5:1-6–Paul Tells them to Stand in Liberty


“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

Stand in Liberty

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty
Literally:  “Then stand firm in the freedom”


         This is really connected with the preceding chapter.  This is another case of whomever divided the chapters not knowing what they were doing.  To what Paul has said just before, “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free,”  he immediately adds, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.”  You are free-born; do not submit to the yoke of bondage. The liberty referred to by Paul is freedom from Jewish rites and ceremonies, here properly called the yoke of bondage.
         We see here that Paul has returned to admonishing the Galatian believers to be firm, to stand against the ceremonial Law and to persevere.  In effect he tells them, “Hold fast to your Christian profession; it brings spiritual liberty, but on the contrary, Judaism brings spiritual bondage.”  Among the Jews, the Messiah's reign was to be a reign of liberty.  In the Targum, on La 2:22, it says: “Liberty shall be publicly proclaimed to thy people of the house of Israel by the hand of the Messiah, such as was granted to them by Moses and Aaron at the time of the Passover.”

         “wherewith Christ hath made us free”
         Literally:  “with which Christ made us free”

This freedom also includes freedom from the power and guilt of SIN, which nothing but the grace of Christ can remove.

Don’t Get Entangled with Legalism

         “and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
         Literally:  “and do not be held again with a yoke of slavery”

Since this is in the present tense, it would be more correct to read it as, “Stop being held in by a yoke of bondage.” The Greek term used here is common for being ensnared by a trap. In our vernacular, we might say that the Judaizers were trying to lasso the Galatians back into the old yoke of Judaism.


“Behold, I Paul say unto you, ‘that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.’”

         “Behold, I Paul say unto you,”
         Literally:  “Behold!  I Paul say to you”

            Paul asserts all his personal and apostolic authority. For these same words see also I Thess.2:16; II Cor.10:1; Col.1:23; Eph.3:1.  Paul is being emphatic as to what he is about to say by repeating his name which was so familiar to his own converts.  He might even be saying, “Though you now think less of my authority, nevertheless I am giving my name and apostolic and personal authority to refute all this opposition by my adversaries.”
            Whenever Paul wanted to make a strong, personal point he would begin with the words, “I Paul.”  Here his addition of the imperative, “Behold” further strengthens the seriousness of his following remarks.  Only here in Paul’s writings does this word declarative expletive occur and he uses it here to draw special attention to what follows.

         “if ye be circumcised,”
         Literally:  “if you are circumcised”

         After giving his warning against becoming entangled in the ceremonial Law, Paul now goes on to give a real part of that Law–circumcision.  It may have been looked upon as a national rite for the Jews, but it was a different thing for the Galatians who had not background with it to become circumcised.  Understand that by saying, “if you allow yourselves to be circumcised,” what Paul is doing is presenting some sort of hypothetical case.  The Galatians had not yet submitted to this rite, but were on the verge of doing so, as we can see by the word, “if.”
         That is, circumcised as a profession of your dependence for salvation on the law of Moses (Acts 15:1). It was not against the simple rite of circumcision that Paul was arguing, for Timothy was circumcised under his direction as a prudential measure, to avoid the prejudices of the Jews, (Acts 16:3); rather he was arguing against circumcision as being necessary to salvation, which was the error of the false teachers (Judaizers) among the Galatians.  

         Paul is warning that if you take on circumcision you are really taking on yourselves the whole obligation of the Jewish law, and consequently profess to seek salvation by means of its observance.   Their circumcision, under the circumstances, would be the sign of their submission to the Law of Moses. They, Gentile Christians, could not therefore become Jews and remain Christians.

         “Christ shall profit you nothing.’”
         Literally:  “Christ will profit you nothing”

Because you will have left Him for the Law.  Your dependence on circumcision, in these circumstances, will in fact amount to a rejection of Christ, and of the Doctrine of Justification by Him.  It would be proof of trust in Moses rather than Christ, in the Law rather than in the gospel.  You will be disclaiming Christ, and all the blessings which are through faith in Him.  By taking circumcision after Christ's coming, is virtually to deny and disown that He has come, and in effect to renounce and disclaim Him; because at His coming the promise was fulfilled, and circumcision of its own nature ceased.

“For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to dl the whole Law.”

         “For I testify again”
        Literally:  “And moreover I testify again”

This whole thing is so important an issue to Paul that he is bringing up a further consideration for these Galatian believer which he hopes might deter them from submitting to circumcision. 

         “to every man that is circumcised,”
         Literally:  “to every man being circumcised.”

         Such a one became a “proselyte of righteousness.” Since verse 2 shows that by accepting circumcision they would be losing nothing less than the benefit of Christ Himself, and no sane believer could even think of doing such a thing.  After detailing what they would lose, now Paul is attempting to show them what they would gain. By doing so he hopes to impress upon them the senselessness of their proposed actions. 
         Although “every man” here has reference specifically to the Galatian believers, it can also apply to anyone who binds themselves to the legalism of the Law. What Paul is saying is, “If you take the first step of the Law then…”

         “he is a debtor to dl the whole Law.”
         Literally:  “he is a debtor to do all the Law”

         Paul is telling them that if their accepting circumcision (the first step) of succumbing to the Mosaic Law, this act will not only deprive them of the working of Christ on their behalf, it will also upon them a new obligation:  that is, to keep all of the Law.  To Paul’s way of thinking, circumcision was the first step into a life of bondage under legalism (2:3-4).  It has already been pointed that a person must keep all of the Law to gain heaven, and that if he breaks even one point of the Law even once, then he falls under the curse of the Law (3:10).  Therefore, on the basis of legalism, there is no reason why faith in Christ is even required, for such is negated by the obligation of human effort (2:21).

