|Galatians Chapter 5|
MY PERSONAL COMMENTARY
THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
By David L. Hannah
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
* Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, *
Concerning the final verse of Chapter four and this first verse of Chapter five Vincent says, “In the liberty wherewith. This is according to the reading tee (NT:3588) eleutheria (NT:1657) hee (NT:3588). Different connections are proposed, as with ‘stand fast,’ as the King James Version: or with the close of Gal 4, as, ‘we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free with the freedom with which Christ freed us’: or, ‘of her who is free with the freedom with which,’ etc. But hee (NT:3588) ‘wherewith’ must be omitted. A new clause begins with tee (NT:3588) eleutheria (NT:1657). Render it: ‘for freedom did Christ set us free.’ ‘For,’ not ‘with’ freedom. It is the dative of advantage; that we might be really free and remain free. Compare Gal 5:13, and John 8:36.”
Barnes and Clarke would seem to agree that this verse is a continuation of the final verse of Chapter Four.
Wuest says, “The word ‘free’ of 4:31 is the translation of the same Greek word rendered ‘liberty’ in this verse.” He goes on to agree with Vincent that the “word is dative of advantage.”
Robertson also concurs. All three of these Commentators of the original Greek would render this something like, “For freedom did Christ set you free.”
However, Bible Translators disagree rather it should read, “in freedom,” or, “for freedom.” Many modern Translations concur with the King James Version, but just as many concur with the NIV, which renders it, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” I must leave the arguments to the experts. Therefore, it could either be saying, “Stand fast IN the sphere of freedom you have because Christ has set you free!” or, “It’s FOR freedom that Christ has set you free, so stand fast in it.” So, you have been set free so that you can live IN freedom, or you have been set free FOR the purpose of living free lives. There’s not a lot of difference, is there? In either case you are free in Christ. Stand firm in that freedom and don’t let anyone remove you from it with faulty doctrine. It’s your rightful place because you have been born-again into that freedom, a child of the free woman, or the New Covenant. You are free-born in Christ! Freedom is your heritage! Stand firm in that glorious freedom.
If Christ has indeed set us free, then what has He set us free from? He had to set us free from sin because we were slaves to it (John 8:34-36; Rom 6:16-18,20; 7:14; Titus 2:14), but He had to set us free from the Law as well (Gal 3:13; 4:5). Why did we need to be set free from the Law? We didn’t need deliverance from the Law because it was evil. On the contrary, “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom 7:12). Then why did we need to be set free from it? I PRAY I CAN GET YOU TO SEE THIS!! We could never be set free from sin until we were first set free from the Law! Why is that? Law, rather it’s the written Law of God given to Moses, or any other law written by man or church that our conscience, for whatever reason, compels us to keep, has an odd affect on the fallen nature that we all have. Even after we’re saved sin dwells in our members (Rom 7:17,20-21,23,25), and the Law strengthens the desire in us to sin, and the power of the sin that dwells in our members (1 Cor 15:56), allowing the sin in us to seize the opportunity afforded it by the commandment itself to cause us to struggle with all kinds of evil desires (Rom 7:8), reviving its power in us (Rom 7:9), and deceiving and killing us as a result of our yielding to it (Rom 7:10-11). LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART!! Sin will continue to exercise dominion over you until you are no longer under the Law (Rom 6:14)! You must get out from under the economy of Law, and get under the economy of grace. IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO FREEDOM!!
Paul isn’t teaching freedom from Law because the commandments of the Law are bad. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all keep every commandment of the Law flawlessly? What makes the perfect Law of God weak and inadequate is us (Rom 8:3). We were dead and it couldn’t give us life (Gal 3:21). That verse tells us “if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” If the Law could have given us life then we could have kept its commandments and righteousness would have been the result. But it wasn’t designed to do that. God gave the Law of Moses to the Jews and the law of the conscience to the Gentiles (Rom 2:14-15) to accuse us of our wrong doing so Jew and Gentile alike might be guilty before God (Rom 3:19). In that way we should all know we need a Savior. The function of Law is to bring us the knowledge, or the awareness, of sin (Rom 3:20), to make us see the sinfulness of sin (Rom 7:13), and to inform us that the wages of our sin is death so that we’ll go to Jesus Christ to receive the gift of life (Rom 6:23).
We have become righteous through our faith in Christ (Rom 3:21-24; 5:19; 8:3-4; Phil 3:9) and the Law was not made for the righteous (1 Tim 1:7-11). The economy of Law was not given to the kingdom of light, but to the kingdom of darkness. It was given to fallen man, not to redeemed man. It was given to the lawless, not to the righteous. It was given to the spiritually dead, not to those alive in Christ.
Again, the avenue to our successfully walking in the freedom that Christ has given us is the same avenue that brought us to Christ in the first place, and that’s the avenue of faith in Him, or believing what He says about it (Gal 3:2-3). Those verses show us that we’re saved by faith, and that we mature by faith. We were saved by believing His promises concerning salvation and we mature in Him, and learn to walk in His nature, by believing His promises regarding who we are in Christ (2 Peter 1:4). That’s our freedom! We need to stand firm in it!
* and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library says, “Since the Jews of Paul’s time spoke of ‘taking the yoke of the law upon oneself,’ it is likely that Paul is referring to such an expression here. To the Jews the taking up of the law’s yoke was good; indeed, it was the essence of religion. To Paul it was assuming the yoke of slavery.”
In his notes on this verse Luther argues, “In this passage Paul again disparages the pernicious notion that the Law is able to make men righteous before God, a notion deeply rooted in man’s reason. All mankind is so wrapped up in this idea that it is hard to drag it out of people.”
Concerning the phrase “entangled again with” Robertson comments, “Common word for ensnare by trap.”
Paul’s purpose for Chapter Four was to show the reader the absolute futility of a Christian turning to the Law as a means of winning, or keeping, justification. Wuest rightly informs us, “Paul in 4:1-7 had already told them of the fact that grace had placed them as adult sons in the family of God, and in 4:8-10 had asked them how it was that they were turning back to such an elementary method of living their lives. Now, in 5:1 he enforces his exhortation and launches out into a discussion of the Spirit-filled life.” He had commented earlier in his notes on this verse, “They were like adults putting themselves under rules made for children.”
Those are great comments! It’s as foolish for a Christian to turn to legalism as the means through which he’ll live his life for God as it would be for a mature adult to place himself under the rules his parents raised him by. “I need to be home by ten! I need to tell my parents where I’ve been and who I’ve been with! I need to ask Dad if I can buy that video game with my allowance!” You’re an adult! Be a responsible adult and make your own decisions. Did you get what Wuest said in the above notes? Grace has placed the believer into the family of God AS AN ADULT SON!!!
Who was it that was facing this temptation to become “entangled again with the yoke of bondage”? As you can see in the next verse he’s talking to those who are considering being circumcised. The Jewish believers in the Church had been circumcised since they were eight days old, so he’s talking to the Gentile believers in the Church. What was their previous entanglement in the yoke of bondage? It was in idol worship (Gal 4:8-11). In that passage in Chapter Four he considers the idea of a Gentile Christian turning to the Law for his justification as turning to something as “weak and beggarly” as was his former religion of idolatry. In our current passage he considers it to returning to a “yoke of bondage.” In other words, just as their former idolatrous religion was a yoke of bondage, so would be their turning to the Law. In both passages he’s comparing the Law to any other non-Christian, pagan religion in the world. The Law of Moses, since the redemptive work of Calvary, is no more effective at winning the approval of God then any of the false religions in the world, such as Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, secularism, and so on. Only faith in Christ can save us, justify us, sanctify us, and keep us until we are totally glorified. Anything else is a “yoke of bondage.”
Understand this, the Ten Commandments were written by the very finger of God (Ex 31:18; 32:15-16; 34:1,28-29; Deut 4:13; 9:10-11) and God gave the entire Law to Moses (Ex 20:1 – Deut 34:12). It is a Holy Law, and every single Commandment in it is “holy, and just, and good” (Rom 7:12). It is in every way vastly superior to any other religion in this world. However, when compared to the glorious liberty of the Gospel of Christ it is in every way vastly inferior. It can do nothing to make the dead sinner alive, and so it can’t produce righteousness in us (Gal 3:21), because of the inherent weakness of the flesh of fallen man (Rom 8:3). We, in the power of our fallen flesh, can desire to do good on a consistent basis, but we haven’t the ability to carry those desires to fruition (Rom 7:18). But thank God, what the Law couldn’t do because of our fallen nature GOD DID (Rom 8:3)! We who were dead now live (Gal 2:20; Eph 2:1,5; Col 3:4) in Christ. We who were unrighteous have been made righteous (Rom 1:16-17; 3:21-22; 5:19; 10:4; 1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9). The Holy Law of God is no different than other religions in the sense that it cannot save, it cannot justify, it cannot sanctify, it cannot bring us to glorification. It is the same as those dead religions in the sense that it simply leaves us in the bondage of sin while yoking us with the bondage of rules. It is a journey back to bondage for the believer. May we never take that journey, but remain steadfast in the glorious freedom of the Gospel that Christ has delivered us to.
Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
* Behold, I Paul say unto you, *
Concerning “I Paul,” Robertson says, “Asserts all his personal and apostolic authority.” Regarding “say,” one of Thayer’s definitions is, “affirm over, maintain.” The Contemporary English Version renders this, “I, Paul, promise you.” The God’s Word translation has it, “I, Paul, can guarantee” —- “you.” The Message has it this way, “I am emphatic about this.” The Living Bible, “Listen to me, for this is serious.” The NIV renders it, “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you.”
Paul wants his readers to understand that what he is about to say he is telling them with all the authority of an Apostle. He’s stressing this because what he’s about to tell them is crucial to their Christian walk
* that if ye be circumcised, *
This is telling us, and the scholars agree, that the Galatian believers had not yet consented to the urgings of the Judaizers to be circumcised, but were definitely leaning towards that decision. The Judaizers, those referred to by Paul as “false brethren” (Gal 2:4), were telling them that this was necessary for their continual walk with the Lord (Gal 3:2-3).
That’s foolish theology (Gal 3:1). You don’t get something in one way and keep it another. If you keep your salvation by being circumcised then your salvation isn’t secure until that circumcision takes place. Consequently, you weren’t really saved until you were circumcised.
It appears to me that these false teachers were being crafty (Eph 4:14), and not upfront with these Galatians. They wanted to bring them to a point of believing that 1.) Salvation is a result of placing one’s faith in Christ, 2.) Followed by the rite of circumcision, 3.) Followed by a keeping of the entire Law of Moses. It doesn’t appear that they had yet laid their entire doctrine before them at the time of the writing of this Epistle, but were taking it step by step. “Yes,” they had told them, “You were saved when you placed your faith in Christ, but now you must be circumcised.” They weren’t going to teach the last part, that they must then keep the entire Law, until they had succeeded in getting the Galatian believers to follow through with the actual receiving of circumcision in their bodies. Then they would insist on the last part. Paul beats them to the punch in the next verse.
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library comments, “It is not that circumcision in itself is that important. In fact, Paul himself had once had Timothy circumcised; just four verses farther on he will declare that ‘neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.’ What Paul is condemning is the theology of circumcision–namely, the theology that makes works necessary for salvation and seeks to establish conformity to some external standards of behavior as a mark of spirituality.”
* Christ shall profit you nothing. *
What does this mean? Is it telling us that if a Christian turns to legalism he loses his salvation? Again, like in the case of so many verses, we’ll each, if we’re not prayerfully careful, attempt to fit this verse into our personal doctrine. For example, the Calvanist might say that this would be proof that the so-called “Christian” was not genuinely one of the elect. The “eternal security” crowd might say that the ones who turn to legalism were never truly saved, or that they will repent and return to faith in Christ before they die. The crowd that follows the Arminian teachings might say that they were truly saved, but then lost that salvation. The trouble with applying the Arminian doctrine here is that many who follow that doctrine are actually involved in legalism. So, how could they forfeit their salvation for turning to legalism when they are already in legalism confessing salvation?
Certainly at first glance this verse does appear to be saying that all those whose faith is in Christ alone, who then turn to legalism, do indeed lose their salvation. However, to come to that conclusion you would then have to believe that all those multitudes of people who come to Christ in evangelical churches that don’t fully understand the message of grace are never truly saved in the first place. Then we must conclude that only those with a clear understanding of grace can truly be saved. Haven’t we, at that point, formed a new legalism where we’re adding an addition to grace, that addition being the understanding of a doctrine? Haven’t we then made the doctrine of grace no different than the theology of circumcision that the Apostle is confronting here? And furthermore we’re ignoring all those wonderful promises of Scripture that tell us that whoever comes to Christ will be saved. In this Epistle Paul is treating his readers as true, yet confused, Christians.
Then what is this verse telling us? I totally agree with what Wuest says, “The words ‘Christ shall profit you nothing,’ must be interpreted in their context. Paul is not speaking here of their standing in grace as justified believers. He is speaking of the method of living a Christian life and of growth in that life. Thus, if the Galatians submit to circumcision, they are putting themselves under law, and are depriving themselves of the ministry of the Holy Spirit which Christ made possible through His death and resurrection, and which ministry was not provided for under law. In the Old Testament dispensation, the Spirit came upon or in believers in order that they might perform a certain service for God, and then left them when that service was accomplished. He did not indwell them for purposes of sanctification. The great apostle had taught the Galatians that God’s grace guaranteed their everlasting retention of salvation, and so they understood that he was speaking of their Christian experience, not their Christian standing.”
If you’ve read my earlier notes you’ve noticed that I’m convinced that if you want to know what Paul’s saying then see what he’s saying. In other words, what’s he writing this Epistle for? He wants us to see that spiritual growth occurs the same way that salvation does, through believing the promises of God (Gal 3:2-3). That’s the subject at hand here! So when he says that “Christ shall profit you nothing” he referring to Christ profiting them nothing in the realm of spiritual growth, or practical sanctification. Every Christian must choose how they will walk before God. Will they choose the Law, which we see is the walk of the flesh [human effort – NIV] (Gal 3:2-3)? Or, will they choose faith, which we see is the walk of the Spirit? When we choose human effort, or our ability to keep the Law, or any other form of legalism, we turn off the faucet of the free flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In other words, the Law demands our obedience. We must trust ourselves. Walking in the flesh manufactures works, while walking in the Spirit brings forth fruit (Gal 5:19-23).
I wrote a personal note in my comments on an earlier part of this letter (Gal 2:9), and I mentioned in that personal note that I had come to understand the other side of the grace of God through the teachings of Dr. Stone when he was speaking at a church I was pastoring at several years ago. I now see two sides of grace. Grace is certainly Divine favor, God’s undeserved favor towards the believing sinner. But it’s also Divine enablement (1 Cor 15:10; Gal 2:9), God’s enabling power at work in the life of the believer. God not only favors us with His gift of salvation, but He then enables us through the work of the Holy Spirit, or graces us with the ability to do what He calls us to do (Phil 2:13). It’s the flow of that Divine enabling that we shut off, turning off the spigot, when we turn to the flesh; i.e., trusting in the Law. It’s in this area of walking out the righteousness that we have in Christ that we no longer profit from His victory at Calvary (current verse). It’s this grace of Divine enabling that we fall from (Gal 5:4). I choose to keep God’s grace, His Divine enabling through the work of the Holy Spirit, flowing in my life. I choose to trust in Christ, not in the Law.
Under the economy of Law it’s up to you! You don’t get any help from God! Under the economy of grace it’s up to God (Rom 4:16)! That’s the only way the end result can be guaranteed. Which do you prefer?
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
* For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, *
Concerning “testify” Strong’s Concordance says, “to be adduced as a witness,” while Thayer says, “1) to cite a witness, bring forward a witness, call to witness; 1a) to affirm by appeal to God, to declare solemnly, protest; 2) to conjure, beseech as in God’s name, exhort solemnly.”
John Gill adds, “This is the form of an oath, a calling God to witness, swearing by the living God, and declaring as in his presence to every man, whether Jew or Gentile, whoever he be.”
Barnes and Vincent think that the word “again” indicates that he’s restating something he had taught them when he was there in person. Others think he’s using that word as a continuation of his thoughts in Verse two. In other words, they have him saying in these two verses something to this effect, “I’m telling you as an Apostle that if you buy into this doctrine of circumcision that Christ will be of no profit to you, and let me stress to you again the error of that thinking by telling you that the consequence of yielding to that doctrine is placing yourself under the entire obligation of the Law.”
The Apostle is urging them, as is the Holy Spirit Who’s giving him the words to write, to consider the entire picture of what’s involved in this theology of circumcision. One thing they need to consider before agreeing to circumcision is that if they turn that direction then Christ will no longer profit them, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in His giving grace to them to walk uprightly before God [see my notes on the previous verse]. Now he’s about to tell them about another consequence of that choice that they need to consider.
