For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
The fifth chapter of Galatians is tied closely to the thoughts at the end of Galatians 4. Paul believes that you have to choose your mother carefully. So, who is your mother? She will be either Hagar the slave or Sarah the freewoman. Paul’s advice? It is “for freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 1:1a). Since that is the case, “stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 1:1b). This is a key verse because Paul makes it clear you cannot do both, rely on the law for salvation and receive it as a gift from Christ. You must decide!
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
In the next two paragraphs, Paul “turns up the heat” on those who want to combine salvation under Christ and the keeping of the law of Moses. His assertion is that “if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you” (Galatians 5:2). Keep in mind that circumcision is not the problem, it is the symptom that it represents: submission to the law for salvation. It might seem easy to submit to circumcision; however, the problem is that if you keep one part of the law, you are “obligated to keep the whole law” (Galatians 5:3). The student is encouraged to read James 2:10-11 also. Paul states that the cut that severs the skin in circumcision (when used as a way of attempting to be justified) is also the cut that severs one from God’s grace (Galatians 5:4). His conclusion of this thought is that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). This is a faith that allows us to “eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (Galatians 5:5). Ones who have chosen this faith have chosen Sarah, the freewoman, as their mother. They are free from the slavery of the law.
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
Paul begins this section by considering how well the Galatians had been doing and questioning, “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7). One thing is for sure, it was not the one who called them to the gospel, that is Christ (Galatians 5:8). Paul expresses his confidence that the Galatians will follow his beliefs (Galatians 5:10) and he reminds them that he certainly does not hold the view that circumcision should be practiced. As proof to this he reminds them that if it were his belief, he would not be persecuted as he is now (Galatians 5:11). To emphasize his point about how strongly he feels about this issue, he states, “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12).
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
There is a desire on the part of Paul to help the Galatians understand that they should not misuse the freedom of salvation by grace rather than works by giving “an opportunity for the flesh.” Rather, they should “through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). The choices are to “love your neighbor as yourself” or to “bite and devour one another” (Galatians 5:14-15).
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, 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. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
In the final section of this chapter, Paul draws a sharp contrast between “walking by the Spirit” and the “desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). In Galatians 5:17-24, the comparison is drawn. Below is a chart of the difference in the two lifestyles. The student is encouraged to use a Bible dictionary or concordance to find other passages that will help you see the meaning of unfamiliar words.
Desires of the Flesh
Are against the Spirit
Fits of anger
“And things like these”
Walking by the Spirit
Are against the flesh
Are not under the law
“Against such things there is no law”
“Have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”
Paul’s exhortation is that, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). Some of the things that will not happen in the life of ones who walk by the Spirit are summarized in Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
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