Galatians 5:1-15 — Freedom – Bible study notes

Let’s look back at the Corinthian church for a minute

2 Cor 11:2-3 (Passion): You need to know that God’s passion[a] is burning inside me for you, because, like a loving father, I have pledged your hand in marriage to Christ, your true bridegroom. I’ve also promised that I would present his fiancée to him as a pure virgin bride. (3) But now I’m afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s clever lies, your thoughts may be corrupted and you may lose your single-hearted devotion and pure love for Christ.

Romans 7:1-4: Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

  • Paul tells Believers that under the New Covenant they had died to the law and were now married to Christ
    • for them to go back to the law would be adultery because they are now married to Christ – who is the Spirit of Grace
  • The law was for a specific period from Moses (Mt Sinai)  to the Cross – until Christ came
    • Gal 3:24 – So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.
  • Understand, Paul is speaking to a “transitional generation.”
    • A transitional generation refers to:
      • Jews who were born before the Cross and married to the Law
      • and still alive after the Cross and now had put their faith in Jesus and were married to grace.
    • We are not part of that generation — the Law was never given to us
    • All those born after the finished work of the Cross are dead to the Law — Jew,  and Gentile.
  • We were never meant to get saved and live our lives tied to the Old Covenant way of thinking
    • which is performance- based — do such and such to become or to receive
    • We were born under grace simply TO BE and HAVING ALREADY RECEIVED based on the faithful obedience of Christ…of His finished work on the Cross
  • However many today still bind themselves to the Law which is a dead, faithless system of works — not knowing who they truly are IN CHRIST

2 Cor 11:4 You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

  • Paul had preached to the Corinthians the simplicity of the Gospel of Grace — of the finished work of the Cross
  • But the Judaizers were preaching another Jesus, another spirit, another gospel
    • They were mixing Old Covenant Law and New Covenant grace
    • New Covenant grace to be saved – believing in Jesus
    • Old Covenant Law to walk out this new saved life
  • Paul was concerned about the Corinthian church (just like he is with the Galatians) that they would be pulled off course
    • That they would fall from grace and that their thinking would be corrupted from the simplicity (singleness) and purity (unmixed or uncontaminated) that is solely IN CHRIST
  • v. 3 in the Mirror Bible says they would be deceived into seeing themselves as incomplete and fall back into thinking that perfection required their toil and all manner of wearisome labor
    • He wanted them to stick with simple grace not a mix of law and grace
  • The Corinthian church was the most sinful and carnal church
    • You would think if anyone needed rules and regulations to straighten them out it would be them
    • But Paul said ALL they needed was to continue in grace — He was fully confident grace alone was sufficient to change them.
  • Urging  a “carnal” church to continue in grace alone rubs us the wrong way — we think grace without the balance of law will give us a license to sin.
    • But remember Titus 2:11-12:  For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, (12) instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
  • Religion tries to refocus the lens through which we view the Father — thinking that He is looking for rule- keeping and obedience from us or His patience with us will wear thin
    • And then as one well known Bible teacher said recently “He waits, warns, waits, warns then comes after us with a blazing bulldozer.”
    • Truth is our Father thinks that grace alone… resting in the finished work of the Cross… is sufficient for our new lives in Christ no matter what our outward behavior sometimes looks like
  • The Spirit of Grace ALONE is enough to transform us

Ok…. on to Galatians 5

verse 1: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Message: Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

  • The Judaizers felt Paul’s grace message was dangerous
    • feeling it replaced the law with license — that if we do away with rules people will feel free to sin
  • Here in verse 1 he is saying that Christ set us free to live a free life — free from OC Law
    • In Gal 3 and 4 he had compared the Law to a schoolmaster and a bondwoman
    • Now he tells them in chapter 5 that the Law is a yoke of slavery.
  • So, he tells them to stand firm in their freedom/liberty — to persevere, to be immovable
    • Liberty means free from restriction or control and the right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one’s own choosing
    • Free to choose which yoke to come under
      • The Law’s “yoke of bondage” or Christ’s yoke
  • Matthew 11:29-30: “Take my yoke upon you…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”
    • The yoke of Grace is easy and light and is rest for our souls
      • easy – chrestos meaning gentle, pleasant, kind – well fitted and useful
      • light – not burdensome, easily managed (or carried)
      • rest – cessation of labor, refreshing, tranquil, it is the rest after the needed task is completed

In other words, He completed the task and freed us from the yoke of bondage which was the Law… now we are to rest in the finished work of the Cross.  And when we do, our souls, that is our minds, our will and our emotions are refreshed because the yoke of grace is not burdensome, it’s easily managed and kind.  It is well fitted and useful for us!

