#178 “FALLING INTO BONDAGE” (GALATIANS 5:2-6)

Aren’t you grateful for the people God has placed in your life who protect you? As the Galatians contemplated whether or not to turn to false teaching, it was Paul who gently, yet firmly, spoke the truth and spared them from going down a path of bondage. Be that kind of Christian to others.

Three Warnings (5:2-4)

  1. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage (benefit; aid; profit) to you. Paul’s tone in chapter 5 is very direct. He warns the Galatians of the consequences that will follow if they decide to listen to the Judaizers who were insisting that they needed to be circumcised to be truly saved. Accordingly, Paul’s first warning to the Galatians is if they do decide to accept circumcision then they will be replacing the free gift of salvation with legalism. NKJV Study Bible, “Paul points out that being circumcised changes the entire orientation of salvation away from God’s grace to one’s own actions. One who is circumcised to gain God’s acceptance is obligated to keep the whole law.” If you accept circumcision—The verb tense in GK. implies the Galatians were contemplating being circumcised. Therefore, the proper way to interpret Paul’s delivery of the three warnings is in the hypothetical sense.
    • 3:20: For by works of the law no human beingwill be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
    • 8:1-4: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
    • Jack Hunter, “In the Galatian situation, circumcision to Paul was not a surgical operation, nor merely a religious observance. It represented a system of salvation by good works. It declared a gospel of human effort apart from divine grace. It was law supplanting grace; Moses supplanting Christ; for to add to Christ was to take from Christ. Christ supplemented was Christ supplanted; Christ is the only Savior—solitary and exclusive. Circumcision would mean excision from Christ.”
    • John Chrysostom (4th century Church Father): “He who is circumcised is circumcised as fearing the law: but he who fears the law distrusts the power of grace; and he who distrusts gains nothing from that which he distrusts.”
  2. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. Secondly, Paul warns the Galatians that once they submitted to the Law—they were bound to keep the entirety of the Law. More than likely, that wasn’t something the Judaizers cautioned the Galatians about. In the Talmud, it reads: “A proselyte who accepts all the commandments of the Torah except for one is not accepted.” The Law is a unit, and if a person puts himself under any part of it for justification, he is a “debtor” (KJV) to the entire code with its requirements and its curse (3:10; Js. 2:10). Dr. Chuck Swindoll: “The bite of legalism spreads paralyzing venom into the body of Christ. Its poison blinds our eyes, dulls our edge, and arouses pride in our hearts. Soon our love is eclipsed as it turns into a mental clipboard with a long checklist.”
  3. You are severed (to cut off; to be estranged; alienated) from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. The Judaizers convinced the Galatians that they lacked spiritual vigor, and therefore, needed to follow the demands of the Law to be complete. However, Paul’s third warning to the Galatians is if they move forward with exchanging grace for the Law—they would be forfeiting a joyous relationship with Christ. Severed—The GK. word is katērgēthēte, which means “to render inactive.” Paul’s use of the term is to point out how the Galatians released themselves from the free gift of salvation. Paul is not claiming that the Galatians lost their salvation the moment they turned to the Law. He is telling them the economy of the Law will prevent them from growing in their faith in Christ, and therefore, cut themselves off from receiving the spiritual benefits that come with walking in the grace of Christ. Fallen away from grace—The phrase in GK. literally means “you left the sphere of grace in Christ and took your place in the sphere of the Law.” Wuest’s Words Studies from the Greek New Testament: “But because they had lost their hold upon sanctifying grace, does not mean that God’s grace had lost its hold upon them in the sphere of justification. Because they had refused to accept God’s grace in sanctification is no reason why God should withdraw His grace for justification. They had received the latter when they accepted the Lord Jesus. That transaction was closed and permanent the moment they believed. Justification is a judicial act of God done once for all. Sanctification is a process which goes on all through the Christian’s life.”

1:21-23: And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

True Christianity (5:5-6)

  1. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. In verses 5 and 6, Paul lays out a brilliant summary of Christianity: (1) Holy Spirit, (2) faith, (3) ultimate justification, (4) spiritual maturity, and (5) love. Through the Spirit—Paul now transitions to “we” to stress that our walk with God is “in” the power of the Holy Spirit “by” faith. In 3:2, Paul pointed out that we receive the Holy Spirit by faith not by works. In 4:6, Paul reminded the Galatians that “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” In 5:16, it reads “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Again, in 5:18, Paul reaffirms this truth “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Thus, Christianity isn’t about what we do to earn salvation but what Christ has done to offer us the free gift of salvation. Eagerly wait—The Greek word is apekdechometha; used seven times in the NT of the return of Christ: Rom. 8:19, 23, 25; 1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 9:28. 8:23, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Hope of righteousness—This isn’t referring to the imputation of Christ but the culmination of when we will finally experience the fullness of our blessings in eternity. In 6:8, Paul writes, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” The IVP New Testament Commentary, “In the past, when we put our faith in Christ at the beginning of our Christian life, God credited righteousness to us (3:6-9). In the present, by the power of the Spirit, God produces righteousness in us (5:13-25). Or to put it in more theological language, our righteousness—credited to us by justification, produced in us by sanctification and perfected in us by glorification—is always a gift received from God by faith.”
  2. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Paul wraps up this section of the letter with a statement about Christianity. He isn’t claiming faith to be passive. Quite the contrary. What Paul is saying is that works of righteousness are only possible by faith working through love. He will demonstrate this in the remaining chapter (5:7-26).