Translations: Chinese 简体中文 繁體中文

Galatians 5 (web)


Stand Firm in Freedom
against the doctrine of the circumcision

Get Rid of the Slave Woman
(The Doctrine of the Circumcision)

5:1 Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free,
and don't be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

5:2 Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision,
Christ will profit you nothing.
5:3 Yes, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision,
that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
5:4 You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law.
You have fallen away from grace.
5:5 For we, through the Spirit, by faith wait for the hope of righteousness.
5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything,
nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love.

Stand Firm 
against the group of The Circumcision

Get Rid of Her Son
(The Group of the Circumcision)

5:7 You were running well! Who interfered with you that you should not obey the truth?

5:8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
5:9 A little yeast grows through the whole lump.
(Matt 13:33; Matt 16:6-12; 1Cor 5:6-8)

5:10 I have confidence toward you in the Lord that you will think no other way.
But he who troubles you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.

5:11 But I, brothers, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted?
Then the stumbling-block of the cross has been removed.

5:12 I wish that those who disturb you would cut themselves off.

Proper Behavior of 
Sons of the Free Woman

Serve One Another

5:13 For you, brothers, were called for freedom.
Only don't use your freedom for gain to the flesh,
but through love be servants to one another.
5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:29-31)

5:15 But if you bite and devour one another,
be careful that you don't consume one another.

Walk in the Spirit

5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won't fulfill the lust of the flesh.
5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;
and these are contrary to one other, that you may not do the things that you desire.

5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are:
adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness,
5:20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies,
outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies,
5:21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these;
of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you,
that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
5:23 gentleness, and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.

5:24 Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.
5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let's also walk by the Spirit.
5:26 Let's not become conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another.

Discussion Questions

vs 1 What freedom is he referring to?
vs 4 In what way have the Galatians "fallen from grace"?
How might a modern Christian fall from grace?
vs 7 What truth did they need to obey?
vs 9 Note the cross references - how do they help to explain the application of this quote?
vs 11 What is the offense of the cross?
vs 12 What does "emasculate" mean?
vs 14 Is loving your neighbor as yourself living according to the law?
Does Paul discourage this?
So what is Paul's main objection to the law?
vs 16 What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?
vs 17 Why do Christians sin? And how does this verse help to interpret Romans 7:14-25?
vs 19 Is there a correlation between a Christian's behavior and his salvation status?
vs 22-24 What kind of characteristics would you expect a Christian to demonstrate?
vs 26 What do these characteristics have in common and how would walking in the Spirit prevent these?


Standing in Freedom

Gal 5:1-3 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

The yoke of slavery is the burden of all the rules and regulations associated with the keeping of the law, circumcision being one example. Those who get circumcised for the purpose of fulfiling the law obligate themselves to keep every single rule and regulation of which the law speaks. And by doing so they show that they reject the salvation Christ has provided.

Yet often times Christians get caught up in this same kind of legalism. What are indications you may be a foolish Galatian?

Falling Away

Gal 5:4  You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

It is not their keeping of the regulations of the law which was the problem. The issue was motivation. The issue was whether they were trying to be justified by law.

Christians who are trying to be justified by law have turned their backs on God's grace as presented in the gospel and as such are no longer considered believers. They have become alienated or estranged from Christ. The Greek phrase Paul uses for "alienated" also shows up in Romans 7 verses2 and 6. Romans 7:2 speaks of being released from marriage after one dies - or as the common phrase goes, "till death do you part". In a twist to Gal 5:4, Rom 7:6 speaks of being aliented from the law, having become dead to it through the body of Christ, much as being release from a binding marriage through death. But here in Gal 5:4, the Christian's status is reckoned as being alienated from (or dead to) Christ, just as any unbeliever. Such a status is that of the unsaved.

Jesus spoke of people falling away in his parable of the sower.  As a sower sowed, "Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root." Mat 13:5,6 Jesus described such people as, "The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." Mat 13:20,21

Such people have a superficial faith. Their faith is too shallow to endure through trials. And while Jesus spoke of the trials of persecution, there are many kinds of trials and temptations which cause such people to fall. These Galatians were shallow in their faith in that they had not seriously considered the implications of their faith and so were open to false teachings.

