Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 27
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|Well, in our text today we’re going to start seeing the baggage that goes with religious flesh. When you choose to do things your way, when I choose to do things my way; this is for all of us. The rest of this stuff somehow is going to start surfacing into our life. It lurks in the shadows of religious flesh. It’s always there. No matter what name you put to the flesh, it’s still flesh. And what we need to realize as we get into this list is a very important thing. If you find somebody whose lifestyle is characterized by what we’re going to look at in verses 19-21 then you have to understand that person does not know Christ, and Paul says that.|
The Sexual Deception of the Flesh
Galatians 5, and we’re going to be focusing in on verse 19, but just sort of hold your place there. It’s so good as believers to understand the struggle that all of us have in our Christian life. Nobody’s exempt. Nobody’s too young. Nobody’s too old. Every believer has this exact same struggle. And Galatians 5:17 tells us what it is. It says, “For the flesh sets it desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another so that you may not do the things that you please.”
Now, I want to make certain that all of us together understand the term “flesh.” We need to understand that. What does that mean? The term “flesh” in the Greek is the word sarx, and it refers to the human body. That’s the first definition, but there’s another definition we’re going to look at. There’s two things it can mean. Like I said, first of all the human body, simply flesh and blood. Galatians 2:20 is our key verse for the whole study of the book of Galatians. “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul says, “and it’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Isn’t that awesome? The divine exchange: it’s not me, but it’s Christ living in me. “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”
Now he says “the life I now live in the flesh.” That term “flesh” there means the fleshly body, the human body, flesh and blood. And it’s sort of bummer, isn’t it. When you get saved you have the same body you had before you got saved. One day we’ll be glorified and have a brand new resurrected body. But when we get saved nothing changes on the outside. If you’re ugly before you got saved, you’re going to be ugly after you get saved. There’s nothing you can do. If you’re short you’re going to be short. If you’re tall you’re going to be tall. If you’re fat you might can work on that, but anyway you have the same body. Flesh and blood, that’s the body he’s talking about. So it can refer to the human body. Many other passages I could take you to, but that’s one of the meanings of the word sarx. There is another word for that word “body” but that’s the word we’re using here is sarx.
Secondly, it refers to—and this is the contextual meaning we’ll be looking at—the sinful mindset that we have apart from Christ and His influence in our life. Let me say it another way. It’s the way we think and consequently the way we do what we do without the input of God’s Word and without the energizing of His Spirit. I’ll make sure I say that again, because this really is our context. This has to be understood: it’s the way we think and consequently the way we do what we do without the input of God’s Word and without the energizing of God’s Spirit in our life. There are many people that are believers who haven’t figured this out yet. They haven’t seen their need to be in this Book to have their minds renewed and their lives transformed. So when the flesh enters in it can be in a religious context. It can be within a church group of people, not being influenced by the Word and not being energized by the Spirit of God. Now, just like I said, this latter meaning is what we’re dealing with.
In Galatians 3:3 Paul said, and so clearly he says, “Are you so foolish,” he says, “having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected in the flesh?” Do you think for some reason you can accomplish in your life what God is seeking to do? You know, to put this in a vernacular that we can understand, do you really think you can grow a church, Wayne? Do you really think you can do that? Do you really think you can build anything, Wayne? Do you think this? You see, this is what the flesh does to us. This is what Paul is saying to the Galatians. They fell into that trap thinking that God was excited to have them on their side they began to go back to doing things their way. Now they were not bad things, but they were doing it without the input of God’s Word, without the energizing of His Spirit.
And there’s no coincidence that the terms are there that it can mean the human body and it could also mean the mindset of flesh. There’s no coincidence there. In fact, Paul says in Romans 6:6 that we have a body of sin. Now when you wake up in the morning look in the mirror and say “Good morning, body of sin,” and you’ll understand completely what you’re dealing with all day long. That’s what you’re dealing with. We have a wicked sinful body of flesh indwelt by the perfect Holy Spirit of God. And He didn’t come to make our flesh any better; He came to replace it. So therefore our minds have to be renewed so our lives can be transformed.
