(263)Thesis:Sexual sins are the most "manifest" of the "works" of the flesh and are deemed seriously wicked.
Introduction:In a culture that is drowning in sexual perversions, it is both a shock and an affront to its participants to be told that God's attitude toward sexual misconduct is negative in the extreme. When, for instance, we read about the horrors of eternal death, it is the pain of eternal burning that puts people off the most. Another example is that of Genesis 9 wherein Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon their shoulders and walked backwards into Noah's tent in order to cover his nakedness so that they could not see it. The often voiced accusation of someone being a "prude" is simply the reaction of a sexually promiscuous person to anyone who objects to careless licentiousness.
The fact is, the first five "works" of the flesh are all tied directly to the misuse of the physical body by those who dwell in them.
By way of contrast, it is interesting that the "salvation" of the soul and spirit of men is extended into the present time by way of "firstfruits", but the physical body is left completely unregenerated and, in a completely physical sense, unaffected by that "salvation" until death and resurrection. This has to mean something about how God views these physical bodies of ours. The question is this: what is the significance of Paul's focus upon sexual sins as his "first rattle out of the box" contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit? Clearly, the answer has something to do with how "manifest" the works of the flesh are, and, just as clearly, the answer has something to do with God's attitude toward such obviously physical evils.
I. First Issue: Why Are They "Evil"?
A. In the Old Testament sexual sins were almost always "capital crimes".
1. This was not so much to "get rid of" people who committed them as it was to intensify the gravity of the illicit activity.
2. Even God did not enforce the "Law" in terms of actual, physical enforcement in many cases, most notably with David and Bathsheba.
3. However, even though there could be, and often was, "forgiveness", the issue of the gravity of the "evil" was never diminished.
B. This raises the question of why sexual misconduct is considered such a high level of wickedness by God.
1. In Paul's confrontation with the Corinthians, he claimed that at least one of the reasons was to be found in the fact that the "body" was created to be, and intended for, the primary tool of the indwelling spirit for the "works" of the body (1 Corinthians 6:18-19).
a. This means that any "corruption" of the "works of the body" was a direct testimony to the corruption of the inner spirit as the body made manifest the "glory" of that spirit.
b. This means that God's gift of the Holy Spirit could be so compromised by any overt "work" of the body that did not "square with" the "glory" of God that those who observed that body could easily be led into blasphemous theology (just as Jude 4 declares happened).
c. Thus, in a very real sense, the future of "observers" of the deeds of the body was being compromised, if not outrightly destroyed, by those whose bodies were allowed to be tools of the corrupt spiritual heritage of Adam.
d. The Corinthians were commanded by Paul to turn the worst offender over to Satan for his physical destruction (1 Corinthians 5:3-6), indicating that the "capital" character of the offense is still, in some cases, in play.
e. Point: sexual misconduct is a gross evil because of its blasphemous impact upon those who witness it (it makes them think wrongly about God, with all the attendant impact that has upon the thinkers).
2. In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, sexual misconduct is related to the use of drugs so that entire nations are brought to cataclysmic disaster by it (Revelation 18:9-23).
a. This may well explain why Paul's "grocery list" of the "works of the flesh" start with sexual misconduct in forms that wind up at the "drug" level.
b. It also may well explain the "order" of the progression: sexual perversity, uncleanness, wantonness, idolatry, drug-use.
1. From sexual perversion to "uncleanness" (lack of ability to promote or maintain health).
2. From uncleanness to "lasciviousness" (lack of moderation with a total fixation).
3. From lasciviousness to "idolatry" (the defining of "god" in terms of nervous excitement).
4. From idolatry to "drug use" (the last barrier of mental defenses systematically torn down).
c. Point: it is no wonder that enduring flames are the end of the deeds of the flesh.
II. Paul's Meaning: walking in the flesh is a total contradiction of everything good that God intends for men through what they believe.