|Series Theme: Meditations in Galatians|
Meditation No. 27
Meditation Title: The Sinful Nature
Gal 5:19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God .
Before we consider each of the things listed here, I believe we need to reiterate some of what we said in the previous meditation: In older versions ‘sinful nature' was translated ‘flesh' and it essentially means a life orientated in self which is, in reality, a sinful life because a) it is a godless life (ignores or rejects God) and b) subsequently a life that is unrighteous (fails to live by God's standards). ‘Sinful nature' focuses the quality or expression of our nature or inward being, the way we are in our mind, spirit or soul, and reveals the negative nature of our lives outside of Christ. Paul speaks about it to contrast the old life with the new life that is now led by the Spirit, but he now reels off a list of ungodly and unrighteous things that people who aren't Christians often do.
The first three sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery are all to do with departing from God's will in the matter of sex. Each of these three words is in fact a general word. Sexual immorality could thus cover prostitution (of which there is a sense in the original Greek) or adultery. Impurity simply means any form of sexual activity that is not pure as God intended (see in a moment), and debauchery tends to refer to lasciviousness or wantonness, any form of unrestrained, corporate sex. Each of these three can be summed up as individual wrong sexual acts, anything that could be defined as impure, and any sexual activity in a corporate setting, all of which were known in the pagan world. God's design for sex is one man with one woman, for life and everything else is outside His ‘designed will', how He designed us to live.
The next two idolatry and witchcraft have to do with false gods or false powers . Idolatry is the worship of idols including, in the modern world, money, affluence, fashion, success, personal peace etc. i.e. anything that we make overarching priorities that are all-important beyond anything else. Witchcraft refers to the use of occult practices for personal ends and is about submitting to and then using, unknown powers.
The next eight are to do with strife, the expression of self against others . Hatred is strong personal animosity against others, discord is disagreement, disharmony, wrangling or clashing with others, jealousy is being resentful against others for what they have that you don't, fits of rage are bouts of unrestrained or uncontrolled temper that express anger that self is being thwarted, selfish ambition refers to selfish desires for personal aggrandisement, dissensions refers to personal expressions of selfish disagreement because something is not in accord with our personal wants, factions is when such disagreements cause there to be opposing disagreeing groups warring against each other, and envy is begrudging what others have (and covetous would be wanting it for ourselves).
The last two are to do with abuse of drink. Drunkenness is personal lack of self control in respect of the consumption of alcohol that results in uncontrollable behaviour, and orgies and the like, refer to the same thing but in a corporate way.
Viewing these things generally, they are all about unrestrained behaviour . The first three were unrestrained behaviour in respect of sex, the second group of two about unrestrained behaviour in respect of the spirit world, the third group of eight about unrestrained behaviour expressing self against others, and the final group of two is unrestrained behaviour in respect of alcohol. Perhaps the easies way to see the folly and reality of what these things are about would be to consider the subject of eating (which is not covered in this particular group of examples). God has designed us to eat. We need to eat to obtain energy. When we eat excessively we refer to this as gluttony which leads to obeseness. Gluttony is simply unrestrained behaviour that runs contrary to the way God has designed us. Thus, similarly, all of the things in this list of examples that Paul gives here are things where people are godless, disregarding God and His will and desires for us, and unrighteous, because they are things that are not right in that they run contrary to the way God has designed us to function properly.
This is how our lives used to be before we came to Christ. We may not have indulged in these particular things, although many people do today, but we did live godless, self-centred and unrighteous lives. You may say we didn't know any better but now we do, we should make sure that none of these things are part of our lives today, for they should not be part of a spirit-led Christian life. Check the list out. Make sure you are not even verging on anything here!