* that he is a debtor to do the whole law. *
In hospitals across America baby boys are circumcised for health reasons, but to the Jew circumcision was important for an altogether different reason. God had made a Promise to Abraham when he was seventy-five years old (Gen 12:1-3), and had enlarged on, and confirmed that Promise as time went on (Gen 12:7-8; 13:14-17; 14:18-19; 15:1-6;) and had identified that Promise as a Covenant He had entered into with Abraham (Gen 15:7-21), and then, when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, revealed that the Covenant would be extended to his seed (Gen 17:1-7). Then God added circumcision as the part of that Covenant that Abraham, and his seed, would have to keep (Gen 17:9-14).
To the Jews circumcision was a unique sign that meant that they were the unique people of God, His Covenant people. It was their badge of honor. Of all the people in the world, only the Jews had this Covenant with God. Then, when God gave the Law to Moses circumcision became a part of that Law (Lev 12:3). Their badge of honor, circumcision, had now become a part of the other thing that had made them unique, the Law of Moses.
Any Gentile who believed in the God of the Jews and wanted to worship with them had to be circumcised, and had to keep the Law (Ex 12:48-49). This was the teaching of the Law. This was what every Jew had been taught. So when some Jews seemed to embrace Christ they wanted to include in the Christian doctrine this teaching of the Law. They wanted to cling fast to the rite of circumcision that made them unique, and to the Law that also made them unique. That Law taught them that Gentiles could only be included this way. This is what the Judaizers were teaching the Galatian believers, one step at a time.
Paul saw it another way, as did the writer of the Book of Hebrews. Hebrews identified the Lord Jesus as our High Priest (Heb 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 5:4-10). It tells us that the fact that He is our High Priest supposes a changing of the Law (Heb 7:11-12). His entering into the office of High Priest disannulled the Law of Moses, replacing it with a “better hope” (Heb 7:17-19). In this Epistle Paul sees in the Gospel a freedom from the Law (Gal 2:19; 3:13; 4:4-5,21-31), the Law having finished its function at the arrival of the Gospel (Gal 3:16-19,24-25; 4:1-7).
The Gospel and the Law do not co-exist. They are diametrically opposed. The Law of Moses is the “law of sin and death,” and the Gospel is the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2; 2 Cor 3:7-8). The one is based on commandments (Heb 7:12,18), while the other is based on a Promise (Gal 3:15-18). The one depends on your faithfulness (Gal 3:10), while the other depends on the faithfulness of God (Rom 4:16-22; Heb 11:11). The one is the strength of the sin at work in the members of your body (1 Cor 15:56; Rom 7:7-11), while the other is the strength of the freedom you have in Christ to live victorious lives over sin (Rom 6:6-7,14).
How will you, as a believer, choose to live your life before God? Will you choose to walk in the freedom of the Gospel, or will you choose to mix a little Law in with the Gospel? Paul is teaching us in this verse that if you mix in any Law then you are responsible to keep all of the Law. James also taught this truth (James 2:10-11).
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
I’m going to discuss this verse in the order that the NIV renders it, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”
* You who are trying to be justified by law * [NIV]
* whosoever of you are justified by the law; * [KJV]
Robertson comments, “Present passive conative indicative, ‘ye who are trying to be justified in the law.’”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say, “‘are being justified,’ that is, are endeavoring to be justified.”
No one is actually justified by the Law in the eyes of God (Rom 3:20,27-28; 8:3-4; Gal 2:16; 3:11-12;). The Apostle is saying, however, that there are those who are trying to be justified by the Law, or who are justified by the Law in their own eyes.
* have been alienated from Christ; * [NIV]
* Christ is become of no effect unto you, * [KJV]
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say, “Literally, ‘Ye have become void from Christ,’ that is, your connection with Christ has become void.”
Wuest contends, and I totally agree, “The words ‘Christ is become of no effect unto you,’ must be understood in their context to refer, not to their justification but to their spiritual lives as Christians. The apostle is not here speaking of their standing but of their experience.”
Martin Luther suggests, “If you know Christ at all, you know that good works do not serve unto righteousness, nor evil works unto condemnation. I do not want to withhold from good works their due praise, nor do I wish to encourage evil works. But when it comes to justification, I say, we must concentrate upon Christ alone, or else we make Him non-effective. You must choose between Christ and the righteousness of the Law. If you choose Christ you are righteous before God. If you stick to the Law, Christ is of no use to you.”
When we who have been justified by faith in Christ put our trust in the keeping of the Law for our spiritual growth (Gal 3:2-3) we render the provisions provided us through the victory of the cross ineffective in our lives in the area of that spiritual growth. The Lord Jesus has provided us with the only way for man to overcome the sin in his life, and when we choose another way, we choose failure.
* you have fallen away from grace. * [NIV]
* ye are fallen from grace. * [KJV]
Wuest says, “The Galatian Christians had lost their hold upon the grace for daily living which heretofore had been ministered to them by the Holy Spirit. God’s grace manifests itself in three ways, in justification, sanctification, and glorification. The context rules. All through chapter five, Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the believer. Therefore, grace here must be interpreted as the daily grace for living of which the Galatian Christians were depriving themselves.”
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library rightly points out, “The phrase does not mean that if a Christian sins, he falls from grace and thereby loses his salvation. There is a sense in which to sin is to fall into grace, if one is repentant. But to fall from grace, as seen by this context, is to fall into legalism. Or to put it another way, to choose legalism is to relinquish grace as the principle by which one desires to be related to God.”
The Teacher’s Commentary comments, “Such a fall from grace back into old practices and ways means simply that the individual is no better off than he was before! All the freedom, all the joy, all the adventure of the life a child of God is to live by faith, has been drained away – traded for something that is worse than nothing. ‘Christ will be of no value to you at all’ means simply that being a Christian will not make the difference in daily life He intends it to. A person will be no better off than he was before being a Christian, as far as living the Christian life is concerned.”
What about the concept of falling from grace? In my earlier notes (Gal 4:11) I mentioned, regarding the genuineness of the Christian experience of these Galatian believers, “They were, after all, those who had ‘received’ ‘the Spirit’ (Gal 3:2), and thus they had ‘begun in the Spirit’ (Gal 3:3), and were called, by the Apostle Paul himself, the ‘children of God’ (Gal 3:26), and referred to as ‘sons’ with God’s Spirit living in them (Gal 4:6), and as those who knew God, and were known by God (Gal 4:9).” I’m absolutely convinced that Paul was writing to true believers. They were saved! Were they dangerously close to forfeiting that salvation? Would turning to the Law as the means through which they would earn God’s favor cause them to forfeit salvation? I agree with Wuest, that’s not the subject at hand here. He’s not writing about their salvation, but rather, about their spiritual walk. God gives the believer the grace to walk uprightly before Him. This is the grace of Divine enablement (Acts 15:10; Gal 2:7-9). Our strength comes through the power of His might (Eph 6:10), which is exceedingly great in the life of the believer (Eph 1:19) as we are strengthened in our inner man by the Holy Spirit (Eph 3:16). This inner working of the Holy Spirit is a provision that Christ won for us, His children, at the cross. When we walk in faith, which is the walk of the Spirit (Gal 3:2-3), that power works effectively in us, and we are strong in this grace (2 Tim 2:1). Through our faith in Christ we overcome sin (1 John 5:4-5) through the power of His grace at work in us. When we turn to Law we fall from this grace, the grace of Divine enablement, and are left to overcome through the strength of our own will power. The problem with that is, “to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom 7:18). Consequently, we fail, and the Law that we turn to forbids failure.
The Law is not the way to victory! Jesus is!
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
* For we through the Spirit *
Allow me to review the first four verses of this Chapter. Paul had encouraged the Galatian believers to stand firm in the very freedom that God had intended for them when He set them free in the first place, and to never again become entangled in bondage (Gal 5:1). He then warned them that yielding to the Judaizers’ doctrine of circumcision would render the victory won at the cross void in their lives, that victory won by Christ, for the believer, enabling that believer to walk in daily victory before God (Gal 5:2). He then insisted that if they were to seek God’s approval through the act of circumcision that obedience to the entire Law would be required to achieve that approval (Gal 5:3). He then concluded that if they persisted in their pursuit to find, and maintain, a right-relationship with God through the Law, then Christ would become useless to them, and they would fall away from the source of true victory, the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the believers’ lives energizing them to walk uprightly before God (Gal 5:4).
The Apostle now changes his focus from the wrong way to achieve God’s approval in our daily lives, the way of the flesh, to the right way, the way of the Spirit. In my earlier notes (Gal 3:2-3) I pointed out that walking in the flesh is shown by the Apostle to be a human effort to keep the Law, while walking in the Spirit is shown to be a walk of faith. He now gets back to that teaching. He’s saying, “We, Church, are going to arrive at the proper destination the same way we began the journey, by trusting the never-failing promises of God.” The promises of God were given to us primarily to enable us to live right [partake of Divine nature] and to stop living wrong [escape the corruption in the world through evil desires] (1 Peter 1:4). When we stand on the promises of God and follow those “who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12), then we continue to head in the proper direction of attaining our goal of becoming like Christ, and we are “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (II Cor 3:18 NIV), and this continues until “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).
* wait for the hope of righteousness by faith *
I’m reasonably convinced that the desires of the Galatian believers were noble ones. They wanted God to be proud of them. They wanted to walk in righteousness before Him, and not allow any sin in their lives to come between them and God. Like many Christians today I’m sure they were disappointed with their failed attempts to walk perfectly before God and were willing to try anything that would bring them closer to realizing these desires. Along came the Judaizers. They had convinced these believers that they needed to honor God by observing “days, and months, and times, and years” (Gal 4:10), and were in the process of convincing them to honor God by submitting to circumcision (Gal 5:2). Paul was assuring them that this path led to total submission to the Law (Gal 5:3). That total dependency on the Law would be the next issue these “false brethren” (Gal 2:4) would insist on.
What was Paul’s answer to these concerns? How could these believers find greater victory in their daily walk before God? How could they make God proud of them? These are questions that are pertinent to you and me.
Every true believer has a desire to live right because when we were born again, and placed into Christ, we were created to do so (2 Cor 5:17; Eph 2:10; 4:24). The full realization of God’s eternal purpose to bring all of His children into conformity “to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29), has caused an inner “groaning” in all of us believers to see the fulfillment of that purpose (Rom 8:19-24). Becoming like Jesus is the hope that is set before us (Heb 6:18; 1 John 3:2-3). We were all created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), but because of sin we all fell short of His glory (Rom 3:23), or the who God is. Having Jesus live in us gives us “the hope of glory” (Col 1:27), which is our restoration to the image of God from which we’ve fallen. Believer, you have a built in desire to be like Jesus. That’s why I tell people that once we become Christians we can still sin, but we can’t enjoy it any more.
Concerning the word “wait” in this verse Wuest comments, “The word speaks of an attitude of intense yearning and an eager waiting for something.”
In the here and now, how do we draw closer to our goal of right living? Do we run to the Law? Paul said the Galatians were foolish to consider this (Gal 3:1). We yearn for, and wait expectantly for the full realization of this righteousness, and we wait “by faith” (current verse). We trust His promises that assure us we will be like Him. That same faith that trusted in the promises of God to save all who would trust Him now stands on other promises that tell us that we are currently brand new in Christ, that the old nature that had dominated us has passed away, and a brand new nature has come into our lives (2 Cor 5:17), that it is now our nature to do right (Rom 2:14) because the love of God that fulfills the Law (Rom 13:10) has been shed abroad in our hearts through the working of the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). These promises tell us that sin can no longer dominate our lives because we are no longer under the Law, but we are under grace (Rom 6:14).
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library tells us, “In the Bible, ‘hope’ refers to that which, though certain, is not yet fully realized.”
We are not hoping for righteousness the way a child hopes for a certain toy on Christmas. We know that the eternal purpose of God will be fulfilled in our lives and we will be like Him. Consequently, we wait expectantly for the total fulfillment of that eternal purpose of God in our lives, that is our becoming like Him in character. Sin will never again mar the image of God in our lives, nor will it ever again affect our conduct. We have not yet arrived at that destination, but we are on the journey. We will arrive when we see Jesus, but we are currently growing into His image in ever-increasing glory through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit (I John 3:2; II Cor 3:18). We do not become more and more like Him by trying harder, but rather by believing His promises to us. It is by faith (current verse). That’s the way we started this journey and that’s the way we continue this journey (Gal 3:2-3).
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
* For in Jesus Christ *
Concerning our being “in Christ,” Vincent comments, “In the economy of life which he inaugurates and inspires.”
We who are Christians have, “by one Spirit,” been “all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13). We are now “in Christ” (Rom 8:1; 1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 3:28; 6:15; Eph 1:10,2:10; Phil 4:21), where “all spiritual blessings” (Eph 1:3) are found. We have been chosen “in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph 1:4), and that we should receive “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7). In Him we have “obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph 1:11). “In Jesus Christ” is where all blessings flow, and it is the sphere in which you and I “live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
* neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library rightly comments, “This is further evidence that his concern is theological and not ceremonial.”
When Paul warns the Galatian believers not to submit to circumcision (Gal 5:2-3) his concern is not for the physical, but for the spiritual act they were considering. Individuals who are circumcised for medical reasons, such as American boys today, or who are circumcised prior to their coming to the Lord Jesus by faith, such as Christian Jews of his time, including himself, would not be a concern to him at all. He was concerned with the idea that a Christian would seek circumcision as a means of being initiated into the Covenant of the Law, believing that adherence to the Law was the only way to truly be saved (Gal 5:4).
The physical act of being circumcised, or the choice to not be circumcised, in and of themselves are of absolutely no spiritual value. Neither choice has anything to do with salvation, or spiritual growth.
* but faith which worketh by love. *
Paul re-establishes the fact that the message of the Gospel is that we are saved by faith in Christ Jesus alone (Rom 1:16-17; 10:8-10). This is the purpose of this Epistle. He stated that anyone preaching any other Gospel message should be accursed (Gal 1:6-9), and that the integrity of this Gospel must be protected (Gal 2:2-5,11-14). He pointed out that the Jerusalem Apostles recognized the call of God on his life to preach this Gospel to the Gentiles, and gave him their approval (Gal 2:6-9). He then taught that our justification before a Holy God has nothing to do with our keeping the Law, but rather, has to do with our faith in Christ (Gal 2:15-16,20-21; 3:2-3,6-9,10-12,13-14,22-26; 4:21-31; 5:2-4). This is Paul’s message, and he wanted to make certain the Galatian believers understood it, so he points them back to the message of faith at this point in his argument.
Regarding “which worketh by love,” Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment, “Love is not joined with faith in justifying, but is the principle of the works which follow after justification by faith.”
John Gill says, “yet not any sort of faith, but that which is operative, is attended with good works; and which works itself by love to God, to Christ, to his people, ways, worship, truths, and ordinances.”
Matthew Henry suggests, “Faith, where it is true, is a working grace: it works by love, love to God and love to our brethren; and faith, thus working by love, is all in all in our Christianity.”
Vincent adds, “but the faith of the justified, which is their subjective principle of life, exhibits its living energy through love in which the whole law is fulfilled.”
Robertson says, “through love, the moral dynamic.”
As I mentioned in my comments on the previous verse (Gal 5:5) I’m convinced that many turn to legalism for a noble reason. They’re convinced that if they turn to the Law of Moses, or some other set of rules (such as the rules of the church they attend), they will be able to please God by keeping those rules. The problem with this thinking is that if they break just one of the rules then they are rule-breakers, or guilty of breaking the whole Law (James 2:9-11), and Paul just stated that turning to any part of the Law makes you obligated to keep all of the commandments of the Law (Gal 5:3). Because the Law can’t give you spiritual life it can’t empower you to keep its’ rules (Gal 3:21).
I PRAY YOU SEE THIS! The goal driving these Galatian believers towards the Law was their desire to walk in righteousness before God. Paul’s saying that the Law can’t help you accomplish that goal. Faith can! The faith that saves you produces “works” (James 2:14-26). The works it produces don’t save you; your faith in Christ does that, but that saving faith produces Christian works. The works it produces are not the keeping of the commandments of the Law, but the walking out of what you believe, which is living by faith (Rom 1:17). When we are born-again “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom 5:5). That love fulfills the law (Rom 13:10). When we believe those beautiful promises we begin to walk them out in our daily lives (Heb 6:12; 2 Peter 1:4), and the very nature of God is seen in us, and others take notice (Matt 5:16; John 13:34-35). Paul’s saying that we grow in the Lord the same way we became Christians, by believing His promises (Gal 3:2-3).
Here’s what I pray we catch; rules are powerless to help us live right, but faith in God, and His promises, is full of power. Rules give us a desire to live right, but not the ability to live right (Rom 7:18), but faith in God gives us both the desire and the power (Phil 2:13). Paul wanted the Galatian believers to understand this, and I pray that God will give us a spirit of revelation that we might understand it as well.
Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
* Ye did run well; *
Concerning “Ye did run,” Vincent mentions, “Better, as giving the force of the imperfect, ye were running,” and concerning “well,” he adds, “Bravely, becomingly, honorably to yourselves and to the church.”
The Apostle reminds them of their beginning in Christ. They understood the theology of grace and were walking by faith in Christ. He compared their beginning to one who was doing quite well in a race.
