The servile condition of the Jewish church
I. They were under bondage; that is, under a yoke of bondage. This servitude of theirs consisted in the vast number of their religious rites and observances they had taken upon themselves, such as the observance of days and weeks, months, and years; the multitude of their sacrifices of all sorts, which they were obliged every day to offer: in their frequent purifications and washings; in the strict distinctions they were obliged to make between clean and unclean meats; in the numerous rites and ceremonies they are required to observe at their marriages and burials, at bed and board, at home and abroad, nay, even in plowing, sowing, and reaping; so numerous were these observances, that they took up half their time, and were as burdensome as they were numerous.
Well might Paul here call it a yoke of bondage, and elsewhere, a yoke which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear (Acts 15:10).
II. The happy liberty and freedom from this intolerable yoke, purchased by Christ for the Christian church: Christ has made us free, for He, by His obedience and death, has purchased this happy freedom for us, a freedom from ceremonial bondage, from sinful servitude and slavery; not from civil subjection, not from the yoke of new obedience, but from the obliging force of the ceremonial law, and the curse and irritating power of the moral law.
III. The Christians' duty with reference to this privilege, namely, to stand fast in the liberty which Christ has purchased for them, without obliging themselves to observe any part of the ceremonial law, which was now a servility perfectly unprofitable, and nothing else: stand fast in it; that is, maintain and defend it both in judgment and practice.
1. Paul exhorts the Galatians to stand fast in the liberty of the Gospel, and not by receiving circumcision bring themselves into a yoke of bondage, (vv. 1-4).
2. Shows the superior excellence of Christianity, (vv. 5-6);
3. Mentions their former steadiness, and warns them against the bad doctrine which was then preached among them (vv. 7-9).
4. Expresses his confidence that they will yet return; and shows that he who perverted them shall bear his own punishment (vv. 10-12).
5. States that they are called to liberty, and that love is the fulfilling of the law (vv. 13-14).
6. Warns them against dissensions, and enumerates the fruits of the flesh, which exclude those who bear them from the kingdom of God (vv. 15-21)
7. Enumerates also the fruits of the Spirit, which characterize the disciples of Christ (vv. 22-24).
8. Exhorts them to live in the Spirit, and not provoke each other (25-26).