Galatians 5:1-6

1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.
2 I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ's hard-won gift of freedom is squandered.
3 I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.
4 I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace.
5 Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit.
6 For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

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Galatians 5:1-6 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO GALATIANS 5

In this chapter the apostle exhorts to stand fast in Christian liberty, and warns against the abuse of it; and directs to shun various vices, and encourages, to the exercise of several graces, and the observance of several duties; and concludes with a caution against vain glory, provocation to wrath, and envy: and whereas, in the latter part of the preceding chapter, he had made it appear that the believers under the Gospel dispensation were free from the bondage of the law, he begins this with an exhortation to continue steadfastly in the liberty of the Gospel; and the rather, since it was what Christ obtained for them, and bestowed on them; and to take care, that they were not again brought under the bondage of the ceremonial law, particularly the yoke of Circumcision, Ga 5:1, and dissuades from submitting to it, by observing, that it tended to make Christ unprofitable to them, Ga 5:2, and that it laid them under an obligation to keep the whole law, Ga 5:3, and that it made Christ wholly useless to them; and that such who sought for justification by obedience to the ceremonial law were apostates from the Gospel of the grace of God, Ga 5:4, as also by showing, that it was contrary to the general faith and expectation of the saints, who were looking for and expecting eternal glory and happiness, not by the works of the law, but by faith in Christ, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Ga 5:5, nor were circumcision or uncircumcision of any avail, but the true faith in Christ, which shows itself by love to him and to his people, Ga 5:6, and likewise by reminding them how well they set out at their first conversion, and proceeded; nor had they any to hinder them from obeying the truth, and therefore it was shameful in them to go back to the beggarly elements they had first relinquished, Ga 5:7, nor was the present opinion they had imbibed, of God that called them, or what they received when first effectually called by grace, but what had been since taken up, Ga 5:8, and whereas it might be objected, that it was only in a single article concerning the ceremonial law, and which was, embraced only by a few persons, and therefore not to be regarded, the apostle puts them in mind of a proverb, that a little leaven leavens the whole lump, and therefore not to be connived at, Ga 5:9, however, a little to mitigate the sharpness of his reproof, he expresses his good opinion and confidence of them, that upon a mature consideration of things, they would not be otherwise minded than they formerly had been, or he now was; and lays the blame of all upon the false teacher, or teachers, that troubled them, and who should bear their own judgment or condemnation, Ga 5:10, and whereas it was insinuated, that the apostle himself had preached up circumcision as necessary to salvation, he removes this calumny by observing, that were it true, he would not suffer persecution as he did, nor would the Jews be offended at his preaching as they were, Ga 5:11, and then out of zeal for the glory of God, and hearty affection to the Galatians, he wishes those false teachers that troubled them with their pernicious doctrines were cut off either by the Lord, or from the church, Ga 5:12, and next he directs to the right use of Christian liberty, to which they were called; and cautions against the abuse of it; that they should not use it as an occasion to the flesh, but, on the contrary, serve one another in love, Ga 5:13 giving this as a reason, because love is the fulfilling of the law, Ga 5:14, whereas a contrary spirit and conduct are attended with pernicious consequences, even the destruction of each other, Ga 5:15, and therefore advises them to walk in the Spirit, whose fruit is love, and then they would not fulfil the lust of the flesh, Ga 5:16, for these two, flesh and Spirit, are contrary the one to the other, and the Spirit hinders the performance of the lusts of the flesh, Ga 5:17, besides, such who give up themselves to the conduct of the Spirit, and are led thereby, are not under the law, the bondage of it, nor liable to its curse, Ga 5:18, and having made mention both of flesh and Spirit, he takes notice of the works and fruits of the one, and of the other, by which they are known; and as for the works of the flesh he observes, that they are manifest, and gives an enumeration of them in "seventeen" particulars; and to deter from them declares, that whoever lives in the commission of them, shall not inherit the kingdom of God, Ga 5:19-21, and as for the fruits of the Spirit, these are also well known by spiritual men, "nine" of which are particularly mentioned, and against which there is no law, Ga 5:22,23, and from the whole concludes, that such as are true believers in Christ, and are led by his Spirit, and have the fruits of it, have the flesh with its affections and lusts crucified, Ga 5:24, and ends the chapter with some exhortations to walk in the Spirit, and not be ambitious of worldly honour, nor provoke one another to wrath, nor envy each other's happiness, Ga 5:25.

Galatians 5:1-6 In-Context

1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.
2 I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ's hard-won gift of freedom is squandered.
3 I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.
4 I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace.
5 Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit.
6 For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
7 You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience?
8 This detour doesn't come from the One who called you into the race in the first place.
9 And please don't toss this off as insignificant. It only takes a minute amount of yeast, you know, to permeate an entire loaf of bread.
10 Deep down, the Master has given me confidence that you will not defect. But the one who is upsetting you, whoever he is, will bear the divine judgment.

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Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.