14).
Unclean in Scripture means "to be defiled, polluted, unhealthy, or unfit," and refers to foods that are unfit, defilement of religious character, and moral or spiritual impurity. The word "defilement" describes a sinful and unfit condition (Isaiah 6:5). The Old Testament distinguishes between what is clean and helpful and what is unclean and unacceptable (Leviticus 10:10). The New Testament deals more with the spiritual application and lists uncleanness or moral defilement along with fornication and other sins as "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-21).
In the gospels, "unclean" describes those who are possessed by demonic spirits through constant submission to evil. Uncleanness represents sin, and sin separates man from God. Because of sin, "we are all like an unclean thing" (Isaiah 64:6). Believers are not called to uncleanness but to live in holiness (I Thessalonians 4:7). We are not to yield our members to uncleanness but to righteousness and holiness (Romans 6:19).
The teaching about uncleanness springs from the concept of God's holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45). It is a miracle in itself that freedom from uncleanness and guilt is possible through God's grace. Holiness within, purity of heart, is possible through the exercise of faith in Christ's redemptive work and obedience to His truth.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Two-Demon Possessed Men Healed (Part Two)
1 Corinthians 2:12
As the apostle Paul begins his first letter to the Corinthians, knowing that he is writing to a congregation divided among various factions, he patiently explains to them what makes them different from those in the world yet at the same time unites the members of the church. He, of course, refers to God's Holy Spirit, given to all Christians at conversion by the laying on of hands. The apostle John calls it "the anointing which you have received from Him" (I John 2:27), implying that Christians have been ordained, and thus set apart or sanctified, to a task or office that others have not been given.
This sets up a dichotomy. On the one side are Christians who have freely received God's Spirit, and on the other are all other human beings who, Paul says, have received "the spirit of the world" (see also Ephesians 2:2). Thus, there is a clash of spirits, a collision of motivating forces, at work between the Christian and the world. The apostle writes in Galatians 5 that the two spirits are diametrically opposed, one producing "the works of the flesh," while the other bears "the fruit of the Spirit" (verses 16-25). In fact, he declares in Romans 8:7, "The carnal mind is enmity against God"; the worldly person, imbibing of the spirit of this world, lives in hostility to God and cannot do what God commands.
The Spirit from God, though, removes the human hostility and allows the Christian to know—that is, realize, understand, and use—the gracious gifts of God. These gifts are predominantly spiritual blessings rather than physical ones. Jesus advises His disciples not to worry about food, drink, and clothing because God knows that physical human beings need such things to live (Matthew 6:25-32). Instead, He says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (verse 33). The Christian's mind is to be focused on God's goal and godly things that will propel him along the way there, and he can do this only by the many gifts bestowed through God's Spirit.
Paul's focus in this passage seems to be on knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Earlier, he had mentioned that God has chosen to spread the gospel message through preaching, which the worldly Greeks considered "foolishness" (I Corinthians 1:23). Yet, this only exposes the fact that the Greeks did not have the ability to understand spiritual matters, and God would ultimately confound them in their "wisdom" through weak and foolish people preaching a "foolish" message of a crucified Savior. The difference is that those weak and foolish people possess a Spirit that comes directly from the Creator God that allows them to know the truth in all its divine splendor.
Thus, in terms of the apostle's overall goal in persuading the Corinthians that they should "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10), he emphasizes that they have this one commonality, God's Holy Spirit, that makes all the difference to them as individuals and as a congregation. So, as he goes on to say, there is no reason for them to be so judgmental one against the other, for they all "have the mind of Christ" (I Corinthians 2:16). Having one mind and being all in one Body of Christ, as he later discusses (I Corinthians 12:12-27), dividing themselves into cliques is both counterproductive and contrary to God's purpose.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The context in which these verses appear is important to understanding the production of the fruit of the Spirit. This immediately precedes the listing of the fruit of the Spirit, showing that Paul means that they will be produced through much internal conflict.
This is true because obedience to God's Word is required to produce the Spirit's fruit, and the Christian is being pulled or led in two directions. The one tries to make us satisfy the desires of our old nature, and the other leads us toward producing the fruit of the new. Paul expresses his experience with this in Romans 7:15-19.
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
Christians, as Martin Luther stated, "are not stocks and stones." As humans, we are creatures of desires, drives, and emotions. Certainly, as we learn to walk in the Spirit, we increasingly subdue our flesh. But flesh and Spirit remain, and the conflict between them is fierce and unremitting.
We need not become discouraged over this conflict, though, because Paul also gives us a very hopeful solution. In Romans 7:24-25, he exclaims: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."
Every Christian striving to produce the fruit of God will experience this combination of lamentation over sinfulness and joyous expression of gratitude over the certainty of deliverance. The unconverted do not feel the agonizing struggle against sin with the same intensity as the converted. The converted have their peace disturbed and can feel wretched in their conscience.
But this has a good side to it as well. We know it is degrading to the divine nature, and it humbles us to know full well that we have succumbed to evil passions. We then realize more fully that the law cannot come to our aid, neither can other men, and our strength has already betrayed us. Therefore, if we really desire to glorify God and produce spiritual fruit, this conflict will drive us to God in heartfelt prayer for the strength only He can give. God's Word and eventually our experience prove that without Christ, we can do nothing!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit
Consider this passage in light of the laws and beliefs that we frequently point to as setting us apart from the world. A person can keep the Sabbath, at least in the letter, and still display drunkenness, hatred, contentions, outbursts of wrath, and dissensions. One can reject the Trinity doctrine, the doctrine of eternal security, and the immortality of the soul yet promote and practice heresies, since a heresy is simply any deviation from truth. An individual can tithe yet exhibit selfish ambitions, envy, and jealousy. Someone can observe the laws of clean and unclean meats and still be unclean in his heart and in the decency of his life. A man can be physically pure in his relationships while living vicariously through revelries, which Adam Clarke's commentary defines as wild parties and obscene music.
The warning at the end of verse 21 is explicit: Those who practice such evils or make them a part of their lives will not be in God's Kingdom—they simply would not fit in. Their lifestyle is contrary to the quality of the life God lives and expects His children to live.
To put this another way, what kind of witness does a person make who keeps the Ten Commandments (including the Sabbath and holy days), eats only clean meats, tithes faithfully, and rejects false doctrines, yet has a temper, curses, tells dirty jokes, has a perpetual chip on his shoulder, always has a complaint against another, always looks out for "number one," drinks too much, and revels in perverse entertainment? Such a witness of nominal lawkeeping is useless to God, just as ancient Israel's witness to the nations gave the enemies of God an occasion to blaspheme (Ezekiel 36:20-23).
When Jesus Christ introduces Himself in the letter to the Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14), He highlights the fact that He is "the Faithful and True Witness." He points to this title to show where the Laodiceans fall short. They are so enamored of the world and so much a part of it that it is difficult for an observer to tell them apart from the rest of Babylon! Their lives do not glorify God because they do not demonstrate a separation from the world. They do not demonstrate holiness or sanctification.
In contrast, the result of the Holy Spirit being active in a person's life will be love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (meekness), and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These attitudes are not manifested all at once, which is why Paul calls them "fruit." Fruit takes time to develop and mature. Nevertheless, one whose life God dominates, who is led by His Spirit, will be exhibiting these things in addition to obeying God's law. He will be not merely obeying but also imitating God. He will be exhibiting these characteristics because he is a regenerated son of God who expresses the traits of his Father.
David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness
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