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Acts of the Flesh

In a Renaissance drama by Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus sells his soul to the devil in exchange for 24 years of power and pleasure. During these years, he sometimes thinks about repenting. In one of these episodes, Lucifer appears to distract him with a parade of the seven deadly sins—pride, covetousness, wrath, envy, gluttony, sloth, and lechery (lustfulness). Faustus’s heart is so far gone into sin that he delights in the parade and forgets about repenting. At the end of the play, he dies and is dragged off to hell.

The seven deadly sins is one well- known list of qualities antithetical to the Christian life. Paul’s list of “acts of the flesh” in today’s reading is another. It contrasts directly with the list of “fruit of the Spirit” that we’ll study tomorrow. It doesn’t exhaustively list all possible sins, but it does give representative examples of the attitudes and behaviors to avoid.

This list includes at least four types of sin. First are sexual sins; the term impurity includes thoughts, words, and actions. Second are worship sins. Idolatry bows before false gods, while witchcraft reflects a desire to control the supernatural realm. Third, we see relational sins, such as hatred, jealousy, and selfish ambition, which damage respectful or loving human relationships. And fourth are sins of excess, in which good things are abused and thus turned into bad things. Wine and sex could be received as blessings, but drunkenness and orgies are clearly sinful.

“Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 21). This doesn’t mean there’s no possibility of confession and forgiveness, for we know from other Scriptures that God grants repentance to all who confess. But these habitual practices do not reflect a life in relationship with God as His children.

Apply the Word

Confession of sin is an important spiritual discipline. We need it on a daily basis! It keeps the slate clean with God, removing barriers to fellowship and obedience. It also reminds us of the need for humility and dependence upon the Lord. God has promised to “forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

BY Brad Baurain

Dr. Brad Baurain has worked as a writer and editor for Today in the Word since 1993. Currently, he serves as associate professor and TESOL program head at Moody Bible Institute. Brad has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has also taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Brad and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Munster, Indiana.

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