* who did hinder you *
Regarding “did hinder,” the Zondervan NIV Bible Library says, “The verb enkopto–a military term–refers primarily to setting up an obstacle or breaking up a road. In this context, it probably refers to the illegal interference of a runner who cuts in ahead of another and thereby disadvantages him.”
He’s now asking them, “What happened? What kind of obstacle is in your way, impeding your progress, and who put it there?” He knows the answers to these questions, but he asks them anyway, hoping the Galatian believers will give some thought to them and realize the foolishness of their thinking. The Judaizers, those “false brethren” (Gal 2:4), had placed the obstacle of the false doctrine of justification by Law in their path, and instead of stepping around it they had stopped to investigate it. Consequently, they were no longer running well!
* that ye should not obey the truth? *
What race had they once been running well? As we see here, they had been running the race of obeying the Truth. However, the obstacle, or hindrance, placed before them had caused them to come to a complete stop in that race, so that they were no longer obeying the Truth. What Truth is Paul thinking about here? The context makes it clear; it’s the Truth of the Gospel message, which is justification by faith in Christ alone.
The Galatian believers had been running the race of obedience to the Gospel message, which was the message of living their lives by faith (Rom 1:16-17), in a manner that brought honor to themselves, and the Church. The Judaizers had laid before them, in the middle of the track they were running on, the false doctrine that taught that justification was a result of their ability to keep the Law. They had stopped to examine that false teaching, and had ceased running, or obeying the Truth of the Gospel. It was the Apostle’s desire to incite them into running again by causing them to see the utter foolishness of the false doctrine before them, so that they would once again embrace the Gospel message of living by faith as the only means of victory for the believer.
This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
* This persuasion *
Vincent says, “The sense is not passive, ‘your being persuaded,’ but active, the persuasion ‘which the Judaizing teachers exert over you.’”
Wuest comments, “The word ‘persuasion’ is from ‘peismone,’ the verb of the same root being ‘peitho,’ which latter means ‘to persuade,’ that is, ‘to induce one by words to believe.’ The word is used here in an active sense. It refers to the act of the Judaizers inducing the Galatians to believe their preaching.”
What were these Galatian believers being persuaded to believe? They had already been persuaded to “observe days, and months, and times, and years” (Gal 4:10), and were close to becoming fully persuaded that circumcision was a necessary part of their salvation (Gal 5:2). Paul warned them of the eventual goal of the Judaizers, which was to persuade them to trust the whole Law, and their faithfulness to keep it, as necessary for salvation (Gal 5:3).
What the Apostle was concerned about should also concern us. Any trusting of the Law for salvation, sanctification, or glorification mandates a total trusting of the Law for those things (Gal 5:3). You can’t add a little Law to the Gospel, or in other words, you can’t add a few works to grace. I’m not suggesting that you won’t find Godly works in the lives of true believers; of course you will. But I am saying that the works you’ll find have absolutely nothing to do with their justification, their sanctification, or their glorification. Christian works, the kind of works that James speaks of, are an outworking of an inward believing (James 2:14-26); or simply put, a walking by faith (Rom 1:17), which is walking out what you believe. Yet when you begin to make those works a necessary part of your being saved, your spiritual growth, and your getting to Heaven and becoming like Jesus, then you’ve turned the New Covenant into the Old. You’ve turned the glorious Gospel of Grace into another gospel (Gal 1:6-7), one of a different kind, a gospel that places the burden of your eternal salvation on your faithfulness, instead of the faithfulness of God; on your ability to fully obey all the Law, instead of God’s ability to keep a Promise. When you do that you remove the certainty from the end result (Rom 4:16). You can’t have it both ways; you get it and keep it by grace, through faith (Eph 2:8-9), or you get it and keep it by works (Rom 11:6).
NOTE: When James spoke of Abraham and Rahab being justified by works (James 2:21,24-25) he wasn’t teaching that the keeping of the Law, or some other code of ethics, will get you to Heaven. He wasn’t teaching anything about a code of ethics. The “work” that justified Abraham was the offering of Isaac upon the altar (James 2:21) in obedience to what God had told him to do (Gen 22:1-2), because he believed so strongly that Isaac was the promised seed that he was totally convinced God would raise him from the dead, if necessary, to bring about the fulfillment of His Promise to him (Heb 11:17-19). It wasn’t some “work” of keeping a commandment that was a part of some Law, or code of ethics. The “work” that justified Rahab was receiving God’s “messengers,” and then sending “them out another way” (James 2:25) because she believed God was going to deliver Jericho into the hands of Israel, and that helping these spies was the best opportunity for her, and her family, to stay alive (Josh 2:8-15). These were actions, or “works,” that were driven by what they believed the future held; Abraham because of his faith in God, and Rahab because of her fear of Israel. Therefore these “works” demonstrated the genuineness of what they believed (James 2:22). It works the same way for you and me. Our actions will always be a demonstration of what we believe. In other words, we will always walk by faith, or our conduct will always be a reflection of what we believe.
We must not misunderstand what James is saying. Law “works” and faith “works” are two very different things. When he says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), he’s simply stating that genuine faith affects our conduct. Paul would readily “Amen” what James is saying. Paul’s concern is that the Galatian believers were dangerously close to turning to a system of legalistic “works,” a system of “do’s” and “don’ts,” that was tied to their justification. This was contrary to the Gospel of Christ. James’ doctrine was not!
* cometh not of him that calleth you. *
Paul’s affirming to his readers what they should already know if they’ve ever heard, or read, any of his teachings before, which the Galatian believers had. Any “persuasion,” or any doctrine, that teaches that salvation comes from a mixture of faith and works did not originate with God. Its origin was either from man, or from the devil.
NOTE: Whenever we think about “works” when dealing with Paul’s teaching of justification by faith alone, we are thinking about works that are driven by an ideology of Law; in other words, a doctrine that teaches that we are not truly saved until we keep Moses Law, or some other set of codes taught by a local church. Paul was writing to correct the error of legalism, while James was writing to correct the error of gnosticism, or license. Paul was refuting the doctrine of salvation by works, as opposed to the doctrine of salvation by grace, through faith. James was refuting the doctrine of license, a doctrine that taught that conduct wasn’t all that important. Paul’s teaching is that justification comes first, then Christian conduct (Rom 3:20-4:16). James’ teaching is that genuine faith that justifies a believer is reflected in the conduct, or the choices, of that believer (James 2:14-26).
Contrary to the concerns of some of the early Church Fathers, concerns that kept the Book of James out of the Canon of Scripture for a period of time, there’s no disagreement between the teachings of these two great Apostles. James recognized that the doctrine of Paul was truly the Gospel, and, along with the other Jerusalem Apostles, gave Paul the right hand of fellowship (Gal 2:6-10). He then defended Paul’s Gospel before the Council that met at Jerusalem to decide these issues (Acts 15:13-20). They were in total agreement concerning what the Gospel of Christ taught. It’s only because they were correcting different errors that there’s even an appearance that they were teaching different doctrines concerning the role of “works” in the justification of the believer.
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
* A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. *
Webster’s Dictionary gives this definition, “LEAVEN, n. lev’n. [L. levo, Eng. To lift.]
- A mass of sour dough, which, mixed with a larger quantity of dough or paste, produces fermentation in it and renders it light. During the seven days of the passover, no leaven was permitted to be in the houses of the Jews. Exo 12.
- Any thing which makes a general change in the mass. It generally means something which corrupts or depraves that with which it is mixed.”
Wuest comments, “Leaven is always a symbol of evil in the Bible,” but Robertson suggests, “It is merely the pervasive power of leaven that is involved in the proverb as in Mat_13:33, not the use of leaven as a symbol of evil.”
Some Commentators, such as Vincent, suggest that the “leaven” refers to the false teachers themselves, while others, such as Wuest, suggest it refers to the false doctrines of the false teachers. Others, such as Barnes, seem to have it referring to both the teachers and their doctrines.
I like Robertson’s comments. The idea seems to be, rather good or evil, a small thing can impact the bigger thing. In the same way that a “little leaven” will affect the entire loaf of bread a “little” error will impact the integrity of the entire doctrine of salvation. This illustration is so fitting here, because it’s showing us that the least bit of “Law” added to the Gospel would turn the entire Gospel into a message of salvation by works. If observing Jewish feast days (Gal 4:10) is a necessary part of my salvation, and if it’s necessary for me to become circumcised in order to be truly saved (Gal 5:2), then I must keep the entire Law of Moses to make certain that I’m genuinely a Christian (Gal 5:3). The “little leaven” of observing “days, and months, and times, and years” (Gal 4:10) was, at the time of Paul’s writing of this Epistle, working it way through “the whole lump” (current verse) of the Gospel message, and was now a strong “persuasion” (Gal 5:8) that circumcision (Gal 5:2) was a necessary addition to faith in Christ (Gal 2:16) to bring one to salvation, and would soon permeate the entire Gospel message, and change it to another gospel (Gal 1:6-7) altogether, which was not a message of good news at all, but one that would insist on total reliance on the entire Law of Moses to be saved (Gal 5:3). How does this verse impact you and I? It’s teaching us that if we add any rules to the message of salvation by grace, through faith in Christ alone (Eph 2:8-9), then the entire Gospel of Christ will become a different gospel, one that depends on our ability to faithfully keep every single commandment of the Law of Moses (that’s the only Law that God ever sanctioned), without ever breaking, or even wanting to break, a single one of them, instead of the true Gospel that depends on God keeping His Promise to us (Rom 4:16; 9:7-8; Gal 3:29; 4:28-31; Eph 3:6). Our salvation either depends on our works, which is our keeping those commandments of the Law of Moses perfectly, or it depends on God’s grace, which is His saving us because of our placing our faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, because we trust His Promise to us (Rom 11:6). It’s one way, or the other. It’s not a mixture of the two. You can’t have mostly grace, with just a little Law, because a “little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (current verse).
I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
* I have confidence in you through the Lord, *
Vincent says, “In the Lord – Const. with I have confidence.”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say, “Greek, “I (emphatical: ‘I on my part’) have confidence in the Lord with regard to you (2Th 3:4), that ye will be none otherwise minded” (than what by this Epistle I desire you to be, (Phi 3:15).”
The overwhelming majority of translations at my disposal agree with the above notes. The idea seems to be that Paul had confidence in the Lord to bring them back to sound thinking. Here’s some examples of how various translators have rendered this phrase.
NAS – I have confidence in you in the Lord,
RSV – I have confidence in the Lord
TLB – I am trusting the Lord to bring you back
NIV – I am confident in the Lord
BBE – I am certain about you in the Lord,
GW – The Lord gives me confidence
MSG – Deep down, the Master has given me confidence
* that ye will be none otherwise minded: *
Paul’s confidence in the Lord regarding the Galatian believers was that they would quit being “foolish” (Gal 3:1), and would re-align their thinking with the Apostle’s. The strong “persuasion” (Gal 5:8) of the Judaizers had confused them, and their understanding of the Gospel that they had received (Gal 1:6-7; 3:1) was being perverted. As the Apostle followed the leading of the Lord in the writing of this portion of Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16) he had confidence that God was going to use it to minister Truth to the Galatian believers, Truth that would set them free from the false teaching of the Judaizers. Then they would be “none otherwise minded.”
* but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, *
What judgment is the Apostle referring to? In Chapter One he spoke of severe punishment, that of being “accursed” (Gal 1:8-9). Concerning “accursed,” Thayer comments, “a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction.”
Paul also taught that the Church is the Temple of God, and if any one would defile that Temple God would destroy that person (I Cor 3:16-17). The context is referring to false doctrine that brings defilement to the Body of Christ (I Cor 3:10-15). Teachers who are, in very nature “false brethren” (Gal 2:4), who pervert the Truth of the Gospel will be dealt with severely by God. Those who are sincere men and women of God, but who preach smaller, less significant errors will lose their rewards for the sermons they preached that were wrong, but they themselves will be saved (I Cor 3:12-15). Paul is here dealing with that first group. That group had jeopardized the very Gospel itself, and was in danger of the judgment of God, the One Who watches over His Church. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown put it this way, “The destroyers here (1Cor 3:16-17), are distinct from the unwise or unskilful builders (1Cor 3:12, 1Cor 3:15); the latter held fast the ‘foundation’ (1Cor 3:11), and, therefore, though they lose their work of superstructure and the special reward, yet they are themselves saved; the destroyers, on the contrary, assailed with false teaching the foundation, and so subvert the temple itself, and shall therefore be destroyed. (See on 1Cor 3:10), [ESTIUS and NEANDER].”
* whosoever he be. *
Who was the individual that Paul refers to as “he that troubleth you” and “whosoever he be”? Wuest comments “Comp. Gal 1:7. Not with reference to any particular individual, as Peter or James (Lipsius), but generally, of any possible person, ‘whoever he may be.’” One thing’s for certain, if the Apostle didn’t know the name of the Judaizer who was the leader of the group disturbing the Galatian believers, he certainly was familiar with the doctrine of that individual. He had confronted that doctrine many times before. It was a doctrine that taught Gentile believers that their faith in Christ was inadequate, by itself, to save them, but that it had to be mixed with adherence to the Law of Moses to truly result in their eternal salvation. Paul hated that doctrine. He saw it as a doctrine that alienated believers from “the truth of the gospel” (Gal 2:5), and brought them into bondage (Gal 2:4). He saw the teachers of that doctrine as “false brethren” (Gal 2:4) who should “bear” their “judgment” (current verse), and be “accursed” (Gal 1:8-9).
NOTE: Unfortunately we have many similar doctrines today. Some actually teach that we must keep the Law of Moses, except for circumcision and the observance of Jewish feasts, in order for our faith in Christ to save us. Others teach that we must keep the Ten Commandments, and whatever other rules they deem necessary to add as requirements, in order to truly be saved. Their teachings go something like this; before Christ came to save us we couldn’t keep the Law in our fallen state, but now that we have become new creatures in Christ Jesus (II Cor 5:17) we have been empowered to keep the Law, and consequently are required to. Paul teaches that if you choose to go down that road then “Christ shall profit you nothing” (Gal 5:2), and that you are “a debtor to do the whole law” (Gal 5:3), and that “Christ is become of no effect unto you,” and that you “are fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4). May God grant us wisdom to walk in the Spirit, and not in the flesh.
And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
* And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, *
Most Commentators (John Gill, Matthew Henry, the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary, Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke, Robertson, Wuest, and the Zondervan NIV Bible Library) are convinced that the Judaizers were actually telling the Galatian believers, in their attempt to win them over to the doctrine of circumcision, that the Apostle Paul himself preached circumcision when convenient, probably drawing their attention to the fact that he had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:1-3).
However, Vincent sees it differently when he comments, “The course of his thought is as follows: ‘He that troubleth you by preaching circumcision shall bear his judgment; but I am not a disturber – not your enemy (Gal 4:16), for I do not preach circumcision; and the proof of this is that I am persecuted. If I preached circumcision, there would be no offense, and therefore no disturbance; for the cross would cease to be an offense, if, in addition to the cross, I preached just what the Judaisers assert, the necessity of circumcision.’”
I definitely have no problem believing that these legalists were capable of lying to further their agenda, and to say that Paul taught something that they knew he didn’t teach. Certainly there’s no way we can see inside the Apostle’s head and know with certainty which opinion is correct, but I tend to agree with the minority, in this case, Vincent. Paul stated at the very beginning of this Epistle that if he, or anyone with him, or an angel from Heaven, or any man preached to them “any other gospel” than “that which we have preached unto you” they should be “accursed” (Gal 1:8-9), and in our previous verse (Gal 5:10) said that there was someone who would indeed suffer that fate. Now, in our current verse, he’s telling him that he’s not the one who’s preaching this “other gospel.” Someone is, but it’s not him! He’s still preaching the very Gospel that he preached to them, which was justification by faith, apart from the works of the Law.
* why do I yet suffer persecution? *
Paul certainly suffered persecution. Several of the things that he alluded to, when writing to the Corinthians (II Cor 11:22-33), were actual persecutions he endured; such as receiving thirty nine stripes on five occasions from the Jews, being beaten with rods three times, being stoned and left for dead, facing danger from fellow Israelites, facing danger from false brethren, facing danger from the heathen, being cold and naked (possibly referring to his times in prison), and being let down a city wall in a basket to escape being arrested. The other things he mentioned in that passage were the hardships he endured as a result of his continual journeys as he traveled to preach this Gospel; the constant danger of traveling in the open sea (such as being shipwrecked and spending a day and a night in the deep), the danger of bandits, being so tired from his journeys and so sore from his sufferings, being without food and water at times, and fasting at other times; Those hardship were bad enough without being compounded by the persecutions he endured. Then add to all of those things “the care of all the churches (II Cor 11:28).” He, like the One he served, was often “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3).
