(265)Thesis:The "works of the flesh" that move beyond sexual perversion consist of four sets of pairs that are described in terms of roots and fruits.
Introduction:In the study of any "grocery list" kind of description, the question is whether the apostle had any kind of organizing theme in mind when he penned the list. If he did, and we can discover it, we might have a better grasp of his "point". It seems rather clear that Paul's first set of "works" were "sexual" in orientation with a focus upon the misuse of the body to its own dishonor. The inclusion of "idolatry" and "witchcraft" in this grouping might seem to be a reach until we recognize the links in the biblical text between sex and false gods and the use of mentally incapacitating drugs and the continuation of the focus upon the body.
This evening I want to pursue the next eight "works". I think I have found a pattern, known as an "abcd dcba" organization where the "links" between the parallel items consist of root/fruit realities. It seems that Paul's "point" is to reveal how the flesh sponsors the abuse of others and why.
I. The "Whys" of Abuse.
1. The Authorized Version mistranslates as "hatred".
a. The typical term for "hate" is the antithesis of "love" and consists most fundamentally of the devaluation of another in respect to oneself and/or one's plans.
b. This translation tends to send us down a wrong path.
2. The basic idea of the term Paul penned is "settled opposition" when the agenda of another is in view (Romans 8:7).
a. This thesis has already been addressed in Galatians 5:17 and sets "conflict" as "front and center" in the larger picture (which may be why "peace" is the emphasized result of justification in Romans 5:1).
b. This, if my perception of Paul's organizational structure is legitimate, is the reason (the "why") for one level of the abuse of others by the flesh.
1) Everyone has an agenda that is love/faith based.
2) Everyone is committed to his agenda because it is love/faith based.
3) False love and faith in lies makes it impossible for a person to "get along" with others who have a different agenda.
1. The Authorized Version uses the term "variance".
2. The basic idea is that of "antagonistic, verbal argument" where the intention is to brow beat another into acceptance/submission.
3. The most fundamental issue here is verbal abuse in order to force compliance, and it stands as a methodology to produce a victory in the realm of the enmity that exists.
4. As a methodology, it explains "why" people tend to abuse others verbally.
1. The Authorized Version uses the term "emulations" and the NASB, I think, wrongly calls it "jealousy".
2. The basic idea of the term as Paul used it is "zeal" as a matter of "significant commitment" (it is not always a "work of the flesh" in the New Testament).
3. As a "work", it is a description of the major commitment to which a person is committed.
4. The logical progression seems to be clear: enmities create strife because of overweening commitments.
5. As a description of commitment, it reveals "why" people cannot get along and are abused by one another.
D. Outbursts of anger.
1. The Authorized Version says "wrath" but it does so with no regard for Paul's very precise linking of "wrath" to a settled attitude of vengeance.
2. The word describes a flash of hot anger (as in our concept of "hot tempered") that is created when someone does something that cuts across the agenda of the one whose response is an "outburst" of "anger".
3. The majority use of this term in the New Testament is found in the Revelation and is used there to intensify by actions the anger of the one who is venting his displeasure with another.
4. As an expression of "quick and hot temper" this term explains why people abuse one another because the emotional involvement is seldom thoughtful.
II. The Fruits of Abuse.
1. The word used here is related to "B" above and indicates the outcome of verbal abuse: a settled attitude of antagonism.
2. Once a person resorts to verbal abuse, the object of the abuse becomes a constant target for more: he/she becomes someone who "can't do anything right".
3. As a work of the flesh, this continuous perception of others destroys any possibility of peace between people.
4. As the corresponding "d" in the pattern "abcd dcba", a settled attitude of antagonism is the fruit of multiple "outbursts of anger".
1. The Authorized Version uses "seditions"; a more graphic term than that of the NASB.
2. The use of the word in the New Testament reveals the idea of a commitment to violence in order to get one's agenda established.
3. This term moves us into the realm of physical violence; the preceding terms being mostly of non-physical ideas.
4. As the corresponding "c" in the pattern, this willingness to resort to violence is the fruit of "zeal" (as illustrated by Jesus Himself in His behavior in the temple as a house of prayer).
1. The Authorized Version uses the term "heresies" incorrectly.
2. The word refers to groups of people who have become aligned with each other because of a common "zeal".
3. The majority translational choice in the New Testament is "sect".
4. As the corresponding "b" in the pattern, this "birds of a feather flocking together" is the fruit of "antagonistic arguments" where people who agree get together to intensify their impact.
1. The use in the New Testament is pretty consistent in its reference to "jealousy" because someone has something another wants.
2. It is not, directly, "covetousness", but it isn't far off.
3. As the corresponding "a" in the pattern, this "envying" is the fruit of the original commitment to "settled opposition" when the one opposed seems to have the upper hand.
III. Paul's Overall Point.
A. The "flesh" cannot abide letting others have their way when that "way" is in opposition to its own.
B. Thus, the "works of the flesh" will, invariably, come to a single bottom line: the flesh is committed to doing whatever it has to do to get its way.
C. Clearly, being "led by the Spirit" allows a person to let go of his/her own agenda and be free of all of the conflict that is involved in the fight to triumph over others.