Galatians 5:1-6


5:1 is a summary of the first four chapters but also serves as an introduction to chapters 5 and 6.


1)      Christ set you free from sin so you can be free from the law as a means of life.

2)      Now that you are free from the law do not let yourself accept legalistic standards.


Point: Christ set you free from sin.

            Holy Spirit sets you free from law.


Paul is going to discuss the Christian life, ethics and morals now.  Notice he still stays in the context of spiritual production and not strapping the believers with a legal code.  They will be righteous as the Spirit produces it by Grace.


Paul is saying if you want to be holy continue in the faith of Christianity but leave legalistic standards in the past.


Holiness never results from demanding we follow man’s regulations or imitate God’s holiness.


5:2       “Mark my words!” means to call attention to what is going to follow.  It is like saying, “Listen. . .”   or  “Look here. . .”


For a believer to fall back into legalism (“circumcision”) means that Christ’s life and the Holy Spirit will be of no use for them in their life, maturity and pursuit of God’s calling to produce spiritually.


Circumcision in itself is not wrong, but the meaning circumcision had in the believer’s life indicated a wrong heart, or legalism, in the believer.  This is seen in verse 6.


Paul is condemning the false teaching that accompanied the practice of circumcision.


False teaching destroys the believer’s chance to:

1)      Mature

2)      Produce good works

3)      Finish the race (or, calling and purpose God has for each believer)

4)      Receive rewards (crowns, etc.) in heaven for their service


“To be circumcised” is present passive.  This means they had not yet been circumcised,  but were considering it. 


There is no condemnation for the Jews (like Paul, Ph. 3:5) who had always been circumcised.


1 Corinthians 7:17-18,   “Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. 

            This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.  Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. 

            Was a man uncircumcised when he was  uncircumcision is nothing.  Keeping God’s commands is what counts.” 


The issue is:

1)      legalism verse grace

2)      flesh verse Spirit


Legalism and flesh can manifest in two ways:

1)      Wickedness

2)      Good Deeds

-          But, both are sinful and rebellion against the Spirit of God and God’s plan of grace.



“Christ will be of no value to you at all.”


 Chrysostom (347-407) said: “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.”


John Calvin:  “The tendency of their whole doctrine is to blend the grace of Christ with the merit of works, which is impossible.  Whoever wishes to have             the half of Christ, loses the whole.”


Anyone who was circumcised for salvation showed they did not understand the Christian message of salvation by faith in Christ.  If they do not            understand it, they can not believe it.


If a believer turned to circumcision for their salvation they show what John writes in

1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us;  but their        going   showed that none of them belonged to us.”


Circumcision to Abraham was the sign of the covenant or belief in the promise.

Circumcision to Moses at Sinai was an obligation to stay in the covenant nation.


5:3    “Again I declare . . .”  is “martyromai” and means “I testify” and refer to one speaking under oath in the court of law.  Paul’s training for the Sanhedrin would have prepared him to use this word only when he was presenting evidence in the Jewish court of law. 


Paul gives the  second reason for not being circumcised:

You must now obey the whole law.


Teachers of legalism usually only teach their favorite legalistic issues:

a)      dress code

b)      Bible reading

c)      Baptism

d)     Tithing

e)      Style of music

f)       (please fill in your favorites here) ________________

g)      (. . .and here)_______________________

The Judaizers had their favorite:

h)      Circumcision

In verse 3 Paul says if you accept any one legalistic standard or any one part of the law you must go back to that way of life for salvation and spirituality.  You must forsake Christ and return to your own efforts in the flesh.


The legalizers were slowly running out of preaching material and would soon have to teach the next step of being “a good Christian” which would be something about the Jewish feast, obeying the Sabbath, and on and on further and further into bondage and away from the truth.


5:4       “Fallen away from grace.”    This is the only place this phrase is used in the Bible. 

Yet this phrase is used over and over in the modern church, but rarely in the context with what Paul is talking about.


First, this phrase is not talking about a Christian sinning and then losing their salvation.  Sin is not even in the context.  It is talking about a Christian being “legalistic” or, not sinning!


To choose legalism is to reject being related to God by grace. 


5:5       Pronoun changes here from “you” to “we”

“we wait”   and “we hope”


Greek text says, “For we in spirit by faith hope of righteousness eagerly expect.”

Each word and its order in the sentence is important.


“We”        “in spirit”       “by faith”      “hope”      “righteousness”       “expect”


In the same words, “We expect to produce the desired hope of righteous living through the Spirit.”


Circumcision is of the flesh.  This above statement of faith.


Notice:  In verse 5 the believer is waiting, not working for righteousness. 


This righteousness is not the imputed righteousness for that we have already. 

It is the actual, ethical righteousness that is going to be discussed in the following chapters.


5:6       Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is the answer.


            True faith will express itself in love, not in circumcision, or other legal method. 


This is the definition of the true Christian faith or religion: 


            This is faith,  from verse 5.    Faith in the truth.

            This is hope, from verse 5.     Hope of being righteous.

            This is love, from verse 6.      Love expressing what is inside the Christian.


            No works, no legalism.  Only faith in the truth, hoping and expecting the Spirit to produce God’s character of love in our lives.