THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
NO. OF CHAPTERS
CHRIST SEEN AS
Liberty In Christ
The Apostle Paul
Christ is the Deliverer from the law and mere externalism and leads unto glorious liberty.
Reference material compiled by Ray
Various Authors, Edited as reference material
THE EPISTLE TO THE
Contents: Liberty of the believer in Christ, apart from the law. Conflict of flesh and the Spirit. Christian character the result of the Spirit’s work not self-effort.
Conclusion: Since we are justified only by faith in Christ Jesus, not by the righteousness of the law, let us not again stand in fear of, and bondage to, the legal ordinances. While our salvation is settled by the work of Christ, the conflict of sin which still wars in the believer’s members may be settled by yielding to the Holy Spirit, Who is present in the believer to subdue the fleshly nature and to bear heavenly fruit through our lives.
Key Word: Liberty, vv. 1, 13. Flesh and Spirit, v. 16.
Strong Verses: 1, 6, 14, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24.
Christ Seen: v. 4. To fall from grace is to fall back on legal ordinances and mix law and grace. One who is fallen from grace is not a believer who has lost his position in Christ by failure to do good works, but one who is doing good works and trusting in them as a means of salvation and sanctification. Salvation is of Christ alone.
Introduction: In this chapter the apostle comes to make application of his foregoing discourse. He begins it with a general caution, or exhortation (v. 1), which he afterwards enforces by several considerations (v. 2-12). He then presses them to serious practical godliness, which would be the best antidote against the snares of their false teachers; particularly, I. That they should not strive with one another (v. 13-15). II. That they would strive against sin, where he shows, 1. That there is in every one a struggle between flesh and spirit (v. 17). 2. That it is our duty and interest, in this struggle, to side with the better part (v. 16, 18). 3. He specifies the works of the flesh, which must be watched against and mortified, and the fruits of the Spirit, which must be brought forth and cherished, and shows of what importance it is that they be so (v. 19-24). And then concludes the chapter with a caution against pride and envy.
Freedom of the Gospel: Christian Liberty (5:1—6)
Verse 1: Stand fast therefore in the liberty
wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of
This verse is important because it forms the link between the previous argument concerning Christian freedom and the following passage, which is concerned with a practical application of the concept of Christian liberty.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free—lit., “For freedom Christ freed us; stand firm therefore.” The freedom which Christ has given to those who accept him by faith is based on the grace of God, not on any obedience to the requirements of the law.
Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage—Tyndale renders this, “And wrap not yourselves again.” The sense is, do not again allow such a yoke to be put on you; do not again become slaves to any rites, and customs, and habits.
Verse 2: Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing
Behold, I Paul say unto you—Even though the Galatians had stopped thinking as highly of Paul as they had at one time (Acts 14:11-13), and had begun to question his authority, he demanded that they pay attention.
if ye be circumcised—If the rites of circumcision and the keeping of the ceremonial laws are necessary for justification, then there is no way that grace can be seen as having a part in justification.
Christ shall profit you nothing—if a man is justified by works, he is not justified by his faith; if a man is justified by faith, he is not justified by his works. Circumcision was necessary for total obedience to the law by devout Jews. Paul pointed out, however, that it was not necessary for an individual to become a Jew outwardly in order to become a Jew inwardly (1 Cor. 7:17-20). Outward circumcision has no relationship to inward faith.
Verse 3: For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Paul here declares that the man who submits to circumcision is responsible for keeping all of the law. It is impossible for anyone to keep even a part of the law perfectly, much less the entire law (James 2:10). But no one can be justified by the law unless he keeps every part of it.
Verse 4: Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you is justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
The words “Christ is become of no effect unto you,” must be understood in their context to refer, not to the Galatians justification but to their spiritual lives as Christians. Paul is not speaking of their standing in Christ, but of their experience in living. They mean to be without an effective relationship. The idea is that the Galatian Christian, by putting themselves under the law, have put themselves in a place where they have ceased to be in that relation to Christ where they could derive the spiritual benefits from Him which would enable them to live a live pleasing to Him, namely through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Fallen from grace—the words fallen from means “to fail of” “to lose one’s hold of”.
The Galatian Christians had lost their hold upon the grace for daily living which heretofore had been ministered to them by the Holy Spirit. God’s grace manifests itself in three ways, in justification, sanctification, and glorification. The context rules. All through chapter five, Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the believer.
