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Bible: What Does Galatians 5 Teach Us About Freedom and the Spirit of God?

Updated on September 15, 2016
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Galatians 5: Walk in the Spirit/The Fruit of the Spirit

Christ Has Set Us Free

Having concluded that both he and they are children of the free woman, Paul exhorts the Galatians to stand firm in the liberty that Christ has used to set them free, and not allow themselves to be put under a yoke of slavery again (v. 1).

[With the prepositional phrase “by which,” the NKJV seems to indicate that Christ used His liberation from the grave to set the Galatians free from spiritual death.]

He asserts with apostolic authority (“Indeed I, Paul, say to you”) that if the Galatians revert to Judaism (“become circumcised”), it will show that they never trusted Christ in the first place, for He “will profit you nothing” (v. 2).

[So, even though he thinks the Galatians are true believers, some may very well not have come to know the Lord.]

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Law-Righteousness

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Law-Righteousness vs. Faith-Through-Grace Righteousness

Paul repeats his warning that those who revert (or perhaps become Jews for the first time?) must keep the whole Law perfectly in order for God to declare them righteous (v. 3).

By their decision to return to law-righteousness, they have alienated themselves from Christ and abandoned His faith-through-grace righteousness (v. 4).

Those rightly related to the Spirit through justification (being declared righteous) wait upon Him to make them righteous at the Rapture (v. 5).

Whether they are Hebrew or Gentile Christians matters not at all; faith working through love remains all-important to the Lord (v. 6).

The apostle expresses disappointment that while the Galatians were running the Christian race well, they allowed the Judaizers to keep them from obeying the truth (v. 7).

“Jesus,” he says in effect, “did not convince them to abandon the right path”; what they did was tolerate doctrinal error whose influence eventually spread through the churches (vv. 8-9).

He trusts that the Lord’s mercy will enable them to return to His way; God will see to the discipline of the one who fomented this rebellion against the gospel (v. 10).

The Cross: An Offensive Message to Impenitent Sinners

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Redemption

Has Christ redeemed you from the curse of the Law and set you free?

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Persecution Because of the Cross

Paul points out that the Jews persecute him not because he teaches “circumcision,” but because he preaches the cross of Christ—a message that offends the pride of those seeking to achieve righteousness by Law-keeping (v. 11).

The apostle’s concern for the Galatians extends to his desire that the Judaizers mutilate themselves when they perform circumcision (v. 12).

[A bit of hyperbole, perhaps, for effect.]

Having been set free from the condemnation of the Law, the Galatians ought to demonstrate loving service toward one another, not use their liberty to indulge the lusts of the flesh (v. 13).

Paul cites Leviticus 19:18 to show the right way to fulfill the Law (that is, love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself [v. 14]), and warns that interpersonal conflicts will lead only to mutual destruction (v. 15).

The apostle issues a command that, if obeyed, will enable his readers to overcome the desires of their flesh: conduct their lives under the spirit’s/Spirit's control (v. 16).

[Is this the Holy Spirit, or the regenerated human spirit? Cf. Eph. 5:18].

Before he discusses the spirit's/Spirit’s role, however, he first reveals the fact that the believer’s flesh (the sinful remnant) continually wages a battle against the spirit—a conflict the saint seems to lose quite often (“so that you do not do the things that you wish”) [v. 17].

[Paul also discussed this inner conflict in Romans 7:15-23.]

Whenever the believer allows his regenerated spirit to lead him, he is not a slave to sin (“not under the law”) [v. 18].

The "Works of the Flesh"

Next, Paul lists seventeen “works of the flesh.”

The first four relate to sexual misconduct (v. 19), and the next three concern religious matters:

(1) idolatry speaks of worshiping something other than the true God (v. 20a);

(2) sorcery involves dealings with drugs and evil spiritual personalities (v. 20a);

(3) heresies have to do with doctrinal deviations (v. 20c).

Four more deal with interpersonal conflicts that erupt into violent confrontations (contentions, outbursts of wrath, dissensions, murders); four point to evil, personal attitudes (hatred, jealousies, selfish ambitions, envy); and two highlight self-control deficiencies (drunkenness, revelries) [vv. 20b-21a].

[Obviously, many, if not all, of these sins are interrelated; the sins in the various categories can interact a great deal.

For instance, jealous people sometimes become drunk, contend with adversaries, and show outbursts of wrath; they even commit murder and adultery in the process.]

The apostle reiterates a solemn truth about the eternal state of the habitual practitioners of such behavior: they will not “inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 21c).

[An individual can reach a point where he or she sins so much that he cannot repent and become a believer in Christ.]

The "Fruit of the Spirit"

Finally, the apostle delineates the nine-fold “fruit of the Spirit”: character attributes which the Holy Spirit produces in the lives of yielded believers (vv. 22-23a).

[Again, the spirit here may refer to the believer's regenerated spirit].

(1) Love involves unselfish giving of one’s whole being in the service of others and God;

(2) Joy manifests itself in spiritual strength amidst the tests of life;

(3) Peace relates to serenity amidst conflict;

(4) Long-suffering speaks of patience with the foibles of self and others;

(5) Kindness appears in thoughtful and compassionate deeds;

(6) Goodness refers to the exhibition of decent behavior;

(7) Faithfulness describes one who is true in word and deed;

(8) Gentleness (or meekness) is strength under control; and

(9) Self-control signifies discipline in all aspects of one’s life.

No law can oppose this type of righteousness (v. 23b). In a positional sense, people who belong to Jesus have died to (in other words, been separated from) sin’s power through their co-crucifixion with Him (v. 24).

Paul encourages the Galatians, whom he believes have been made alive in Christ, to submit their lives to the spirit's/Spirit’s control, and not allow the remnants of their sinful flesh to express themselves in arrogant, hostile, and envious behavior and attitudes (v. 25).

© 2013 glynch1

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