Galatians 5:20c

Sunday Evening Bible Study

May 19, 1996


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

But after having taught them why it's important not to be living under the Law, trying to please God on their own, they are now faced with another situation, the danger that happens when you take the Law away from people:

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.

And so Paul has begun teaching on the issue of how to handle the the flesh, with the main key being:

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

We've now been looking at the "works of the flesh", identifying when that sinful nature of ours it at work by looking at the things it produces in our lives.

We've looked at adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness; idolatry, witchcraft; hatred, variance, emulations, and wrath.

:20-21  Sins of personal relationships

We're still in the list of sins involving interpersonal relationships.

A.T.Robertson says after describing these:  "Surely a lively list".


eritheia - (Barclay) self-seeking; originally meant the work of a hired labourer (erithos).  So it comes to mean work which is done for pay.  It then goes on to mean canvassing for political or public office, and it describes the man who wants office, not from any motives of service, but for what he can get out of it.  It is the quality of the man who is essentially self-seeking and who has no conception or idea of serving his fellow men.

It's electioneering or intriguing for office; a desire to put one's self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit which will stop at nothing to get ahead.

This word is found before NT times only in Aristotle where it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means. (A&G)

Pretty interesting considering this is an election year!

Summary:  selfish ambition


Scorpions live on insects, but they kill and devour their own species as well.  One experimenter placed a hundred of these arachnids in a large glass vessel, and after a few days only fourteen remained. The rest had been killed and eaten by the others.

He put a pregnant female in a glass vessel and observed her as she devoured her young as fast as they were born.  One escaped, taking refuge on the mother's back, and found revenge by killing the mother scorpion in turn.


Larry Ellison is the ambitious founder of Oracle Corp., the nation's number two software producer behind Microsoft. He is 50 years old and has a personal wealth of around $3 billion. He recounts a long-ago conversation with his sister.

One day, she asked me, "Which is more important, to be loved or to be respected?" I said: "Respected."

She said, "Wrong, and left the room."

He pauses, thoughtfully. "With wealth and fame, you get respect. But twenty years later, I figured out she was right. Ambition is a false god."

-- Business Week, May 15, 1995, p. 95-96.


Chinese proverb: "He who sacrifices his conscience to ambition, burns a picture to obtain the ashes."

Paul said that there were people who were in the ministry, and who preached the gospel for these kinds of reasons:

Philippians 1:12-18  But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13  So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14  And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15  Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16  The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17  But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. 18  What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

Other translations:  "selfish ambition"

There are people in the ministry for what they can get out of it, not for the sake of the people they minister to.

Can there be a sense of "selfish ambition" when you preach the gospel?

Of course.

It's a pretty heady thing to be the one that leads another person to salvation, or to be the one who teaches another how to walk in the Lord.

Paul also gives the antidote to this area of the flesh:

Philippians 2:3-4  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4  do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (NAS)

Humility, regarding others' needs as more important as your own.


Years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic was asked, "If someone felt a nervous breakdown coming on, what would you suggest that he do?"

"If you feel a nervous breakdown coming on, I would urge you to find somebody else with a problem -- a serious one -- and get involved with that individual, helping him solve his problem."  In helping him to solve his problem, then in reality your own problem is going to disappear.  You're no longer thinking internally.  You're no longer letting things gnaw at your stomach.  You're no longer getting disturbed about yourself because you're not thinking about yourself. You're thinking about others.


dichostasia - dis (twice) + stasis (a standing; split) = splits in two

dissension, division

Barclay:  literally the word means a standing apart.  After one of his great victories Nelson attributed it to the fact that he had the happiness to command a band of brothers.  Dissension describes a society in which the very opposite is the case, a society where the members fly apart instead of coming together.

Paul used this word to describe the Corinthians:

1Corinthians 3:1-4  And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2  I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3  For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4  For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

The Corinthians had divided into groups over who was following whom.

It was babyish, carnal behavior.

Divisiveness can get really, really bad:

Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

offences - skandalon ("scandal") - the movable stick or trigger of a trap, a trap stick; a trap, snare; a stumbling block, occasion of stumbling

contrary to the doctrine - Divisions concerning important doctrinal matters.

avoid them - when it comes to important doctrinal matters, such as the deity of Christ, or His dying for our sins, these are matters over which we avoid people over.

belly - koilia - the whole belly; the innermost part of a man, the soul, heart as the seat of thought, feeling, choice.