Now Paul says and very clearly how the mindset of sin dwells within the human fleshly body. Look in Romans 7:18. It says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me”—now this is the apostle Paul speaking; we mentioned this last week—“that is, in my flesh.” He qualifies it. “For the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” How many of you determined last week you were going to do something and you ended up doing something exactly the opposite and you’re ashamed for it? Anybody besides me? Yeah, I just want to make sure you’re on the same page.
Paul says, referring to this mindset again of the flesh, that it dwells within our flesh. He says in Romans 7:23, “But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in,” and look at those last three words, “in my members,” so it’s associated with the fleshly human body. One day we’ll have a glorified body. Right now we’ve been delivered from the penalty of sin; daily we’re being delivered as we say yes to Him, from the power of sin. But thank God one day we’ll be delivered from the presence of sin when we get a glorified body. We won’t have to deal with sin anymore. But down here we’re going to have to deal with it.
So far in our study we’ve discovered some things about this thing called the flesh. We’ve discovered some very important things and truths about it. First of all, number one is that we know the flesh can in no way sanctify us. To say that in a little different terms, to make sure everybody understands, the flesh cannot act in any way that measures to God’s standard. Now, I know some people don’t agree with that and you think you can. Well, help yourself. You just try to live like God tomorrow. That’s the standard He requires, is the standard He lives and who He is. And no man can attain to that standard.
Again in 3:3, “Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected?” And that word “perfected” means are you accomplishing your purpose? “Are you now being perfected by the flesh?” There’s nothing the flesh can do that God’s impressed with at all. So number one, it can’t sanctify itself. So you don’t want to go that route. But number two, we learned that flesh can only produce that which is illegitimate in God’s sight, unacceptable to God. In an analogy Paul makes with Hagar and Sarah in chapter 4, he talks about the children that were born to them. Now, each of these children, Abraham’s the father of both these two children that he’s talking about. In 4:23, “But the son by the bondwoman [and that’s Hagar] was born according to the flesh and the son by the free woman [Sarah] through the promise.”
Now, both of these women bore these children by Abraham, and it represents the two choices everybody has to do things our way or to do things God’s way. The child produced by Hagar and Abraham was a child that Scripture says according to the mindset of the flesh, according to man trying to help God out. It was not a bad thing they were seeking to do. They went about it the wrong way, and it was unacceptable to God. But the child produced by Sarah and Abraham was by faith; therefore it was acceptable to God. An interesting thing is, Hebrews 11 says that God had to do a miracle in Sarah’s life to give her the ability to bear a child. Abraham was 100 and she 90, and there was no question that God did this one. And so you see that’s the two choices. It was an analogy. Paul was trying to show us that anything the flesh produces is illegitimate and unacceptable in God’s sight.
The third thing we realized about the flesh, and we’ve studied so far in Galatians, we’ve learned that those who choose the flesh to rule their lives, and this is within the church; now, folks listen to me, if you ever want to understand division and conflict in the church you got two groups of people. You’ve got one group that’s walking by faith and you’ve got one group that will not walk by faith. They’re going to do it their way, and as a result there’s going to be conflict. It says that very clearly in 4:29. And Paul, again using an analogy to bring about his point, he says, “But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit,” and then he brings it up today. He says, “So it is now also.”
I had a pastor call me. And he said, “Wayne, I need your help.” And I said “What’s going on?” He said, “Man, I’ve begun to teach the Word.” He said, “I’ve gotten excited about it. I’ve learned how to study it and I’ve been teaching people the fullness in Christ that they have. I’ve been teaching the exchanged life. I’ve been teaching the fact that it’s not us, but it’s Christ living though us.” And I said, “What’s your problem? That’s awesome!” He said, “The reaction I’m getting from my church is about to kill me.” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “They have risen up against me. They cannot stand it when they’re not doing something for God rather than letting God do something through them and the conflict was immediate.”
