Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things.
I am warning you, as I had warned you before:
Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!
Right off the back of saying that the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, and that we are not to use our newfound freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, Paul now gives clear examples of the kind of conduct that, in his words, will not inherit the kingdom of God.
We should say upfront that this is not a good conduct = kingdom inheritance and bad conduct ≠ kingdom inheritance. Rather, if you are living by the Spirit, this kind of conduct will not be present in your life.
Broadly speaking there are:
- Sexual sins (sexual immorality, impurity, depravity).
- Religious sins (idolatry, sorcery).
- Societal sins (hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder).
- And finally sins relating to giving control of your body and mind to another (drunkenness, carousing, and similar things).
It would be all too easy to see someone fall into one of these sins and similar things and think “Well, I guess they’re not a real Christian”. This is not what Paul is saying.
All of us are human, all of us make mistakes, all have sinned and continually fall short of the righteous, holy standards set for us by an altogether righteous and holy God (1 Peter 1.13-16 v. principle of Romans 3.23).
Paul’s point – and the point for you and for me – is that our freedom in Christ is not to be used to get as far away from the law as possible resulting in a life that looks like the things he listed here. His point is that those who habitually indulge, those who practice a lifestyle that by choice includes these and similar things, those who live like this are giving consistent evidence against themselves when they claim to be a child of God.
For you and for me then, let us use this passage as both a wake up call and a mirror. Let us read this passage and look deeply at our lives: our conduct, our character, our choices, our actions, our reactions, everything that we are and do.
Are we consistently choosing to life a life that includes these and similar things?
Are we consistently giving evidence against ourselves and our belief in God, against our faith in Jesus, against our profession to be walking by the Spirit?
Bottom line, the fruit will always match the root.
If you are choosing to live a life like the one detailed in vv.19-21, it is time to seriously stop and check where you are rooted, in whom are you rooted, and to think why this fruit is being borne in your life.
It’s a tough passage, but one that should not make you question your salvation if you are a believer. It should, however, make you question your conduct and what it is saying about what you truly think and believe.