Gal 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
After having told the Galatians in chapter 4.21-31 that they are the children of the free woman, Paul now reminds them that they ought not take lightly this precious liberty or freedom that God has given unto us in Christ.
The liberty of which Paul speaks in context is freedom from the rite of circumcision and ceremonies of the law. The observance of those rituals was a yoke of bondage because the false apostles who deemed them as being necessary for salvation were demanding it.
This yoke of bondage was the meaning for the leadership summit in Acts 15. What was the conclusion of that meeting that was seeking to place the Gentiles under the yoke of the law?
- Acts 15:10,11 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they
This yoke of bondage and ceremonialism reminds us of the time when Jesus was reprimanding the Pharisees and He said to them you place heavy yokes upon men that neither you will try and carry yourself.
This yoke of bondage can just as easily refer to any religious system today that insists that a person is required to perform a set of number of rituals or ordinances in order to enter into fellowship with God.
Stand fast. Put your cleats of the armor of God into the ground and cling to the all-sufficient righteousness of God in Christ. Paul was not getting worked up about the splitting of theological hairs on extraneous issues. The all-sufficient atonement of Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace were at stake.
- Phil 1.27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.
5.2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
Paul’s objection here is not to circumcision in itself. Like all Jewish boys, he himself had been circumcised as an infant ( 3:5). He did not object to a Christian’s being circumcised if, as in the case of Timothy (Acts 16:1-3), the act would open doors for ministry.
Paul’s warning about circumcision pertained only to the false idea that in itself it carried spiritual benefit or merit. Remember that the Judaizers were saying that faith in Jesus Christ, although important, was not sufficient for complete salvation.
Note here how strongly Paul stands fast and contends for the faith once delivered unto the saints. Paul stand’s firm on the all-sufficient work of Christ on the cross for our sins. If a person seeks to add anything to the cross, Christ’s work on the cross for them is of no value at all. This is the dilemma of any person who is a part of any works based cult or religious system.
5.3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
Please observe beloved that the smallest part of justification cannot be attributed to the law without renouncing Christ and His grace. Seeking to gain God’s favor by a combination of observing the law and receiving it by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ are mutually exclusive.
Christ supplemented is Christ supplanted.
As we have said previously, if you seek to put yourself in right standing with God by keeping the law, you are indebted to keeping the entire law with no room for error.
- For if a man “keeps the whole law, yet he offends in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10).
- “Cursed is the man that continues not in the whole law to do that which is written therein.” (Galatians 3:10).
If you are caught speeding and the officer writes you out a ticket, you cannot plead your innocence because you have not robbed a bank or sold drugs. Regardless of how many good things you may have done, in breaking the speed limit you have broken the law.
To seek to earn or merit forgiveness of your sin based upon your efforts divorces you from the saving grace of God, because the gospel of the grace of God can never be mixed with human effort or works.
- Romans 11.6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
5.5 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.
Apart from the regenerating work of God, by grace, through faith in the finished work of The Lord Jesus Christ, any ritual is worthless, be it circumcision, water baptism or communion. Without a regenerated, circumcised heart, even valid biblical expressions of faith such as baptism or communion are merely forms of godliness without the power thereof.
The circumcision that relates the New Covenant is:
- Colossians 2.11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.
- Romans 2.29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
- Galatians 6.15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
When God does that work of circumcision in a person’s life, it brings for a faith that worketh by love. Saving faith worketh by love! Beloved, faith without works and faith without love is dead. That is the message of 1 John & James 2. Faith and love are verbs. They are visible. A genuine faith in Jesus is a life that is a poured out life, not a poor me life.
A living faith is going to be shown by works of love. We will be serving one another. Helping one another when in need. Caring for one another. When God is our portion then we are truly free to serve one another through love because we will not be looking to others to satisfy the longings on my soul that only Jesus can fill.
Remember what Jesus said to the woman who had 5 husbands and was presently living with another man/
- John 4.13-15 Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
In other words, I will satisfy you and make you whole.
5.7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 5.8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
- Galatians 3.3 Having begun in the Spirit are you going to be made perfect in the flesh?
In some margins, there is the translation, “Who cut in front of you?” Paul is drawing an illustration from the equivalent to the Olympic games of the day. “You were running well, but someone has cut into your lane and caused you to stumble.”
Paul is discerning enough to see through all of the spiritual and religious deception of the Judaizers. He knows that it wasn’t The Holy Spirit that was laying this legalistic works trip on them.
Any persuasion to follow a pattern of works or rituals for salvation comes from religious legalists not from The Living God.
5.9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Paul now shifts his analogy from sports to cooking. Leaven in Scripture is by and large with few exceptions, a symbol for evil.
Legalism is leaven, because the leaven of legalism will corrupt, spread and eventually destroy the beauty and freedom of the love and grace of God.
Legalism will eventually produce one of two things: self-glorification or self condemnation, neither come from the inner working of The Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
Whenever you mix Jesus with any “ism”, the “ism” becomes the focus or measuring stick of “orthodoxy” and Jesus eventually becomes background music.
The key to deliverance out of any “ism” is **Malachi 3.7 Return unto Me.
Jesus told the busy church at Ephesus that they had left their first love. The escape from any “ism” is return to your first love, Jesus Christ.
5.10 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.
Please underscore the 2nd part of this verse saints. When someone lays a religious guilt trip on you that says that the grace of God must be earned or merited by being circumcised or keeping any other religious ritual, that person is in deep trouble spiritually before The Lord.
