Monday, June 29, 2009

Galatains 5:19-21 (Sex, Sorcery, Sedition, and Sauce)

As Paul continues in his teaching that love, not legalism is to govern the Christian’s behavior, he lists the deeds of the flesh to contrast them to the behavior of the person walking in the Spirit. The fifteen examples of sins he lists fall generally into four categories: sexual sins, religious sins, interpersonal or relational sins, and those related to alcohol.

Martin Luther does a good job here of pointing out that the Christian is not free from these temptations. The flesh and the spirit are at war in the believer’s life. The legalist immediately goes to the end of the list and points out that Paul says these deeds will keep you out of heaven. But the point here is not that we won’t struggle with these things, but that we should fight against the flesh in these matters.

Since the legalist mistakenly believes that behavior is what earns a person’s salvation, they exaggerate the nature of the sin: Sex itself is bad. Even make-believe magic is evil. Alcohol and not just drunkenness is wrong. They seek to avoid the sin by drawing the line further away from the sin and forbidding things that are not wrong; just as Adam in the garden taught Eve that touching the tree was wrong, and not just eating it.

The ironic thing about legalists is that they tend to have fewer problems with the more than half of the list of sins here that deal with interpersonal relationships. Fighting and divisions, envy and power struggles, disagreements over teaching; all these things are part and parcel of religious existence. Legalism and religion go hand in hand and therefore these things are always justified.

Instead of making our focus the examples of sin that Paul presents here, he wants us to emphasize the next list: the fruit of the Spirit…

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