* then is the offence of the cross ceased. *
Paul saw the fact that he suffered persecution as proof that he was not the one who was troubling the Galatians (Gal 5:10) with false doctrine; that false doctrine being that circumcision (Gal 5:2) and the keeping of the whole Law (Gal 5:3) was a necessary part of salvation. One thing was certain: either Paul’s message of salvation by faith alone, or the Judaizers’ message of salvation by faith, along with the keeping of the Law, was a false message. They couldn’t both be right. Paul’s message stated that the Law had no part in salvation. The Judaizers’ message stated that the Law was absolutely essential to salvation. Those two messages are diametrically opposed to one another. This entire Epistle was written to demonstrate that Paul’s Gospel was the correct one. You can’t mix grace and the Law! You can’t follow Christ and Moses! Only one of those messages is the Gospel; i.e., good news. The other isn’t the Gospel at all (Gal 1:6-7).
Interestingly, Paul saw his message as offensive because the preaching of the Cross of Christ made the Law null and void. The Judaizers could handle a message that taught that the death of Christ was a necessary aid to the justifying work of the Law, but could never deal with the Truth that the Cross was the means that God chose to reconcile fallen man with their Creator, and not the Law. They hated Paul for teaching this, and they were the ones who Paul had in mind in the previous Chapter (Gal 4:29).
Why isn’t everyone excited about the Good News that Jesus accomplished for us the very thing we could never accomplish for ourselves? What’s so offensive about the Cross? IT EXCLUDES BOASTING (Rom 3:27)! The Jew saw it as something that eliminated their exclusive uniqueness as being the people of God, superior to all Gentiles. The only hope a Gentile had was to become like them by being circumcised and keeping the Law. They then became a Jewish proselyte, a second-hand citizen of their Covenant. The message of the Gospel was difficult for a Jew to accept, that God made the Gentiles “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph 2:19), and that they “should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph 3:6), because God has made Jew and Gentile “one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph 2:14). The Gospel insisted that the Jew was as lost without Jesus as the Gentile was. It puts all of mankind (Jew and Gentile) in the same position of being hopelessly lost without any ability to help himself (John 3:18, 36; Rom 3:23; 5:6; Titus 3:4-5), and therefore we must all come to Jesus for salvation (Acts 4:12; I John 5:11-12).
What about the legalistic Gentile believer today? Why aren’t they excited about the Gospel message of grace? IT EXCLUDES BOASTING! Many want a gospel that allows them to compare themselves to others and to judge themselves closer to God because they practice abstinence and dedication more faithfully than the ones they’re comparing themselves to. Just as the first century Jew desired a gospel that allowed them to feel superior to the Gentiles the twenty-first century legalist desires a gospel that allows him to feel superior to those who aren’t as dedicated as he is. When someone dares to preach the Gospel message of salvation by faith alone they will be despised by those who want to feel superior because that Gospel message won’t allow it. The Gospel message will always cause the proclaimer of it to be persecuted by the one who wishes to be accepted by his own merit (Gal 4:29; current verse).
I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
* I would they were even cut off which trouble you. *
Many Commentators believe this to be teaching that Paul’s desire was that these false teachers be ex-communicated from the Church, either by their own choice, cutting themselves off from the fellowship of the Church the way they wanted the Galatian believers to cut off the foreskin, or that the Church ex-communicate them (Barnes; Clarke; Jamieson, Fausset and Brown; the People’s New Testament; Wesley). Jamieson, Fausset and Brown conclude, “But Gal_5:9-10 plainly point to excommunication as the judgment threatened against the troublers: and danger of the bad ‘leaven’ spreading, as the reason for it.”
Others believe Paul to be saying that they should be “cut off” from life itself, that they should die under the curse of God (Luther; Gill). To this point of view John Gill concludes, “that they might be cut off out of the land of the living by the immediate hand of God, that they might do no more mischief to the churches of Christ:”
Still others teach that the meaning is that if circumcision is so profitable to salvation these false teachers should really impress God by completely castrating themselves (the Zondervan NIV Bible Library; Vincent; Robertson; Wuest; Wycliffe). Concerning this, the Zondervan NIV Bible Library says of Paul’s comment here, “It is his wish, expressed somewhat obliquely, that they would not stop with circumcision in their zeal for ordinances but rather would go on to castration. Sacral castration was known to citizens of the ancient world; it was frequently practiced by pagan priests as in the cult of Attis-Cybele, which was prominent in Asia. But for Paul to compare the ancient Jewish rite of circumcision to pagan practices even in this way is startling. For one thing, it puts the efforts of the Judaizers to have the Gentiles circumcised on the same level as abhorred pagan practices.”
Paul teaches that a false teacher will “bear his judgment” (Gal 5:10), and that God will destroy him (1 Cor 3:17). Whichever of the above opinions truly reflect the thoughts of the Apostle; rather he has in mind ex-communication, death, or castration; it’s certain that for the sake of the Gospel he saw this particular false teacher, and his comrades, worthy of the very judgment of God (current verse; Gal 1:8-9).
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
* For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; *
Church, you have been “called.” Believer, you and I have been “called.” We have been “called” “according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28), “according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph 1:5). God foreknew us (Rom 8:29), and chose us, “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4), and pre-determined that we would be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29), so “that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph 1:4). This is the eternal purpose of God for our lives, and to this end “whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom 8:30). You and I, through the Holy Spirit, “are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor 3:18; NIV), and this shall continue until, “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
God’s purpose for our lives is for us to become more and more like Jesus, or for the image of God to be seen in us more clearly. Jesus is the “radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb 1:3; NAS), and God has pre-determined that you and I become “partakers of” that “divine nature” as well (2 Peter 1:4). It “doth not yet appear what we shall be” (1 John 3:2), or we haven’t arrived yet, but we are currently “groaning” for “the manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19-23), which is the full realization of all that God has purposed for us, our being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). We are currently in the process of spiritual growth towards that end. How does God, through His Holy Spirit, accomplish His eternal purpose in our lives? He doesn’t accomplish it through our relying on the Law, because the Law “was weak through” our “flesh” (Rom 8:3), so there is “a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof” (Heb 7:18), for “the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God” (Heb 7:19). What is this “better hope?” It’s the “the new way of the Spirit” (Rom 7:6; NIV). What is this “new way of the Spirit?” It’s the glorious liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we’ve been called to (Gal 5:1; current verse)!
* only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, *
Concerning the word “occasion” Vincent says, “The verb aformaoo means ‘to make a start from a place.’ Aformee (NT:874) is therefore primarily ‘a starting point, a base of operations.’” Wuest comments, “It is a military term speaking of a base of operations.”
Exactly what is this “liberty” we “have been called” to? Does the absolute fact that we are free in Christ mean we can do whatever we want to do? Of course not! The Apostle tells us that the liberty we’ve been called to must never be allowed to become a base of operations from which our flesh is allowed to carry out its desires. Why not? If we’re free from the constraints of the Law why can’t we break every single one of the Ten Commandments? When we break the Commandments we are guilty of sin because John teaches us “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). We can’t be free to sin because sin is bondage (John 8:34; Rom 6:6, 16; 7:14, 25; 8:21; 2 Peter 2:19), and we can’t be free to be bound! When we live in “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal 5:1) we are not lawless. We, “being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ” (1 Cor 9:21), live by “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2). What is this “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” and what constrains us from sinning is we’re not under the Law?
* but by love serve one another. *
What is the great balance to Christian liberty that constrains us from sinning? We find the Gal 5:13 answer here; it’s love. Actually, it’s faith in God, which pre-supposes loving God, and love, first for His people, and then for all of mankind. These are the commandments that Jesus taught were the greatest in importance (Mark 12:28-31), and these are the commandments of the New Testament that we live by, and that guide our lives (1 John 3:21-24). Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4-5), and love is the fulfillment of the Law (Gal 5:14; Rom 13:8-10). The Ten Commandments, the best-known portion of the Law of Moses, can be separated into two categories; the first four commandments deal with our relationship with God, and the last six commandments deal with our relationship with our fellow man. Loving God, the greatest commandment, which leads to having faith in God, causes us to fulfill the righteousness of the first four; and loving man, the second greatest commandment, causes us to fulfill the righteousness of the last six. Because Paul has already dealt extensively with the subject of faith is this Epistle he now deals with the subject of love.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
* For all the law is fulfilled in one word, *
Wuest teaches us, “The word ‘fulfilled’ is from ‘pleroo’ which means ‘to make full,’ and when used of a task or a course of action, ‘to fully perform,’ here, ‘to fully obey.’ The verb is in the perfect tense, and the translation could read, ‘The whole law stands fully obeyed.’”
The Apostle wrote to the believers in Rome that the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in you and I when we walk in the Spirit (Rom 8:4). The Apostle is showing us an important Truth here, that when we walk in the Spirit, which is walking by faith (Gal 3:2-3), that walk is recognized by Love (current verse compared to Gal 5:16-18). Our walk of faith is a walk of trusting the Lord to fulfill His Promises to us, of counting Him faithful to those Promises (Heb 10:23). When we do this we then become partakers, by faith, of the very nature of God (2 Pet 1:4), and that nature is love (I John 4:8, 16). Consequently, when He lives in us in the person of the Holy Spirit, Love lives in us. So, when we walk in the Spirit (Who is God, Who is Love) we do not fulfill the desires of our flesh [the fallen nature] (Gal 5:16), and so, the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us (Rom 8:4). It’s impossible to walk in the Spirit and not walk in Love, because the Holy Spirit is Love.
* even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. *
Wuest continues his thoughts on this verse, “The idea is not that the whole law is embraced in or summed up in the act of loving one’s neighbor as one’s self, but that in doing that, one is complying with the whole law and its demands.”
How does the fact that one is walking in the love of God cause the effect of the Law being fulfilled in them? Notice what Wuest said, “The whole law stands fully obeyed.” How can that be possible? How can the Law be fully obeyed by us? Have you ever seen any one who was perfectly obeying all the Law all the time? Certainly Jesus accomplished that, but did Paul? Peter? James? John? You or I? Of course not, so what is Paul telling us in this passage?
Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, wrote that the Law was not made for those who are righteous, but for those who are sinners (I Tim 1:8-11). People who live right don’t need a set of rules to govern them. When the fruit of the Spirit (Who is God, Who is Love) is being produced in us no Law can find any grounds to bring any accusation against us (Gal 5:22-23). We are new creatures in Christ (II Cor 5:17) who do, as a result of our partaking of His Divine nature, the things contained in the Law (Rom 2:14; II Peter 1:4). We’ve been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” “that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). We live right because we are right, the very “righteousness of God in him” (II Cor 5:21).
If those things are true then why don’t we walk perfectly before God? We absolutely do! That is, we do when we walk in His Love. The problem is that we don’t always walk in Love. When we do walk in His Love the Law stands “fully obeyed” in us (Wuest), and His righteousness, the moral Law of God, is fulfilled in us (Rom 8:4; current verse). If these things are only true when we walk in His Love, and, as other verses show us (Rom 1:17; Heb 6:12; II Peter 1:4; I John 5:4-5), in faith towards Him, then doesn’t it stand to reason that the pursuit of the believer ought to be to walk in His Love and faith towards Him? That’s Paul’s point here! Don’t seek to walk uprightly by adding rules of conduct to your life, but seek to walk in His Love, and in faith towards Him, and the righteousness that the Law espouses will be seen in your conduct.
NOTE: The eternal purpose of God is for us “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). His Son is eternally God (John 1:1-2), and “God is love” (I John 4:8, 16). God has given us His “exceeding great and precious promises” so that we could partake of His “divine nature” (II Peter 1:4), and that nature is Love. When we are walking in His Love, then, at that moment, His nature is seen in us, and the onlooker knows we’re legitimate children of God (John 13:34-35), and we know it as well (I John 3:14). When we walk in His Love we prefer others (Rom 12:10), esteeming them better than ourselves (Phil 2:9) in the sense that we are concerned about the things that are important to them (Phil 2:10), and we bear “with one another” and make “allowances because” we “love one another” (Eph 4:2) [The Amplified Bible].
The concept of walking in God’s Love can be frightening because it opens us up to the abuses of others. Jesus loved, and was crucified. When we love people the way God loves people we’re at risk because people will sometimes let us down. What do we do when that happens? What does God do when we let Him down? He forgives! He expects the same from us (Matt 18:21-35).
It can be frightening, but it’s the only road to freedom. There is liberty in Christ nowhere else. Think of the freedom you would feel if there was no bitterness in you, no unforgiveness, no envy, no strife, no hatred. When people hurt you forgive them, and love them. Then the individuals who have hurt you no longer have control in your life. You are free! Is this possible? Was there any bitterness in Christ? Any unforgiveness? Any envy? Any strife? Any hatred? Of course not! When He was abused He forgave, and He loved. That’s His nature, and “when he shall appear, we shall be like him” (I John 3:2). Until then we are in the process of being conformed to His image. May eternal God grant us spiritual growth in the area of Christian Love.
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
* But if ye bite and devour one another, *
Robertson comments, “Condition of first class assumed as true.”
John Gill says, “The allusion is to beasts of prey falling upon and devouring one another: for wolves or dogs to worry sheep is not strange; but for sheep to distress one another is unnatural.”
Wycliffe supposes, “The sharp antagonism was probably between those who had succumbed to the propaganda of the legalists and those who had not. Paul’s sympathies were with the latter group, but he recognized that without love they could not win over those who were of the opposite persuasion. Argument without love results in continuing friction.”
The Apostle draws an illustration from the world of wild animals. Gill’s notes above remind us that it’s not unnatural for a wolf to attack, bite, and devour a sheep. That’s the world we live in. But it’s totally unnatural for a sheep to attack, bite, and devour another sheep. And yet, Robertson shows us that the language of the Greek demonstrates that Paul assumed that was exactly what was happening in the spiritual sense, the people of God were biting and devouring one another.
I wish that I could write to you that this was an unusual problem for a local church to have. However, every church I’ve ever been associated with has struggled in this very same area, the area of biting and devouring one another. Why is that? It’s because we’re not always serving one another by love (Gal 5:13), which means we’re not always walking in the Spirit, which means we are sometimes walking in the flesh where hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, and envyings are the end result (Gal 5:19-21). Where these things exist, biting and devouring one another follow.
* take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. *
Concerning “take heed,” Thayer comments, “metaphorically to see with the mind’s eye; to have (the power of) understanding; to discern mentally, observe, perceive, discover, understand.”
The idea is that when an animal bites and devours its prey, that prey is eventually totally consumed. The warning was that if believers in the Galatian churches continued to bite (with their words) and devour (with their intentions) one another, then eventually the corporate body would be consumed. The local churches in Galatia would cease to exist, and the sheep would scatter.
Paul’s saying, “Church, use your head! Figure this out! If we don’t hang together then we’ll all hang separately! You’re ‘members one of another’ (Rom 12:5; Eph 4:25), so the body can only prosper as each member takes care of the other.”
When we hurt someone in the local body then we hurt ourselves. The local Church is the organism God has put in place for the care and growth of the individual saint, as well as the place where that saint can minister to the welfare of other saints. It’s where each of us goes to minister, and to receive ministry. It’s also intended to be a lighthouse to the community, somewhere others can come to find the answers they’re looking for. The bickering of saints, one with another, destroys all of this. How many local churches have been retarded in growth as a result of bickering Christians? How many have closed down? When we bite and devour others we hinder the work of God. Saints, we need to understand this. We are directly working against God when we do these things.
NOTE: Notice his reasoning in the last three verses (Gal 5:13-15). What keeps the Christian who’s walking in Christian liberty from abusing that liberty by engaging in the sins of the flesh? The answer is for that believer to walk in Christian Love. The Love of God that causes us to serve our fellow man, and consequently causes us to cease from hurtful actions towards those fellow men, keeps us from following the desires of the flesh. Our current verse makes it evident that the Apostle doesn’t have in mind, at this point of his argument, sexual sins [adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness] (Gal 5:19), sins of idolatry [idolatry, witchcraft] (Gal 5:20), or sins dealing with wild drunken parties [drunkenness, revellings] (Gal 5:21), but rather the social sins of the flesh [hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders] (Gal 5:20-21). These seemed to be a major problem for the Galatian believers. In these verses Paul’s telling us that if we don’t walk in Christian love these types of sins will be abundant in our churches, and in some cases, risk the continued existence of a local church.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
* This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, *
In my earlier notes on the subject of “in the Spirit” and “in the flesh” (Gal 3:2-3) we saw that “in the Spirit” (Gal 3:3) is “the hearing of faith” (Gal 3:2), which further states that “The just shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17). We also saw that “by the flesh” (Gal 3:3) is “by the works of the law” (Gal 3:2), which speaks of the idea that we can please God by our own righteousness, or the concept of attaining salvation, and spiritual growth, through human effort. We also discovered that faith is simply believing what God said about something (Rom 4:9, 3).
The very faith in Christ that saves us, because it makes the end result dependent on God instead of us (Rom 4:16), is the same faith that we live our daily lives by. We don’t get saved by faith and grow by works, but rather our spiritual growth occurs when we believe the promises of God that were given to us for the reason of our partaking of God’s Divine nature (II Peter 1:4), or in other words, our conduct becoming like His conduct. May the Lord open our eyes to these Truths because we stumble when we don’t see (John 11:9-10), we walk in bondage when we don’t know (John 8:31-32), and we fail to do the things the Word teaches when we forget (James 1:22-24). When we SEE the Truth to the point that we KNOW the Truth, and we don’t then FORGET that Truth, then we don’t stumble, or walk in bondage, or fail to obey the teachings of Scripture.
