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Study Notes on Galatians 5

Galatians 5

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Remember, this epistle flows very smoothly through all 6 chapters. So this verse is coming off the contrast of the bondage of the law vs the freedom found in the promises of God. We are the children of promise, not of the flesh.

2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

Powerful verse that should be read in context through verse 4. If you seek justification by circumcision (which was symbolic of the whole law), then Christ is not part of your salvation and your final destination will be hell.

You cannot mix grace and works.

3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

If you're going to do one part of the law for salvation, you're in debt to do it all which no one can.

Galatians 2:16, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."

4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

This doesn't mean that someone was once saved but turned to the Law and now "lost" his salvation as if such a thing was possible. This is a hypothetical presented by Paul, that if someone were to seek justification by the law, that puts them outside the system of grace which God offers.

Remember this was a circulatory letter (Galatians 1:2) that was written to churches. Paul heard about false judaizing heresy creeping in and didn't know who might be falling for it, so he warns strongly against going back to the Law.

"Christ will be 'a whole Saviour,' or none." - Albert Barnes

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

We have the Holy Spirit by faith, and it is through that look forward to true righteousness which is of faith and not of works.

6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

In Christ circumcision has no meaning either way (see Romans 2:29). What does make a difference is faith that shows itself by love. Faith is still saving faith whether there is the demonstration of love or not, but that won't do good for other people. Paul says, rather than try and follow the law and do meaningless things like circumcision, show love to others instead (see verses 13 & 14 below).

7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

It seemed you were off to a great start (remember Galatians 4:15), but you were apparently turned aside.

8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.

This false doctrine of going back to the Law is not from God.

9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

A little bad doctrine in one area corrupts other doctrine. It is also true (see 1 Corinthians 5), and I think this complies with the context, that a person can corrupt a church as well, which is why church purity is so important (see verse 12 below).

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.

He that draws you away from the gospel will be judged for that.

Why am I persecuted of the Jews if I preach the necessity of circumcision?

12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

Now, "cut off" is the proper translation here but some versions like the ESV read, "I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!" and the NASB has "emasculate" also. The meaning then would be that Paul wants them to cut their manhood off, and since the discussion is currently mentioning circumcision it kind of works. However, I think the plain meaning is simply that Paul wishes for these people to remove themselves from the Galatians churches.

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, like this chapter starts and like the last one finished. We are positionally free in Christ, and we should act like it by not going back to the Law.

14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

All the law is fulfilled, or comprehended, or summed up, in love. As James calls, the royal law. Romans 13:8-10 covers this as well.

Verse 13 above contrasts things of the flesh with serving others. Here we again have an exhortation to love. It's a smooth transition from doctrinal discussion to practical application.

15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

This will be the result that comes from a lack of love.

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

The fact that this instruction is here proves that it isn't automatic that a believer will walk in the Spirit. A synonymous term would be to abide in Christ.

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.

This is similar to Romans 7 where Paul writes "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." The flesh holds us back from the things we want to do in the Spirit.

"His is the statement of a mere fact, that where these counteracting propensities exist in the mind, there is a conflict, and that the man does not do what he otherwise would do." - Albert Barnes

Romans 8:1-4, There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

No man can serve two masters. Will you follow the Law or follow Jesus?

This is the point Paul is making through the entire book of Galatians (see Ch. 3:1-3).

It's amazing how many times the bible can say that we are not under the law yet people are still confused about it.

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.

Adultery: Unfaithfulness to spouse.

Fornication: Any sexual sin.

Uncleanness: Impurity.

Lasciviousness: Inappropriate sensual conduct, lewdness, excess, shamelessness.Witchcraft: Sorcery, drug use.

Hatred: Enmity.

Variance: Quarreling, rivalry, debates.

Emulations: ζηλος, envy, jealousy, zeal in a bad way.

Strife: Ambition over others, contentiousness.

Seditions: Divisiveness.

Revellings: Drunken feasts/parties.

Don't miss "and such like" which covers all sins. Remember how Jesus elevated the standard for many sins such as adultery by saying that one is guilty by merely looking at a woman lustfully. Revelation 21:8 is a similar list and includes all liars.

In other words, these verses are saying that people “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” (John Gill).

Notice also that verse 21 says "they which do such things" meaning he's not telling the Galatians that "if YOU do these things you won't inherit the Kingdom", he's pointing out what the works of the flesh are in contrast with the fruit of the Spirit (see next verse). Those who live lives dedicated to sin without faith in Christ.

We are all sinners before and after our salvation. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Even Paul struggled with sin; see Romans 7:14-25.

Jesus' sacrifice pays for all our sin.

Hebrews 10:10, By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

We can always have joy because of what Christ did for us. The maturity of your Faith can be assessed by what it takes to steal your joy. The closer your walk with God, the more significant an event must be to steal your joy. If you drive a car it often doesn’t take much!

There is nothing restricting those things. Doing these things means being led by the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit. These are the attributes the Holy Spirit will produce in our lives as we submit to Him.

24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

This is what happened when we became believers. Though we still live in the flesh, we have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20).

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We live in the Spirit because the Holy Spirit lives in us. Let's follow after Him and live accordingly. This is the rule by which we live, not by following the law but by following the Spirit.

26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

This verse seems out of place, but it's an exhortation to love one another by giving negative examples and goes well with what is to follow in the next chapter.

Don't do these things, and instead love each other and edify each other.


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