That’s exactly what Paul’s talking about. You see, these two mindsets that are in the church—and Paul’s addressing the churches of southern Galatia—they conflict with one another. You’ve got one group that’ll walk by the Spirit, trusts God, and for the right, they not only know the agenda of God, they know the methodology of God. They say yes to Him. They yield to Him. They say, “Jesus, be Jesus in me, no longer me, but Thee, resurrection power fill me this hour. Jesus, be Jesus in me.” And then you’ve got the other group that says, “I’m not about to get into the Word of God. We’ve been doing things our way for so long, we’re going to continue to do it that way.” And boom, there’s your conflict within the church of Jesus Christ. That’s the same thing in a family. It’s the same thing with friends and relationships. It’s the same way wherever you go. So that’s the third thing we learned about the flesh. It will conflict with those who seek to walk after the Spirit.
And then fourthly, we’ve also learned from our last study that the flesh has an intense agenda, but one who obeys the Spirit of God will not see that agenda accomplished. And that’s the beautiful balancing truth. Yes, the flesh wars against the Sprit, and it has its own agenda. But all we have to do is learn to say yes to Christ and victory is not me overcoming my flesh. Victory is Jesus overcoming me. He says in 5:16, that we looked at last time, “But I say walk by the Spirit.” I love this verse. “And you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Walk by the Spirit. I just love the message of last week. I wish I could preach it every single week from now on, because it’s so practical to where we are, and God made it so simple. He said “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”
And verse 18 tells you how to walk. He says “Those who are led by the Spirit,” not dragged. How many times in my life has God had to grab me by the nape of the neck and drag me? “Wayne, will you do My will?” “Well, I guess so, but, but, but,” and He has to drag me. That’s not the key. That’s not it, no sir. Willingly led. The word “led” means to be willingly, willfully led, yielded. You know sometimes it takes a little bit of living to get to that point. And all of us should be at that point. We know what failure is now. We know the sickness of our flesh. It’s a beautiful time in our life to say, “Lord, I’m not going to fight You anymore. It takes two to fight and I’m not going to fight. I’m just going to say yes to You. Lead me willingly, lead me.”
I’ll tell you what, the battle is lost with the flesh the moment we choose not to be willingly led by Jesus and His Word. That’s when it’s lost, right. There’s no gray area. There’s no gray area at all. You either are or you aren’t, and that’s what he’s telling the Galatian believers they need to get this down. Don’t call it anything other than what it is. Flesh is sin and sin has to be dealt with. And when a person is not willingly led by the Spirit of God he’s walking after his flesh. And since our flesh is the problem and we have identified it already in Galatians, we don’t even have to come to this passage, but we are, then we need to know more about it. We need to know more about the damage and the deception it can bring to our walk with Christ.
The false teachers of Galatia had taught a message that really sounded good. And you know what? They had to be good teachers, because the very people that Paul himself discipled bought it that fast. It was evidently polished and smooth. It was packaged and they looked at that and they said “Whoa! This is better than the Holy Spirit of God living in our life. This is better than us seeking the Lord and trusting Him and waiting upon Him. This is much better.” And they bought it. But what they bought, listen to me, what they bought they didn’t realize the baggage that went with it. And this is what Galatians 5:19-21 is trying to say. You see, you can buy into religious flesh. And I’m not talking about adultery and things like that. That’s the big bad five. You can buy into religious thinking. You can get into knowing God’s agenda, but doing it your way. Or you can get into not caring either way, whatever. But you don’t realize what’s on the other side, on the flip side. On the flip side is all the garbage that the flesh attaches. You can’t have one without the other. It comes together.
By choosing not to be willingly led by the Spirit the Galatians had bought into the deceptive package of the flesh. And they soon discovered something, and every one of us have discovered it, that flesh is rotten, it is wicked and you can’t buy part of it without getting all of it to some degree. I’m so concerned with people all over our country, churches particularly that are going to formulas. Everybody needs a new book to read so they can have a better Christian life. Everybody needs another formula. And the question that comes to my mind is, what’s going to be next year? It’s like, “Wayne, give me anything, but the completeness I have in Christ and the power of His Word in my life. Give me anything but that.” And that’s the day we’re living in.