Jesus said, **Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matt. 18:6).
5.11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
The Judaizers, had evidently spread the rumor in Galatia that Paul himself had preached the need of circumcision for salvation. They had taken the fact that (1) Paul himself was circumcised, (2) Paul did not preach against circumcision as a cultural identification among Jews, and (3) he had gone to the trouble of having Timothy, who was from the Galatian region, circumcised. Now they took these facts and distorted them into a Pauline promotion of circumcision for justification.
But Paul tells us that he was being persecuted because the gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive.
The great offense of the cross to the Jews was that Christ is the final sacrifice for sin forever, and because of His atonement, the whole Jewish system of sacrifices for sin and ordinances perished at the cross. The entire book of Galatians and Hebrews states this truth very clearly.
The great offense of the cross to fallen man is because it refutes the notion that all men are good by nature. The Bible says in Romans 3.10;23 there is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The great offense of the cross is that according to Scripture, the only way to get to the Father is through the only One Mediator between sinners and a holy God is His Son, Jesus Christ.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2.5,6 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
The cross of Jesus Christ is offensive to those who say that we need to accept all religions because all roads lead to heaven. No, they don’t! The Bible says that in Matthew 7.13,14 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Scripture says that there is one way that leads to heaven. Jesus said **John 14:6 I am the way, the truth and the life. And no man comes to the Father, but by Me.
5.12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
Paul severely condemns the false teachers who were hindering (v. 7), persuading (v. 8), and troubling (vv. 10, 12) the Galatians
The cult of Cybele was a popular pagan nature goddess in Asia Minor during Paul’s day. Many devout male worshipers in the cult castrated themselves, and all its priests were self-made eunuchs. Verse 11 is some of the harshest words of Paul to those who were reinterpreting the true meaning of the gospel of the grace of God.
5.13-15 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
The Apostle tells us, you were called to liberty (freedom). But this liberty that we have been called to isn’t a liberty to believe whatever I want to believe and live however I want to live.
I cannot create a Jesus of my own imagination Who is lesser than how He is revealed in Scripture as Lord and God. I cannot create a Jesus of my own imagination Who allows me to live however I want with no moral responsibility or restraints at all.
Doctrinally, Christian liberty can only be received by grace through faith in The Lord Jesus Christ. Practically, Christian liberty is expressed by a love for God and others.
Occasion to the flesh. Whenever we take our eyes off of the cross of Jesus Christ, and His command to serve one another in love, we will inevitably give occasion to our flesh. The liberty that we have in Christ is the freedom to serve one another in love. Liberty and joy is found in serving, not in being served.
Paul says that we fulfill the law of God when we live in love ( 13:8-10). One of the lawyers challenged Jesus as to the greatest commandment. And Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind and with all thy strength; and thy neighbor as thyself. And in these are all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
To love your neighbor as yourself is not a command to love yourself first. It is a command to take your natural, already existing love of self and make it the measuring rod of your love for others. This means that we will be as eager and willing to do good things for others as we are in doing good things for ourself.
It means that we will care about what happens to others as much as you care about what happens to ourself. Can you imagine what your marriage would be like if you lived like that? Can you imagine what this church would be like if we all lived like that?
Beloved, when I am being filled and satisfied with the unselfish love of Jesus Christ for me, the overflow of that love is going to be His love flowing in me and through me towards others.
When Jesus Christ is our first love and the source of our personal satisfaction and fulfillment, it sets us free from being dependent on the church or other people to fill that emptiness. A person who is experiencing the love of God in their life is going to be a person that is expressing the love of God towards others.
In Christ, we are now free, by the Spirit’s power, to walk in newness of life. We are free to love The Lord and serve one other sacrificially.
Through faith in Christ, we have been set free from a life of selfishness. The opposite of love is not hate, but selfishness. Any man who is all wrapped up in himself makes a small parcel.
But if ye bite and devour one another. The idea here is that of wild animals ruthlessly attacking and slaughtering each other. Not exactly the description of sheep, is it? More like wolves.
What do wild animals do when they are starving and empty? They go on the attack and devour others. What do you and I do when we are sensing that gaping hole of empty inside because we have taken our eyes off the cross and are not being personally satisfied by the fullness of the love of God? We will bite, criticize, accuse and devour others who are not meeting our needs.
And what organ in our body do we use to bite and devour? Your kidney? Your spleen? The answer? Your tongue on the phone or your fingers on email, FaceBook or Twitter.
Beloved, when the message of the cross of Jesus Christ is void of the application of our divine responsibility to love one another as Jesus has loved us, we will be like a selfish pack of dogs, biting and devouring one another with our words, our attitudes and our actions.
May each one of us purpose in our hearts to love Jesus supremely and love one another, kindly and tenderly. Be a sheep, not a ravening dog.
An appeal to the unsaved
Because the gospel is fixed only upon Jesus Christ and His cross, most people are offended over the exclusivity of the gospel message. Fallen man cannot believe that all of their religious observances or good works or acts of humanitarian service fail to make them right before God.
Are you among those who believe that God is going to make an exception in your case?
My friend, the unchanging God and His unchanging gospel is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago.
My friend, you and I can’t do anything to buy or earn our redemption or the forgiveness of our sin. The price of your redemption and the forgiveness of your sins are the gift of God, by grace, through faith in death, burial and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
- Revelation 22.17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.