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From the book, THE WORKS OF THE FLESH: Understanding and Defeating the Works of the Devil.

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Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Thus far we have dealt with the first two works of the flesh: Adultery and Sexual immorality. In this section we will deal with the third work of the flesh as listed in Galatians 5: Uncleanness

What is uncleanness?

The Greek word used in Galatians 5 is "AKATHARSIA."

According to Vine’s Dictionary, it has two meanings: 1. Physical uncleanness and 2. Moral uncleanness.

Thayer, in his Lexicon, defines the term as follows:

a. physical uncleanness

b. in a moral sense, the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living.

c. impure motives

Mike Willis, in his Commentary on The Book of Galatians, wrote the following:

"The basic meaning of akatharsia is 'impurity.' It can refer to physical uncleanness or filth. The Greek word was also used to refer to ceremonial uncleanness (Matt. 23:27). Later, it began to refer to moral uncleanness. It is joined with fornication in several contexts (Rom. 1:24; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5)[vii]

Stan Cox, in his article “Uncleanness” adds, “Yes, the term uncleanness is a broad term. Anything that is not pure; that influences the children of God to profligate (immoral) activity; that turns our minds away from righteousness; is unclean."[viii]

Uncleanness was our state before conversion. We were unclean and then we entered an ever-increasing state of cleanliness.

“I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” (Romans 6:19 NKJV).

In fact, being clean means being “holy.” Holiness and cleanliness are synonymous. When God commands us to be Holy as He is holy, he is saying to us "be clean;" physically, that is outwardly, be clean mentally, and let your words and actions be clean as well.

Jesus Christ looks forward to a Church that will be ready at his appearing and that will be without spot or blemish.

“…that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27 ASV).

Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.

13 I charge thee in the sight of God, who giveth life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession;

14 that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:12-14).

In the light of these scriptures, let's analyze ourselves so as to find any possible spots or blemishes that might be a problem in our relationship with God. Let’s look now at all the major areas where spots may be found.


Physical cleanliness is demanded of God’s children.

for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body” (1Corinthians 6: 20).

If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye. (1 Corinthians 3:17).

We, therefore, have a duty to make sure that God’s temple is clean and in as good a shape as possible. To do so we must follow certain laws of hygiene. Hygiene has always been very important to God. And from the start He made that evident in His emphasis on hygiene in the Book of the Law.

Washing is emphasized frequently in the Torah; especially the Book of Leviticus. The Israelites had to wash frequently, in particular if they touched certain things which God declared unclean, such as dead animals, dead bodies, human fluids, etc.

The laws of cleanliness placed Israel way ahead of the rest of the nations who had no understanding of the importance of hygiene in maintaining proper health and prolonging human life.

The other ancient nations had no such laws. For instance, one of the treatments in ancient Egypt was to treat wounds with animal dung. But Israel was chosen to inherit amazing laws of hygiene that would place them way ahead of the rest.

" and he said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of Jehovah thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his eyes, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon thee, which I have put upon the Egyptians: for I am Jehovah that healeth thee." (Exodus 15:26).

We Christians should also be very conscious of maintaining a high level of cleanliness. Washing often decreases the chances of catching germs and other bugs and decreases the chances of getting sick, as a result.

We often touch door handles and handrails, shopping carts that have been touched by countless others. Some people don’t wash as they should, and they leave their bugs all around. We touch what they touch. As a result, it is vital that we wash our hands frequently.

It is crucial that we wash our hands after going to the bathroom, thoroughly, with warm water and soap. Feel free to use a paper towel to open and close the knob.

It is also important that we wash thoroughly when we handle uncooked foods, particularly raw meat, poultry or fish, when we blow our nose, cough or sneeze when we handle garbage, and when we tend to someone who is sick or injured.

Since we deal with people throughout the day, it is very important that we shower through the week so as not to emanate bad odor, and that we brush our teeth after every meal so as to prevent the buildup of plaque which can lead to gum disease and bad breath.