I had a good friend call me from yesterday and we talked for an hour. He said, “Wayne, I’ve been traveling to churches. I’ve put 143,000 miles on my van as I travel from church to church.” And he said, “Do you realize the people who preach the Word of God like you’re doing and other people are doing, do you realize they’re one out of every 5 or 10?” He said, “You can count them on one hand. People all over this country, people have bought the lie that people need to have their felt needs met rather than bringing them to Jesus and bringing them to the power of His Word.”
This is the day we live in. The Galatians lived in a day very similar. They didn’t want the Word of God. They didn’t want to walk with God. It’s too much fun to have this program that we can do or this formula that we can follow. Walk by the Spirit, be willingly led by the Spirit and this is the way you’ll find the spiritual satisfaction that you’re looking for. You don’t need a program unless that program somehow drives you to your dependency upon Christ and your dependency upon His Word.
Well, in our text today we’re going to start seeing the baggage that goes with religious flesh. When you choose to do things your way, when I choose to do things my way; this is for all of us. The rest of this stuff somehow is going to start surfacing into our life. It lurks in the shadows of religious flesh. It’s always there. No matter what name you put to the flesh, it’s still flesh. And what we need to realize as we get into this list is a very important thing. If you find somebody whose lifestyle is characterized by what we’re going to look at in verses 19-21 then you have to understand that person does not know Christ, and Paul says that. The last part of verse 21 he says, “Of which I forewarned you,” all of these things we’ll mention, “just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Now that’s pretty clear words.
The word for “practice” is the word prasso. Prasso means habitual practice and it’s a different Greek word, so don’t get hung up in your theology. When you see a person habitually living this way, you’ve got a person that doesn’t know Christ. The word poieo is another word which means, yes, from time to time you’re tempted. You see, before you become a believer you chase after sin; after you become a believer sin chases after you. And from time to time you’ll fall into its trap. And any of these things can appear in your life for a period of time, but a believer will break and repent of that. A person who’s not a believer will live in it as a lifestyle. There are a lot of people who attend churches, folks, that have never met Jesus Christ. They’ve joined the church, but they’ve missed Him. Just look at their lifestyles and that tells you everything about who lives within them or who doesn’t live within them.
Well, Galatians 5:19, here we are, only one verse today: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident.” Now, that’s present tense, which means they’re always evident. The apostle Paul is saying to them, “I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.” They were already there, and that’s why he doesn’t even finish his list. He just starts off to show them some of the evidences of flesh. “The deeds of the flesh are,” everybody knows they’re there. Paul’s just trying to get us to admit it. The word “evident” is the word phaneros, which means clearly, clearly evident to all. Everybody knows them. That’s why Paul, as I said, doesn’t complete the list because we can add a lot of things to these. As a matter of fact, there are other lists in Scripture that add things to the Word. The list in Galatians 5:1-21, there’s another thing, can never be attributed to God. So don’t ever blame God for any of these things. The only person you can blame is yourself when you choose to walk after the flesh and these things surface in your life.
Well, let’s wade in and let’s just see what Paul has for us to see, okay. Let’s just wade in. If any of these sins are in your life then they must be dealt with under the blood of Christ. Please understand that; don’t sweep them under the rug, put them under the blood. We have to learn to deal with sin as God exposes it into our life. There’s only one we’re going to look at today, and it’s the toughest one, now I understand that. Stay with me. We’ll move on next week. It’ll be better.
