Galatians 5 - Outline of Galatians (Book Notes menu page)
IV. Practical application, 5:1- 6:10
A. Stand in Faith, free from the Law, 5:1-15
B. Walk in the Spirit, free from the Flesh, 5:16-26
Paul has demonstrated that righteousness is not attained by the works of the Law, but rather received by faith in God's Promise.
For entrance into God's family, you must be born again, of His Spirit, through faith in His Son. God has pre-determined that all of His children are destined to mature into full sons. His sons are no longer under the temporary guardianship which the Law provided, but are designated as heirs to God's Promise.
"So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." (Gal 4:31)
At the end of ch.4, Paul addressed his readers as 'brothers' who, like him, have been born into freedom, as the sons of the Promise of Righteousness by faith in Christ.
If it is true, that they have been justified by faith, then they must also live by faith...
1. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,
and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you,
that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised,
that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you,
whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision;
but faith which worketh by love.
stand fast... in the liberty {ie., freedom} wherewith Christ has made us free...
God's children must stand in and for the truth which they have received (eg., Eph 6:14; Php 1:27).
The freedom which we enjoy is complete, for it is the perfect result of Christ's completed action in our behalf. Joh 8:32-36; Rom 8:2-4
...and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.
Christ set us free from sin and the law, so that, with Him, we may live to please God (Mat 11:28-30).
But if you follow legalistic teachers, you will become slaves to legalism (Acts 15:10; Gal 2:4; 4:9).
...if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
The salvation, which Christ has provided, is of no use to you, if you are trying to keep the law to demonstrate your self-righteousness (Rom 10:2-4). Throughout the epistle to the Galatians, 'circumcision' refers to submission to the Law, not merely to that one rite (cp. Acts 15:1,24).
     To say, that I must add something to Christ's finished work of salvation, is to say that His work was inadequate. Yet, He did for us what we could not do for ourselves (Rom 8:2-4; Gal 2:21).
...every man that is circumcised... is a debtor to do the whole law. Gal 3:10; Rom 2:25
...Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.
The phrase 'of no effect' {GK= katargeo} means 'abolished', 'rendered inactive', 'made void' (cp. Rom 4:14).
     In His substitutionary death, Christ 'abolished' the hostility which separated us from God, due to our fleshly inability to meet His standard of righteousness (Eph 2:15). In Him, believers have been given righteousness by Grace through faith (Rom 3:21-26). A return to legalistic self-righteousness, would be a disavowal of God's Grace (Rom 11:6; Heb 10:38,39).
...for we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
The believer has been declared righteous, on the basis of faith in Christ (Gal 3:6). We have been given a new nature, which desires to please God. However, we still have the old nature, which cannot please God. Therefore, believers experience an inner conflict between these two natures (v.16,17; Rom 7:18-24; 8:5-9). While we desire to live wholly for God, we frequently stumble due to fleshly weaknesses. Our hope {confident expectation} is that at Christ's return, our deliverance from the sinful flesh will be complete, and we will be like Him, righteous without spot or blemish. Eph 5:25-27; Col 1:27; 1Joh 3:1,2
...for in Jesus Christ, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.
The word 'availeth' {GK=ischuo, to be strong, to prevail} refers to the power for living the Christian life, as we wait for our future transformation (1Joh 3:2,3). There is no power in the flesh, whether under the Law or otherwise (neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision). The power to overcome comes only through faith in Christ (1Joh 5:4,5). The motivating energy {'worketh'}, behind the life of faith, is Love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (v.22; 1Joh 4:18-21; 5:1-5).
7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
8 This persuasion [cometh] not of him that calleth you.
9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
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.
11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?
then is the offence of the cross ceased.
12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
...who did hinder... that ye should not obey {GK=peitho, believe, be persuaded of} the truth?
This persuasion comes not of him that calleth you...
When the Galatians had received the Gospel which Paul preached, they had believed according to what he taught. But the false teachers had interrupted their walk of faith, and persuaded them to follow the path of legalism. This corrupt teaching was not from God, who had called them to faith in the Gospel of Grace (Gal 1:6; 3:1).
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Leaven works through a process of fermentation, to cause bread dough to rise. In scripture, leaven is often used as a picture of a corrupting influence which spreads until it permeates that which had previously been pure (eg., Mat 13:33; 16:6,12).
     The 'leaven of legalism,' like the leaven in bread, appeals to fleshly tastes. But it perverts {turns around, reverses} the Gospel of Grace (Gal 1:6,7; 1Cor 5:6,7). There can be only one answer to the question 'What must I do to be saved?' (Acts 16:30,31). If I must do something 'more' than place my trust in Christ, I am not trusting in His finished work.
