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Galatians 5 - Liberty in Christ

INTRODUCTION: Paul had established in chapter two of his letter that the apostles at Jerusalem were in agreement that circumcision is not required for salvation in Christ. In chapter three Paul demonstrated that faith came before the law, as through faith Abraham was declared righteous by God before he was circumcised. The law which came some four hundred years later did not nullify faith. In chapter four Paul prepared a foundation about the freedom that Jews and Gentiles have in Christ that cannot be provided by trying to keep the law. In this chapter five he again specifically addressed circumcision because this is a key issue that could nullify liberty in Christ.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the Revised Webster Bible.


Galatians 5 "1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say to 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 to you, whoever of you are justified by the law; ye have 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. 7 Ye did run well; who hindered you that ye should not obey the truth? 8 This persuasion [cometh] not from 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 not otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whoever he may be. 11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then hath the offence of the cross ceased. 12 I would they were even cut off who trouble you."

COMMENTS: Paul wanted the Galatians to realize that they had liberty in Christ and they did not need to be circumcised as a means of being accepted by God because they had already received their righteousness by faith. When they are in Christ there is no distinction in circumcision or uncircumcision. Circumcision was a distinction for the Jews, and Paul did not preach circumcision for Gentiles, which is why he was persecuted by the Jews. The cross was an offense to the Jews because it has opened salvation to Gentiles. Paul urged the Galatians to hold fast to their faith without being persuaded by someone else that they must be circumcised. He said that whoever was preaching the necessity of circumcision would bear his own judgment.

Circumcision began with Abraham and all of his family, not just for Isaac. Then Isaac had two sons, but the nation of Israel descended only through Jacob. Many of Jacob's descendents who had the circumcision in the flesh had hearts that were hardened toward the Lord even before they entered the promised land. Deuteronomy "10:12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13 To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? 14 Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens belongeth to the LORD thy God, the earth [also], with all that is in it. 15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, [even] you above all people, as [it is] this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked." After many centuries in the land promised by the Lord, the majority of the people of Israel and Judah had fallen away and needed that conversion in their hearts. Jeremiah "4:1 If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return to me: and if thou wilt put away thy abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not be removed. 2 And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory. 3 For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench [it], because of the evil of your doings."

Paul laid out his case in his letter to the Galatians that they should not seek to be justified by traditions or practices in the belief that those are necessary for their salvation in Christ. He wrote similar things in his letters to the Romans and to the Colossians. Romans "4:9 [Cometh] this blessedness then upon the circumcision [only], or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which [he had yet] being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they are not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed to them also: 12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which [he had] being [yet] uncircumcised. 13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, [was] not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith." Colossians "2:8 Beware lest any man make a prey of you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, in which also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."


Galatians 5 "13 For, brethren, ye have been called to 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 by another. 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 are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law."

COMMENTS: Paul next began to direct the attention of the Galatians (and any reader of this letter) to be cautious not to use liberty in Christ to fulfill any lust of the flesh, but rather to serve others in love. Paul used the words of Christ to summarize the spirit of the law by saying that as Christians we must love our neighbor as our self. Acts of tearing one another down will result in all being devoured. It is far better to walk in the Spirit because that will give victory over fulfilling the lust of the flesh. The desires we have as the natural man in the world work within us in opposition to the desires that come from the Spirit of God. The desires of the flesh can even include allowing our pride to cause us to hold traditions of men to be a duty required to secure or maintain our salvation, when we should be living for Christ with a heart of love. If we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law, since we have liberty in Christ.


Galatians 5 "19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, 20 Idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, wrath, contention, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of which I tell you before, as I have also told [you] in time past, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, self-control: 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."

COMMENTS: Paul began a more dramatic detail of contrasting characteristics of the motivations and actions of those guided completely by fleshly desires, and of those guided by following the Spirit of God. Paul's list for fleshly desires apply to those who consider their own desires in the present with no regard for harm they may cause for others, and Paul said they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Those who live by the Spirit put God and others ahead of their own needs as a pattern in their lives, with immeasurable rewards in this life and in the life to come. This is fruit that draws productive nourishment from the root that is the Spirit of God. Paul wrote this to another church, Ephesians "4:30 And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom ye are sealed to the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Paul closed this chapter by stating they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts that he has outlined. The conclusion: if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit, and let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking or envying one another.


Lord, may I take to heart Paul's message to stand fast in the liberty of Christ, and not allow any temptation to try to merit salvation through my own achievements. By faith alone have I obtained the righteousness of Christ. This gives me liberty from the law that I could never keep perfectly. Help me to remember that liberty from the requirements of the law does not free me from the obligations of displaying love for you and for others around me. I want to honor you Lord by loving my neighbor as myself. Help me Lord to discard the affections and lusts that are the works of the flesh, and to actively seek to bear the fruit of the Spirit. I want to live in the Spirit and to walk humbly in the Spirit. Keep me from all vain glory for myself that I may magnify the name of the Lord. Amen.

Published 4 January 2013