Pauline studies | Galatians 5 Bible study

Living Word Magazine

Chapter 5

Stand Fast in the Freedom Christ has Given.


1. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (NKJVTM)  


The Galatian Christians were in danger of reverting back to the bondage of the law and regulations of religion.   Therefore Paul exhorts them to stand fast and not be ensnared again to a yoke of slavery.   We need not confine this to the Law/regulatians  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).  


2 - 4. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (NKJVTM)  


Paul who was a Jew and a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5), one of the circumcised, tells them straight that if they should be circumcised it will not be of any benefit to them.   In fact, if anyone becomes circumcised believing that it is necessary in order to be saved they saying that they do not trust in the complete work of salvation that Christ obtained through the Cross.   If he 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.


5. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.


As believers we are empowered by the Spirit through faith to wait for the blessing of the fulfilment of our salvation when Christ returns.


6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.


If we are in Christ then neither circumcision or uncircumcision accounts for anything but faith which is expressed through our works of love.


Who Hinders You?


7 - 8. You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.


Up until now the Galatians had been running the race of faith well but now their progress was 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 be without excuse.   For this 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.


9. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.


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).


10. I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty.


Paul however had confidence in these believers, (note, in the Lord) that they would not depart from the faith but stand firm.   Those who were seeking to lead them astray, however, will have to bear the penalty for doing so.


11 - 12. But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would 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 ?   However, he was being opposed because he preached salvation through faith in Christ's death on the cross, which was an offence 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!


13. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to 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 licence (leave) to fulfil the desires of the flesh but to demonstrate love by unselfishly serving each other.


14 - 15. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.


The whole Law concerning our relationships with one another is fulfilled in one Law (Lev. 19:18 ; Matt. 22:39-40).   The opposite of love is hate  and to bite and devour one another with harsh  words and abusive action will end in devouring each other.


Walk in the Spirit.


16. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify 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.


17 - 18. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to 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).   But if we allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in our lives, to lead us into all truth then we are not subject to the Law.


Works of the Flesh.


19 - 21. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.


The previous 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  and are entirely opposite having a love for others. Drunkenness and riotous living are social evils. "The absence of the Spirit opens the door to wickedness" (WESLEY). Those who practice  such things have never known Christ as their Saviour or are backslidden from Him.  


The Fruit of the Spirit.


22 - 23. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.


The word fruit is singular, that is one. Some consider this fruit to be the first named, love, and all the others being the outworking of that love. Others consider it to signify that all nine fruits are the results of the life of the Spirit. In one sense both are correct. Without love the rest cannot be and without the Holy Spirit there cannot be any fruit. In John 15:1-8  where Jesus likens Himself to the true vine He says that "he who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit". Taking the first thought, love being the fruit, Porter Barrington comments thus:


The fruit of the Spirit is love and it is expressed as,


Joy is love's strength.  

Peace is love's security.  

Longsuffering is love's patience.  

Kindness is love's conduct.  

Goodness is love's character.  

Faithfulness is love's confidence.  

Gentleness is love's humility.  

Self-control is love's victory.  


There is no law that can enforce this fruit, no commandment against evil can ever produce these blessed results only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.


24 - 25. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.


Those who belong to Jesus Christ have but to death the old nature (Rom. 6:6). If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God let our lives be controlled by the Spirit (Rom. 8:4-5).


26. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.


We are not to allow ourselves to become puffed up, compete, challenge or provoke one another but to allow the Holy Spirit to work out His fruit in our lives.


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