Frank: That's fantastic — we are exactly on the same page.
Here's a citation from Scripture:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.[Gal 5:19-21, ESV]
That's quite a list from Paul to the Galatians, yes? Now, you and I agree that what Paul does not mean here is that people who do this undo Christ's work for them.
But if that's what Paul does not mean, what in fact does Paul mean by saying this? For the answer to this question, I give you an open word limit — you may use as much space as necessary to answer this question.
Daniel: Thanks Frank for the open word limit.
A3: These are the verses in the Greek, with the words underlined as you have done:
φανερὰ δέ ἐστιν τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, ἅτινά ἐστιν πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια, 20 εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθεῖαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις, 21 φθόνοι, μέθαι, κῶμοι καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις, ἃ προλέγω ὑμῖν, καθὼς προεῖπον ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες βασιλείαν θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν. (Gal 5:19-21 BGT)
The word translated “dissensions” is the word eritheiai (ἐριθεῖαι), which according to the abridged LSJ lexicon denotes “an attitude of self-seeking selfish ambition.” The word translated “divisions” in the same lexicon, dichostasiai (διχοστασίαι), denotes “a standing apart, dissension.” The other occurrences of this word are both in the genitive singular: in 1 Macc 3:29 (which refers to civil discord) and Rom. 16:17. It is in Rom. 16:17 that the word is used in association with the apostles’ teaching, as it is written:
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Rom. 16:17 –ESV)
From this, the word dichostasia as used in the NT has a connotation of divisions caused by the introduction of false teachings into the church. Together with the next item on the list haireseis (αἱρέσεις), they both reflect on the divisions caused by introduction of false teachings into the church.
Paul by detailing the works of the flesh is therefore telling the believers in Galatians what are the actions and attitudes to avoid and not do. We must first of all realize that the Epistle to the Galatians was written to professing believers in the covenant community, not the Judaizers. These professed believers were in danger of falling away from the faith, and Paul wrote this letter with the intention that he would rebuke them and bring them back from their perilous state. Of course, we know from other Scriptures that true believers do not fall away (c.f. Jn. 6:37-39), and those who do were never saved in the first place (1 Jn. 2:19). However, in daily living and ministry we tend to those in the visible church not the invisible, and therefore Paul assumes that at least some of them are merely deluded and thus he sharply rebukes them for their error.
I disagree with you [Frank] that we can say that doing these things will not “undo Christ’s work for them.” The list is not meant to necessarily describe the Galatians believers. The list is to show what not to do and what to avoid in people. Paul’s slight in not even thinking the Judaizers worth writing to shows that those who indeed have these works of the flesh in the fullest degree, as the Judaizers have in the area of self-seeking ambition and causing dissension by spreading false teachings, are not to be considered Christians at all.