Sunday Evening Bible Study

April 21, 1996

Galatians 5:17-19


Paul is writing to a group of churches which have been infected with a doctrine of legalism.

Being Gentiles themselves, the Galatians were being taught trusting in Jesus wasn't enough, but they must follow the Law of Moses as well.

After a lengthy discussion showing how our relationship with God is based on trusting what God has done for us, and not what we do for God, Paul switched in verse 13 with a warning:

Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Even though Jesus has called us to a freedom from the Law, we shouldn't let this freedom from the Law be turned into a springboard into allowing our old sin nature to do whatever it wants to do.

Last week we talked about the key to overcoming the flesh, learning to walk in the Spirit:

Galatians 5:16  This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

:16-26  The Spirit versus the Flesh

:17  the flesh lusteth against the Spirit

lusteth - same basic word as used in verse 16, talking about a "strong desire".

The sin nature has strong desires that are opposed to the things of the Spirit of God.

Romans 8:6-8  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

:17 these are contrary the one to the other

It's like a battle going on inside our hearts.

There's one side that trying to break lose and disobey God as much as it can.

And there's another side that's trying to pull us back into doing the things that please God.

:17  so that ye cannot do the things that ye would

This struggle between the two natures is strongest when we are walking the fence with God.


Get off the fence!

We tend to be trying to appease our conscience by doing Spiritual things, which feed the Spirit, but because we're not completely committed to the Lord with a whole heart, we also find ourself feeding our flesh, because after all, it feels SO GOOD!

It's a dangerous thing to be doing things that feed the flesh, they only make it stronger and stronger, making the struggle harder and harder.


A visitor at a fishing dock asked an old fisherman who was sitting there, "If I were to fall into this water, would I drown?"

It was a queer way of asking how deep the water was, but the fisherman had a good answer.  "Naw," he said.  "Fallin' into the water doesn't drown anybody.  It's staying under it that does."

If you keep doing things that feed your flesh, it's like jumping in the water, and keeping yourself under!

The result in situations like this is nothing but frustration.

The flesh doesn't like it when we give in to the Spirit's side, and the Spirit is grieved and makes us miserable when we give in to the flesh's side.

We cry out as Paul did:

Romans 7:19  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Romans 7:24  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

:18  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

ye be led - present tense, a continual leading.

This is not what you expect Paul to say.

He's been contrasting the Spirit and the flesh.

But what's the whole point of the book of Galatians?

It's all about escaping the legalism that the Judaizers were teaching.

They were teaching that a person had to try to keep the whole law in order to be righteous before God.

Paul now says that all you need to be doing is to walk in the Spirit, or to be led by the Spirit, and things will take care of themselves.

If you walk in the Spirit, you won't be carrying out the desires of the flesh, which is what might happen if you carelessly toss the Law aside, and let your liberty become a springboard for the flesh.

And if you are led by the Spirit, you'll not have to worry about keeping the Law, because actually you'll find yourself fulfilling it anyway.

Romans 8:4  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.


Fill the void.

Paul isn't just trying to take away the Law without replacing the void it makes with something else.

If you just take away the Law, without filling the void, then the flesh will naturally step in, and your liberty becomes a springboard for the flesh (vs.13).

Some people will tell others that they need to give up this practice or that habit.

But what happens is that they inevitably fill the hole in their life with something else.

When God takes away something in our lives He fills it with something better.

People in the world understand this, trying to stop smoking and take up gum chewing instead.

But instead of filling the void with another physical habit, what if we allow the Holy Spirit to fill the void with more of Himself?

:19  the works of the flesh are manifest

manifest - phaneros - apparent, evident, known; to be plainly recognised or known

It's obvious what the work of the flesh are.

By this time, some of the Galatian folks are saying, "Okay, enough with all this talk about the flesh, just what is the flesh?"

Paul responds with saying that the works of the flesh are obvious, or, you'll know the flesh is active by the things that are being done in a person's life.


In a few verses, Paul will contrast the "works of the flesh" with the "fruit of the Spirit".

I don't think his choice of words is a mistake.

The theme of Galatians is about dealing with legalism, or the idea that I can improve my relationship with God based on what I do in keeping the Law.

It's all about "works".

And here we see that it's the "flesh", the sin nature, that is producing works, while the Spirit produces fruit.

The idea of trying to please God is a result of the flesh, while the things that the Holy Spirit produces are things that just come naturally, as a result of relationship.

John 15:5  I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.


Recognize the flesh by it's products.

There are churches who try to deal with some of these issues through "deliverance prayer".

They gather a group around you and "cast out the demon of lust".

But if a person has a problem with lust, the solution is most likely not trying to get rid of some demon.

That's not to say that there aren't problems caused by demons.

But I think some people are giving Satan more credit than he deserves.

