5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free [from penalty/power of sin]. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke [cf. Matt. 11:28-30] of slavery [did not want to see Galatians put on yoke of bondage to the Mosaic law].
5:2 Mark my words [Look!]! I, Paul [emphatic, emphasizing Paul’s authority], tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Note: Adding works to faith demonstrated they had not trusted Christ as Savior, who provided a spiritual circumcision for them at conversion (see Colossians 2:11).
5:3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole [cf. Jas. 1:20; can’t pick and choose which laws you are going to obey/disregard; if you choose observance to the law, you choose a package deal, not just the laws that are convenient to obey] law.
5:4 You who are trying to be justified by law [those seeking righteousness by works rather than faith in Christ] have been alienated [destroying/abolishing a relationship] from Christ; you have fallen away from grace [in this context means to fall away from grace toward legalism].
5:5 But by faith we eagerly await [the second coming of Christ when their hope will be made complete and they will be made like Christ (cf. Phil. 1:6 and 1 Jn. 3:2)] through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.
5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value [in achieving righteousness with God]. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
5:7 You were running a good race [Galatians started Christian life like sprinting athletes]. Who cut in on you [present condition; Judaizers cut in on Galatians’ lane in race and caused them to veer off course] and kept you from obeying the truth?
Note: After warning his readers of the dangers of legalism and urging them to trust Christ fully for salvation, Paul turned his attention to the false teachers who were agitating the Galatians. He encouraged the Galatians to ignore the teachings of the legalists and obey the truth of the gospel. Paul made an impassioned appeal for responsible Christian living.
5:8 That kind of persuasion [the kind that had turned the Galatians aside] does not [Galatians had lost ability to distinguish God’s call from treacherous human persuasion (cf. Col. 2:8)] come from the one [God] who calls you.
5:9 “A little yeast [symbol for evil or sin (cf. Lk. 12:1); may refer either to the false teachers themselves or to the false teaching (or both); refers to any teaching that adds works to grace (legalism)] works through the whole batch of dough.”
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 [cf. Lk. 17:1-2 re: accountability for leading others astray], whoever he may be.
5:11 Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision [some had falsely charged that Paul preached circumcision], why am I still being persecuted [persecution by the Judaizers was proof that Paul had never preached the necessity of circumcision for salvation]? In that case [if Paul had indeed added the law (circumcision) to his message of Jesus Christ as some had charged] the offense [stumbling block] of the cross has been abolished.
5:12 As for those agitators [“disturbers of the mind”], I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate [if the Judaizers felt so deeply about circumcision, Paul suggested they go so far as to castrate themselves (which, according to their own logic, would make them holier); cf. Phil. 3:2] themselves!
5:13 You, my brothers [term a reminder of Paul’s compassion/concern], were called to be free [reminder that freedom in Christ was aim of salvation]. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature [freedom in Christ not freedom to sin; “Do not let this freedom become an excuse for letting your physical desires control you.” (Good News Bible)]; rather [aim of Christ’s gospel is service motivated by love], serve one another in love [God had not called Galatians to indulgence but to love].
Note: Behind these verses there is an implied question about grace the Galatians were asking, prompted no doubt by the Judaizers. The question was this, “If we live under grace, not the law, what is to keep us from disobeying God?” In verses 13-15 Paul warned the Galatians about the danger of abusing Christian liberty by turning from a holy life to an unholy one. Paul’s warning against legalism was not intended to become a license or excuse for the Galatians to indulge their own desires.
5:14 The entire law is summed up in a single command [Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39]: “Love your neighbor as yourself [we do not fulfill the law by keeping multitudes of rules/regulations, but by putting love into action by serving others/meeting needs].”
5:15 [metaphor illustrates disorder/division which Judaizers’ teaching produced] If you keep on biting and devouring [dissension caused by Judaizers having disastrous results in Galatian churches] each other, watch out or you will be destroyed [legalism never promotes love but creates a judgmental spirit that leads to conflict] by each other.
5:16 So I say, live [do not get order mixed up: first, live by the Spirit … only then will you have the power to not carry out the desires of the flesh] by the Spirit [given to all believers at conversion (cf. Eph. 1:13-14 and Rom. 8:9-11) and enables believers to walk in a manner pleasing to God], and you will not gratify the desires [those desires that are contrary to God’s will] of the sinful nature [refers to that evil part of the human nature which produces the works listed in verses 19-21 (cf. Rom. 8:5-9)].
Note: In verses 13-15 Paul explained that believers are called to serve one another in love and not indulge their sinful natures. Verse 16 introduces an explanation of how this is possible.
5:17 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 [struggle between flesh and Spirit] with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Note: A wise Christian will never deny the reality of the flesh. Although the flesh has no more power over us than we allow it to have, it is still a reality in every believer’s life.
5:18 But if you are led [active dependence; we must willingly submit to His leadership; Spirit gives us desire/power to say no to sin] by the Spirit, you are not under law.
5:19 The acts [actions/attitudes] of the sinful nature are obvious [plainly observable]: sexual immorality [Gr. porneia: unlawful sexual relationships of all types], impurity [moral/sexual impurity] and debauchery [wanton, undisciplined, violent behavior];
5:20 idolatry [worship of anything which usurps God’s rightful place] and witchcraft [our word “pharmacy” derived from this word]; hatred [feeling of hostility toward another], discord [quarreling], jealousy [resents accomplishments of others], fits of rage [passionate and often temporary display of anger that burns everything in its path], selfish ambition [self-seeking rivalry devoted to personal interests], dissensions [product of a self-seeking attitude], factions [small groups which pridefully keep to themselves and pursue a selfish, limited agenda]
5:21 and envy [hostile, malignant spirit that wants what others have]; drunkenness [excessive consumption of alcohol; weakens moral and rational control], orgies [sexual misconduct], and the like [suggests list is not exhaustive]. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God [rule of God in the heart of the Christian because of faith in Christ].
5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love [benevolence/good will toward others], joy [depends on presence of Spirit], peace [quietness of soul even in face of difficulties], patience [forbearance to trying people/circumstances], kindness [thoughtfulness shown by godly treatment of others], goodness [generosity which responds to others with compassion/gracious behavior], faithfulness [trustworthiness/reliability],
5:23 gentleness [strength under control] and self-control [power to make godly decisions about moral choices/priorities]. Against such things there is no law [law enforcement protects against works of flesh; do not need protection against fruit of Spirit].
Note: Three things about the phrase “fruit of the Spirit.”
• First, the word “fruit” is singular, not plural. Every believer’s life should be characterized by all these qualities.
• Second, the fruit is produced by the Spirit, not the flesh. No amount of self-effort can ever produce this kind of spirituality in a believer’s life.
• Third, there is a difference between the gifts of the Spirit and the “fruit of the Spirit.” The Spirit’s gifts refer to the abilities given to every believer to serve Christ. The Spirit’s fruit refers to the character of the Christian.
5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified [identification with Christ in His death on the cross] the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
5:25 Since we live by the Spirit [new spiritual life given to believers at time of conversion], let us keep in step with the Spirit [live everyday in reliance upon Spirit].
5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other [do not become boastful, nor pick fights with one another, nor disrupt church harmony and peace through envyings].