(Read Galatians 5:1-6)
Paul urges Galatians to stand firm in the faith because Christ has set them free. Legalism destroys spiritual liberty. Those who are circumcised are obligated to keep the whole law (Galatians 5:3; James 2:10). Yoke is a symbol of slavery. Circumcision is a pledge to obey the whole law. If Galatians accept circumcision, Christ will be of no profit to them. Having escaped the slavery of heathenism, now Galatians were in danger of the slavery of Judaism. Grace and law are opposed to each other and there can be no compromise between them. Having been saved by faith, if we try to attain salvation by works, we fall short of the blessing of grace (Galatians 5:4). This does not teach that believers can lose their salvation. Paul is contrasting grace with law here. There cannot be two means of salvation. It is either by law or by grace, by works or through faith. The Galatians were in danger of substituting law for grace as the means of salvation. The born-again believers who are saved by grace live in earnest expectation to receive every blessing promised through faith in Christ (Galatians 5:5). Grace creates faith, and faith produces obedience. Faith works through love (Galatians 5:6). Those who place their faith in Christ whether circumcised or not will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). A living faith expresses itself in love through obedience. Someone has said “Faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is not alone”. We are saved to serve God. Good work is the result of salvation (Ephesians 2:10). The gospel graciously offers salvation through faith in Christ apart from our works. Christians should be marked by gracious works.
Love fulfills the Law
(Read Galatians 5:7-15)
Grace generates faith and faith produces obedience. Paul refers to this as “faith working through love (Galatians 5:6). We love others because we know that God has loved us (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14). Love is a major theme of this chapter (Galatians 5:13-14, 22). The Galatians were making good progress in their Christian life. But their progress was hindered by the false teachers. They should not have listened to the false teachers who tried to turn them from the freedom of the gospel to legalism. False teaching is likened to little yeast that spreads the whole lump. False doctrines are dangerous because it corrupts the church. Paul was confident that the Lord would save Galatians from the influence of legalism. False teachers cannot escape the judgment of God. The false teachers accused Paul of inconsistency because he permitted Timothy to be circumcised (Acts 16:3). Paul argues that “If I preach legalism, why would the Jews persecute me? He says, "If I am still being persecuted proves that I am preaching salvation by grace”. Paul wishes that those who trouble believers by demanding circumcision would mutilate themselves (Galatians 5:12). Spiritual freedom is not a license to sin but an opportunity to love and serve others. When believers are tempted by the impulses of the flesh, they should remember that their old nature has been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). True love is the motivation for Christian conduct and service. It is the fruit of our faith in Christ. The whole moral law is summed up in one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Such love is produced by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). Christ did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17). It was said of early Christians “Behold how they love one another”. When Christians slander and criticize one another, they are destroying one another. Pray that God would help us to love one another (John 13:34-35).
The Spirit and the Flesh are in Conflict
(Read Galatians 5:16-21)
Paul urges Galatians to live by the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25). The Holy Spirit is mentioned several times in this letter (Galatians 3:2-3; 4:6; 5:5; 6:8). Those who are saved have been in-dwelt by the Spirit (Romans 8:9). When God saved us, He did not eradicate our old nature but gave us a new nature to live in the newness of life (2 Corinthians 5:17). These two forces, flesh and Spirit are constantly fighting each other (Galatians 5:17; Romans 8:7). When believers are controlled by the Spirit, they are no longer subject to the law (Galatians 5:18). Someone has said “The flesh is always active; it never takes a vacation”. The works of the flesh are given in verses 19-21. Those who practice sin habitually do not live by the Spirit. They prioritize self above God. This list is representative, not exhaustive. Christian life begins when we receive the Holy Spirit at the time of our salvation (Galatians 3:2; 4:6). A believer may fall into sin, but he will be miserable until he confesses and forsakes them (Proverbs 28:13).
Live by the Holy Spirit
(Read Galatians 5:22-26)
The Holy Spirit produces the spiritual fruit. These are the godly qualities developed by the Holy Spirit. This fruit is composed of nine elements (Galatians 5:22-23). The first three are in relation to God. The next three are in relation to others. And the last three are in relation to one’s own life. Only when we abide in Christ, we bear fruit (John 15:1-8). The word “Abide” speaks of our fellowship with Christ. The Holy spirit transforms the life of the person who walks by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Love is the foundation of spiritual fruit (1 Corinthians 13). It is the Christ-like sacrificial love. Someone has said “The secret of fruit bearing is abiding, the secret of abiding is obeying, the secret of obeying is loving, and the secret of loving is knowing Christ”. The joy is the result of the contentment one finds in God. Peace is the restfulness of the soul which Christ gives (John 14:27). Long-suffering is patience in afflictions. Kindness is a gentle attitude toward others. Goodness is love in action. Faithfulness is reliability. Meekness is not weakness but strength under control. Self-control is the ability to have control over natural impulses. No law forbids the practice of these virtues. Those who belong to Christ have crucified their passion with Christ. This identification with Christ gives us power over sin (Romans 6:11-12). We cannot live a Christian life in our own strength. People living under the law often become proud of their own achievements. But Christian life is produced by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray that God would give us a humble spirit to appreciate all his blessings. The fruit of the Spirit is produced not by human striving but by the power of the Holy Spirit.