I have confidence {GK=peitho} in you... that ye will be none otherwise minded... (cp. 2The 3:4)
Paul was persuaded, that the Lord would persuade them, to agree with his counsel and reject the legalistic leaven, which had caused them to stumble.
...he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment... Gal 1:8,9
and I... if I yet preach circumcision... then is the offence {GK=skandalon, stumbling block} of the cross ceased.
Some of the legalistic teachers may have claimed that Paul agreed with their distorted gospel. But in fact, Paul was persecuted for preaching "a righteousness apart from the law" (cp. 4:29; 6:12; cp. Acts 21:21,28).
The cross of Christ, by which God has provided true righteousness (Rom 3:21-26),
is a 'stumbling block' to those who cling to self-righteousness. Rom 9:31-33; 1Cor 1:23
The Gospel of God's Grace offends the pride of man in multiple ways, for it declares...
I would that they were cut off that trouble you.
The word for 'cut off' {GK=apokopto, cut off, cut away} is similar to the word for 'hinder' in v.7 {GK=anakopto, cut back}. The false teachers who had 'cut back' the Galatian believers as they followed the way of truth, deserved to be 'cut off' so that they would not further 'trouble' {ie., cause upheaval, overturn} the faith of God's children.
     Also, Paul may have intended a play on words between 'cut off' and 'circumcision' {GK=peritome, cut off, cut around}. Because the Judaizers were obsessed with cutting off a piece of flesh, they deserved to be 'cut off' for preaching their fleshly error. 1:8,9
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.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this;
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15 But if ye bite and devour one another,
take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
for, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty...
If, as Paul hoped, his readers were his 'brethren,' as children of God, through faith, rather than slaves to legalism (v.1), then they should 'cast out the bondwoman and her son' (4:30,31). They should abandon the legalistic teachers and their legalistic system. They should live the Christian life, not on the basis of Law keeping, but on the principle of 'faith that works by love' (v.6). (In the remainder of this section, Paul will explain.)
...only use not liberty for an occasion {ie., a base of operations} to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
As a way of Christian living, 'liberty' is in conflict with 'legalism.'
But some misunderstand 'liberty' as 'licence' {freedom from all constraints}.
If Christ has freed us from sin and the Law, are we free to violate the moral principles of the Law?
No. Christ has set us free from bondage to the sinful flesh, so that we can live in the holiness of His life. Rom 6:1-11; 1Pet 2:16
...but by love {GK=agape, selfless love which willingly gives itself for others} serve {be slaves to} one another.
Our lives are to be governed, not by the Law, but by Love. 2Cor 5:14,15
The costliness of this kind of living is conveyed by the words used for 'love' and 'serve.' The Christian life involves giving oneself for the sake of others, as Christ gave Himself for us. But you and I are not capable of this kind of love. It must be produced within us, as the fruit of the Spirit (v.22).
for all the law is fulfilled in one word... Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (cp. Mat 22:37-40; Rom 13:8-10)
'Law'? Hasn't the Law been rendered obsolete through Christ?
No. God's Law is good. We could not fulfill it, due to the weakness of our flesh. cp. Rom 7:12-14
Therefore, Christ fulfilled it for us, and fulfills it in us, as He lives within His own. Rom 8:3,4
We are no longer in bondage to a list of do's and don'ts. Instead, God's desires are written into the hearts of His children, who desire to please Him, because we love Him (cp. Psa 40:8; Heb 10:16).
Love is the basis for obedience. Joh 14:15; 1Joh 4:19-21
...but if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. cp. v.26
The way of the flesh destroys the fellowship and testimony of believers. Joh 13:34,35; Jam 3:13-16
The Christian life is neither slavery to the Law, nor freedom for the flesh.
Christ has set us free from the Law's restrictions by setting us free from our lawless flesh.
He has made us free to live with Him. But, in ourselves, we have no power to live for Him.
IV. Practical application, 5:1- 6:10
A. Stand in Faith, free from the Law, 5:1-15
B. Walk in the Spirit, free from the Flesh, 5:16-26
16 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit,
and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
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.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these];
Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance,
emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
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.
...walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
The indwelling Holy Spirit is the power who enables the believer to live the Christian life.
The word 'lust' {GK=epithumia, to passionately desire, to crave} often has a morally corrupt connotation (eg., fleshly illicit sexual lusts). However, the Spirit passionately desires those things which are holy and pleasing to God.
