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Combating the Flesh

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians S:19-21)

All of us want to live an overcoming life. Christianity promises victory over sin, through the finished work of Christ, on Calvary's cross. However, many of us have found it difficult to see this victory manifested in our lives. Instead, we see manifested, what the Bible refers to as the "works of the flesh". These are sinful attitudes, behaviours and habits that remain embed­ ded in us, as part of our fallen human nature.

The Apostle Paul warns, however, that if we continue in these "works" we "shall not inherit the kingdom of God". It is, therefore, critical that we win this war against the flesh. There can be eternal consequences if we don't.

Knowing the enemy we are coming up against is critical, whenever we are in a battle. In this regard, identifying which of these "works of the flesh" are at work in us, is the first step to successfully combating the flesh, and overcoming its effects in our lives. We must know our enemy!

This simple tool defines the terms in Galatians 5:19-21 so we can deter­ mine if any of these "works of the flesh" affect us. The corresponding Bible verses give us an idea of God's thoughts on each of these. Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. The Word of God renews our mind.

Knowing our enemy is part of a strategic approach that we have adopt­ ed, to combat the flesh. Anyone can apply this simple, three-point approach to fight against this inner enemy, and win.

  • Know your enemy

Hebrews 12:1 tells us to throw off the weight and sin that so easily beset/en­ tangle us. We know also that our fight is not against people (Eph . 6:12). 1 Peter 2:11 says that the desires/lusts of the flesh war agaist our soul.

  • Deny yourself

Authentic discipleship begins at the place of self-denial (Matthew 16:23-25; Luke 9:23). Self-Denial is also the avenue through which the flesh can be crucified. Those belonging to Christ have "crucified the flesh with the affec­ tions and lusts" (Gal. 5:24). See also Matt. 18:8,9; Gal. 2:20; Rom . 8 :12-15; 1Cor. 9:27; Rom . 12:1,2; Col. 3.

  • Adopt an attitude of radical faith

1 John 5:4 says that faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Our faith is, first of all, in Almighty God . We also have faith in God's Word and the promises contained therein. Additionally, we accept the finished work of Christ. Finally we believe that the Holy Spirit sealed, strengthened and empowered us to walk in victory. We believe that "we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37). See also 1 Joh. 5:4,8; 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Tim. 4:7; Eph. 3:16.

The Works of theFlesh

ADULTERY (also sexual immorality)

A married person having sex with someone who is not his/her spouse; Lust for someone else's spouse; adultery is also used symbolically for unfaithful­ ness to God.

Proverbs 6:32 (KJV)

But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.

Hebrews 13:4 (KJV)

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

FORNICATION (also sexual immorality)

Sex between unmarried persons; any form of sexual immorality; to indulge in unlawful lust; illicit sexual practice for payment as in prostitution; illicit sexual practice of either sex; lust in the heart. To indulge in illicit lust; giving oneself to illicit sex; to gratify illicit sex that is homosexual or heterosexual; provoking incest

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (KJV)

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

UNCLEANNESS (also impurity)

To be morally impure, evil, vile, unlikeable. Whatever is opposite of purity; having evil thoughts and/or actions. To engage in ungodly sexual behaviours such as homosexuality, bestiality, and all other forms of sexual perversion.

Matthew 5:8 (KJV)

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

1 Corinthians 7:1 (KJV)

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

LASCIVIOUSNESS (also licentiousness, lewdness)

Indicating sexual interest or expressive of lust or lewdness. Promiscuity, not necessarily the act of fornication but everything leading up to it. Making explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions. Engaging in coarse or rude conversation, humour and actions. Dressing scantily in order to induce impure or lustful thoughts and feelings from another person.

2 Timothy 2:22 (KJV)

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Ephesians 2:1-3

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.


The worship of idols; excessive or blind adoration, reverence or devotion to anything other than God. This includes praying to saints and statues hoping that god will hear you through them. Allowing anything to take the place of God in your heart.

Exodus 20:3-5 (KJV)

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.


Practicing magic; using demonic powers. Greek: pharmakeia (from this we get the word pharmacy); sorcery; practice of dealing with evil spirits; magical incantations and casting spells and charms upon someone; using "magic potions" and drugs of various kinds. Enchantments being used to inflict evil, pain, hatred, sufferings, and death. Even when used with good intentions to bring goodness, health, love, joy and other "blessings'; if the power is not coming from God, then it is witchcraft and only bad things will come of it.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12(KJV)

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you.

