The Epistle to the Galatians – Chapter 5

We have now reached what we have suggested is the third main section of the Epistle.



"The Spirit" is not mentioned at all in the first main section in chapters 1 and 2. He is mentioned six times in the second main section in chapters 3 and 4. But in this third main section in chapters 5 and 6, He is mentioned ten times. Also in 6.1 we read of spiritual men, in whom the Spirit of God is working in power, manifesting spiritual energies in the fruit they bear and in the services they render to their fellow-believers. These last two chapters are full of practical precepts and pleadings. Until now, the apostle has been arguing the case against the evil teachers who had succeeded in unsettling the saints and draw-ing them away from their Christian steadfastness. He had laid for their faith, strong, firm, unshakeable foundations of eternal truth communicated from God. Our only safeguard against the many subtle errors by means of which Satan today is attacking the Christian faith, is to be intelligent in the revelations of God communicated in His Word. This was the apostle’s approach in this Epistle. Now upon these strong foundations of eternal truth, he makes his appeal for the practice of godliness, the development of character worthy of our calling as sons of God, and the production of fruit redolent with the fragrance of Christ for the delight of the heart of God.

In chapter 5, the outstanding words used seem to be liberty-love-life. The use of these words seems to give character to his teaching, and they divide the chapter into three paragraphs.

1. Liberty that Refuses the Bondage of the Law, £. 1-12.

The apostle contrasts the sphere of heavenly grace with the sphere of law. To the one belongs complete liberty in Christ. To the other belongs bondage. “If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” In the one, Christ profits eternally and gloriously. In the other there is loss, curse, condemnation, and the loss is eternal. In the one, grace alone operates. Those who belong to the other have “fallen from grace”. It is strange that some have used these words to deny the eternal security of the genuine believer in Christ, and to teach that it is possible for such to “fall from grace” and forfeit salvation. One would have thought that the words are unmistakable in their meaning. They are addressed to “whosoever of you are justified by the law”. Such are “fallen from grace” and “Christ shall profit you nothing”. “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” There is no limit to the grace of God by which sinners are saved. But there are limits to the sphere in which that grace operates unto salvation. Grace is incompatible with law, and the contradiction of salvation by works. The true Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God, the seal of that righteousness by faith in the perfection of which he stands before God. Through Him he rejoices in prospect of the glory of God, the hope of righteous-ness, for which he waits in faith. Since this is so, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage”. At first and for some time they had “run well”. But they had been hindered so that obedience to the truth had not been perfected in them. The philosophies by which they had become in-fluenced were evil, and not of God at all. And it was in the very nature of evil to increase and spread its corruption. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Paul was confident in the Lord that those genuine among them would be preserved of God. With a passionate desire for their spiritual enrichment, and in communion with God, the apostle judges evil as evil, without compromise. Loyalty to the Lord, faithfulness to the truth with which he had been entrusted, and desire for the highest blessing of the saints, made him uncompromising in his judgment of evil teachings and evil men. “He that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be”, v. 10. “I would they were even cut off (would even cut themselves off) which trouble you”, v. 12. As elsewhere he had said, If any corrupt the inner sanctuary of God, him shall God corrupt, for the inner sanctuary of God is holy of holies, which ye are, i Cor. 3. 17. Paul would never come to terms with evil, nor would he compromise with evil workers. To him the spiritual profit and prosperity of the saints was all that mattered, and he was jealous of everything that hindered their spiritual progress.

2. Love that Serves the Good of Others thus Fulfilling the Law, 5.13-15. "Ye have been called unto liberty”, v. 13. True Christian liberty is never to be interpreted in terms of licence. The Christian has no liberty to live lawlessly. But within the sphere of the will of God, his liberty is complete. “Use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” The Galatians had given up their true Christian liberty, and yet, after all, were not keeping the law, for all the law was fulfilled in one word, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. Indeed, their legality had destroyed in them all semblance of Christian grace, since they were biting and devouring one another. This is the inevitable effect of the law. On the other hand, love is the essential quality of the life of God in those who are born of God, and in the abounding energy of that love they serve the highest blessing of others. Thus in the child of God, what the law requires is fulfilled, not because it is the demand of the law, but because it is the fruit of the Spirit of God who indwells him.