You and I must choose how we will live our Christian lives. Will we walk in the Spirit, or will we walk in the flesh? Walking in the Spirit is relying on the Promises of God, or trusting God’s power to be at work in our lives. Walking in the flesh is relying on our ability to keep the Law of Moses, or some other set of rules, or trusting our own human effort. Which way do you choose to walk before God? Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us to choose walking in the Spirit.
* and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. *
Again, see my earlier notes (Gal 3:2-3). The only way to win victory over sin is to believe what God said about us: we are free (John 8:36), we are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:21), His nature is ours to partake in (2 Peter 1:4), sin shall not have dominion over us (Rom 6:14) because we are free from it (Rom 6:7), having died to it (Rom 6:2), and we are the servants of righteousness (Rom 6:18) because we’ve been created [in the new birth] to do good works (Eph 2:10). When we walk in faith, believing what God said about these things, knowing that we can say “Yes!” and “Amen!” to all of His Promises (2 Cor 1:20), the end result is that we experience overcoming victory in Him (1 John 5:4-5) because we have “judged him faithful who had promised” (Heb 11:11).
Let me remind you of what I said in those earlier notes: “Everyone walks by faith! We all walk out what we believe! If we grew up hearing that we’d never amount to anything, that we’re no good, we’re worthless, and we bought into that lie, then what we have come to believe will be reflected through our choices. If we believe that we can do anything we set our mind to, then that belief will be reflected in our actions. Walking by faith (i.e., walking out what we believe) isn’t difficult. WE ALL DO IT! The trick is to walk by faith in God, to believe what He said.” I can’t believe, in my heart, that I’m a new creature in Christ, that old things have passed away, that all things have become new (2 Cor 5:17) and continue to live the exact way I lived before coming to Jesus. What I believe affects my conduct! Allow me to state it again; we must SEE the Truth (John 11:9-10), KNOW the Truth (John 8:31-32), and never FORGET the Truth (James 1:22-24) if we want to experience freedom from sin. There’s no other way! When we SEE [understand], in the mirror of His Word, the Who He is, His glory, the Holy Spirit transforms us into the very image we SEE [understand] in ever-increasing glory (2 Cor 3:18) [NIV] until that day we no longer SEE [understand] darkly (1 Cor 13:12), but SEE [understand] Him as He is (1 John 3:2), and then we shall be fully like Him. Until that day the process, from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18), occurs by faith to faith (Rom 1:17). In other words, spiritual growth occurs in direct proportion to what we SEE, KNOW, and never FORGET concerning the things He has promised to us, those promises concerning the affects of the new birth in our lives; I am new, the old has gone, I am free from sin, I have died to sin, etc.
Paul had warned us in the previous verse (Gal 5:15) that if we continue, as believers, to bite and devour one another there’s a real danger of us being consumed. In this verse he tells us that the answer to avoiding these things is to walk in the Spirit. When we walk in the Spirit we don’t fulfill the desires of the flesh [our fallen nature]. This verse is showing us that the reason we fall into the biting and devouring of others is because our flesh desires it. For whatever reason; rather it’s revenge, anger, jealousy, or simple cruelty; it’s the desire of our fallen nature that motivates us to do these horrible things. The only deliverance for the Chruch from the potential damage of these things is for its members to begin to walk in the Spirit.
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.
* For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: *
Concerning the word “lustesth” Strong’s Greek dictionary says, “to set the heart upon, that is, long for (rightfully or otherwise).”
Paul tells us that the “law of sin” is “in” our “members” (Rom 7:23). The sin principle, which is a result of the fall of man, is at work in our bodies because our bodies are not yet redeemed (Rom 8:23-25). Our spirit, our inner man, which is the real us, which is the eternal us, which temporarily is living in its’ present home, our body, is fully redeemed. It’s a new creation (2 Cor 5:17)! However, its’ temporary home, our body, is a home in disrepair, a home severely damaged in the fall of man. The sin nature was passed on to us all as a result of Adam’s sin (Rom 5:12). All we had to do to receive this fallen nature was to be born in the flesh, a descendent of our fleshly ancestor, and when we were born we were born sinners (Rom 5:19). Sinners sin! Consequently, the desire to sin resides in the members of our fleshly body.
Everything the Holy Spirit desires for us our flesh [the sin that resides in the members of our body] resists. Our flesh, our fallen nature, desires for us to live in absolute rebellion to the laws of God. The Holy Spirit, Who now lives in us, desires for us to walk in total submission to everything God wants us to do. Paul’s upcoming list of the “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19-21) show us that the flesh isn’t only concerned with getting us to rebel against the desires of the Holy Spirit by tempting us to commit the “biggie” sins, such as adultery, fornication, drunkenness and revellings [“wild parties,” or “orgies,” according to many of the modern translations], but also the social sins, or tempting us to sin against our fellow man. In other words, the flesh doesn’t only rebel against the desire of the Holy Spirit for us to refrain from those “biggie” sins, but it rebels against the Holy Spirit prompting us to walk in Christian Love towards our fellow man as well.
* and these are contrary the one to the other: *
Vincent says, “The verb means to lie opposite to; hence to oppose, withstand.”
Robertson comments, “Are lined up in conflict, face to face (anti), a spiritual duel (cf. Christ’s temptations), with dative case of personal interest (allelois).”
Picture your flesh, your fallen nature, as an army lined up against the forces of the Holy Spirit. In the Apostle’s comments to the Roman believers, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23), he shows us that there’s a way that a victory for the forces of the flesh over the forces of the Holy Spirit is guaranteed. We, as believers, want to avoid that way. What is that way?
* so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. *
Before we answer the above question concerning how victory for the forces of the flesh is guaranteed let’s look at the phrase “ye cannot do the things that ye would” first.
Concerning “cannot” Vincent says, “A mistake, growing out of the misinterpretation of hina noted above. Rather, each works to the end that ye may not do, etc.,” and Robertson comments, “(hina me poiete). “That ye may not keep on doing” (present active subjunctive of poieo).”
Concerning the phrase “ye cannot do the things that ye would” Vincent says, “The things which you will to do under the influence of either of the two contending principles. There is a mutual conflict of two powers. If one wills to do good, he is opposed by the flesh: if to do evil, by the Spirit.”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment, “The Spirit strives against the flesh and its evil influence; the flesh against the Spirit and His good influence, so that neither the one nor the other can be fully carried out into action.”
John Gill believes, “which may be understood both of evil things and of good things. The former seems to be chiefly the apostle’s sense; since the whole of this text is a reason given why those who walk spiritually shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, because they have a powerful governing principle in them, the Spirit, or grace.”
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library suggests, “The last clause of v. 17 may mean one of three things: (1) the sinful nature keeps you from doing the good you desire, (2) the Spirit keeps you from doing the evil you desire, or (3) each nature hinders the desires of the other (so Burton). In view of the parallel statements in Romans 7:15, 16, probably the first should be preferred, especially since the next verse goes on to speak of the victory that can be attained by the Spirit’s power.”
There are those, as you can see, who hold to the thought that Paul has in mind here that the Holy Spirit keeps you from yielding to the sins you desire to commit as a result of your fallen nature. Others think that he has in mind that the impulses of your flesh keep you from obeying the wishes of the Holy Spirit, the wishes that your inner, redeemed man desires to carry out. Still others think that he has both in mind; i.e., that you’ll never carry out all the wishes of the Holy Spirit because of the strong desires of your flesh, and that you’ll never carry out all the desires of your flesh because of the restraining power of the Holy Spirit at work in you. Exactly who’s right?
Again, what’s Paul discussing here? This entire Epistle, as well as the Epistle to the Romans, is about how we, as believers, should walk before the Lord. There are only two choices before us; should we walk in the flesh [our human effort to keep the Law], or should we walk in the Spirit [by believing the Promises of God to us]. For a fuller discussion on these two choices see my earlier notes (Gal 3:2-3). This is the issue at hand at this point of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians; how are you going to walk before God, and why are you going to choose that way?
Let’s look at what he said to the Roman believers about these things (Rom 7:14-25). He said, “that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Rom 7:15), and “the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom 7:19). He also said, “to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom 7:18). Aren’t these comments very similar to our current comment, “so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (current verse)?
He also said, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom 7:22), and “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind” (Rom 7:23). He added that, “with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin (Rom 7:25). Aren’t these comments very similar to “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (current verse)?
He’s talking about the very same struggle in both areas of Scripture (Rom 7:14-25; Gal 5:16-18). By looking at the other passage (Rom 7:14-25) what can we conclude “ye cannot do the things that ye would” in this passage (current verse) is talking about?
In each passage the Apostle is teaching us that when we choose to walk before God, as believers, “in the flesh” we are choosing the path of absolute frustration. Let’s look at some of his comments in his Epistle to the Romans; “to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom 7:18), “that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Rom 7:15), “I do that which I would not” (Rom 7:16), and “the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom 7:19).
He’s telling us that there’s a “walking before God” that results in doing things we “hate,” things that we “allow not,” and things that we “would not.” That way of “walking before God” also causes us not to do the things that we “will” to do, things that we “would” do, and things that are “good” to do. Why is this the result when we choose to “walk before God” in this particular way? Paul said it’s because “I am carnal, sold under sin” (Rom 7:14), because it’s caused by “sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom 7:17, 20), because that “in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7:18), because “when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Rom 7:21), and because “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23). He said “with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Rom 7:25) causing him to think of himself as a “wretched man” who needs deliverance (Rom 7:24).
I pray that the blessed Holy Spirit will help me paint this picture effectively. When you were born into the human family, whose father is Adam, you partook of his fallen nature (Rom 5:12-21). Consequently, sin lives in the members of your unredeemed body, your flesh (Rom 7:23; 8:23). When you were born-again into the family of God, you were born into the last Adam, the Lord Jesus, (1 Cor 15:44-49) and you partook, by faith, of His Divine nature (Rom 5:12-21; 2 Peter 1:4), and the Law of God was written in your heart and mind (Rom 2:14-15; Heb 8:10). You received a new nature that was created unto good works (Eph 2:10), and created to do “by nature the things contained in the law” (Rom 2:14). In other words, because of your natural birth sin dwells in the members of your flesh, and that flesh desires to serve sin, and because of your spiritual birth the Law of God is in your mind, and in your mind you desire to serve the Law of God (Rom 7:25). How amazingly frustrating is that? The urgings of the flesh say, “Do this!” and the desire of the mind says, “Don’t do it!” And so Paul cries out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24). This is the result of making the wrong choice of how we should walk before the Lord; walking in the flesh or walking in the Spirit.
Again, I’ve pointed out in my earlier notes (Gal 3:2-3) that walking in the flesh is shown to be a trying, by human effort, to keep the Law, or a trying to earn the favor of God by being good. If I just do this then God will love me, and I’ll grown spiritually to be the person God wants me to be. Walking in the Spirit is shown to be a believing of the Promises of God that results in salvation, spiritual growth, and abiding in His favor. Walking in the flesh produces frustration! You desire to keep all of the rules in your head, but the impulses of your fallen nature won’t let you, and when you walk in the flesh those impulses overpower you, and bring you into captivity (Rom 7:23) to the very sin you hate. Listen again to what Paul said, “when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Rom 7:21). Did you catch that? The discussion is about walking in the flesh, in human effort, and Paul said “when I would do good.” He’s showing his Roman readers that when they choose to walk in the flesh, in human effort, when THEY would do good, the end result is “evil is present with” them. In the sphere of walking in the flesh “to will is present with” them; “but how to perform that which is good” they “find not.” Walking in the flesh is the wrong choice because you can desire to do what’s right, but you won’t consistently find the power to do what’s right. That’s Paul’s point in the Roman passage, and that’s Paul’s point in our Galatian passage. He’s telling us because of the struggle between our flesh and the Holy Spirit, if we choose to walk in the flesh, we will not do the things that we desire to do (current verse).
In my notes on the middle section of this verse, “and these are contrary the one to the other,” I mentioned that there was a way to guarantee victory for the flesh over the Holy Spirit in their mutual struggle against one another as each of them bring to bear their influence over our conduct. I asked what that way was. The answer is that if we make the decision to walk in the flesh then we guarantee the flesh the victory in this struggle. I pray our decision will be to choose the way of walking in the Spirit. We’ll talk about that choice in the comments on the following verse.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
* But if ye be led of the Spirit, *
Walking in the Spirit, the only way to victory in Christ, is shown in this verse to be a submission to, or a yielding to, the Holy Spirit. We willingly choose to follow Him wherever He may lead.
The Holy Spirit is the Divine Author of the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16; Acts 1:16; 28:25; Heb 3:7; 2 Peter 1:19-21). He’s the One Who guides us into all Truth (John 16:13). He’s the One Who causes us to understand, by revelation, exactly what God has given to us (1 Cor 2:12-15; Eph 1:17-19). When the Holy Spirit is doing the leading He’s leading us into the very revelation of Truth that the Lord Jesus promised would set us free (John 8:31-32). The Law makes no man free, but the leading of the Holy Spirit does. When we are being “led of the Spirit” we are walking in the Spirit, which we have shown to be the walk of faith (Gal 3:2-3), which is the believing, or trusting in, the very Promises of God that were given to us so that we could partake of God’s Diving nature, which is right-living, and understand that we have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust,” which is wrong-living (2 Peter 1:4). We stop living wrong, or carrying out the desires of our fallen nature, and we start living right, or walk in accordance with all that reflects the nature of God in us, when we believe His Promises, and that is what walking in the Spirit is all about.
* ye are not under the law. *
There are so many reasons why we, as believers who are walking in the Spirit, are not under the Law.
Number one: the Divine nature we partake of (2 Peter 1:4) is Love (1 John 4:8, 16), and when we walk in Love the Law stands fully obeyed in our conduct (see my notes on Gal 5:14).
Number two: we have become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:21), and the Law wasn’t made for the righteous (1 Tim 1:9).
Number three: the Law we attempt to obey in our human strength actually strengthens the sin in us (1 Cor 15:56) by causing all manner of evil desires to be at work in us (Rom 7:8), and those evil desires draw us away from our desire to obey God by enticing us with the pleasures of sin until we commit the act of sin (James 1:13-15; Heb 11:25) which leads to death (James 1:15; Rom 7:9-11).
Number four: the Law can never produce righteousness in us because it can never give life to the one who is dead in sin (Gal 3:21; Eph 2:1).
Number five: Freedom from the power of sin can only come as a result of our not being under the Law (Rom 6:14). Sin will always dominate the one who lives under the Law.
Number six: The Law was made for the dead, those who are dead in sin (Eph 2:1), but you and I are alive in Christ (Gal 2:20; Col 3:4; 2 Tim 1:1; 1 John 5:12), and the law, or the principle, of the Spirit of Life that is in Christ Jesus has made us free from the Law, which is a law of sin and death (Rom 8:2).
Let’s follow the reasoning of the Apostle in this chapter up to this point.
Verse 1: We’ve been called to walk in freedom, and to reject the bondage of the Law.
Verses 2-4: Circumcision is not the answer because that choice leads to Christ profiting us nothing, to making us a debtor to keep the entire Law, to making Christ useless in our lives in the area of Christian conduct because we fall from the Diving enabling of His grace.
Verse 5: We do hope that we live in a way that reflects His righteousness, but we believe that it comes as a result of our walking in the Spirit, which is the walk of faith.
Verse 6: As Christians we all want to live right! However, the “works” of right-living don’t come as a result of circumcision, or of not being circumcised, but as a result of our having faith in His Promises to us, which causes us to walk in His Love, which results in Christian conduct, or works of righteousness.:
Verses 7-12: The Galatians used to believe this way but teachers with false doctrines had hindered them. Paul believed that God would judge those false teachers and he prayed that the Galatians would be convinced by this letter to return to a proper understanding of the Gospel.
Verse 13: He reminds us again that we’ve been called to freedom. This time he tells us that the fear that drives us from that freedom to legalism, the fear that we’ll live carelessly without the restraints of the Law, is a needless fear. A new restraint now controls our lives, the restraint of loving our brothers and sisters.
Verse 14: The commands of the Law stand fully obeyed by us only in those times that we are fully loving one another with the Love of God. We don’t obey those commandments by trying to, as the means by which we relate to God, but they are obeyed without thought when we love one another.
Verse 15: Bad conduct is a result of our not walking in God’s Love. Outside of the restraints of Love we carelessly hurt one another, and in the process endanger the continuation of the local Church.
Verse 16: The only way to avoid this is to walk in the Spirit because the fallen nature in us as a result of the sin of Adam wants us to hurt others. When we walk in the Spirit, which is the walk of faith, we believe we are who God says we are, partakers of the Divine nature, which is Love. So, when we walk in faith we subsequently walk in Love.
