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Can Anyone Get to Heaven?

Galatians 5:19-21
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 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.

See Galatians 5:19-21. These are troubling verses. It might be concluded that everyone has committed at least one of these sins. If so, does this teach that we cannot go to Heaven? Does it teach saved people who are guilty cannot reign in the Millennium Age? If so, what happens to them? Moses killed and David was conspiracy to murder. David coveted and committed adultery. Moses became angry at times. Lot and Noah got drunk. Galatians 6:1 says to restore a fallen brother and this comes just after these problem verses. Discuss and come to a conclusion as to the teachings of these verses.

With such a background and understanding in mind, let us turn to the verses in question.

This is one of those many situations in Scripture where some consideration must be given to the Greek verbs underlying our English translation. In particular, the issue is one whether or not Paul was speaking about a one time act or a life characterized by continual practice of one or more of the listed sins. A careful consideration of these verses make it clear Paul speaks to the habitual offender. "Practice" (Greek prassontes) is a present tense participle is a warning about a continual practice. Paul looks to an ongoing lifestyle here. It is the one who continually commits such sins who will not "inherit the kingdom of God."

All Christians will fall into sin from time to time. This is the nature of the battle between the flesh and the spirit, between the "old man" and the "new creation." The overall lifestyle of the new creation in Christ will demonstrate the non-sinful walk of the person in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). This is reflected in the verses on the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), the verses following the main verse under consideration. The believer who temporarily falls into sin will suffer spiritual ills until he confesses and repents of his sins (Prov 28:13; 1 John 1:9).

It should also be noted that Paul speaks here of "works of the flesh." This reflects not a one time or occasional act against God but a continual pattern of evil deeds. Further, these deeds are "manifest" or plainly displayed to everyone. They are not works of secrecy but are an outward rebellion against God. They come from a heart hardened and cold (Matt 15:19; Mark 7:21-22). A cold, hardened heart speaks of an unbeliever.

The comparison of those following the "works of the flesh" comes in verse 24 where Paul moves on to "they that are Christ’s." This comparison arises because of the presumption made clear by Paul at Galatians 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." The tension and conflict between the flesh (the "old man") and "those that are Christ’s," those who "walk in the Spirit" (the "new creation") remains evident through one’s life. Paul describes this struggle in detail in chapters 7 and 8 of Romans. 

If Christ lives in us, then we have the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), the attributes of Christ within us. This empowers us to live as the new creation in Christ. This life we now "live by faith in the Son of God" empowers us to draw upon these attributes -- love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. By the exercise of this power, we are able to win the conflict with the flesh and avoid sinning. This is a daily battle whereby we must "reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom 6:11).


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