First of all, the sexual deception of the flesh; that’s the first thing that Paul wants them to see, and evidently they’re experiencing this because of their unwillingness to bow to Christ. Paul mentions three words in the New American Standard translation and four words in the King James Version that all have to do with elicit sexual behavior. He mentions immorality, impurity and sensuality. This is what the flesh produces and causes one to seek after when he’s not walking by the Spirit. Remember, walk by the Spirit. How do I do that, Wayne? Be willingly led by the Christ and His Word. If I’ll just do that I don’t have to worry about this. But if I’m not doing that, I’d better be concerned about it.
Isn’t it amazing how the flesh makes us think that lust and love are the same thing? Now, you just see some of these young fellows, folks, and hormones are moving rapidly and they’re standing there, the moon’s out and the stars in his eyes, the stars in her eyes and he looks at her and says, “Honey, I love you.” I sure hope if you’re that young lady you’ll step back about 30 feet and make him explain what he means by loving you. You’d better know the difference of lust and love, because there’s a huge, huge difference. What the flesh produces is counterfeit to what the Spirit produces, the kind of behavior that Paul tells us about here in verse 19, immorality, impurity, and sensuality.
Now, that’s the character of the lost. That’s the lifestyle of the lost. Now you see what he’s bringing up here is if a Christian seeks to walk after his flesh rather than by the Spirit and begins to experience these things, how shameful that is because this is the characteristic of the lost. To find it in the church is really shameful and divisive to the body of Christ when you find it. Paul says in Ephesians 5:3, “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you as is proper among saints.” He says, man, don’t even let them think about the fact that you might be; don’t ever let that kind of behavior get inside the church because it destroys our witness. But sadly there are those that will not walk by the Spirit. They will not walk by the Spirit.
Now, many of you are saying, “Well, that’s not my problem.” Well, hang on, we haven’t finished the list yet. I mean, you’re going to fall into one of three traps, and you’re going to find all these traps right here in this list. And if it’s not one of them it may be another one, so be real careful when you point your finger at somebody. Just because that’s not your sin, it may be that your sin has not been found out yet, see. When you walk after the flesh there will be sin attached to that, because flesh is sinful in God’s eyes.
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, and sensuality.” It’s the last word in that verse that tells you the whole problem of everything. It’s like the list is put in backwards. The word “sensuality,” this is where it all starts right there. The word “sensuality” is the word aselgeia. Aselgeia, to make it real simple, means licentiousness. It’s when a believer makes the mistake of thinking that being under grace means he’s free to do whatever he wants to do. There are many people who teach the message of grace, but you’d better listen carefully to make sure there’s a balance in it. The responsibility of walking, and yielded to Him has got to be married to it, or you don’t have the message of grace. What you have is a message of license. And people want to do what they want to do. They think they can.
This is what many people in the church of Rome bought into, and so Paul and others named them the “antinomians.” Anti means against and nomos means law. These are the people who said, “Oh, isn’t it wonderful to be under grace, party hardy! I can just do whatever I want to do because I’m already forgiven.” And Paul starts off in chapter 6, verse 1 and he says, “What? Do you think you can sin more so that grace might abound? God forbid! Let it not be so!” Don’t even think about it. These were the antinomians. And this is what happens to a lot of people in the 21st century. It’s nothing new. They think grace is a license, and because of that they have no integrity, nor responsibility to walk yielded to the Spirit of God.
Paul’s already told us in Galatians that grace is not the freedom to do as you please. He says in 5:13, “For you are called to freedom, brethren, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another.” Freedom is never the right to do as you please. Freedom is the power to do as you should. It’s Christ living His life in and through us. Oh, how we mess up when we refuse to be willing to be led by the Spirit, just to be willing to be led by the Spirit. When we think grace means we can do as we please we’ve fallen into the trap. This is what happened in Romans and he has to bring it up in Galatians so I have to assume some of them had fallen into this trap. As a result immorality, impurity, are going to flow out of this kind of licentious thinking, thinking I can do anything I want to do is going to breed other things.