Therefore grace here must be interpreted as the daily grace for living of which the Galatian Christians were depriving themselves.
But because they had lost their hold upon sanctifying grace, does not mean that God’s grace had lost its hold upon them in the sphere of justification. Because they refused to accept God’s grace in sanctification is no reason why God should withdraw His grace for justification. They had received the latter when they accepted the Lord Jesus. That transaction was closed and permanent at the moment they believed. Justification is a judicial act of God done once for all. Sanctification is a process which goes on all through the Christian’s life.
Verse 5: For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
For we - We who are Christians. It is a characteristic of the true Christian.
Through the Spirit - The Holy Spirit. We expect salvation only by his aid.
Wait for - That is, we expect salvation in this way. The main idea is, not that of waiting as if the thing were delayed; it is that of expecting. The sense is that true Christians have no other hope of salvation than by faith in the Lord Jesus. It is not by their own works, nor is it by any conformity to the Law. The object of Paul is, to show them the true nature of the Christian hope of eternal life, and to recall them from dependence on their conformity to the Law.
The hope of righteousness - The hope of justification. They had no other hope of justification than by faith in the Redeemer.
Verse 6: For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
For in Jesus Christ - In the religion which Christ came to establish.
Neither circumcision ... - It makes no difference whether a man is circumcised or not. He is not saved because he is circumcised, nor is he condemned because he is not. The design of Christianity is to abolish these rites and ceremonies and to introduce a way of salvation that shall be applicable to all mankind alike; see the Gal_3:28.
But faith which worketh by love - Faith that evinces its existence by love to God, and benevolence to people. It is not a mere intellectual belief, but it is that which reaches the heart, and controls the affections. It is not a dead faith, but it is that which is operative, and which is seen in Christian kindness and affection. It is not mere belief of the truth, or mere orthodoxy, but it is that which produces trite attachment to others. The true faith is that which is seen in benevolence, in love to God, in love to all who bear the Christian name; in a readiness to do good to all mankind. This shows that the heart is affected by the faith that is held; and this is the nature and design of all genuine religion. Tyndale renders this, “faith, which by love is mighty in operation.”
Love fulfills the Law (5:7—15)
Verse 7: Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
Paul again showed his concern by interrupting his argument with a parenthetical statement of disbelief that the Galatians could be so easily persuaded by the Judaizers.
Who did hinder you—The Greek word carries the idea of “hinder by breaking up a road” (the road of grace they had been running on). The Galatians found the path of the true grace so difficult to follow that they were forced away from it by the arguments of the Judaizers.
Verse 8: This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
This persuasion - This belief that it is necessary to obey the laws of Moses, and to intermingle the observance of Jewish rites with the belief of the Christian doctrines in order to be saved.
Not of him that calleth you - That is, of God, who had called them into his kingdom? That it refers to God and not to Paul is plain. They knew well enough that Paul had not persuaded them to it, and it was important now to show them that it could not be traced to God, though they who taught it pretended to be commissioned by him.
Verse 9: A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump
This seems to be saying that only a little bit of legalism in the midst of the Galatian church would be enough to subvert its purpose and purity. If legalism and works were added to the message of the gospel, the entire thing would be undermined (1 Cor. 5:6).
Verse 10: I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
I have confidence in you through the Lord—Paul believed that God would be able to convince the Galatians, through the Lord, of the correctness of his viewpoint.
He that troubleth you shall bear his judgment—Not only would God convince the Galatians of the truth, but he would punish the one who was leading them astray. Paul was careful to distinguish between the people who were led astray through their own thoughtlessness and those who did the leading. Paul hoped that those who were led astray would return to the right path, while those who led the others would be doomed to the judgment of God.
Verse 11: And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offence of the cross ceased.
If I yet preach circumcision—The Judaizers claimed that Paul himself taught that it was necessary to be circumcised, perhaps pointing to the fact that he had circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3; 20:6; 21:24).