Faith Expressed through Love

Gal 5:5,6  But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Faith in Christ, including faith that it is Christ's death and not the law which saves, is the prerequisite for the salvation offered in the gospel. But how is faith expressed? Indeed there are inevitably outworkings of faith. If not, then such "faith" is merely alleged and not real. Alleged "Christians" with such superficial faith are unsaved.

The primary way Christian faith is expressed is through love of fellow Christians. Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Joh 13:35

But what is the "righteousness" for which we hope? Are we not reckoned righteous, having had our sins forgiven? Indeed. But what Paul is referring to is a time when we will be perfectly sinless, such that we no longer commit any sin - sin having been completely removed from us. For while being born of God has a significant impact on our behavior, there is yet a greater state of righteousness for which we eagerly await.

 A Little Yeast

Gal 5:7-9 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." (Luke 13:21)

Here Paul applies one of the parables - The Parable of the Leaven - in which Jesus said,
"What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." Luke 13:20,21 And likewise Paul interprets this as a negative connotation in 1Cor 5:6-8 where the Corinthians were proud of their toleration of a sinning Christian brother. "Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast— as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth."


Gal 5:10  I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.

It's a bit of a paradox here. Previously Paul expressed doubt saying, for example, "how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!" Gal 4:20 Or "I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you." Gal 4:11 But I think he means is "In light of what I've written,  I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view."

The elect often reveal themselves by the way they respond to correction. It's inevitable that those who are Jesus' will follow Him. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." John 10:27, along with the voice of his apostles, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us." 1John 4:6 We need correction to maintain a proper walk, but we must also beware of false shepherds who would falsely "correct" us off the right path.

Paul shows little sympathy for false teachers here, and such is generally the case throughout the New Testament.

Offended by the Cross?

Gal 5:11 "Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished."

What was so offensive about the message of the cross? Elsewhere Paul writes, "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1Cor 1:18 And "we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles"1Cor 1:23

One reason the message of the cross is offensive is because it calls us to abandon any reliance upon religious ritualism for salvation. And that may be particularly offensive to the religious elite, like among those of Islam for example, who end up losing constituents. In contrast, the message of circumcision is, "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts 15:1 But you could just as well turn that into the general statement, "Unless you are _____________, according to the custom taught by ________, you cannot be saved." That's one aspect of the message of legalism.

Cut off

Gal 5:12  As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

While Paul's expressing his anger at those false teachers, he's also being humurous here. Circumcision is the cutting off of the foreskin of the penis. (You probably never guessed you run into the word "penis" in a Bible study guide!) Well what Paul was saying was that if they thought that circumcision was such a big deal,  if indeed God has made salvation contingent upon cutting off a piece of skin, then why don't they just cut their penis off altogether!

This is not simply an insult, it's part of his persuasive argument showing the message of circumcision to be completely foolish. It might be interesting to think about how Paul might have phrased this for other legalistic groups. Like for those who teach that you have to get wet to get saved, I wonder if he would have said, "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and drown themselves!" Or how might you apply this to other examples of legalism?

Serve through Love

Gal 5:13  You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Bondage to legalism promotes hatred for one another. Islam is the more extreme example, but even within Christendom those denominations or individuals with legalistic leanings tend to characteristically display illegitimate contempt for fellow Christians. In contrast love can be  more freely exercised among those who are free from legalism. We see this principle in Jesus' ministry where he freely ministered to sinners and healed on the Sabbath, while the legalists not only abstained from such things, but criticized him for doing so.

However on the flip side one can go to the opposite extreme in which one views freedom in Christ as a license to sin. Likewise Peter writes, "Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God." 1Peter 2:16 So feel free to serve.

The Golden Rule

Gal 5:14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
(Lev 19:18)

There's an important distinction between following the spirit of the law - which is love - and following legalism which puts one in bondage to rules and regulations. By placing emphasis on rules and regulations over that of love, Legalism often comes at odds with the very purpose of the law. This was often a source of conflict between Jesus and the religious elite of his day.

So consider what rules and regulations you may have in your life and whether they are promoting love for your neighbor or hindering it. Does your practice of your religion in any way get in the way of loving your neighbor as yourself?