These people are only serving themselves.


Absalom was a divisive kid:

His half-brother, Amnon had raped his full-sister, Tamar.

When David didn't do anything about it, he stewed over it and eventually hatched a plot and killed his older brother for what he had done.

After staying away from the country for two years, David had Absalom brought back and restored him to his position.

But Absalom figured it was time for dad to retire.

2Samuel 15:1-6  And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. 2  And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. 3  And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. 4  Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! 5  And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. 6  And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

How did Absalom end up?

He did pull a coup and threw his dad out of the kingdom, but David ended up winning the civil war, and Absalom ended up dead at the end of Joab's spear.

In contrast:

When David had a chance to pull a coup and kill his predecessor, he didn't.

He waited until God made Him king.

Be careful about developing a divisive spirit, trying to rush ahead of God's plan for your life.

Let God put you where you need to be.


hairesis - our English word is based directly upon the Greek.

Barclay:  was not originally a bad word at all.  It comes from a root which means "to choose", and it was used for a philosopher's school of followers or for any band of people who shared a common belief.  But the tragedy of life is that people who hold different views very often finish up by disliking, not each others' views, but each other.  It should be possible to differ with a man and yet remain friends.

So ...

"heresies" can simply mean a group of people who think alike on a certain subject:

Acts 15:5 - "sect of the Pharisees"

Acts 24:5 - "sect of the Nazarenes"

Some "heresies" are very, very bad:

2Pe 2:1  But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (AV)

Our usual understanding of "heresy" is the idea of some kind of very, very bad doctrine.

But technically not all "heresies" are that bad, just different.

Again, that carnal church, the Corinthians had "heresies":

1Corinthians 11:17-22  Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 18  For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19  For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 20  When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. 21  For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22  What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

Other translations:

1Co 11:19  No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. (NIVUS)

1Co 11:19  For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you. (NAS)

What was happening in Corinth?

The church had been divided into different "cliques".

Some followed Paul, others Apollos, etc.

But part of the divisions in Corinth started developing different doctrines and teachings from the other groups.

And only the "really spiritual" groups help to the correct "doctrines".


I think this can start in churches today over issues like when the Rapture is going to happen.

We start dividing into our own little groups, and only those who are really spiritual are the ones who know the truth about the Rapture!

This is carnality!


envyings (|phthonoi|, feelings of ill-will)


(not in modern translations, textual variance)


:21  Sins of drunkenness

drunkenness -

revellings -


Final Summary:

These are "works of the flesh".

All these things we've looked at are things that come from the fertile soil of our flesh.

We need to fight the disease with the proper medicine.

We need to fight fleshliness with the weapons designed for the flesh.

1)  Crucify the flesh.

We are to learn to "reckon" our sin nature as being dead, as being crucified with Christ on the cross.

Romans 6:10-11  For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

When you reckon something dead, you know longer respond to it.

When the flesh whispers "lust!", we should respond with ..... nothing

 Crucifying the flesh involves taking away the things that feed the flesh.


It's interesting to note that when you feed the flesh in one area, the whole flesh is strengthened.

If you feed your mind with pornography, do you ever catch yourself having "outbursts of anger"?

It's a natural conclusion.

2)  Walk in the Spirit.

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

Stop putting your focus on the flesh, and start focusing on the things of the Spirit.

Feed that Spirit-influenced part of you.

What if you start to memorize Scripture, and everytime you see something that starts to feed your flesh, you counter it by working on your Scripture memorization?

Ps 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

That's not to say that it's okay to look at dirty movies, as long as you balance it with Bible reading.

But there are times when you see things that you can't avoid, and you need to wash out your heart!


It hit me this week that Paul does not say, "Be filled with the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh".

But instead he says "walk" in the Spirit.

It's not just getting a one time filling of the Holy Spirit, though that helps.

It's turning your relationship with the Holy Spirit into a walk, into an ongoing process, into a continual dependance upon the Holy Spirit.

3)  Stay in Fellowship

That means having other brothers and sisters who know you and can encourage you.

And when times come that you start slipping away from the Lord, they can reach out and help bring you back.

Heb 3:12-13  Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.  13  But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.