Why do I yet suffer persecution—Paul replied that his persecution by the Jews indicated he was not preaching the doctrine of circumcision? It was precisely because he preached the crucified and risen Jesus as the sole basis for justification that the Jews were still against him. Only for conciliation did he live as a Jew when among the Jews (1 Cor. 7:18-20; 9:20). The question as to the importance of circumcision depends on the way the individual regards it. The Galatians were looking at circumcision as a way of gaining favor with God. Paul conformed to the culture of those he was with so that he would give no offense. The Jews became upset with Stephen, not just because he was preaching Christ crucified, but because he was speaking against their laws and customs. They may have been able to accept the gospel of Christ if he had mixed it with the idea that justification comes by means of keeping the laws, and if he had brought into Judaism his new converts. But if the Christian message had allowed that any of this was necessary for justification, then the death of Christ would have been unnecessary, and would have profited nothing (5:2, 4).
Verse 12: I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
I would they were even cut off—the true reflection of the Greek phrase is captured by TLB mg. “go and castrate themselves.” The worship of Cybele included the mutilation of the pagan priests in this way. Paul probably was referring to this as one of the acts which would benefit nothing, since it was an act of devotion to a false god. He was comparing it to the legalistic acts which the Judaizers were requiring the Galatians to do. Neither would help them become right with God. Verses 9 and 10 point to the threat of excommunication of those who were involved in the practice of Judaizing. Thus Paul’s statement can be understood as a play on words having both the meaning of the literal act of castration as well as the symbolic “cutting off” of excommunication.
Verse 13: For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Called unto liberty—this liberty consists of three things: freedom from the Mosaic Law, freedom from sin, and freedom from slavish fear.
Use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh—Even though they had been made free from the law, they were not to let their freedom become the grounds for indulgence in sensual pleasures (1 Pet. 2:16; 2 Pet. 2:19; Jude 4).
By love serve one another—if they were going to enslave themselves, Paul suggests, why not bind themselves in love to one another? This is a hint that the legalism he had seen developing among the Galatians had come about as a result of unloving bitterness and lust for power.
Verse 14: For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
All the law—Love for God is presupposed as the root from which love for one’s neighbor springs. This love would fulfill all of the law (Lev. 19:18). Love is the command of Christ (6:2; Matt. 7:12; 22:39, 40: Rom. 13:9, 10).
Is fulfilled—lit., “has been summed up.”
Verse 15: But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Excessive criticism results in the destruction of the strength of the soul, the health of the body, and the character and resources of one another (Matt. 23:14; 2 Cor. 11:20). The mutual love and respect of Christians for one another will keep this from happening.
Walking in the Spirit (5:16—26)
Verse 16: This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
This I say then - This is the true rule about overcoming the propensities of your carnal natures, and of avoiding the evils of strife and contention.
Walk - The Christian life is often represented as a journey, and the word walk, in the scripture, is often equivalent to live; Mar_7:5.
In the Spirit - Live under the influences of the Holy Spirit; admit those influences fully into your hearts. Do not resist him, but yield to all his suggestions;
Rom_8:1. What the Holy Spirit would produce, Paul states in Gal_5:22-23. If a man would yield his heart to those influences, he would be able to overcome all
his carnal propensities; and it is because he resists that Spirit, that he is ever overcome by the corrupt passions of his nature. Never was a better, a safer, or an easier rule given to overcome our corrupt and sensual desires than that here furnished; Rom_8:1-13.
And ye shall not fulfill “Fulfill not” - as if it were a command. So Tyndale renders it. But the more common interpretation, as it is the more significant, is that adopted by our translators. Thus, it is not merely a command, it is the statement of an important and deeply interesting truth - that the only way to overcome the corrupt desires and propensities of our nature, is by submitting to the influences of the Holy Spirit. It is not by philosophy; it is not by mere resolutions to resist them; it is not by the force of education and laws; it is yielding ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God. If we live under the influences of that Spirit, we need not fear the power of the sensual and corrupt propensities of our nature.
Verse 17: For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
For the flesh lusteth [has desires]
Against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh—all of the intentions and actions which an individual has can be traced either to the Holy Spirit and his good influence or to man’s sinful nature and its bad influence.
these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would—A Christian is not able to do fully all that the Spirit directs him to do; conversely, he is unable to carry out all of his evil intentions due to the influence of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 18: But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
But if ye be led of the Spirit - If you submit to the teachings and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Ye are not under the law - You are under a different dispensation - the dispensation of the Spirit. You are free from the restraints and control of the Mosaic Law, and are under the control of the Spirit of God.