    • Col 3:9-10:  Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; (10) And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
    • Put off the old man — put off means a forcible stripping away of clothing, of rights, privileges, title and property.  
      • IN CHRIST there was a forcible stirpping away of the clothing or likeness of the old man and all the rights, privileges, title and property that had become Adams
      • What had become Adams?
        • Death and all that came with that… sickness, disease, poverty, lack, fear, etc.
        • Sin earned him the rights, privileges, title, and property of death
      • But Christ forcibly stripped those things…sickness, disease, poverty, lack, fear, destruction, etc off of us



  • But v. 10 says we put on the new man
    • That word put on means to sink into a garment; implying rest and relaxation
    • The law was a burden or yoke of slavery — but the Gospel of Grace (the new man IN CHRIST) is refreshing and relaxing — it’s freedom!
  • Under the New Covenant, we have received grace and are free from the burdens of the law
    • John 1:16!! Of His FULLNESS we have all received!
    • Amp: For out of His fullness [the superabundance of His grace and truth] we have all received grace upon grace [spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift].
  • Gal 4:17 (Message)  these Judaizers wanted to shut them out of the free world of God’s grace and put the yoke of bondage (law) back on them
  • grace = freedom!

verses 2-3: Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. (3) For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

  • The Judaizers told the Galatians (probably using flattering religious sounding words) that if they really wanted to serve God, they would have to go back under the law and submit to physical circumcision.
    • The Galatians had already given in to the pressure from the legalists to observe days, months, times, and years (Galatians 4:10).
    • They were now on the verge of taking a huge step backward in their Christian life by submitting to the Old Testament sign of circumcision.
  • Paul is reminding them that if we submit to just one law to give us the power to live a right life-style, we become a debtor to God to keep the whole law (Galatians 3:10).
    • Of course, even the legalists weren’t living by the whole law – they were picking and choosing
    • To live by grace means to depend on God’s abundant supply of every need.
    • To live by the law means to depend on my own strength
  • Paul warned the Galatians that to submit to circumcision in these circumstances would rob them of all the benefits they have in Christ

verse 4: Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

  • Paul used three phrases to describe the losses the Christian incurs when he turns from grace to law:
  1. “Christ shall profit you nothing” (Gal. 5:2)
  2. “a debtor to do the whole law” (v. 3);
  3. “Christ is become of no effect unto you” (v. 4).
  • when we trust Christ, we become spiritually rich.
    • We now share in the riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:7), the riches of His glory (v. 18; Phil. 4:19), the riches of His wisdom (Rom. 11:33), and the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).
    • In Christ we have “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and we are “complete in him” (v. 10).
    • Once a person is “in Christ,” he has all that he needs to live the kind of Christian life God wants him to live.
  • The Judaizers, however, want us to believe that we are missing something, that we would be more “spiritual” if we practiced the law with its demands and disciplines.
    • But Paul made it clear that the law adds nothing — it is a dead, faithless system
    • The law robs the believer of his liberty and his spiritual wealth in Christ.
    • The believer living under law becomes a bankrupt slave.
  • Falling from grace isn’t falling into sin but instead falling back into the Law or self -effort to please God
    • The Galatians were not in danger of losing their salvation
    • They had just “fallen out of the sphere of God’s grace.”
    • Paul always uses the term “fall from grace” to equal turning back to legalism… it has nothing to do with falling into sin
    • You cannot mix grace and law.
    • If you decide to live in the sphere of law, then you cannot live in the sphere of grace.