If you backwards in the list, in the word just preceding the word “sensuality,” you see how it progresses. You see, immorality is the ultimate end, but that little middle word there many times is not understood. He says “impurity.” You say, “What’s impurity? I know what immorality is, and now I know what sensuality is. What’s impurity?” The word is akatharsia. It means to be unclean, inwardly immoral. Now this is the one, you see, when what the person thinks doesn’t have any integrity in it. There’s no time to be in the Word of God. There’s no walk in the Word of God. And we can just live as we please. What happens is their thought lives begin to be affected by the flesh and that means they have wicked, filthy minds, but they come to church and dress up like everybody else and nobody can see the difference right away. You see, there’s other baggage that’ll show up at some place down the line. This is what impurity is.
You know, it’s awesome to me that the Word of God is like spiritual Drano. And you get into the Word of God, you know what that does, what it’s done for me over the years? It just gets all that old garbage out of your mind. You see, if you wake up every morning and try to deal with the sin it’s going to eat your lunch all day long. But if you’ll get up in the morning, focus on Jesus, learn to worship Him by your life and by your will, then what happens is He cleans you out. In the tabernacle when you approached God, God set it up this way: the tribe of Levi over there guarding the eastern gate, so nothing, nothing that was deceitful went inside where the presence of God would be. And when you got inside that outer part of it, the first thing you came to was the altar. That’s where sin is dealt with. That’s where the blood cleanses. But when you went past the altar there was something else, and many people missed this. There was a laver. And the laver was made out of mirrored glass and they would look in the laver and see themselves and they would wash themselves. That’s the purification and the cleansing of the mind. At the altar is the cleansing of the heart; at the laver is the cleansing of the mind.
There are two cleansings. The blood cleansed me from sin and the Word of God cleanses my mind from the garbage and the filth of this world. You see, that’s what Paul’s trying to get to these Galatians. You’ve bought into a system. You’ve gone back to doing it your way and because of this you’re going to start experiencing things you didn’t even know were part of the package. And part of that is the filth that gets into the minds.
I talked to a man once and he says, “Whenever I wanted a woman I went to church.” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He said, “No, sir. And the way I always baited them was, I said to them a dirty joke and the ones that laughed and responded were the ones that I knew if I spent more time we could have that affair.” That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard, but that was said right to me. You see, that’s what I’m trying to tell you, folks, when people walk after the flesh, thinking they can do anything that’s impressive to God other than bow before Him, this other stuff comes with it. They don’t set out to be that way, but this is what begins to corrupt minds of people who are not letting the Word of God cleanse that mind.
Well, the next word is the first word, but really the last word in the process, starting with aselgeia. I can do anything; I’m under grace. I mean I don’t have to, and then come impurity and then comes immorality. The word “immorality” describes all illicit sexual behavior. The word meaning sexual acts, that which you do with another partner. Impurity would cover the other, but this is what covers with a partner. And make certain you understand that there are many things that are in this list; incest is in this list. Why would a father ever do anything like that, or a mother? I tell you why, because they’re not walking in the Spirit and probably don’t know Christ. Incest, homosexuality, adultery. Now this is the word that the King James throws in, adultery. Now, the word is porneia. We get the word “pornography” from it. You wonder why so many believers are falling into that trap. I can tell you straight out if you’re not walking and living in the Word of God, allowing His Word to cleanse your mind you will drift right toward that trap if that’s the bent of your flesh. If it’s not you’ll drift to another one and we’ll get to that later on. You see, sin is going to happen. When people seek to live religious lives rather than have a relationship with Christ, intimately moment by moment, they will drift to this kind of garbage.
The Textus Receptus, which is the text that the King James comes from, adds that word “adultery,” moicheia. And moicheia is the word when it talks about a married partner choosing to break the trust bond and find sexual pleasure outside of the covenant arrangement. Now, I’m certain somebody who’s probably a little naive this morning and you’re sitting in here thinking I can’t believe he’s saying such words. Well, you know what? I didn’t write this. I just want you to know that. This is the Word of God. He put the words in there. I’m just telling you what they mean. And some of you are saying that could never happen in the church. “I’m telling you, that could never happen. I know what I’m talking about.” Well, you need to wake up and smell the roses. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Even last night in our service we had people flood these aisles down here with things that are going on in their life. One couple sat there and wept and the lady shared later on, she said, “My husband is so deep into pornography he needed to be here tonight.” He was here. You don’t think it’s in the church?