     As v.17 indicates, the Spirit and our fleshly nature are in conflict. The believer's old fleshly nature cannot please God (Rom 8:7,8). Yet, having been born again of the Holy Spirit, the believer also has a new nature which cannot sin (1Joh 3:9).
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Prior to the new birth, our old fleshly nature was held in check by the Law (Gal 3:19). But now, as God's sons, we are to submit to the leading of His Spirit (Rom 8:12,14). In doing so, we will be a holy people. That was the Spirit's purpose, when He authored the Law for Israel (Ex 19:5,6). They could not keep the Law, due to the weakness of the flesh. But now, the Holy Spirit, within NT believers, enables holiness by giving victory over the flesh. Titus 2:11-14; 1Pet 2:9
Now the works of the flesh are manifest {ie., visible, openly known} which are these...
These characteristics can be categorized as follows...
  1. Sensual, sexual -
    • adultery {GK=moicheia}- intercourse with another person's spouse, Mat 15:19; Joh 8:3,4
    • fornication {GK=porneia} - sexual activity outside of marriage (it can include adultery), eg., 1Cor 5:1
      'Pornography' is derived from this word. Sexual perversion can be exercised in the mind, as well as by the body. Mat 5:27,28
    • uncleanness {GK=akatharsia}- impure thoughts, a defiled mind (as with pornography). Rom 1:24
    • lasciviousness {GK=aselgeia, wantonness, licentiousness} - translated 'filthy' in 2Pet 2:7 (where 'conversation' means 'lifestyle').
  2. Religious, spiritual -
    • idolatry {GK=eidololatria} - the worship of heathen idols, including the mindset and practices associated with such worship. eg., Rom 1:22-25
    • witchcraft {GK=pharmakia, sorceries} - occult practices, including the use of mind altering drugs. Rev 9:21
  3. Community, societal -
    • hatred {GK=ekthros, enmity, to regard as an enemy}- hatred may be directed toward God or man. eg., Jam 4:4
    • variance {GK=eris, strife, rivalry, contention} - eg., 1Cor 1:11
    • emulations {GK= zelos, envying, zealous divisions} - eg., 1Cor 3:3 ('envying')
    • wrath {GK=thumo, hot anger, indignation} - Eph 4:31
    • strife {GK=erithia, self-seeking rivalry, factiousness, seeking to win followers for self} - Php 1:16 ('contention'); 2:3
    • seditions {GK=dichostasia, lit., a standing apart, dissensions, divisions} - Rom 16:17 ('divisions')
    • heresies {GK=hairesis, a choice, a self-willed opinion} - in departing from the Truth, heresies lead men to destruction. 2Pet 2:1
  4. Personal, behavioral -
    • envyings {GK=phthonos, displeasure at the advantage of others} - eg., Php 1:15
    • murders {GK=phonos} - the wrongful taking of another's life. Mat 15:19, Acts 9:1 ('slaughter'). Also cp. Mat 5:21,22
    • drunkenness {GK= methe, habitual intoxication; related to GK= methu, wine} - Luk 21:34
    • revellings {GK=komos, carousing, riotous living} - cp. 1Pet 4:3
    • and such like - This list is not exhaustive. It is representative of the characteristics of the fleshly nature.
...I tell you... I told you... that they which 'do' {ie., habitually practice} such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (cp. Joh 3:20 'doeth')
When we see what our hearts are like, we understand the reason that Jesus said "Ye must be born again" (Joh 3:3-7; 1Cor 6:9-11).
But it should also be evident that it is impossible to live the Christian life, in the strength of our flesh.
     Most problems, within local churches, stem from the fleshly nature of members and leaders (consider the above list, with that in mind). The works of the flesh, which cannot please God, are a major hindrance to the work of the Lord.
     Believers are not immune from fleshly thinking and ways. But we are no longer trapped in them. We are free to reject the old nature and walk in the Spirit, as we yield to His leading (Eph 4:22-24). God's children, when convicted of sin by the indwelling Holy Spirit (who is grieved by our fleshly failures, Eph 4:30-32), should immediately cry out to the Father, in repentance and for enabling to walk in His way. Rom 8:14,15; Gal 4:6,7; 1Joh 1:9
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
But the fruit of the Spirit...
Note that 'fruit' is singular. The Holy Spirit produces one 'fruit' with many complementary aspects. (eg., A piece of natural fruit consists of meat, skin, and seeds, and has an identifying color, texture and flavor. Yet, it is one unified fruit.)
     In great contrast 'the works {plural} of the flesh' (v.19-21) include many diverse activities and attitudes which are marked by conflict and confusion, with no unity of purpose. While fruit nourishes and builds those who partake of it, the works of the flesh are divisive and destructive.