3. Life that Produces the Fruit of the Spirit, against which there is no Law, 5.16-26.

(a) The Control of the Spirit. Christian liberty, then, must not be used for an occasion to the flesh; we are called to love one another. Love is the essential quality of the life of God in us, and that life was imparted to us by the Spirit of God when we trusted Christ. Therefore “we live in the Spirit”. Now, “if we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”, v. 25. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh”, v. 16. “If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law”, v. 18. The word translated “walk” in verse 25 is rather different from the word translated “walk” in verse 16. The “walk” of verse 16 is the general manner of life of the individual believer. But in verse 25 the word used indicates his manner of life in relation to others.

The word in verse 16 is an exhortation to walk boldly and firmly, strongly and undeviatingly, as guided and enabled by the power of the Spirit of God. This idea of being continuously led by the Spirit, so that guided and empowered by Him we walk in the ways of God and in communion with Him, is contained in many passages of the New Testament. But in every case it has to do with the totality of Christian life and the development of Christian character. Too often we limit this experience, in our thinking, to the remembrance meetings or our prayer and ministry meetings. But Spirit-given ministry and Spirit-controlled movement in the remembrance meetings can be produced only through Spirit-controlled men who in every sphere of life and in every phase of character, are yielded to the Spirit of God.

In verse 25 the word means “To walk orderly – to keep in rank”. It is a military word, and is an exhortation to keep in step with one another. Submission of heart and will to the Spirit of God alone secures peace to the individual saint and harmony in the assembly. He who walks in the Spirit in his personal life, will, by the same Spirit, be exercised about keep-ing step with his fellow-saints. Each one in the assembly there-fore contributes either to the unity of the assembly, or to the marring of its spiritual harmony. The obvious way to unity is that each should keep step with Christ the Leader and Lord of all. To be in step with Him is to be in step with all those who walk with Him. We must not cease to walk with Him in order to walk with those who do not walk with Him. So that, in order to attain to unity in church life, each is to watch, not his brother, but his Lord. It is certain that we cannot walk in the Spirit in ways contrary to the Word that He Himself has given us.

{b) The Conflict of the Flesh and Spirit. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would”, v. 17. We must introduce two further transla-tions of the last sentence in this verse. “That ye should not do those things that ye desire”, j.n.d. “So that ye should not practise the things that ye would”, f.w.g. The remedy, then, against the opposing power of the flesh is to “walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh”. He does notsay, as the common version puts it, “so that ye cannot do the things that ye would”, but rather he says, “So that ye should not”. He will not think of an impossibility on the part of one who walks in the Spirit. To the Spirit nothing can be impossible.

Still, both the flesh and the Spirit are in the Christian, and the Spirit will never come to terms with the flesh. The flesh in us is condemned by God. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” The flesh nevertheless will seek to assert itself, and the only way of victory for the soul is the way of the Spirit, in heart occupation with Christ. The heart that truly knows Him finds in Him a satisfaction and rest which deliver from every corruption that is in the world through lust. The whole dreadful catalogue of the works of the flesh is given, the totality of which is con-demned and will be judged by God, for “they which do (practise) such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God”, v. 21. The fact that the Spirit of God indwells the believer, demands a life of holiness, and to yield ourselves to His possession is the power for such a life. But, “if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law”, V. 18.

(c) The Cluster of Fruit Produced by the Spirit in the true Believer. Fruit is produced only by the energies of life, and the produce not only proves the fact of life possessed, but manifests the character of the life. “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”, Matt. 7.16. In the spiritual and moral sphere, the fruit described here is the result of the living energy of the Holy Spirit of God in the believer, and makes manifest the character of life that He has imparted to him. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (self-government): against such there is no law”. The first three of these, “love, joy, peace”, have to do with the inner consciousness of the believer God-ward, the development of the essential qualities of the life of God in him. The other six qualities witness in the public life to the fact that the love, joy and peace of God reign in his soul. In essence it can be nothing other than the beauty of the graces of Christ, the perpetuation in us of that lovely, fragrant life that brought such delight to the heart of God.


Your Basket

Your Basket Is Empty