The Epistle to the Galatians Chapter 5:1-21 Stand Fast in the Freedom Christ has Given 5.1. For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. The Galatian Christians were in danger of reverting back to the bondage of the law and regulations of religion. Therefore, Paul exhorts them to remain faithful and true to the freedom that Jesus Christ has obtain for them through His atoning death on the cross and not be ensnared again to a yoke of slavery. We need not confine this to the Law and regulations for as we shall see there is the law of sin in our bodies (Rom. 7: 23 - 25) that once had dominion over us (Rom. 6: 14). Jesus Christ has set us free from the bondage of sin and the demands of the Law (John 8: 36). 5.2 - 4. Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all! And I testify again to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace! Paul who was a Jew, a Pharisee, (Phil. 3: 5) and therefore circumcised tells them straight that if they should be circumcised it will not accomplish anything it is only an outward sign and that it has nothing to do with salvation. In fact, if anyone becomes circumcised believing that it is necessary in order to be saved they are saying that they do not trust in the complete work of salvation that Christ obtained through the Cross. If a man becomes circumcised for this purpose then he removes himself from grace and is under an obligation to keep the whole law. Indeed, he separates himself from Christ for he is declaring that Godâ€™s grace is insufficient. 5.5. For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness. As believers we are enabled by the Spirit through faith to wait for the blessing of the fulfilment of our salvation when Christ returns. 5.6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight â€” the only thing that matters is faith working through love. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ there is no benefit in being circumcised or uncircumcision for faith that is expressed through our works of love.
Who Hinders You? 5.7 - 8. You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from the one who calls you! Up until now the Galatians had been running the race of faith well but their progress was now being curbed by the false teachers. Paul puts the responsibility for this right into the lap of the Galatians. If they choose to believe these men and to be ensnared then they could only blame themselves, they would have no excuse for going astray. This erroneous teaching did not come from the Lord Jesus Christ who had called them out of darkness into His Light and set them free.
Love Fulfils the Law 5.9. A little yeast makes the whole batch of dough rise! The smallest inclination to error is enough to contaminate the idea of faith and can mislead the whole church (leaven is a symbol in scripture of evil). Jesus warned His disciples about the leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 16: 11 - 12). 5.10. I am confident in the Lord that you will accept no other view. But the one who is confusing you will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. Paul however had confidence in these believers that the Lord would keep them from departing from the faith and they would stand firm. Those who were seeking to lead them astray however, will have to bear the penalty for doing so. 5.11 - 12. Now, brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those agitators would go so far as to castrate themselves! If it was true what these false teachers were saying about Paul that he was preaching the need to be circumcised in order to be truly saved then why was he still being persecuted for preaching salvation through the Cross of Christ? The reason that he was being opposed was because he preached salvation through faith in Christ's death on the cross that was an offense to the Jewish teachers. In strong language he says that he could wish that those who are troubling them about being circumcised would mutilate (cut off) themselves! Gill says â€œthat they might be cut off out of the land of the living by the immediate hand of Godâ€?. 5.13. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. He reminds them that they were set free in Christ and from trying to earn salvation by keeping the law. They should not use this freedom as a license to fulfil the desires of the flesh (1 Peter 2:16) but to demonstrate love by unselfishly serving each other. 5.14 - 15. For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, "You must love your neighbor as yourself." However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. The whole Law concerning our relationships with one another is fulfilled in one Law, Leviticus 19: 18 "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Math. 22: 39 - 40). The opposite of love is hate that causes strife and will result in them consuming one another with harsh words and abusive action and destroying each other.
Walk in the Spirit 5.16. But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to live a responsible controlled Christian life. Therefore, the exhortation is to “walk in the Spirit” to be guided and helped by Him (one of the translations for the Holy Spirit is helper). It is He who enables us to subdue the desires of the flesh. 5.17 - 18. For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. There is a continual battle that goes on between the flesh (the old nature) and the Spirit they are completely opposed to one another. Because of this we find it difficult to do the right things that we want to (Rom. 7: 15). If we allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in our lives and to lead us into all truth then we are not subject to the Law.
Works of the Flesh 5.19 - 21. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God! The last heading leads Paul on to give a description of the works (note he says works not fruit) of the flesh. It is obvious to see the results of living under the control of the flesh, the sinful nature. The first four include natural and perverted forms of sexual sin among both married (adultery) and single (fornication). Idolatry and sorcery are perversions of worship involved with the powers of darkness. The nine works beginning with hatred and ending in murders are all to do with temperament i.e persons normal manner of thinking, behaviour and reaction under the influence of sin and are entirely opposite to having a love for others. Drunkenness and riotous living are social evils. “The absence of the Spirit opens the door to wickedness” (John Wesley). Those who practice such things or yield to them have never known Christ as their Saviour or are believers who are still controlled by their sinful nature or are backsliders (1 Corinthians 3:3). © Derek Williams 2014 Bible Studies Online UK www.biblestudiesonline.org.uk You may copy, print or distribute our studies freely in any form, just so long as you make no charges. Sign up today for our FREE monthly Bible study magazine “Living Word” Scriptures taken from the NET Bible www.bible.org