Verse 19: Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
The works of the flesh are manifest—the fallen human nature (called “flesh”) betrays itself by the works which a man does. These demonstrate that he is not living under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Paul enumerated seventeen sins, while he listed only nine fruits of the Spirit. Neither list is exhaustive, but both are representative. The Galatian Christians had come out of a pagan background where sensual sins were not only tolerated but encouraged by the pagan priests and rituals.
Adultery—Illicit connection with a married person.
Fornication—Illicit connection between single or unmarried persons; yet often signifying adultery also.
Uncleanness— whatever is opposite to purity; probably meaning here, as in Romans 1:24; 2 Corinthians 12:21, unnatural practices; sodomy, bestiality.
Lasciviousness—Whatever is contrary to chastity; all lewdness. Absence of restraint, indecency, the prominent idea is shameless conduct
Verse 20: Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Idolatry—worshipping of idols; frequenting idol festivals; which were common among the Gentiles.
Witchcraft—a drug or poison; because in all spells and enchantments, whether true or false, drugs were employed. So spells and incantations were used sometimes for the restoration of the health; at others, for the destruction of an enemy. Sometimes, these were used to procure love; at other times, to produce hatred. Sorcery—pharmacy.
Hatred—Aversions and antipathies, when opposed to brotherly love and kindness.
Variance— Contentions, where the principle of hatred proceeds to open acts; hence contests, altercations, lawsuits, and disputes in general.
Emulations—Envies or emulations; that is strife to excel at the expense of another; lowering others to set up one’s self; unholy zeal, fervently adopting a bad cause, or supporting a good one by cruel means. Inquisitions, pretending to support true religion by torturing and burning alive those who both profess and practice it.
Wrath—hot anger, passion,
Strife—Disputations, or strife about words.
Seditions— Divisions into separate factions; parties, whether in the Church or state.
Heresies—Factions; parties in the Church separating from communion with each other, and setting up altar against altar. The word, which is harmless in itself, is here used in a bad sense, scandals, offenses or stumbling-blocks.
Verse 21: Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Envyings..... Uneasy distressing tortures of the mind, grieving at the good of others, that any should be in an equal, or in a better condition than themselves:
Murders, destroying of men's lives, which is often the consequence of the above evils:
Drunkenness; excess in drinking of wine or strong drink, whereby the stomach is overcharged, the mind is intoxicated, and the body enfeebled and unable to perform its office; this is often the source of many, or all of the works of the flesh before mentioned:
Revellings; excess in feed, rioting in eating, drinking, dancing, singing, chambering and wantonness. So the apostle shuts up the account, it being too tedious to give an enumeration of all the works of the flesh; nor was it necessary, judgment may be made of the rest by these; nor might it be so proper, since the carnal heart is but the more pleased with, and irritated by, the mention of evil things:
of the which I tell you before: before the judge comes and the awful judgment proceeds, when these will all be made manifest, and every man will be judged according to his works: this the apostle did, as putting them in mind of the evil nature of these things, and assuring them of the bad consequences that would follow, if grace prevented not.
as I have also told you in time past; when he first preached among them, and warned them to flee from the wrath to come; he then laid before them the evil nature of these things, the dreadful effects of them, and showed that there was no salvation from them, but by Christ:
And that they which do such things—habitual practice
shall not inherit the kingdom of God; by which is meant the heavenly glory, called a "kingdom", because of the grandeur and magnificence of that state; and "of God", because it is of his preparing and giving, possessed in way of inheritance, which shows it to be a bequest of our heavenly Father's, a free grace gift of his, and not to be obtained by the works of the law, or merits of men; but what belongs, and is peculiar to the children of God, who are so by adopting grace: now they that do such works of the flesh as before enumerated; that is, that live in the commission of these things, whose whole lives are employed in such work, living and dying in such a state, without repentance towards God and faith in Christ, shall never enjoy eternal life and happiness; though such who have done these things, being brought to a sense of them, and to the blood and righteousness of Christ for pardon and justification, for life and salvation; such, notwithstanding the works of the flesh done by them, shall, through the free grace of God, and the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, inherit the kingdom and glory of God.
Verse 22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
But the fruit of the Spirit - That which the Holy Spirit produces. It is not without design, evidently, that the apostle uses the word “Spirit” here, as denoting that these things do not flow from our own nature. The vices above enumerated are the proper “works” or result of the operations of the human heart; the virtues which he enumerates are produced by a foreign influence - the agency of the Holy Spirit. Hence, Paul does not trace them to our own hearts, even when renewed. He says that they are to be regarded as the proper result of the Spirit’s operations on the soul.
