The acts of the flesh 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. (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV)
This passage is often contrasted with the one that follows concerning the fruit of the Spirit; and correctly so. It contrasts those who are led by their own sinful nature with those who are led by the Holy Spirit. And it is by their actions, their fruit, that you are able to recognize who it is that is in charge of a person’s life.
Acts of the Flesh
In this passage, Paul lists 15 attributes of a life under the control of the flesh; the sinful nature. Not every person living under control of the flesh will exhibit all of these. But, as a follower of Jesus, exhibiting any of them should be a warning that all is not well with my walk. There are a couple of these that I believe are especially dangerous to the body of Christ.
Dissensions and factions cause division within the body. And the New Testament writers warn over and over against those who cause division. Division within the body of Christ can take many forms: doctrinal disputes; polity disputes; disagreement over mission; changing long-standing traditions; or simple discontent over insignificant issues. Sometimes these disputes are necessary to maintain the integrity of the body. But too often, the debate is over disputable things that don’t really matter. And the debate can cause division within the body, hindering it from accomplishing the mission God has given them.
Fruit of the Spirit
As the church, the body of Christ, we are called to be like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind (Phil. 2:2). If you find yourself at odds with others within the body, seek to respond in ways that will build up the body rather than cause division in it. Take seriously Paul’s warning against causing division. Let your life be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit rather than the acts of the flesh.