And I want to tell you something; when they don’t see us live godly lives, it just puts more fuel on the fire for them to fall deeper into the trap that they’re in. That’s why it’s so important for those that are mature, those who are willing to walk by faith, to live that life, to give them a contrast, to give them an example, to help pull them out of the trap they have stepped into. Let me take you to the book of 1 Corinthians. A group of people at Corinth that decided not to be willingly led by the Spirit. And Paul wrote to this sick church, this sick church. He says in 1 Corinthians 3:1, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, for yet you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you’re not yet able. For you’re still fleshly, for since there is jealousy and strife among you”—look now at how the flesh has manifested itself when people will not walk with God; he says there’s jealousy and strife among you—“are you not fleshly, are you not walking like mere men? When one says I am of Paul and another says I am of Apollos; are you not mere men?”
You see, Paul was the first pastor of that church. Apollos followed him. And they would rather be attached to a man than they would be attached to Christ. And the indictment comes in the middle of verse 2. When he starts off, he says, “I could not do these things.” He saying, back when you became a believer, when I went over there to make tents with Priscilla and Aquila and I met them and we went over to the synagogue and Crispus the leader of the synagogue got saved and a church began, he says, back then when you came to know Christ, he said you were a baby, you were just a baby. And it’s okay to be a baby when you’re a baby. It’s okay to want pabulum. It’s okay to want milk. It’s alright. He said, “I couldn’t get you to the deeper levels. I taught the deeper truth, but you couldn’t understand it because you were a baby. That’s no problem. That’s no problem.”
Where does the problem come in? He says in the middle of verse 2, “Indeed now you are still not yet able.” Now, that’s your problem right there. You see here they were, they should have been mature like in Hebrews 5. He says “You should be teachers by now,” but you’re back in the nursery. Somebody’s got to teach you the ABC’s. And so the indictment came that they had chosen their flesh, and as a result when right back in the nursery. We’ve already seen in Galatians they did the same thing. They had to go back into the nursery. To choose the flesh is to choose immaturity. To choose to walk by faith is to choose maturity. The mature have nothing to do with age. It has everything to do with the heart that is surrendered to Christ. The indictment again is in that middle verse.
Well, how had sin manifested itself? How did it get into the church? Did immorality get into the church? You haven’t answered my question. I’m so glad you’re asking. In 5:1 of 1 Corinthians he says “It is actually reported that there is immorality”—there’s your word right there—“among you.” He writes to the church. “An immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.” Now it’s probably his stepmother. So he’s committing two sexual sins and in one act, adultery and incest, and nobody wants to deal with it. They sweep it under the rug as if it doesn’t matter. Because, see, when you walk after the flesh with this understanding that grace doesn’t matter you can sin more and grace will abound, then that’s what happens. This is what happened to a church that didn’t understand and they choose the wrong way.
In 1 Corinthians 6 he has to tell them in verse 18, he says “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” Paul begs with them. Why would he tell them to flee if it wasn’t already there? You see, you say, well, that can’t happen in the churches. Yes, it can happen in the church; by well-intentioned people who try to do church their way instead of letting God build His own church and getting into the Word and being drawn to our completeness in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Immorality was there right in the midst of the church and so Paul, you understand now why he warns about it in Galatians 5:19-21. In fact, 2 Corinthians 12:21 says, in speaking of this church, “I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity” that’s one of the words we looked at, “immorality,” that’s the third word, “and sensuality,” that’s our second word, “which they have practiced.”
In other words, there it was right there in front of them, right there in the church. Immorality is part of the wicked package that we buy into when we choose not to be led by the Spirit. Oh, if we could get this message across, if all of us could just get it in our hearts and our heads and our minds, lust is a counterfeit. That’s all it is. It’s a sexual deception. It’s nothing like love that God produces in our life, “the fruit of His Spirit,” verse 22, we’ll get to later, “is love.”