Leviticus 19:31 (KJV)

Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.

HATRED (also enmity)

The opposite of love. Intense dislike or hostility; lack of regard for another. Bitter dislike and ill-will against anyone; tendency to hold grudges against or be angry at someone; wanting to hurt them.

1 John 4:20 (KJV)

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

Matthew 5:44 (KJV)

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

VARIANCE (also contention, strife)

Conflict, arguing, fighting. Not agreeing when you should; a readiness to quarrel; having a contentious spirit; affection for dispute; being difficult to deal with.

Titus 3:9 (KJV)

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and striv­ ings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

Titus 3:2 (KJV)

To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meek­ ness unto all men.


EMULATIONS (also jealousy)

An envious and contentious rivalry; resentment against a rival or another person enjoying success or advantage. Being jealousy of another person; jealousy with malice (intent to harm). Imitating another person with the intention of being equal or surpassing what that person has done or accom­ plished; Striving to excel at the expense of another; seeking to surpass and outdo others; unbridled rivalry in religion, business, society, and other fields of endeavour.

ENVYINGS (also envy)

Closely related to jealousy. It is a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions. Spite or ill-will. Think­ ing a person is not worthy of having what they have, because you feel you are more deserving.

The difference between emulation and envy is that, emulation (jealousy) desires to have the same or the same sort of thing that someone has. Envy, on the other hand, desires to deprive another of what he/she has.

Romans 12:15,16 (KJV)

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but conde­ scend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

1 Corinthians 12:25,26 (KJV)

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the mem­ bers rejoice with it.

1 Peter 2:1 (KJV)

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

WRATH (also indignation, rage)

Impulses and outbursts of anger. Vengeance or punishment as the conse­ quence of great anger; fierceness; Determined and lasting anger as in getting back at someone for a perceived wrong doing. Indignation which has arisen gradually and become more settled.

Psalm 37:8 (KJV)

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (KJV)

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

STRIFE (selfish ambition, rivalry)

A desire to put one's self forward; a partisan and fractious spirit. Contest for superiority or advantage for selfish gain; not as in playing a game or in a healthy sporting competition. Strife is not always physical; it can be mental as when using words in a religious or political debat e. Where it becomes a work of the flesh is when the intention is to hurt the other either physically, mentally or emotionally. It is a vigorous or bitter conflict, discord, or antago­ nism toward someone else or others. Strife could include being in a quarrel, struggle, or clash with others or another person and might even include an armed conflict. Strife sometimes includes a bitter and even violent disagree­ ment even with those who are in authority.

Philippians 2:3 (KJV)

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Romans 12:10 (KJV)

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

SEDITIONS (also dissension, division)

Literally "standing apart''. Rebellious disorder; causing trouble. Stirring up strife in religion, government, at work, home or any other place.

Romans 16:17 (KJV)

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

HERESIES (also sects, factions)

Dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims; divisions in religious communities. A doctrinal view or belief conflicting with the recognised and accepted tenets of a system, church, or party. It becomes a work of the flesh when the heart behind the division is to cause trouble, hurt people or raise one's self up in importance over another. Heresies become evil when sound bible doctrine is rejected and a false doctrine is taught in place of the truth.

2 Peter 2:1 (KJV)

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable here­ sies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon them­ selves swift destruction.

Acts 20:29-31 (KJV)

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

DRUNKENNESS (also intoxication)

Habitual intoxication. It can include any mind-altering drug. Excessive drink­ ing or drug use to the point that you diminish or even lose good judgment and self control. Excessive drug use is widely known as the fast track to self destruction and it deeply hurts others who are involved.

Proverbs 20:1 (KJV)

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Isaiah 28:7 (KJV)

But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgement.

Ephesians 5:18

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.

1 Peter 5:8

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Revelling (also partying, carousing)

Defined in Greek literature as “a nocturnal and riotous procession of half-drunken and frolicsome fellows who, after supper, parade through the streets with torches and music in honour of Bacchus or some other deity, and sing and play before the houses of their male and female friends; hence, used generally, of feasts and drinking-parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry” (Thayer's Lexicon)

Late night parties; indulging in loud boisterous festivities for no apparent reason, the letting loose of inhibitions and good judgement; getting rowdy or going on a drunken rampage; also involves rioting.

1 Peter 4:3

For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries

Romans 13:13

Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

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