As for who is your neighbor, see the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Don't Act Like Wolves

Gal 5:15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

When people abandon the principle of love, they end up destroying the community through factions. 

But understand that Paul is not speaking about the roles of shepherding - criticizing, correcting, exhorting as we see Paul doing throughout this letter. Rather who does the biting and devouring? Not the Shepherd; not the sheep; but the wolves. There were wolves among the Christian community there, and some of the Galatians were going along with them, acting in the part of wolves. In John 10 Jesus also compares wolves to thieves of whom he says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" John 10:10

Furthermore the word "destroy" in Gal 5:15 more literally means "consumed" or "used up", which points to the fact that when people fight to defend their legalistic opinions, they waste a lot of energy that could have been used to promote love. And likewise when combating legalism, don't let the battle consume your love for fellow Christians.

Walk by the Spirit

Gal 5:16,17  So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

The "sinful nature" is contained in the body of flesh into which we are born which provokes us to sin. Paul describes his own struggle with his sinful nature in Romans 7 where he personifies the sinful nature as he does here speaking of it as having its own desires contrary to the Spirit which lives in us, and we are caught inbetween the two constantly struggling to chose one over the other. Consequently good intentions are not always translated into perfectly good actions, and in everything we do sin is not absent, as Paul said, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do— this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." Rom 7:18-20

However, by walking in the Spirit we will not fulfil all that the sinful nature desires. The word "gratify" is the word "teleo" which is "to finish". Thus the sinful nature is kept in check by walking in accordance with and submission to the Spirit.

Not under Law

Gal 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

After all, law is made for those who need rules and regulations to limit the behavior of those who lack love for others. But the spirit of the law is love, and those led by the Holy Spirit will be led into the way of love, and as such don't need law. For the law becomes part of their nature and as such are over the law rather than under it.

"Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation— but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." Rom 8:12-14

Furthermore not being under law, we're no longer under the law of sin and death. That is, sin no longer controls our destiny.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Rom 8:1,2

The Deeds of the Sinful Nature

Gal 5:19-21  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul offers no sense of eternal security for those Christians living a lifestyle of sin. Likewise he says elsewhere, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10 And "of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person— such a man is an idolater— has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." Eph 5:5,6

It's unfortunate that these days some of the Christian community has abandoned such warnings - both by way of preaching and practice. Ironically these ideas are often treated as legalism in those communities which view freedom in Christian as a license to sin and who are of the opinion that there is not necessarily any correlation between a person's behavior and his salvation status.

The Fruit of the Spirit

Gal 5:22,23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

These are but some of the effects of the Spirit. Ironically this list is often used by worldly Christians in a legalistics attempt to misjudge others. For if a Christian behaves as Jesus did in the gospels and as Paul does here in Galatians, they may be accused of lacking these characteristics. So to clear up such a misunderstanding,  these terms are supposed to be understood in the light of the behavior of Jesus and his apostles who are the standard to follow, in contrast to that of the world's view shallow view of these concepts. So if the world has confused you as to what constitutes appropriate behavior and attitude for the Christian, follow the examples of Jesus and Paul in word and deed to the best you can.

Secondly the word "fruit" here is singular. That is, the fruit of the Spirit is not any one of these in particular, but all together. So if a person portrays one of these attitudes without the others, such is not the fruit of the Spirit.

Have you Crucified your Flesh?

Gal 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

Likewise Paul writes, "if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live." Rom 8:13 This is not something which passively occurs for the Christian, but rather something in which the Christian has actively involved himself. For in Gal 5:24 who does the crucifying? Those who belong to Christ.

If you belong to Christ you will break your allegience with your sinful nature with its passions and desires and reckon it your enemy. And so the rest of your life will be lived at odds with your sinful nature. Thus one has to constantly evaluate whether particular passions and desires which surface are due to the sinful nature, in which case they are to be discarded, or to the Spirit. That's part of the Christian life.

Humbly Keep in Step

Gal 5:25,26 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

To keep in step with the Spirit first of all means that we're going to have to let the Spirit lead and we humbly follow. "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." Rom 8:14 This puts us in a role subordinate to the Spirit, in contrast to which are the conceited and those envying others, who have taken their eyes off of Christ. "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Eph 4:16

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Aug 18,2020