Galatians 5:1-6 HCSB – 1 Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Take note! I, Paul, tell you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all. 3 Again I testify to every man who gets circumcised that he is obligated to keep the entire law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace! 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.
Introduction: As we begin Chapter 5, we must remember why Paul wrote this letter. Certain men from Jerusalem had come into the fellowship of Christians here in Galatia, proclaiming to these Gentile Christians that they must be circumcised in order to be justified before a holy God. They also were teaching the Jewish Holy Calender, plus Sabbath, and special holy days to meet and worship. It became so divisive within the Church of Galatia that even Peter and Paul’s close associate, Barnabas, were caught up in this hypocrisy. Paul is correcting this false teaching within this letter, and at the same time he is pouring out his heart, revealing his love for this church.
Here is a quote from Barne’s commentary and something he says: “This chapter is properly a continuation of the argument in the previous chapter, and is designed to induce the Galatians to renounce their conformity to the Jewish law, and to become entirely conformed to the gospel.”
You see, the conformity to the Jewish Law was a sin. God did not free the Galatians from paganism so that they may become bound again to sin.
Here is a quote from Lecrae’s song, live free: “Sin’s so bad, it’s a lie…it says we’re on the throne, tells God to retire…it says He ain’t enough, it says we want more…it says He ain’t just, it says He ain’t Lord…and sin is the laugh at his power, the rape of His mercy…the mock of His patience, it says He ain’t worthy…” All sin, including the sin of Legalism (which is idolatry) says these very things that Lecrae describes in his song. And this is the primary sin that Paul deals with, and I also believe the primary sin of the modern day American Church – Idolatry.
As we are beginning chapter 5, we are going to look at three points within these six verses: The purpose of our liberation; the purpose of Paul’s warning; and the purpose of our faith.
Let’s begin unpacking the text.
The purpose of our liberation – freedom.
Galatians 5:1 – Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.
- The freedom that Paul is talking about in this passage is freedom from the yoke of the Law. Now he is not as some might suggest talking about the freedom to sin, or justifying sin; but the freedom of what justification is: not based on our performance, but based on Christ and His finished work on the cross.
- The “yoke of slavery” here in this passage is the yoke of the Law. We’ve been set free from that yoke, it is not binding us to our sin, making us a prisoner too it any longer: Why? Well, the key-holder – Jesus Christ has come and set us free. The Galatian believer’s were in danger of becoming like the Judaizers – legalists bound to the Law. You see, to become a legalists is to go back to bondage, not freedom.
- Paul says that we are to “stand firm”. The Greek word for “stand firm” is steko (stay’-ko). It means, “to be stationary, stand your ground, to persevere.” We are to stand our ground rooted in the truth of justification by faith in Christ alone by His grace alone. It is what truly saves, not religious performance.
- …”don’t submit again…” The Analytical Literal Translation reads, “stop letting yourselves be subjected again…” In the Greek, this is not a one time act, but a continuous one.
The fact is, as fallen people, who have been justified by Christ freely by His grace, we still like to go back to bondage. It is a constant struggle to walk in the freedom we have in Christ.
The purpose of Paul’s warning – alienation from Christ.
Galatians 5:2-4 – 2 Take note! I, Paul, tell you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all. 3 Again I testify to every man who gets circumcised that he is obligated to keep the entire law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace!
Before we unpack these verses, this must be stated: the circumcision that Paul is speaking about here in Galatians is ceremonial, i.e. in order to be justified by the Law; he is not talking about circumcision done for health reasons.
- If the Galatians were to just submit to the Law in just this one area, circumcision, Paul knew that according to the Law they were bound to keep all of it, thereby placing themselves under a curse (verses 2- 3).
Galatians 3:10-11 – 10 For all who [rely on] the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written: “Everyone who does not continue doing everything written in the book of the Law is cursed” 11 Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith.
Martin Luther says this concerning this passage: “The first fault with circumcision is that it makes Christ unprofitable. The second fault is that it obligates those who are circumcised to observe the whole Law.”
Two dangers of trying to be justified by the Law (verse 4):
- Alienated from Christ. Alienated in Greek is katargeo (kat-arg-eh’-o). It means, “to abolish, cease, destroy, do away, make of no effect, to loose, to severe, to make void.” Freebiblecommentary.org says, “If one tries to be right with God through human effort, he/she cuts himself/herself off from grace righteousness as a means of salvation.”
- Falling from grace. Fallen in Greek is ekpipto (ek-pip’-to). It means, “to be driven off course, to lose, to become inefficient, to cast off, to fail, to fall away, to make of none effect. Vincent Word Studies says, “You left the sphere of grace in Christ, and took your stand in the sphere of Law as your hope of salvation.” Martin Luther says, “Those who fall from grace perish no matter how they go about it. Those who seek to be justified by the Law are fallen from grace and in danger of eternal death.”
The purpose of our faith – the hope of righteousness.
Galatians 5:5-6 – 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.
- It is not through human effort or performance that the hope of righteousness comes, but through the Spirit, by faith (verse 5). Through the Spirit, by faith we eagerly away the hope of righteousness. While we are declared righteous by the Father now, we will one day be completely righteous when we pass this veil and are in His presence – face to face.
1 Corinthians 13:12 – For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.
- If you are awaiting the hope of righteousness through human effort or performance, you have a false hope…one that will never be realized.
Conclusion: I’m going to conclude this sermon explaining verse 6.
So whether you were born a Jew or Gentile is immaterial: we were both born in bondage – sinners breaking God’s holy Law. But Christ has come, and the Gospel has produced faith in our hearts. He has given His Holy Spirit, living in our hearts, crying out, “Abba Father!” Now in Christ what matters is not Law-keeping; but faith working through love.
As I conclude, let’s go back to the Lecrae song, “Live free.” “Live free by His mercy and grace, and tell the world, I’m gone…live free by His patience and peace, and tell the flesh I’m gone…live free by His joy and love, and tell the lust I’m gone…live free by His truth and justice, and tell the hate I’m gone…” and might I add, “live free by his grace and truth, and tell idolatry, I’m gone!”
As people truly liberated through Christ, let’s live free.