Galatians 5:20 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Galatians 5:20, NIV: "idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions"

Galatians 5:20, ESV: "idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,"

Galatians 5:20, KJV: "Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,"

Galatians 5:20, NASB: "idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions,"

Galatians 5:20, NLT: "idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,"

Galatians 5:20, CSB: "idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions,"

What does Galatians 5:20 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul is listing sinful actions and lifestyles, calling them the "evident" results of living for the flesh, instead of in the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16–18). He is not creating a new set of rules or laws for people who are free in Christ. Instead, Paul's intent is to describe the nature of self-serving lifestyles. Christians are meant to use their freedom and the power of God's Spirit with them to serve others in love (Galatians 5:13). Those who refuse to do so will end up squandering their lives in service to sins like these.

In the previous verse, Paul listed sins related to sexuality, such as sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality.

Now he lists two sins related to religion and spirituality. Idolatry is the worship of idols and pagan gods. It is the one sin throughout Scripture over which God seems to express the most outrage. It was absolutely common in the world of Paul's day. It's still common today, both directly and in the sense of putting material things above God in our lives. Simply put, Christians should absolutely worship no other god in any way whatsoever.

Next comes "sorcery" or witchcraft. Interestingly, this is from the Greek term pharmakeia, related to the term from which we derive the English word pharmacy. This term implies the use of drugs, potions, and poisons, often for the sake of twisting a person's mind or spirit. By extension, the "sorcery" Paul refers to often includes calling on demons or nature in an attempt to access supernatural power without God's help.

Next, Paul lists a group of relationship sins, all of which translate neatly from Greek into English. Enmity means hating certain people or groups. Strife refers to the stirring up of discord and division. Jealousy is self-explanatory. Paul's reference to "fits of anger" is from the word thymoi, implying uncontrolled outbursts of emotions such as rage. Rivalries are divisions between people driven by selfish ambition. Dissensions are those times when we break unity without good cause. Divisions, as used here, means unjustly or unfairly "taking sides" against others—this from the same root word used to derive the English word heresy, and is sometimes translated as "factions."

None of these sins should describe the ongoing lifestyle of one who is free and forgiven in Christ and powered by the Holy Spirit.