* let’s look at what that practically looks like:

  • To fall from grace is to substitute it (or add to it) a system of self-reforming rules or religious traditions which are not biblical.
    • For instance, a legalistic/performance based Christian life becomes based on the fact that we don’t smoke, drink, chew, dance, gamble, or gossip.
    • Neither do we lie, cheat, steal, go to movies, or wear makeup.
    • And we always go to church; we have been baptized; we give regularly; we sing in the choir; we teach Sunday School; we serve on committees; we pray audibly; we serve on the board of deacons … and the list could go on and on depending on which denomination you attend.
  • Living a grace life is a life based ONLY on our new lives IN CHRIST
    • It is a relationship full of freedom and joy
    • We are constantly aware of His presence in us (our oneness) and are growing to know Him and to love Him

verse 5-6:  For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (6) For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

  • We aren’t waiting for righteousness.
    • We were created righteous and truly holy in our spirits when we were born again
  • But righteousness produces hope that we will spend eternity in heaven.
    • We are waiting on that by faith.
    • Paul was speaking of the hope that will be realized when we receive glorified bodies and new souls that know all things even as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12).
  • The point that Paul was making is that we are persevering in our Christian life by faith, not by works.

verses 7-9:  Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? (8) This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. (9) A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

  • The Galatians had been running their race well
    • But now they were in the danger of being tripped up in the race by legalism and self-effort.
      • in the Greek athletic footraces in Paul’s day runners were to stay in their assigned lane — in the case of believers, that lane is called GRACE
      • but in the footraces sometimes competitors would cut into their lanes and try to get them off course — the competitors = Legalists pushing adherence to Law or performance
      • the runner who abandons grace for the law is like a runner on a detour – he cannot win
      • Resting in the finished work of the cross…. continuing in grace… the only thing that will enable them and us to cross the finish line (2 Timothy 4:7).
  • Paul tells them “It certainly wasn’t God who stopped you from obeying the truth.”
    • Religion is all about doing.
    • Christianity is all about what Jesus has already done.
      • Jesus said IT IS FINISHED — not I did My part now you do yours
  • Leaven refers to legalism, works, self efforts, performance
    • instead of just resting in the finished work of the Cross
    • Even a “little bit” of legalism is wrong – it leavens the whole lump
  • leaven comes from the root word zume which means to spread it’s influence
    • Legalism, the grace stealer, does not suddenly overpower a church.
    • A small amount of self-righteousness is first introduced, then a small dash of religious performance, then a touch of traditionalism.
  • It’s still a big problem in the church today like it was for the Galatians
    • Most people today still preach grace mixed with legalism.
    • There will always be Judaizers — false teachers enticing you to give up your freedom in Christ for the bondage of the Law
    • It’s our job to learn the difference between grace and legalism so that we don’t fall from grace as these Galatians did.

verse 10:  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.

  • Paul had earlier expressed doubt about whether or not these Galatians would return to faith (Galatians 4:20).
  • Here, he was saying he was confident that they would come back to faith alone as the way they related to the Lord.
    • He was fully persuaded that they would turn back to Christ alone
    • but that they would be grace minded only – not mixing law and grace
    • Remember there is no such thing as grace based law or legalistic grace… it’s law or grace… you must choose one

verses 11-12: And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. (12) I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

  • It would seem from verse 11 that the Judaizers were deceiving them by telling them that Paul also preaches circumcision
    • Paul says to them “If I preach circumcision why I am I still being persecuted?
    • He is saying that he preaches the cross, not circumcision and that is why he is so often persecuted—because the cross is a stumbling block.
  • Paul says in verse 12 that he wishes they were cut off
    • Cut off literally means castrated.
  • That seems to be a harsh thing to say but I don’t know – I wasn’t there to hear Paul say it
    • It just shows us how shocking and serious this issue with the Galatians is.
    • Paul was simply passionate about the Galatians freedom IN CHRIST
    • that tells me that we should be just as passionate about protecting our liberty in grace

verse 13-15: For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. (14) For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (15) But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

  • Love trumps liberty.
    • We are free to do many things (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
    • but if we truly esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4) then we won’t want to use that liberty in a way that would hurt them.
  • But love isn’t possible if we bind ourselves to the Law… to legalism and performance.
  • the Law is rooted in self
  • But God’s love is giving and selfless
  • Walking in love is only possible because of the finished work of the Cross
  • Because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Next week we’ll finish up chapter 5 — and look at life in the Spirit


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