Oh, what a contrast that Paul draws here. He’s painting a black picture so that we can understand the greatness and the goodness of the grace of God. The Galatians bought the lie, as many believers have foolishly done. They thought they could be impressive to God. And this is a thing that I think that drives a many churches where we are. We have all these different books that are written and all these different themes that are written. I wonder if anybody’s ever going to write a book on the Christ-led church. “Oh no, brother Wayne, that’s not cool, cause this is the 21st century.” They’d bought into a deception that they could do better than letting the Holy Spirit of God do through them what they knew they could never do. Foolish, foolish!
No wonder Paul said to them, “O foolish Galatians!” in Galatians 3:1. That word “foolish” means stupid. Oh, stupid Galatians! Now that doesn’t mean he’s demeaning them. He’s just exasperated that they would do what they did without realizing the baggage that went with it, and now it’s infiltrated into the church. The church is fractioned; it’s divided. All the churches of Asia, southern Asia, southern Galatia are that way. It all started with them listening to the teachers of the Law. That’s where it started. They were running well. Remember Paul says “you were running well.” Then he asked them “Where’s that sense of blessing you used to have?”
It all started when they bought into a formula. And as a result they bought it hook, line and sinker, and now look where they are. They didn’t realize that flesh is flesh and on the flip side is the garbage that they certainly would have never intentionally chosen. They bought a formula instead of walking by the Spirit. I wonder what will be next in our generation. What’s the next book? Anything but Jesus. But what does Paul say? Oh, this is so good. Paul says, “Walk by the Spirit, walk by the Spirit.”
You say, “Wayne, I have a son, I have a daughter that’s fallen into this trap. Can I help them?” Oh, yes! First of all get your own life right so that you’ll have something to say to them. Don’t go tell them something if you’re not living it because they’ve already seen through that. But when you’re walking by the Spirit, willingly led by the Spirit, listen, victory, victory is Jesus overcoming us.
Folks, that’s the victory. Do you understand what we’ve been saying? When you say yes to God you just immediately walked into victory. “Well, Wayne, do I have to go through a 12 week program?” Shoot no! You get on your face before God and say yes to Him. You abandon yourself to Him. And hinging on what you think right now might be unreasonable lies the unexpected blessings of God, the fullness of God, the richness of God. He says, “I want to give this to you.” “But, oh, God, if I come to You all I have to offer You is lustful thoughts and all I have to offer You is wicked flesh.” And God said, “That’s great, that’s great, that’s all I want, that’s all I want. You just give it to me and I’m going to give you back Myself.”
Now which would you like? That’s the message we’ve been preaching in Galatians. That’s the message we preached in Philippians. That is the message that the world is starving for, but everybody’s turning their back on it because they want religion. They want a formula. They don’t want the intimacy of walking with God moment by moment by moment by moment by moment. And we’re standing out in the middle of a storm shouting “Please hear; this is what grace is all about.” It sets you free. And He that sets you free sets you free indeed.
Jesus says, “I’ll offer you Myself. Will you give Me everything that you’re holding on to right now?” “Oh, no Lord! No, I love You, but.” And He says okay, that’s fine. He comes back and comes back and comes back. And maybe in a service like today, maybe sometime in a quiet time, maybe when you’re in the Word of God you begin to sense His preciousness, you begin to sense you can trust Him like you’ve never trusted Him before and God says, “Will you give Me yourself?” And on that day you bow down and you offer Him yourself, and in return you get everything that is real and you’ve been looking for it all along, but didn’t realize you were holding on to that which is fake. That’s the heart of Paul as he speaks to the Galatians. He’s not trying to get on them. He’s not trying to make them feel bad. He’s trying to jolt them into reality. Why would you want that which is fake when you can have that which is freely given that is real?
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Dr. Wayne Barber
Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.