The principle is firmly established already. Paul is building up to the point that false religion is the foundation of all false living. Just as believing lives are built upon the truth of God, so false lives are built on the lies of righteousness-mongers.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another (Gal. 5: 18-26).
Those who are led by the Spirit are not under the law, which is where the Judaizers are in effect trying to get them (v. 18). But the Judaizers want them to go to the religious rite of circumcision, and not into a frenzy of wicked behavior. But Paul says this is where they will in fact wind up, because religiosity does not deal with the flesh, but rather caters to it. The works of the flesh, Paul says, are obvious
(v. 19). He then gives a detailed catalog of such offenses (vv. 19-21). In contrast, the way of the Spirit is equally obvious (vv. 22-23). Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh, along with everything it wants (v. 24). But remember that at the head of the list of things the flesh wants, we must include religious respectability. If we are alive in the Spirit, then why not walk as though this were so (v. 25). And Paul returns to the engine that is driving all this—vain glory
—and he urges them to avoid provocation and envy (v. 26).
It is not just that the content of these two lists is different. They are qualitatively two lists of different kinds of things. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life (Rom. 6:23). Here the same point is made with the contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Heaven is a gift, and Hell is a paycheck.
The problem with various forms of pietism is not that it is believed that the internal condition of a man will necessarily be evident in his life, but rather that pietism refuses to identify the external symptoms of the internal condition biblically. We make the indicator simplistic like “drinking beer,” or “coming to prayer meeting.” We need to look at the characteristics that God gives. They are obvious, Paul says.
These works are manifest. Out of the abundance of the heart a man speaks (Matt. 12:34). Out of the abundance of the heart a man lives (Matt. 12:35).
Adultery: a narrow term, meaning violation of an existing marriage covenant.
Fornication: a broad term, meaning sexual uncleanness generally. This would of course include pornography.
Uncleanness: dirty living, whether physical or spiritual.
Lasciviousness: wantonness, unbridled lust.
Idolatry: worship of false gods, including the god of Money.
Witchcraft: magical arts, as well as the use of drugs.
Hatred: enmity, hatred, bitterness, malice.
Variance: wrangling, jangling, strife, and quarreling.
Emulations: envying, indignation, jealousy.
Wrath: anger, passion, heat.
Strife: partisanship, politicking, fractiousness.
Seditions: division, schism.
Heresies: sectarianism, schism, gathering around an error, leprosy of the mind.
Envyings: envying, biting.
Murders: slaughter, murder, hatred.
Drunkenness: to be intoxicated.
Revellings: carousal, revelling late at night, raucous parties.
And such like: the list is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather representative.
The fruit of the Spirit stands in stark contrast to all such works of the flesh.
Love: glad and sacrificial giving of one’s self.
Joy: gladness and and deep confidence in the goodness of God.
Peace: calm, content, tranqulity, serenity.
Longsuffering: patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, and slowness in avenging wrongs.
Gentleness: goodness, kindness, integrity.
Goodness: uprightness of heart and life.
Faith: assurance, belief, fidelity.
Meekness: gentleness, mildness.
Temperance: self-control, balance.
Those who are baptized have been baptized into Christ, which means they have been baptized “into” the second list. But what if their life still matches the first list? What does that mean? It means that, apart from repentance, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Their baptism obligates them covenantally to be characterized by the second list, not the first. But unbelief within the covenant makes disobedience within the covenant possible. Baptism puts a man under the obligations of the covenant; it does not substitute for a life of obedience based on faith in Christ alone.
And this is why the false doctrine of the Judaizers must be rejected. Their approach to religion caters to the flesh, and cannot mortify the deeds of the flesh, even if it wanted to, which it actually does not. Religiosity kills. Traditional values inflame the lusts of the heart. Common decency is a whitewashed tomb.