For some of us who have poor digestion, we need to take digestive enzymes as the problem with bad breath is caused often by poor digestion.

When we come to church even if we don’t have luxurious clothes, we can and should appear before God with clean bodies and washed hair.

What about our houses? Are they relatively clean?

Obviously, people work. It’s hard to keep a house clean when little children are running around. Young mothers should try to do what they can, but it’s not easy to keep a clean house.

But what if we do have the time? What do we do if we do have the time? Do we clean our house as best as possible?

Is our car a mess? It’s tough to keep the outside clean, in Winter. But is the inside of our car always a mess? If someone where to get a ride with us, what would they see?

On the other hand, there are people in the world that do this obsessively. Is that alone an indication of spirituality? No, it is not. Hitler, apparently, was fastidious about cleanliness, yet he was definitely not clean in his mind. The Pharisees were fastidious about washing hands, yet they were dirty in their thoughts and actions.

Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee.

39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet:

40 for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:38-40).

Thus, the Pharisees were the epitome of what the word entails. They were hypocrites; they were filled with evil thoughts and attitudes; some, or many were adulterous and took advantage of the weakness and frailty of the widows. They were whitewashed tombs that looked beautiful on the outside, but inside were like tombs filled with decaying bones.

Yes, there is much more to “cleanness” than just washing often. That takes us to INTERNAL CLEANLINESS.

When we talk about internal uncleanness we are talking about thoughts, attitudes, motivations, words and behaviors that are a manifestation of what’s inside.

Let’s looks at all of these areas in details:


Humans have an inner world that is hidden from others. It is the mental world. Let’s be reminded of what Christ said about this in Matthew 15:19.

"For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings” (Matthew 15:19).

Yes, we can be clean on the outside, yet entertaining all sorts of evil thoughts inside.

The mind works like a TV. It has its own antenna and it constantly receives thoughts from the "Prince of the Power of the Air." Satan is the most powerful transmitter on earth. We receive his waves all too easily, and all too clearly. His thoughts appear in our minds often. What do we do when his unclean thoughts appear on the mental screen? Do we watch? Do we savor the images? Or do we immediately change channel?

Although other humans do not know what we are watching in our minds, God knows.

(for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds),

5 casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Not just some. Not all, except a few. All thoughts.

How do we fight a battle against evil thoughts?

1. By always being on guard. We must always be aware of what is going through our minds and we must catch ourselves -- quickly.

2. By suppressing evil thoughts. God has given us the ability to throw thoughts out of our minds, and he demands that we do so, when is necessary.

3. By replacing evil thoughts with good thoughts. That is very effective as sometimes throwing out thoughts may not work so we replace thoughts with good and clean thoughts.

This is where Philippians 4 comes into play:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).


If we have been Christians for many years, do we still use unclean words? Do we fool ourselves that just because we don’t use certain words we can use others?

When we get angry, the use of unclean words become quite easy for some. Does anger justify the use of unclean words? Unclean words are unclean words. Can we not use other words instead of unclean words?

“Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

What is corrupt communication? Four letter words; words that if looked at closely have a dirty connotation; dirty jokes; jokes with a partially dirty connotation.

Are we known at work for not using bad language? Some time ago, a colleague used some bad language and apologized to me for doing so. Why? Because she remembered that I don’t. I never condemned her or others for their use of dirty language. Yet, they know that I don’t.

What about lies? Do we lie “little lies”? There are countless Christians who lie “little lies” and they think it’s nothing.

“For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings” (Matthew 15:19).

Lying is a serious sin and no rationalizing will ever change that obdurate liars will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“…and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb's book of life” (Revelation 21:27).

That is an uncleanness that is spoken that must go. That we must repent of.


Our actions may seem clean, our words may be clean, but the motivations may be quite unclean. The difference between clean motives and unclean motives is sincerity, truth framed by love.

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9).

“…using hospitality one to another without murmuring” (1 Peter 4:9).

