Galatians 5 Commentary


No place for law-keeping (5:1-12)

Through the death of Christ, believers have been freed from the bondage of the law. They should therefore live as free people (5:1).

If circumcision is necessary for salvation, Christ is of no use. Also, those who want to keep the law about circumcision must keep the whole law. They cannot choose one command and ignore others to suit themselves. If they try to find salvation through law-keeping, they cut themselves off from the salvation that comes from Christ through God’s grace (2-4). That salvation has nothing to do with circumcision. It is received by faith, is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit and produces a response of love in the lives of believers (5-6).

The Galatians were progressing spiritually until the Judaisers arrived. The new teaching these people have brought with them is not from God and will eventually corrupt the whole church if it is not stopped immediately. Certain punishment lies ahead for these false teachers (7-10).

Apparently the Judaisers had twisted some of Paul’s words to try to convince the Galatians that even their apostle taught that circumcision was necessary. If this was so, replies Paul, he would have no more trouble from the Jews. The reason the Jews opposed him was that he preached that the cross, not circumcision, was the way to salvation. He wishes that these Judaisers would not stop at circumcision but go the whole way and emasculate themselves, so that they might no longer trouble the Christians (11-12).

True freedom; true Christianity (5:13-26)

Christian freedom does not mean that believers may do as they like. On the contrary, they must think of others and act to please them. This is what the law commands, but those who want to put themselves


under the law cannot do it. Instead they are unkind and cruel to each other. The goal that the law aims at is not reached by trying to keep the law, but by acting with true Christian liberty (13-15).

Sooner or later Christians find that they do not always do the good that their consciences tell them to do, because the sinful human nature fights against God’s Spirit within them. The way they triumph over these wrong desires is not by putting themselves under the law, but by allowing God’s Spirit to direct their lives (16-18). Even if people put themselves under the law, rebellious human nature produces only those evils that the law forbids and that exclude people from God’s kingdom (19-21).

If, on the other hand, Christians allow God’s Spirit to control them, their lives become full of the most pleasing virtues – the opposite of those things that the law forbids (22-23). Their lives should demonstrate the truth that their sinful nature has been crucified with Christ and has no further power over them. They are now controlled by God’s Spirit (24-26).

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