Verse 17: These things are important for us to understand because our flesh desires the exact opposite of what the Holy Spirit desires. Consequently, the only way where Christian “works” can be realized is by walking in the Spirit. If we walk in the flesh we will mind the things of the flesh (Rom 8:5), and we will not be able to do the things we desire to do in the area of Christian conduct. We must walk in the Spirit.
Verse 18: This is why we’re not under the Law, because keeping the Law is an endeavor of our flesh, or human effort, and it will always lead to failure. Failure is all that the flesh can produce in the area of Christian conduct. We must walk in the Spirit.
NOTE: Paul is reminding his Galatian believers, and the Holy Spirit is reminding us, that the end result that we desire, good Christian conduct in our daily lives, will not be the result of our turning to the Law. We will only realize the fulfillment of that desire by being “led of the Spirit” (current verse), which is the walk of faith. We must ask the Lord to help us believe all that He says in His Word concerning how the death of Christ has impacted us as believers. When we believe what He says our conduct will reflect that belief.
In the following verses the Apostle will show us the real horrors of choosing to walk in the flesh, or human effort, which is an attempt to please God by keeping the Law, or some other external code of conduct.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
* Now the works of the flesh are manifest, *
Concerning “manifest,” Thayer says, “1) apparent, manifest, evident, known; 2) manifest i.e. to be plainly recognized or known,” and Strong says, “shining, that is, apparent.”
It’s necessary to remind ourselves of exactly what the Apostle’s writing about here. He’s not comparing believers and unbelievers. That’s not his topic in this Epistle, and if that wasn’t the topic up to this point it doesn’t suddenly become the topic. He’s teaching the Galatians that they must choose how they’ll live their Christian lives before God, by the flesh or by the Spirit. He had just written that if they chose to walk in the Spirit they wouldn’t fulfill the desires of their flesh (Gal 5:16), and that, consequently, they wouldn’t have a need for the Law to restrain them (Gal 5:18). In other words, he taught them that the way to avoid committing sin is to walk in the Spirit, which is the walk of faith, or the walk of believing what God has said about them (see my notes on Gal 3:2-3). Now he turns his attention to what will occur if they make the other choice, to walk in the flesh, or to attempt to find favor with God by keeping the Law. Whenever the Galatians, or any other believers, choose to walk in the flesh, or human effort, certain results will occur. They occurred before the Galatian believers were saved, and if they persisted in walking in the flesh they would occur after they were saved, and the very same Truth applies to you and me.
Concerning “works,” Wycliffe comments, “A flash of irony is detectable here in the reference to works – ‘Look at the accomplishments of the flesh’”
It seems to me that the Galatians were desirous of doing good works, and this desire seemed to pull them towards the Law. The keeping of the Law does indeed result in good works (Gal 3:2), but the effort to keep it is the walk of the flesh [human effort – NIV] (Gal 3:3). The problem with taking this approach is that when we walk in the flesh we will obey the Law [which we serve with our mind] sometimes (Rom 7:25), and the good works that obedience to the Law produces will result; but at other times we will obey the law of sin that is in our members, that is, our body (Rom 7:23), [which we serve with our flesh] (Rom 7:25), and then another kind of works will be manifest, the works of the flesh (current verse). He wanted them to understand that if they were really desirous of good works, but were tired of the works of the flesh also being a part of their lives, then the proper choice was to walk in the Spirit because walking in the Spirit also produces good works, but those good works don’t originate as a result of trying real hard to keep the Law, but as a result of walking in faith. Faith causes us to believe what God said about us, that we’re new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), that we partake in God’s Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and that that Divine nature is Love (1 John 4:8, 16). When we genuinely believe something it’s reflected in our conduct, and suddenly good works are evident in our lives, good works that originate from a genuine love for others. This kind of good works isn’t plagued with the same inconsistency as the other kind that originates from obedience to the Law, because the power source is different. The power source is now the Holy Spirit, the very same power source that raised Christ from the dead (Eph 1:19-20), and the power of a brand new life (Rom 6:4).
All unbelievers walk in the flesh. They can do none other. But when we choose to walk in the flesh, as Christians, we choose a life of frustration where we join Paul in crying out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24). Why is that? It’s because our mind desires to obey the Law, but our flesh desires to break that Law (Rom 7:25; Gal 5:17), and so we do some of both. Certainly when we choose to walk in the Spirit the conflict is still there, but we draw from a different power source. Relating to God through the Law is walking in the flesh, which means the power source is you. Relating to God through faith is walking in the Spirit, which mean the Holy Spirit is the power source. Consequently, when we walk in the flesh “to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom 7:18), but when we walk in the Spirit we discover that “it is God which worketh in” us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). In other words, the choice is between the power of self-will and the power of the Holy Spirit, or, between failure and success.
Every unbeliever is walking in the flesh, and consequently every unbeliever is producing some works of the flesh. Very few unbelievers produce every single one of the following works of the flesh, but they will produce some. Paul’s now telling the Galatians that if they choose to walk in the flesh as Christians then every one of them will produce some works of the flesh; not all of them, but some of them. His logic is as follows: Church, you should know better! You walked in the flesh before you were saved and saw the consequences of that walk. You should know that if you choose to walk in the flesh now, as Christians, you will see some of those same results because the flesh is incapable of producing anything else.
* which are these; Adultery, *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library comments, “For by raising these particulars of conduct, he also provides a checklist for measuring the conduct of those who consider themselves spiritual. If one’s conduct is characterized by the traits in the first list, then he is either not a believer or else a believer who is not being led by God’s Spirit.”
Wuest’s commentary declares, “It is as if Paul said to the Galatians, ‘You have a clearly defined standard by which to decide whether you are being led by the Holy Spirit or by the flesh.’”
They are exactly right! The following list is not only a list of the sins of the unsaved, but it’s also a list of the sins of the saved who are still walking in the power of the flesh instead of the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the point of the Apostle; if you walk, as a believer, in the same power source that you walked in as an unbeliever then the results, concerning your conduct, will be the same. The “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19-21) and the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23) are indicators that inform us which power source we are walking in, the flesh or the Spirit.
Concerning “Adurtery,” Clarke says, “Illicit connection with a married person.”
Gill comments, “it is a defilement of the marriage bed, and is the sin of uncleanness committed by two persons, one of which at least is in a married state, is condemned by the law of God and light of nature.”
That’s indeed the meaning of the word “adultery.” It’s certainly a work of the flesh. However, the commentators near unanimously tell us that this word was not in the most reliable ancient manuscripts. But still, the sin of adultery is inferred in the next word, “fornication.”
* fornication, *
Thayer defines it this way, “1) illicit sexual intercourse; 1a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.; 1b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18; 1c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mar 10:11-12.”
It’s any kind of sexual sin, including adultery. The Scriptures condemn all sex except between a husband and his wife. Homosexuality is sin! Sex between unmarried men and women is sin, including having sex with a live-in partner who’s not your mate. Times change, but the teachings of Scripture don’t! There’s absolutely nowhere in the life of a Christian for trial marriage, or for a roommate of the opposite sex.
* uncleanness, *
Thayer says, “1a) physical; 1b) in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living.”
Vincent mentions, “Here in the sense of impurity on the side of sordidness.”
* lasciviousness, *
Vines’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, “excess, licentiousness, absence of restraint, indecency, wantonness”
Gill comments, “wantonness, all lustful dalliance, everything that leads on to acts of uncleanness, or attends them, as impure words, filthy gestures, and the like.”
Paul starts his list of the works of the flesh with sins that are sexual in nature; fornication, uncleanness, and lasciviousness. He seems to be saying that all sexual contact outside of marriage is sin; all impure sexual desires, and the conduct they produce is sin; and all conduct, including verbal conversation, body gestures, improper eye contact, things we look at or watch, etc. that could lead to improper sexual conduct is sin.
Remember, his point is that if we want to avoid this kind of sinful conduct we must walk in the Spirit. Walking in the flesh will cause us to fall into sin.
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
* Idolatry, *
Thayer says, “the worship of false gods, idolatry; of the formal sacrificial feats held in honour of false gods; of avarice, as a worship of Mammon.”
We, as Christians, should never be guilty of worshiping false gods, or idols, but the Scripture teaches that the sin of covetousness is also idolatry (Col 3:5). Jesus taught us that we cannot serve both “mammon,” which refers to wealth, and God (Matt 6:24; Luke 16:13). When we choose to follow after wealth it becomes our god of choice. We then become idolaters.
* witchcraft, *
Thayer has it, “the use or the administering of drugs; poisoning; sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it; metaphorically the deceptions and seductions of idolatry.”
Regarding these first two works of the flesh mentioned in this verse the Zondervan NIV Bible Library mentions, “Paul goes on to list two sins of religion: ‘idolatry’ (eidololatria), a worship of the creature rather than the Creator, and ‘witchcraft’ (pharmakeia), a secret tampering with and at times a worship of the powers of evil. These two terms are also arranged in an ascending horror of evil and indicate that the works of the flesh include offenses against God as well as against ourselves or our neighbors.”
Concerning witchcraft John Gill comments, “any real or pretended league and association with the devil, seeking to converse with familiar spirits, to gain unlawful knowledge, or to do hurt to fellow creatures.”
In the arena of witchcraft drugs were used to aid in incantations, or to harm others, such as poisoning them. Although the sin of recreational drug use and drug addiction would more appropriately tie in with drunkenness in the next verse, the concept of the misuse of drugs is certainly noticed here.
Paul began his list of the “works of the flesh” with some biggie sins, beginning with those that are sexual in nature; “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness” (Gal 5:19), and then moving on to those that are religious in nature; “Idolatry, witchcraft” (current verse). Now he moves on to a list that is social in nature; “hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings” (Gal 5:20-21). I refer to these social sins as church sins. He will then end his list with some more biggie sins, sins that deal with wild living; “murders, drunkenness, revellings (Gal 5:21).
In a local church we hope and pray that the majority of our members are not involved in the biggie sins that begin and end this list of the “works of the flesh.” However, we all realize that the church is plagued with the social sins, or the church sins. Let’s take a closer look at those sins, and then we’ll comment on what the point of the Apostle is in our notes on the next verse.
* hatred, *
The King James Bible translates the Greek work echthra as “hatred” only one time, and that’s in our current verse. The other five times it’s used in the New Testament the King James renders it as “enmity.” Webster describes “enmity” as “The quality of being an enemy; the opposite of friendship; ill will; hatred; unfriendly dispositions; malevolence. It expresses more than aversion and less than malice, and differs from displeasure in denoting a fixed or rooted hatred, whereas displeasure is more transient.”
* variance, *
Adam Clarke comments, “Contentions, where the principle of hatred proceeds to open acts; hence contests, altercations, lawsuits, and disputes in general.”
Webster says, “Difference that produces dispute or controversy; disagreement; dissension; discord. A mere variance may become a war. Without a spirit of condescension, there will be an everlasting variance.”
* emulations, *
Thayer has the bad side of this word meaning, “the fierceness of indignation, punitive zeal; an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy.”
Most modern translators render this word as “jealousy.”
Barnes comments, “In a bad sense, meaning heart-burning, or jealousy, or perhaps inordinate ambition. The sense is ardor or zeal in a bad cause, leading to strife, etc.”
* wrath, *
Robertson says, “stirring emotions, then explosions.”
Thayer has it, “passion, angry, heat, anger forthwith boiling up and soon subsiding again.”
Strong’s comments, “Violent anger; vehement exasperation; indignation; as the wrath of Achilles.”
Gill offers this interpretation, “violent emotions of the mind, moving to revenge, and seeking the hurt and mischief of others.”
* strife, *
Thayer has it “electioneering or intriguing for office; a desire to put one’s self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit which does not disdain low arts; partisanship.”
The King James Bible also renders this word as “contention.”
The idea seems to be that one is willing to cause contention to get his way.
* seditions, *
The word is used three times in the New Testament. The other two times the King James renders it as “division.”
Webster comments, “In general, sedition is a local or limited insurrection in opposition to civil authority, as mutiny is to military.”
There are those who, when they are unhappy, do all they can to make certain that they bring others into their realm of unhappiness. They don’t care for the actions of the leaders so they cause division in the local church. Paul warned that the end result could be that the local church would be consumed, or cease to exist, as a result (Gal 5:15). Some who cause the problem would see the end result as a vindication for their actions rather than as a proof of their sin in the matter. Paul said to mark them (Rom 16:17).
* heresies, *
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say, “Self-constituted parties; from a Greek root, to choose. A schism is a more recent split in a congregation from a difference of opinion. Heresy is a schism become inveterate.”
Thayer comments, “a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party); dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims.”
Some would disagree with the doctrine taught from the pulpit and would consequently form a group in the local body who agreed with their ideology. This division would constitute a heresy.
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
* Envyings, *
“We are jealous of our own; we are envious of another man’s possessions. Jealousy fears to lose what it has; envy is pained at seeing another have.” [The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]
* murders, *
Like the word “adultery” (Gal 5:19) this word “murders” is also not in the majority of the earliest manuscripts (Clarke, Vincent, the Zondervan NIV Bible Library). Many of the newer translations omit both words, leaving us with a list of fifteen works of the flesh compared to the King James’ list of seventeen.
Even if “murder” was not included in this particular list when Paul wrote it, we know that it was included in another list that Paul wrote (Rom 1:29-31). I’m certain all of us would agree that it’s a sin, and that it’s a work of the flesh.
We all understand the act of murder to be the taking of another person’s life, when that taking of a life is not an accident, or when it’s not a result of being at war, or when it’s not a result of defending one’s self, or defending the life of another. This author believes abortion and euthanasia to be acts of murder.
We discover from the Apostle John that hating our brother also makes us a murderer (1 John 3:15) in the same sense that Jesus told us that looking at a woman lustfully is an act of adultery (Matt 5:28). In other words, it’s not just the breaking of the letter of the Law that’s wrong, but it’s also the breaking of the spirit of the Law. It’s not just the effect that’s wrong, but it’s also the root cause of that effect. It’s not just the act that’s sin, but it’s also the attitude that led to the act.
* drunkenness, *
Webster defines it, “Intoxicated; inebriated; overwhelmed or overpowered by spirituous liquor; stupefied or inflamed by the action of spirit on the stomach and brain. It is brutish to be drunk.”
It’s excessive drinking (Eph 5:18). Many people seem to think that the only way to have a good time is to consume large amounts of liquor. Unfortunately drinking too much often leads to devastating results; highway fatalities, horrible addictions, brutal bar-room fights that sometimes end in tragedy, ruined marriages, destroyed friendships, lost careers, liver damage, other health consequences, unwanted pregnancies, etc. Those who are drunk do not make wise decisions.
* revellings, *
Thayer comments, “used generally of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry.”
Barnes says, “denoting the licentious conduct, the noisy and obstreperous mirth, the scenes of disorder and sensuality, which attend luxurious living.”
The NIV, the World English Bible, and the Good News Bible render it “orgies,” the NAS and RSV have it, “carousing,” the Living Bible, “wild parties,” and the Analytical Literal Translation, “drunken orgies.”
The idea seems to be that excessive drinking leads to excessive partying. “Orgies” might seem appealing to some, but at what cost? They devalue human beings, they betray the trust of a mate, they greatly increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, they increase the appetite for more lewd conduct, and they could eventually destroy the possibility of enjoying a normal relationship.
* and such like: *
Clarke says, “All that proceeds from the evil passions of a fallen spirit, besides those above specified; and all that the law of God specifies and condemns.”
The Apostle doesn’t attempt to give us a complete list of every work of the flesh. However, the list he does give us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is an adequate list to demonstrate to us the kinds of things that are contrary to Godly living.
* of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, *
Concerning “I tell before,” Thayer says, “to say beforehand, to predict,” and concerning, “told in time past,” he comments, “to foresee.”
Strong has the first, “to say beforehand, that is, predict, forewarn:” and has the second, “foresee.”
The idea appears to be that Paul’s telling them these things before they do something, just as he had done in the past; probably when he was there in person. The question is, “Before they do what?” I will attempt to answer that question in my comments on the final phrase of this verse.
* that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. *
What are the possibilities here? Anyone, saint or sinner, can miss Heaven if they die with an unrepented sin. Anyone, saint or sinner, can miss Heaven if they live a life-style of committing these sins. True believers won’t live life-styles where they constantly commit these sins. Only unbelievers will miss Heaven. It isn’t talking about Heaven.
Possibility Number One: Any person who does these things, a believer or a non-believer, will not go to Heaven. In other words, in regards to the believer, if a Christian commits one, or more, of these works of the flesh he loses his salvation and would go to Hell, just like the unbeliever, if he were to die before he was able to repent.
Possibility Number Two: Any person, a believer or a non-believer, who does these things as a matter of practice, or who lives this way habitually, will not go to Heaven. In other words, it isn’t simply talking about an act, but rather, a lifestyle of sin.
Possibility Number Three: A so-called believer who lives this life-style isn’t really a true believer.
Possibility Number Four: All unbelievers commit some, or all, of these works of the flesh, and they haven’t come to Jesus for cleansing, and consequently, they will all miss Heaven. If this is the case, that only unbelievers miss Heaven, then why is Paul warning the believers?
