The Works of the Flesh

Galatians 5:19–22

[19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (ESV)


Those who are not led by the Spirit are still in the flesh and are still under the condemnation and power of the law, not only in the sense that they will be condemned for not having kept it perfectly (Rom. 3:23), but also in the sense that the law, though good, triggers an allergic reaction in them that makes them want to disobey it (Rom. 7:5-6). It is only the Spirit that can give us the desire and the power to keep the law. And we received the Spirit when we put our faith in Christ alone for salvation (Gal. 3:2).

OBSERVATION (verse 19a)

“The works of the flesh are EVIDENT” (verse 19a). You will know them by their fruits (works). You can distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil by the fact that the former practice righteousness and the latter practice wickedness (c.f., Matt. 7:10; 1 John 3:4-10).

ENUMERATION (verses 19b-21a)

This “vice list” can be divided into the following categories:

  • Sexual sins: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality
  • Religious sins: idolatry, sorcery
  • Social sins: enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,
  • Bodily sins (or sins of bodily pleasure): drunkenness, orgies

“And things like this.” This vice list isn’t exhaustive.

Note that both religious and non-religious persons can commit these sins.

Note too that what is being referred to is a habitual lifestyle, not occasional lapses.

CONCLUSION (verse 21b)

People who engage in these things as a matter of habitual lifestyle and show no evidence of the change that grace effects in the life of a saved person are in all probability not saved (c.f., 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

A saved person is “washed” (1 Cor. 6:11). He is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). True, he can still sin (1 John 1:8), but if he is really saved he will be convicted by the Holy Spirit and ask forgiveness for his sins (1 John 1:9) and will rise up from where he has fallen (Mic. 7:8) and continue to follow the Lord (1 Sam. 12:20-22; John 13:10).


Works do not save us but they can damn us. Works cannot get you into heaven, but they can keep you out of it, in the sense that wickedness as a habitual lifestyle is evidence of a lack of saving faith in the first place.

Yes, we are saved by faith alone and never by works (Eph. 2:8-9); but if our faith is true, it will produce good works, no matter how imperfect, and transformation of character, no matter how gradual (Eph. 2:10).

(Photo by David Clode on Unsplash)

One response to “The Works of the Flesh”

  1. Great post! I love the book of Ephesians.

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