     The works of the flesh flow naturally from our fallen hearts, which are dead in trespasses and sins. The fruit of the Spirit is produced only as the life of Christ flows through those who are in Him (Joh 15:1-8).
...the fruit of the Spirit is love...
The name of this fruit is 'Love.' The fruit called Love has many aspects (just as an Apple has meat, skin, core, seeds, etc.).
  • Love {GK=agape} is the heart of the Spirit's fruit (v.6,13-14).
    see 1Cor 13:4-7 (where 'charity' is GK=agape, 'love'); Eph 5:1,2; 1Pet 1:8,22
  • Joy {GK=chara, delight, gladness} - of fellowship with God and His people, 1Joh 1:3,4,
    - of confidence in God, in the midst of trials, Heb 12:2
  • Peace {GK=eirene} - settled hearts in relation to God, Rom 5:1,
    - settled hearts through trusting in God, Joh 14:27; Php 4:6,7
  • Long suffering {GK=makrothumia, long tempered, patient}- in relationships, Eph 4:2,3
    - in preaching the Word, 2Tim 4:2
  • Gentleness {GK=chrestotes, goodness, kindness} - toward others,
    as God has been toward us, Col 3:12,13 (kindness, v.12); Titus 3:1-6 (kindness, v.4)
  • Goodness {GK=agathosune, kindness rooted in truth} - of heart and life,
    in tune with God's Word, Rom 15:14; Eph 5:9,10
  • Faith {GK=pistis, belief, persuasion, conviction} -
    - Full assurance concerning 'the Faith', Heb 10:22; eg., Rom 4:16-22
    - Faithfulness {GK=pistos}, to the trusted One, is closely related. 1Cor 4:2
  • Meekness {GK=praotes, often translated 'gentleness'} - Biblical meekness is not weakness.
    A 'meek' man's strength, is not in himself, but rather in humble submission to, and absolute confidence in, the will and power of his Lord. Examples:
    • Moses, the meekest of all men, expressed anger and took decisive action against sin. Num 12:3; Ex 32:19,20
    • Jesus, overthrew the tables of the money changers. Yet, He was in total submission to the Father. Mat 11:28-30; Joh 2:13-17
  • Temperance {GK=enkrateia, inward strength, self-control} -
    Self-control does not mean that 'self' is in control.
       Rather, 'temperance' refers to the strength which the Holy Spirit gives to the renewed mind, to control and moderate the various drives of the old fleshly 'self' (eg., to limit sexual activity to within one's marriage... to avoid over-indulgence of food or wine... to tame an unruly tongue... etc.)
       [In Acts 24:25, the word follows "righteousness," which represents God's claims, self-control being man's {proper} response thereto; in 2Pet 1:6, it follows "knowledge," suggesting that what is learned requires to be put into practice.] [in brackets, adapted from WEVine]
...against such there is no law.
Such characteristics, within a believer's life, are produced by the Spirit of the Law Giver Himself. v.16-18
they that be Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections {GK=pathos, passions} and lusts {GK=epithumia, cravings}.
Christ died to put away sin (1Joh 3:5; Titus 2:14). Through identification with Christ, by faith, the sinful believer died with Christ on the cross, and was raised to new life in Him (Rom 6:1-14; Gal 2:20).
if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Having been born again by God's Spirit, His children are to live by the Spirit through whom we have Life. Gal 3:2,3; Rom 8:2,4-5,10; 1Pet 4:6
In this passage (Gal 5:16-26), two different words are used for 'walk.'
  • The believer's 'walk' {GK=parapateo, lit., all around on feet} in the Spirit, affects every aspect of life, and avoids stumbling into fleshly ways (v.16).
  • However, individual believers do not walk alone. Together with other believers, we are to 'walk' {GK=stoicheo, walk in line} in the Spirit, in an orderly manner (v.25). This is "an exhortation to keep step with one another in submission of heart to the Holy Spirit, and therefore of keeping step with Christ, the great means of unity and harmony in a church" [in quotes from WEVine].
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
'Vain glory' {GK=kenodoxos, lit., empty honor} is the self-conceited desire to be regarded as better than others (Gal 6:3; Rom 12:3; 1Cor 4:7). My flesh, driven by envy (v.21), is not above 'provoking' {GK=prokaleo, call forth, ie., to challenge} another brother, in order to put him down and elevate myself.
     While the fleshly nature is still with us, we are to reckon it dead, and live according to the Holy Spirit's enabling.
     Verses 25-26 introduce the next section, which makes practical application, of 'the Fruit of the Spirit,' to our relationships with others.

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