Possibility Number Five: The phrase “the kingdom of God” isn’t talking about Heaven at all. It’s talking about the believer enjoying the benefits of allowing God to rule in his daily life.
Concerning the word “do” in our above phrase Robertson says, “Prasso is the verb for habitual practice (our very word, in fact), not poieo for occasional doing.” Strong, Vine, Wuest, and Thayer agree with him.
Paul isn’t suggesting that if the Galatian believers were to commit a single act of sin, and then failed to repent in time, they would miss Heaven. The Greek scholars tell us that the idea of habitual doing is what the Apostle is talking about. So, let’s throw out Possibility Number One.
I believe it’s clear that the Apostle’s affirming that those who practice such things as a matter of life-style are not going to Heaven. Does that make Possibility Number Two the correct one? We still have to decide if a true believer could live a life of practicing these works of the flesh, or if a life such as this would be proof that they weren’t true believers. We know that when we become a Christian we become a new creation in Christ Jesus, a creation where old things pass away and all things become new (2 Cor 5:17), and where we’ve been created to do good works (Eph 2:10). Could one truly have been born into Christ, and yet continue to live a life where he habitually chooses to indulge in these works of the flesh, if that new birth genuinely changes us?
That’s an interesting question, and an important one. Remember, responding to an altar call at a Billy Graham Crusade, and repeating a prayer down front doesn’t save any one. It can be an important tool in the process, but it doesn’t save a single person. The only thing that saves us is placing our faith in Christ (John 3:15-16; Acts 16:31; Rom 3:22-26; 4:5,16; 10:9-10; Eph 2:8-9; 1 John 5:10-12). Whenever, and however, that happens we are saved! When we are saved we become new creatures, new creations in Christ. The seed has fallen on good ground and will bring forth some fruit, “some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt 13:23). It’s impossible for us to become new in Christ, where “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor 5:17), and have the result of absolutely nothing changing. Some fruit, somewhere, will occur. Simple, right? Not quite so fast! Maybe the changes will all be internal initially, which means they’ll be harder to notice. Maybe the fruit will be a new concern about what God thinks about things, a new desire to please Him. But it might not initially be seen externally. In other words, what about the dope addict who gives his life to Christ, and wants to genuinely quit using, wants to honestly please God, but finds himself trapped in the addiction? The addiction causes him to “practice” his habit, just as the addiction of the alcoholic causes him to “practice” his habit, or habitually do a work of the flesh. Do we then conclude that they’re not genuine Christians (Possibility Number Three), or that they might be true believers, but if they die before they repent of their latest sin then they’ll go to Hell because they are indeed those who “practice” sin, those who are habitual sinners (Possibility Number Two)?
What if an individual tells you that he’s trusted the Lord Jesus to save him, but he still struggles with the habit of drunkenness (a work of the flesh), but you discover he’s a genuinely loving person, one who is patient with others, gentle with others, and good to others (four fruit of the Spirit)? That’s one work of the flesh and four fruit of the Spirit. Now what? Is he lost because of the one work of the flesh, or is he saved because of the four fruit of the Spirit? Does one work of the flesh trump four fruit of the Spirit? Be careful with your answer, because drunkenness isn’t the only work of the flesh. Do you ever struggle with hatred? Variance (contention)? Emulations (jealousy)? Wrath (anger that boils over)? Seditions (being divisive)? Envy? The passage doesn’t change because you think your “work of the flesh” isn’t as bad as someone else’s. What if a truthful look at yourself were to reveal some works of the flesh in your life, and some fruit of the Spirit in your life, would you go to Heaven?
We became sinners because of Adam’s sin when we were born into his human family, and we became righteous because of the obedience of Christ when we were born again into His spiritual family (Rom 5:19). Some sinners habitually do some things that are good, and yet they are still sinners because of their family ties; they are in Adam by birth. Some Christians habitually do some things that are sin, and yet they are still Christians because of their family ties; they are in Christ by the new birth. It’s the nature of sinners to sin, even though not everything they do is sin. It’s the nature of Christians to live right, even though not everything they do is right. In the first birth I took on Adam’s nature, and in the new birth I took on the nature of Christ (2 Peter 1:4). I was a sinner because I was in Adam. I’m now a Christian because I’m in Christ. When I was a sinner sin was what I did, even though I sometimes did what was right. Now that I’m a Christian righteousness is what I do, even though I sometimes sin. A sinner lives in the sphere of sin. A Christian lives in the sphere of righteousness. A sinner will be judged for his sins, his righteous acts being ignored. A Christian will be judged for his good works (1 Cor 3:11-15), his sins being forgotten (Heb 8:12; 10:17), having been taken away in Christ (John 1:29; 1 Cor 15:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 1:4; Titus 2:14; Heb 1:3; etc.).
If we decide that the Apostle is telling us, as believers, that if we’re guilty of committing some of the works of the flesh, and we die before we ask forgiveness for any of our transgressions, then we’ve completely undone the entire argument of Paul in this Epistle. We’re now living under the stress of having to live free of sin in order to enter Heaven. We now believe what the Judaizers were teaching, which is that we’re saved by grace, but we stay saved by abstaining from sin. Once again the burden of our salvation is on our own shoulders. We now can only know that we’re going to Heaven when we get there, because what if I die of a heart attack before I repent of my last sin, regardless of how small I felt the sin to be? What if the rapture occurs when I’m having trouble getting over my hatred of someone, or before I repent of my envy for another’s good fortune? It’s not the sinless individual that has eternal life, but it’s the individual who has Christ in his life (1 John 5:11-13).
Possibility Number Four is the correct answer. Only unbelievers go to Hell. All believers will go to Heaven. It’s not about our works, rather good or bad; it’s about His grace towards us and our faith in Him (Eph 2:8-9). However, if that’s true, then what was the Apostle warning the Galatian believers about in this verse, and what about Possibility Number Five?
I’m convinced the Apostle is warning the Galatian believers, those who he had already told were heirs with Abraham of the Promise (Gal 3:26-29; 4:28), that if they attempt to produce good works through the medium of keeping the Law, then along with some good works they will also produce some of the works of the flesh, because the attempt to keep the Law is walking in the flesh (Gal 3:2-3) [human effort <NIV>], and the flesh will always produce the works of the flesh. The danger in this is that we are now seeing in our own lives the very sins that are taking others (unbelievers) to Hell. Those who “do” these things, who live lives outside of the forgiveness of Christ, will not go to Heaven. These works are the enemies of the Gospel. They are taking people we love to Hell. We should have nothing to do with them. Yet, we will continue to see some of these horrible things in our lives if we attempt to please God through the strength of human effort. That’s the warning to believers! We will reap the consequences of what the flesh produces if we choose to walk in the flesh, and walking in the flesh in our human attempt to please God by turning to the Law as the means by which we’ll attempt to abstain from sin, and those consequences that we’ll reap are that we will see in our conduct some of the very things that we are turning to the Law to find strength to abstain from, some of the works of the flesh, and those “works” that we’ll reap are the very things that are taking others to Hell.
Regarding Possibility Number Five the UBS Handbook Series comments, “The expression the Kingdom of God does not refer to a place where God is king, or to a realm where God exercises his kingship, but to his rule, to his activity as King. To ‘inherit the Kingdom of God,’ therefore, is to reach the point of acknowledging God as King or to be under God’s rule and authority. Will not possess the Kingdom of God may be rendered in some languages as ‘will not enjoy having God rule over them,’ or ‘will never have the joy of God ruling them.'”
If they’re correct then Possibility Number Five would be the correct possibility, and this passage isn’t talking about Heaven at all, but rather it’s telling us that we’ll never realize the joy of having the Holy Spirit rule in our daily lives if we persist in walking in the flesh. In other words, Paul’s telling us that if we walk in the flesh then we won’t reap the benefits of being “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29), and those benefits are the realization that we are in a right-relationship with God as a result of our trusting Him, and all He has done for us, and not as a result of anything that we’ve done for Him (Gal 3:9-11,14,21-22), and the subsequent freedom that comes along with being a full-grown heir (Gal 4:1-7,31; 5:1,13), but rather we’ll continue to live as though we’re under-aged heirs who must still be controlled by “”tutors and governors” (Gal 4:1-2).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
* But the fruit of the Spirit is *
It’s necessary to remember, as we did when we began our discussion on the works of the flesh three verses ago (Gal 5:19), exactly what the Apostle’s talking about here. I mentioned then what I want to remind us of again at this time, that he’s “not comparing believers and unbelievers. That’s not his topic in this Epistle, and if that wasn’t the topic up to this point it doesn’t suddenly become the topic.” Paul’s teaching Christians “that they must choose how they’ll live their Christian lives before God, by the flesh or by the Spirit.” That’s the subject at hand. The previous three verses (Gal 5:19-21) revealed to us how choosing to walk in the flesh would negatively impact our lives. Now he’ll show us how choosing to walk in the Spirit will positively impact our lives. In other words, these two “lists” are indicators revealing to us which path we are walking in our attempt at Spiritual growth; the path of walking in the flesh, or the path of walking in the Spirit. Are we drawing from the weakness of human effort, or are we drawing from the immeasurable strength of the Holy Spirit?
Wycliffe mentions, “Everything here stands in contrast to the foregoing: fruit instead of works; the Spirit instead of the flesh; and a list of virtues altogether attractive and desirable in place of the ugly things just cited.”
Concerning “fruit” the UBS New Testament Handbook says, “one should note that ‘fruit’ is singular, indicating that to Paul spiritual life is a unity, and that all of these qualities which he is about to mention are found whenever one is led by the Spirit.”
Concerning “fruit of the Spirit” the Zondervan NIV Bible Library suggests, “The fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, suggests that which is a natural product of the Spirit rather than of man, made possible by the living relationship between the Christian and God (cf. Gal 2:20; John 15:1-17).”
The UBS New Testament Handbook offers, “the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit is the natural product of the Christian’s relationship with the Spirit, and so it issues forth spontaneously in the Christian behavior.”
Robertson sees this fruit “as the normal out-cropping of the Holy Spirit in us. It is a beautiful tree of fruit that Paul pictures here with nine luscious fruits on it.”
The seventeen works of the flesh are the result of our attempt to please God by keeping the Law, but the nine fruit of the Spirit result from the Holy Spirit controlling our lives. I’ve been teaching on the grace of God for over thirty years and I constantly find myself returning to human effort (walking in the flesh) in my attempt to please God. When I do the results are always disastrous. We must fully trust the Promises of Scripture; that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus totally satisfied forever the justice of a Holy God (Rom 3:25; 1 John 4:10), that we are totally forgiven (1 John 1:9), that God no longer counts our sins against us (Rom 4:6-8; 2 Cor 5:19), and that consequently we are forever accepted by God as perfect (Heb 10:14; Col 1:21-22) as a result of His grace (favor) towards us (Eph 1:6), which is all brought about as a result of His unconditional, unceasing, immeasurable, ever-pursuing love for us (Eph 2:3-5; Titus 3:3-5; 1 John 4:19); and it’s that love for us, and not our pious, dutiful love for Him, that’s the very essence of this Gospel (1 John 4:10), and the very reason that we can fully trust His Promises to us (Rom 5:9-10; 8:31-34). Only then are we free to live in His Presence, accepting His absolute love for us. We don’t have to earn His favor; He freely gives it to us as the objects of His love. Though the Gospel is almost too good to be true, it is Truth itself. When I trust Him then I’m able to believe the unbelievable, to know the unknowable (Eph 3:19), and to never stagger at the staggering Promises of God (Rom 4:20). Then I can truly believe that I’m a new creature (2 Cor 5:17), that I really do partake of His Divine nature (2 Pet 1:4), that I can do all things through the One Who gives me strength (Phil 4:13), and that I am an overcomer (1 John 5:4-5). Remember, what I believe affects my conduct.
The following list enables me to see how I’m doing at walking in the Spirit. Concerning this list the Zondervan NIV Bible Library comments, “The nine virtues that are the Spirit’s fruit hardly need classification, though they seem to fall into three categories of three each. The first three comprise general Christian habits of mind; their primary direction is Godward. The second set primarily concerns Christians in their relationship to others and are social virtues. The last three concern Christians as they are to be in themselves.”
However, the UBS New Testament Handbook proclaims, “In view of their being contrasted with the previous list, they should be understood as referring primarily to the believer’s relationships with his fellowmen, that is, in the same areas where the works of the flesh are manifested.”
I think the point could be made that while the flesh produces works that can only affect, positively or negatively, our relationship with man, the Spirit of God produces in us His fruit which affects man positively, and is acceptable to God.
* love, *
Robertson says, “Love agapee (NT:26). A late, almost Biblical word,” and then adds, “superior to filia (NT:5373) and [eroos].”
Vincent adds his insight, “Agapan (NT:25) is to love out of an intelligent estimate of the object of love. It corresponds to the Latin diligere, or the German schatzen “to prize.” It is not passionate and sensual as eran (NT:2037). It is not, like filein (NT:5368), attachment to a person independently of his quality and created by close contact. It is less sentiment than consideration. While filein (NT:5368) contemplates the person, agapan (NT:25) contemplates the attributes and character, and gives an account of its inclination. Agapan (NT:25) is really the weaker expression for love, as that term is conventionally used. It is judicial rather than affectionate.”
Vine mentions, “But obviously this is not the love of complacency, or affection, that is, it was not drawn out by any excellency in its objects, Rom 5:8. It was an exercise of the divine will in deliberate choice, made without assignable cause save that which lies in the nature of God Himself” (emphasis mine).
Love (agape) is a decision. God chose to love His creation. As Vine points out that decision had nothing to do with any merit of that love on the part of the recipients. When God commands us to love one another (John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Gal 5:14; 1 Thess 4:9-10; Heb 13:1; Jam 2:8; 1 John 3:14-18; 4:7-8, 11, 21) He’s not asking us to do something we can’t do. It doesn’t mean that we have to somehow control our emotions that tell us that we can’t love that person, but rather it commands us to treat that individual in a way that’s consistent with the way God treats us (1 Cor 13:4-8). When we make that decision, a decision that has absolutely nothing to do with any merit on the part of the person we choose to love in this way, I’m convinced that God will then add His blessing to our act of obedience, and our emotions will eventually tag along. Agape love will then become mixed with phileo love, which is a love that includes genuine affection.
Is this love that the Spirit produces in the one walking in the Spirit a love towards God, or towards our fellow man? We cannot love our fellow man in this way until we understand how the Lord Jesus loves us (John 13:34-35), and when we understand how God, in the person of His Son, loves us we will not be able to resist loving Him back (1 John 4:19). So I’m convinced that our loving God, and our loving our fellow man, are inseparable.
* joy, *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library suggests, “‘Joy’ (chara) is the virtue in the Christian life corresponding to happiness in the secular world. On the surface they seem related. But happiness depends on circumstances, whereas joy does not.”
If this is a joy that we experience as a result of our relationship with God then in the midst of every circumstance we can have joy knowing that our sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9), we are accepted by God as evidenced by the love He bestows (lavishes – NIV) on us (1 John 3:1), He Who authored our salvation will finish it (Heb 12:2), that He Who began this good work in us will perform it until the day He returns (Phil 1:6), and then the eternal purpose of God for our lives, our being conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29), will be fully realized, and we will be like Him (1 John 3:2).
If this is a joy that is experienced as a result of our relationship with others, then it’s a joy that we help others receive (2 Cor 1:24), and that others help us receive (2 Cor 7:13); in other words, a joy that results from mutual fellowship.
* peace, *
If indeed, as the Zondervan NIV Bible Library suggests, these first three fruit concern our relationship with God then the peace here mentioned would refer to the peace we’ve found in knowing that we’ve been reconciled to God through the cross of Christ (2 Cor 5:19), and as a result of our being justified we now enjoy peace with God (Rom 5:1). On the other hand, if, as the UBS New Testament Handbook suggests, all nine of these fruit concern our relationship with our fellow man then the peace here mentioned would refer to the Spirit enabling us to live peaceably with those around us (Rom 12:18; 14:17-19; Eph 4:3; Heb 12:14). I suspect it’s both.
* longsuffering, *
Vincent says, “From makros (NT:3117), ‘long,’ and thumos (NT:2372), ‘soul or spirit,’ but with the sense of strong passion, stronger even than orgee (NT:3709), ‘anger,’ as is maintained by Schmidt (‘Synonymik’), who describes thumos (NT:2372) as a ‘tumultuous welling up of the whole spirit;’ a mighty emotion which seizes and moves the whole inner man. Hence, the restraint implied in makrothumia (NT:3115) is most correctly expressed by “long-suffering,” which is its usual rendering in the New Testament. It is a patient holding out under trial; a long-protracted restraint of the soul from yielding to passion, especially the passion of ‘anger.’”
Thayer comments, “1) patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance;” and “2) patience, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs.”
By the grace of God the Holy Spirit produces in us the strong passion to bear long with others. When we see ourselves as spiritually bankrupt, saved only by the grace of God, we are enabled to extend the grace we receive to others. A believer with no patience towards others is probably a believer with an unrealistic view of his worth to God, that he’s received as a result of some merit on his part.