The solution is learn to deal with the flesh, which is a PART OF YOU!

We talked last week about the Bible's answers to the flesh, which is:

1.  Learn to crucify it.

2.  Learn to walk in the Spirit.


These are things that if you continue to feed the flesh, these will manifest themselves in your life.

If you see lots of these things in your life, then you've got some serious questions to answer.

Are you indeed a Christian?

What's keeping you from walking in the Spirit?

:19  Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness

Paul begins his list of fleshly works with four sexual sins.

Adultery - This is a word that isn't included in some of the modern translations,

moicheia - adultery

This is cheating on your husband or your wife.

It's sexual sin between two people, one of which is married to another person.

Jesus even gives another spin on the traditional definition:

Matthew 5:28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

For Jesus, even looking at another person to whom you're not married, and lusting after them is the same as committing the act itself.


From 1993:  Wives apparently have gained equality when it comes to marital infidelity, according to a survey conducted by Psychology Today magazine.  One-third of the married men and women questioned said they've had at least one extramarital affair.  And of those in their 40's, half of the husbands and wives said they'd had affairs.

The results were different 14 years ago.  In 1969, slightly more men than women reported cheating on their spouses.

On another subject, 44 percent of the women and 29 percent of men said they disapproved of having sex with someone they didn't love. Far fewer men and women thought that way 14 years ago.


porneia - illicit sexual intercourse

This is a very broad term, referring to any kind of sexual experience outside of marriage.

it can refer to adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.

It's the same word that we base our word "pornography" upon (porno (illicit sex) + grapho (writing))


akatharsia - uncleanness; either in a physical sense or in a moral sense as in the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate (extremely wild and loose, like Hugh Hefner) living.

This is a kind of general term, referring more to a person's mental state than any kind of physical act.

This is kind of like the dirty thoughts you can get.


aselgeia - unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness (lewd or lustful), wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence.

This is taking the dirty thoughts and magnifying them, even carrying them out.

It's living by Hugh Hefner's rules:


"Sex is a function of the body.  A drive which man shares with animals.  Like eating, drinking and sleeping.  It's a physical demand that must be satisfied.  If you don't satisfy it you will have all sorts of neurosis and repression psychosis.  Sex is here to stay.  Let's forget the prudery that makes us hide from it.  Throw away those inhibitions, find a girl who's like minded and let yourself go."

Hugh Hefner, Playboy Editor


Handling your lust problem.

I hear you, Rich, but what do I do about it?

1.  Be filled with the Holy Spirit.

We saw last week:

Galatians 5:16  [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

It starts by opening up yourself to the work of the Holy Spirit.

If you don't let Him have control of your heart and your mind, you don't stand a chance.

2.  Stop feeding the fire.

Lust is like a raging fire that burns inside.

You can stop a fire by throwing cold water on it.

You can also stop it by suffocating it.

Eliminate the fuel, or the oxygen, and a fire will go out pretty quick.

If you're exposing yourself to things that will feed the lust, you're only going to keep the lust-fire raging inside you.

2Timothy 2:22  Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Watch out for things like:

Sports on TV - I hate to say it, but what does the average commercial during a baseball game consist of?

Television - Network executives know what it takes to keep you coming back, and sex is at the top of the list.

Are women exempt from this?

What are soap operas all about?

The kinds of movies you go see.

Movies rated R, or even PG-13 are aimed at "adults", and nowadays that means two things, sex and violence.

Before our kids, we'd see an occasional PG-13 movie or two.

But I'm convinced that the more "mature" a movie is, the worse it's going to pollute your mind.

Sure your free to see whatever you want, but why are you fooling yourself into thinking that it's not going to affect you?

Do you want to put the fire out or not?

3.  Feed the Spirit.

Don't leave a vacuum where the lust was, build up the Spirit!

Reprogram your mind to follow the things of the Spirit:

Philippians 4:8-9  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.  9  Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

We get all the tension and strife when we keep all the dirty thoughts running through our heads.

So start running some new motion pictures in your mind.

Fill your heart with good stuff!

4.  Lust for your wife!

This one only applies to the married guys!

There's nothing in Scripture against lusting after your wife.

It's only the lust after another woman that's sin.

I think this can be a great help to married men, to learn to lust after your wife!

1Corinthians 7:2  Nevertheless, [to avoid] fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

If you're going to have dirty thoughts, let them be of your wife.

:20  Idolatry, witchcraft

Next, Paul lists two sins involving religion.

Idolatry -

witchcraft -




Then Paul lists eight sins involving interpersonal relationships.

hatred -

variance -

emulations -

wrath -

strife -

seditions -

heresies -

envyings -

murders -

drunkenness -

revellings -


:21  and such like

This isn't an all inclusive list.

There are still plenty of things that Paul could list individually.