A Christian must regularly self-assess his/her motives to make sure they are clean and holy.


Are we pleasant, encouraging, loving, uplifting Christians, or are we demolishers? Do we build up, or do we tear down?

In the church historically we have had both kinds. We have patient, loving, forgiving, longsuffering people who we love to be around; who build and encourage, and we have those who are impatient, unloving, unforgiving, who spread negativism, criticism, put downs, and who are always on the lookout for faults in others so as to criticize and tear down.

Where do we fit?

The church in Corinth didn’t just have sexual immorality in its midst. Apparently it had serious problems with bad attitudes as well.

“For I fear, lest by any means, when I come, I should find you not such as I would, and should myself be found of you such as ye would not; lest by any means there should be strife, jealousy, wraths, factions, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults” (2 Corinthians 12: 20).

Why did he fear that that was the case? Any congregation that allows sexual immorality in its midst has many other serious problems, such as, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.

Are we nutrients, or are we poison? When people talk to us do they leave edified or perturbed?

A fully converted Christian, has his/her times of discouragement and discomfort when they are down. That is inevitable. That is not what we are talking about.

We are talking about a partially converted or unconverted Christian who passes poison along, constantly.

Where do we fit?

Another “uncleanness”:


Could compromising with our conscience be a cause of uncleanness? It certainly can!

God has given us this great gift called the conscience. It is a warning mechanism which tells us that we are about to cross into forbidden territory, or that we may have crossed into forbidden territory. It works through a warning bell called "guilt."

Do we listen to it? Do we suppress it?

Our minds can be defiled by even small compromises with our conscience. Some people do not understand how critical it is that out conscience be kept clean. Some people do not understand how serious compromises with our conscience can be.”

“The faith which thou hast, have thou to thyself before God. Happy is he that judgeth not himself in that which he approveth” (Romans 14:22).

How many things do we allow that we are in doubt about? Those are spots on our conscience that demand cleaning.

“…let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our body washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).

What are the benefits of having a good conscience?

“Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God” (1 John 3:21). 

Having a clean conscience is, therefore, vital for our spiritual well being.


Immoral acts are central to the meaning of "Akatharsia."

We have previously addressed various types of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bestiality and incest. All of these sins are included within the term "uncleanness."

There are critical aspects of sexual immorality that are not covered by the word "Porneia" which are covered by the word "Akatharsia."

There are forms of intimacy that are unclean, and potentially harmful, even within marriage. There are forms of intimacy that may be unacceptable to one of the partners.

Society is more and more pushing forms of sexual activities that are demeaning and harmful.  These distorted forms of sexuality are causing a lot of friction in many marriage relationships as one partner tries to force the other to participate in activities that are unwanted and unacceptable to them.

I have known of, or counseled people where this was a major problem. In two cases it led to serious difficulties.

Just because two people are married, and just because the scriptures say that one’s body belongs to the mate does not mean that a mate can demand anything one’s lusts desire.

Physical Love has to be framed by respect. Demanding intimacy that is unacceptable or potentially harmful to the other is unchristian -- and forbidden.

In conclusion let’s read a few scriptures that summarize God’s view of uncleanness.

“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3).

“For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). 

Yes, we were called to holiness, not uncleanness. Not partially, but fully; that is physically, mentally and spiritually. We have to be clean outside and inside. Our words must be clean, our thoughts must be clean, our actions must be clean.

That is God’s will: that we be holy -- clean -- as He is holy.

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The next article will address,  Lasciviousness

The Works of the Flesh:  Adultery, Fornication, Uncleanness, Lasciviousness, Idolatry, Witchcraft, Hatred, Variance, Emulations, Wrath, Strife, Seditions, Heresy, Envy, Murders, Drunkenness, Revelings.

The Fruits of the Spirit:

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Peace
  4. Longsuffering
  5. Kindness
  6. Goodness
  7. Faithfulness / Faith
  8. Gentleness/ Meekness
  9. Self-control

© Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2009