* gentleness, goodness, *
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say, “Greek, ‘benignity,’ conciliatory to others; whereas ‘goodness,’ though ready to do good, has not such suavity of manner [JEROME]. ALFORD translates, ‘kindness.’”
The UBS New Testament Handbook mentions, “Kindness and goodness both refer to one’s favorable disposition toward his neighbor, with goodness probably being general and kindness specific.”
Many modern translations render “gentleness” as “kindness.” Because it’s the Holy Spirit at work in us, and it’s His fruit that we, as branches, are bearing, God’s goodness is in play here. The goodness of God being produced in us causes us to be kind in our dealings with others.
* faith, *
The UBS New Testament Handbook comments, “It is tempting to understand this in terms of man’s relation to God, but here it probably includes the elements of faithfulness, trustworthiness, honesty, trustfulness, and reliability in one’s dealings with others.”
Luther sees it this way, “In listing faith among the fruits of the Spirit, Paul obviously does not mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Such faith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally the possessor of such faith will be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe all men, but he will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men are suspicious, forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody. No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it, and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people therefore, is quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?”
Certainly the Holy Spirit produces faith towards God in the believer, and Paul’s entire teaching to the Galatians in this Epistle is concerning a walk of faith, but if this “fruit” stands in contrast to the works of the flesh then the above comments are probably correct, and in our dealings with others the Holy Spirit produces trustworthiness in you and I, so that others can trust us, and also produces a willingness in us to trust others (1 Cor 13:7). If, on the other hand, this fruit is faith towards God then our comments throughout the entire Epistle touch on that subject.
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
* Meekness, *
This is translated “gentleness” (the New American Standard, Revised Standard, and New International Versions; the Living Bible), “gentle behavior” (Bible In Basic English), “mildness” (Darby), “humility” (Good News Bible), and “not needing to force our way in life” (the Message).
Thayer explains it, “gentleness, mildness, meekness.”
Vincent expresses, “The Christian meekness is based on humility, which is not a natural quality but an outgrowth of a renewed nature.”
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library mentions, “‘Gentleness’ (GK G4559) describes those who are so much in control of themselves that they are always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time–e.g., Moses, who is praised for being the gentlest or meekest man on earth (Num 12:3). This is the spirit in which discipline must be applied and faults corrected (Gal 6:1). It is also the virtue for meeting opposition (2Tim 2:25) and for giving a Christian witness (1Pet 3:15-16).”
This is such an important quality, given that importance by the fact that this is one of the very things that Jesus encouraged the weary to come to Him to learn, and He then stated that in learning this trait one would find spiritual rest (Matt 11:28-30). I like Vincent’s comment (above) because we can only have meekness in our dealings with others when we discover humility through an understanding that we, ourselves, are spiritually bankrupt. If we have an inflated opinion of ourselves, and of our spiritual merit, we will not exercise meekness towards others.
* temperance: *
Thayer says, “self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites).”
Vincent adds, “The word means self-control, holding in hand the passions and desires.”
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library has it, “the quality that gives victory over sinful desires and is therefore closely related to chastity both in mind and conduct. This quality enables a person to live and walk in this world without getting one’s garments spotted by the world.”
Controlling the sinful desires within us isn’t the result of quenching our teeth and trying harder. That was the methodology of the Law, and that methodology never worked because of the weakness of our flesh (Rom 8:3). I have come to understand “that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom 7:18). So it’s God to the rescue! The Holy Spirit works in us, doing for us what we can never do for ourselves, by altering our very character. He does this by writing the Law of God on our hearts (Rom 2:14-15) and our minds (Heb 10:16), which produces in us a desire to live right, and then He gives us the power to walk in that desire (Phil 2:13). Even in the arena of temperance, which is the controlling our various appetites, “our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor 3:5); in other words, this too, is a fruit of the Spirit.
* against such there is no law. *
Let’s remind ourselves again what the subject at hand is; it’s rather a Christian should trust human effort to keep the Law as the means to justification and spiritual growth (walking in the flesh), or if he should trust the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Promises that God made to the believers (walking in the Spirit). This is the premise of this Epistle (Gal 1:6-9; 3:2-3). What will we decide? One decision would be foolish (Gal 3:1)! Paul’s now demonstrating that choosing to walk in the flesh (keeping the Law) will produce the very results that the disciple is trying to avoid (Gal 5:19-21), while choosing to walk in the Spirit will produce the very results that are the desires of all true seekers (Gal 5:22-23). The Law wasn’t made to govern the righteous, but the unrighteous (1 Tim 1:9). When we walk in the Spirit we don’t need the Law to govern us because the Spirit produces His character/fruit in us (Gal 5:22-23) and consequently, we don’t fulfill the sinful desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16). The actions that result from the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in us don’t require the regulations of the Law because those actions are breaking the Law.
IMPORTANT POINT: The only time that we believers sin is when we aren’t walking in the Spirit. Consequently, the way to overcome the sin in our lives is to learn to walk more consistently in the Spirit. Our prayer should never be, “Lord, help me try harder to overcome the sin in my life,” but rather it should be, “Lord, teach my to walk in Your Spirit.”
Notice in my earlier notes (Gal 5:14) that the Law stands fully obeyed when we’re walking in Love. Could it be that walking in the Spirit and walking in Love is the very same thing? God is Love (1 John 4:8), and when His blessed Holy Spirit moved into our hearts He brought God’s Love with Him (Rom 5:5). His nature is Love! When you walk in the Spirit you are walking in Love! We overcome by faith (1 John 5:4-5), and grow by believing His Promises to us (Gal 3:2-3). Jesus prayed that we would be one “in” Him (John 17:20-23), and Paul claims that His prayer was answered (Col 3:3). Faith says “Amen!” to that Promise (2 Cor 1:19-20). We are in Him! When we walk according to that Truth we are walking in Him; in Love; in the Spirit.
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
* And they that are Christ’s *
Vincent tells us, “The best texts add Ieesou (NT:2424) ‘they that are of Christ Jesus.’ Belong to him.”
The Scriptures tell us that we are not our own, we don’t belong to ourselves, because we’ve been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20). Consequently, you and I belong to Christ (1 Cor 3:23; 15:23; 2 Cor 10:7). In this Epistle the implication of being Christ’s is that we are Abraham’s seed, and heirs to the Promise (Gal 3:29). The Apostle’s point is that as a result of our faith in Christ we’ve become part of the grand scheme of God. God is up to something, and it concerns us!
* have crucified the flesh *
We are crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6; Gal 2:20)! Consequently, the world has been crucified to me, and I have been crucified to the world; or, as the God’s Word Translation has rendered it, “By his cross my relationship to the world and its relationship to me have been crucified” (Gal 6:14).
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library suggests that this is speaking about repentance, “In speaking of this radical repentance, Paul uses the vivid image of crucifixion, though in a different way from such passages as Rom 6:6 and Gal 2:20. In those instances, the verb is in the passive voice (‘was crucified,’ ‘have been crucified’), and the reference is to what has been done for believers as a result of Christ’s death. But in this passage the verb is in the active voice (‘have crucified’) and points rather to what believers have themselves done and must continue to do. The proper term to describe this act is repentance.”
Zondervan’s point is certainly possible, but I tend to believe that this passage is reminding us of our position in Christ. In Christ we have crucified the flesh! The Good News of the Gospel is that Christ died for us; and consequently, we all died in Him (2 Cor 5:14-15). Subsequently, we’ve all died to the sins that are at work in our flesh (Rom 6:6; 7:23). This doesn’t mean that we’ll never be tempted to sin again. As long as we are wrapped about with the flesh of fallen humanity we will struggle with sin. However, it does mean that we have the Promise of Scripture to stand on, and that Promise claims that we are free in Christ, and when we walk in faith in His Promise we overcome the world (1 John 5:4-5). The sin that dwells in the members of my body screams, “I have you!” Faith screams back, “I refuse to accept that because Christ has me, and greater in power is the He that is in me than the sin that is in me (1 John 4:4)!
* with the affections and lusts. *
Concerning “affections” Vincent comments, “Better, passions.”
Concerning “lusts” Thayer says, “desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust.”
Our flesh desires things that are contrary to what the Holy Spirit wants for us (Gal 5:17), and many of the things it desires are sin. An example of some of those things was just seen (Gal 5:19-21). Other desires of the flesh might not be sin, but they still might need to be dealt with. There are those things, such as power, fame, and fortune, that incite passion in individuals, being things that they crave, and things they are willing to endure pain and suffering, or to put it another way, hard work and sacrifice, to attain. That strong desire, that passion that drives individuals to succeed in some quest of theirs is what the Lord Jesus wants us to surrender to Him; then we’ll have a strong craving, a strong passion, to know Him better.
That’s what the Scripture’s talking about when it tells us we can’t love God AND money (Matt 6:24; Luke 16:13), that we can’t love the Father AND the world (1 John 2:15-17), and that if we desire spiritual growth then we must not be double-minded (James 1:2-8). What’s our driving passion? Is it God, or is it something else? It can’t be both!
These passions and desires for what the world has to offer are the weights that we must put aside, along with our sins, if we are to run this race effectively. In Christ, they have been crucified! Let’s dare to believe that! Let’s dare to stand on it!
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
* If we live in the Spirit, *
We can all, the grace camp and the legalists, those who choose to walk in the Spirit and those who unwittingly choose to walk in the flesh by attempting to grow spiritually through the keeping of the Law, agree on this one thing, our spiritual life is a work of the Holy Spirit. When we were born again (John 3:3) we were born of the Spirit (John 3:5-6), and at that moment the Holy Spirit immersed us into the very body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). Our spiritual life is a living “in the Spirit.” If that’s the case, the Apostle states, then we should also walk in step with the Spirit.
* let us also walk in the Spirit. *
Vincent comments, “A different word from that in Gal 5:16. Only in Paul, except Acts 21:24. From stoichos, ‘a row.’ Hence, ‘to walk in line;’ to march in battle order (Xenophon, ‘Cyr.’ vi. 3,34). Sustoichei (NT:4960), ‘answereth to,’ Gal 4:25 (note). See also on stoicheia (NT:4747) ‘elements,’ Gal 4:3. Paul uses it very graphically, of ‘falling into line’ with Abraham’s faith, Rom 4:12.”
Thayer mentions, “to proceed in a row as the march of a soldier, go in order.”
WHAT DOES “WALK IN THE SPIRIT” IN THIS PASSAGE MEAN? The UBS New Testament Handbook tells us, “He must also control our lives may simply be rendered as ‘he must be the one to tell us how to live,’ ‘he should command how we live,’ ‘we should let him command our lives,’ or ‘we must let him tell us what we should do.’”
Matthew Henry has the Apostle telling us, “if we profess to be of this number, and as such to have obtained this privilege, let us show it by a temper and behaviour agreeable hereunto; let us evidence our good principles by good practices.”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown state, “Let our life in practice correspond to the ideal inner principle of our spiritual life, namely, our standing by faith as dead to, and severed from, sin, and the condemnation of the law.”
Some Commentators suggest that this passage is telling us that we must make certain that our conduct is in line with the Holy Spirit, while others suggest it’s simply telling us that since we’re saved by the Spirit it makes since to walk in the Spirit. I agree with the latter! The first implies that it’s a matter of effort on our part, and that implies that we can do it if we try hard enough. That’s legalism!
Like a good soldier we’re to walk in step with our Commander in this battle to grow spiritually, and that Commander is the Holy Spirit. We don’t trust our own instincts, but we follow Him with complete trust. We believe everything He tells us through His Word. We rely on those Promises that we are heir to (Gal 3:29). We’re saved by faith, by believing a Promise, and we walk by faith, by believing other Promises! When we do this we begin to look different, we begin to bear a resemblance to the One we radically follow. What shape does this appearance take? Let’s look at the next verse.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
* Let us not be desirous of vain glory, *
Walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:25) is walking in faith (Gal 3:2-3). Walking in the Spirit is recognized by our walking in love one towards the other, as seen by the similarity of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) and the quality of love (1 Cor 13:4-8A). Love has replaced Law as the means of constraining us (Gal 5:13), because the Law stands fully obeyed in us when we are walking in Love (Gal 5:14), and when we walk in the Spirit no law is needed to control us (Gal 5:24). Faith and Love are the New Covenant commandments (1 John 3:22-24) because we partake of God’s nature by faith in His Promises (2 Peter 1:4), and that nature is Love (1 John 4:7-8). We walk by faith (Rom 1:16-17), which is our believing His Promises (Rom 4:3, 9), and the faith walk causes us to partake of His nature, which is Love, so the genuineness of our faith is recognized by our walking in His Love (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:14). Love is the Royal Law (James 2:8), and we find life in Jesus through faith (Gal 2:20), and Love and faith together become the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:2), because the Law (principle) that gives us life is our walking in the Spirit (Rom 8:1-4).
At the conclusion of my comments on the last verse (Gal 5:25) I asked what we look like when we begin to bear a resemblance to the One we follow. Jesus is the express image of the Father (Heb 1:3) Who is Love (1 John 4:8). What did He look like? He went around doing good (Acts 2:22; 10:38) because He was moved with compassion (Matt 9:36; 14:14; 18:27; Mark 1:41; 6:34). He put our welfare ahead of His own (Phil 2:1-11), and desired His Father’s will above His own (Matt 26:39; Luke 22:42). So what will you and I look like when we begin to resemble the One we follow? We will mature in the area of walking in Love, preferring others above ourselves, and God’s will above our own.
Concerning “vane glory” Vincent comments, “This compound means having a vain conceit of possessing a rightful claim to honor.” He also said, “It implies a contrast with the state of mind which seeks the glory of God.”
As we mature in the area of walking in the Spirit (last verse) we will seek God’s glory, and not our own. We will also follow the example of Christ in putting others first (Phil 2:1-11). Then our Christian community (church) will not be exemplified by those who think they are worthy of honor because they’ve kept a certain set of rules, such as the Law of Moses. The Law can only produce one of two things in the life of a follower of it; one is pride, and the other is self-condemnation. It has no other potential. If we see ourselves as successful at keeping its commandments we’ll be proud. If we see ourselves as unsuccessful we’ll be filled with self-condemnation. The Apostle’s telling us in this verse that the result of choosing to walk in the flesh, which is the choice to find spiritual growth and acceptance through the keeping of the Law, isn’t the right choice. It won’t produce what the Galatians were hoping for. Instead it’ll produce a group of believers full of vain glory.
On the other hand, Love “vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (1 Cor 13:4). The walk of the Spirit will not produce those who are caught up with “vain glory.”
* provoking one another, *
Concerning “provoking” Robertson mentions, “Old word prokaleo, to call forth, to challenge to combat.”
Vincent adds, “and so stirring up strife.”
Living under the Law causes some to “vaunt” themselves, being “puffed up” with their accomplishments. Then they wish to impose themselves on others, telling them what to do so they can enjoy the same success. The “others” being imposed upon might not see themselves as inferior to those “vaunting” themselves, and might feel challenged, or provoked, by the attitudes of these self-appointed teachers.
Understanding grace is understanding that boasting is excluded (Rom 3:27). What do we have that we didn’t receive, and if everything good about us is a gift of God then why do we act as though we are personally responsible for our successes (1 Cor 4:7; James 1:17)?
Love “is kind,” and “is not easily provoked” (1 Cor 13:4-5). It will not negatively challenge others, nor will it allow the foolishness of others to easily provoke it.
* envying one another.
This could refer to the one who seeks “vain glory” being envious of the one who has the position that he desires that would afford him the opportunity to be seen by others, thinking that if only he had that position others would notice his worth and praise him for his talents. Or, it could refer to the one who’s been “provoked” by the one seeking “vain glory” being envious of the supposed spirituality of the provoker.
Love “envieth not,” and “seeketh not her own” (1 Cor 13:4-5). Love “rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6) that it’s God Who has blessed the other with a certain gift, or talent, and He’s done it so that he can receive the blessing of ministry from the other’s gift. God had you in mind when he gifted the individuals in your church. They’re there to serve God by serving you in the local body, and you’re there to serve God by serving them with the gifts and talents He’s given you.
NOTE: In the context of Paul’s teaching in this Epistle, and in this Chapter, walking in the Spirit, which is walking in faith (Gal 3:2-3), which expresses “itself through Love” (Gal 5:6 NIV) won’t produce “vain glory,” where we find ourselves “provoking one another, envying one another” (current verse). Walking in the flesh, which is walking in the Law (Gal 3:2-3), will result in those things. Why? Because when we walk in the Spirit we’re drawing from the Who God is, which is Love; when we walk in the flesh we’re drawing from the who we are as fallen man, which is those who have the law, or principle, of sin at work in our members (Rom 7:23). Everything we do in the strength of our humanity, trusting in our determination, is tainted with sin. When we would do good evil is present with us (Rom 7:21), and in our humanity we are that chief sinner (1 Tim 1:15). It’s only through the work of the Holy Spirit that the truly good is found in us.
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church