Is love - To God and to human beings? Probably the latter here is particularly intended, as the fruits of the Spirit are placed in contradistinction from those vices which lead to strife among people.
Joy - In the love of God; in the evidences of pardon; in communion with the Redeemer, and in his service; in the duties of religion, in trial, and in the hope of heaven.
Peace - As the result of reconciliation with God.
Long-suffering - In affliction and trial, and when injured by others; the idea of forbearance and patient endurance of wrong under ill—treatment, without anger or thought of revenge.
Gentleness - The same word which is translated “kindness” in 2Co_6:6. The word means goodness, kindness, and is opposed to a harsh, crabbed, crooked temper. It is a disposition to be pleased; it is mildness of temper, calmness of spirit, an unruffled disposition, and a disposition to treat all with urbanity and politeness. This is one of the regular effects of the Spirit’s operations on the heart.
Goodness –The word refers to that quality in a man who is ruled by and aims at what is good, namely, the quality of moral worth.
Faith -The word here may be used in the sense of fidelity, and may denote that the Christian will be a faithful man, a man faithful to his word and promises; a man who can be trusted or confided in. It is probable that the word is used in this sense because the object of the apostle is not to speak of the feelings which we have toward God so much as to illustrate the influences of the Spirit in directing and controlling our feelings toward people. True religion makes a man faithful. The Christian is faithful as a man; faithful as a neighbor, friend, father, husband, and son. He is faithful to his contracts; faithful to his promises.
Verse 23: Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Meekness,.... Humility and lowliness of mind, of which Christ is an eminent example and pattern; and which the Holy Spirit from him transcribes into the heart of a regenerate person; in walking humbly with God, acknowledging every favor, being thankful for every blessing, and depending on his grace, and in behaving with modesty and humility among men. The last of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned is
Temperance, or "continence"; and designs both chastity and sobriety, and particularly moderation in eating and drinking. It may be observed, that these fruits of the Spirit are opposed to the works of the flesh. So love is opposed to hatred; joy to emulations and envying; peace to variance, strife, and seditions; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and meekness, to wrath and murders; faith to idolatry, witchcraft, and heresies; and temperance to adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, drunkenness, and reveling.
Against such there is no law; meaning, against such fruits, graces, and good things; these being perfectly agreeable to the law of God, which is holy, just, and good, and spiritual; and are so far from being forbidden by it, that they are highly esteemed and approved of by it: or against persons that are possessed of such fruits; for these appear to be in the spirit, and to be led by the Spirit; and therefore are not under the law, and have nothing to fear from it, as a terrifying, accusing, cursing, and condemning law. The works of the flesh, and they that are of the flesh, are such that come under the notice and lash of the law; and not the fruits of the Spirit, and they that are after the Spirit, as such are who partake of his fruit.
Verse 24: And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
This was done once and for all when they became Christians (Rom. 6:3, 4), and it is done continuously (Rom. 6:6) so that the Holy Spirit will be able to produce in them the fruits just listed (5:22, 23). By faith in Christ a man becomes dead to a sinful life and rises to a new life of fellowship with Christ (Col. 3:3). The act by which Christ destroyed the old nature took place once, but the life of the believer must harmonize with what Christ has accomplished.
Verse 25: If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
If we live in the Spirit—if our Christian life finds its only source in the Spirit, as in fact, it does.
Let us also walk in the Spirit—let us conduct our daily living in the Spirit. In other words, the outward life of a Christian should be consistent with his inward experience. This verse emphasizes that life by the power of the Holy Spirit does not indicate an occasional influence here and there from the Holy Spirit, but a continual state of living in union with the Spirit.
Verse 26: Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory—this type of action would obviously be contrary to the Spirit-directed life. Vainglory leads to the following:
provoking one another, envying one another—Paul concluded his discussion of life in the Spirit by noting that conceit, provocation and envy have no place in the Christian experience.
This lesson was prepared using the following: Brooks, Keith I., The Summarized Bible; Clark, Adam, Commentary on the N. T.; Henry, Matthew, Commentary on the N. T.; Green, Oliver, Commentary on Galatians; Walvoord, John, Commentary on the Book of Galatians.
All scripture is from the King James Version.
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