Perhaps this illustration may help:

Suppose there are people who want to become naturalized citizens of another country and carefully carry out all the rules and regulations of that country as far those affect naturalizations.  They cannot stop there but are bound to accept all the other rules, regulations and laws of that new country as well. Similarly, Paul is arguing that if a man puts upon himself the rite and act of circumcision, which is the introduction into the Law, he has automatically placed himself in the position of turning his back on the way of grace and as far as he was concerned, Christ might never have died.

“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the Law;  “ye are fallen from grace.”

         “Christ is become of no effect unto you,”
         Literally:  “you are loosed from Christ”

         You were rendered null and void away from Christ.  That is, your connection with Christ has been voided; has been made null and void if you are circumcised in order to keep the Mosaic Law.  In effect Paul is telling them that it is useless for them to attempt to unite the two systems.  He is pointing out that they must either have the Law and no Christ, or Christ and no Law, for their justification. 
         He is telling them that the meritorious value of the Person and redemptive work of Christ has been rendered inoperative within the life of any person who is attempting to work his way into heaven.  Such a person is apart from the Savior and devoid of the righteousness of God which is imputed by faith alone.   If a man could be justified by the Law he would have left the system of grace altogether, for the two are diametrically opposed to each other. 

            If you can be justified in any other way than by Christ, then you do not need Him, and your adoption of the other mode is in fact, a renunciation of Christ. The Greek word used here for “loosed” literally means, “to render inactive, idle, useless; to do away, to put an end to;” and here it means that they had withdrawn from Christ, if they attempted to be justified by the Law.
            Paul is again emphasizing that they would not need Christ if they could be thus justified; and they could derive no benefit whatsoever from Him. A man who can be justified by his own obedience, does not need the aid or the merit of another; and if it were true, as they seemed to think, that they could be justified by the Law, it must follow that the work of Christ was in vain so far as they were concerned.

         “whosoever of you are justified by the Law;”
         Literally:  “you who are justified by Law”

         More correctly, “you who are trying to be justified in the Law;”  that is, considering being justified by observing the Mosaic Law. Supposing that any of you can be justified by the Law; or if, as you seem to suppose, any can be justified by the Law. Understand that Paul is not saying that this had in fact ever occurred; but he merely makes a hypothetical supposition. If such a thing should or could occur, it would follow that you have fallen from grace.
          A person can never attain a justified position because he must continually obey all of the laws all of the time.  He can never rest in what he has done or in what someone else has done because there is always more to do.

         “ye are fallen from grace.”
         Literally:  “you fell from grace”
                       “you have lost your hold upon grace”–Wuest’s Word Studies

         What Paul means by grace is all that Christ has done for them.  It is the same as turning their backs upon the free favor of God.  What could be more tragic!  Sadly, this phrase has been greatly misinterpreted and misused to mean that people can get “unsaved” or lose their salvation.  It does not mean that at all!  It has nothing whatsoever to do to anyone losing their salvation.  This is strictly a doctrinal matter.  The issue at stake here is, How is a person justified?  NOT, can an already justified person lose his salvation.
         Such a fall demonstrates the lack of salvation in the first place, not the loss of it.  Salvation is by grace through faith apart from any works whatsoever (Eph. 2:8-9).  It is gained and maintained by GRACE alone (Rom. 5:1-2).


“For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”

         “For we”
         Literally:  “As for us”

That is, we who are believers, who trust in the Gospel and who are opposed to the legalists.   In contrast to what will be the experience of those who accept the Law, Paul now introduces the experience of the true believer.  Rather than stumbling around on the level of some sort of works-righteousness with its accompanying fears of acceptance before God, Paul speaks of the experience of the true believer.

         “through the Spirit”
         Literally:  “through spirit”

         The definite article “the” is not in the Greek text; therefore, the word “spirit” may ever refer to either man’s own spirit or to the Holy Spirit.  If it is referring to man’s spirit, it would be used as an antithesis to “flesh;” but if it is referring to the Holy Spirit it would denote the indwelling Spirit in the believer. 
         Also, in the original Greek text there is no preposition to express “through” and therefore the notion of an agency is not as a strong  in that phrase as in the next phrase, “by faith.”

         “wait for the hope of righteousness”
         Literally:  “wait for {the} hope of righteousness”

         It is interesting that the Greek verb translated as “wait” literally means, “to receive from out of.”  When Christ comes out of heaven to the “rapture” (translate) the living and to raise the dead, the believer will then receive from Him the completion of his salvation, namely an immortal and in-corruptible body.
         We have the “hope” of righteousness.  We are not waiting for righteousness itself (every believer already has that, which gives us our hope for the future righteousness, and for that matter, for all the future.  The mark of a genuine believer is his “hope” (I Cor. 13:13; I Thess. 1:3).  In Rom. 8:24-25 Paul wrote:  “For we are saved by hope:  but hope that is seen is not hope:  for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?  But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”  Someone has said that this hope is, “the expectation of the final public acknowledgment by God of the believer’s acceptability with Him.”  In this verse we are told that this hope is made, “through the Spirit…by faith.”  The very presence of the Holy Spirit Himself with the life of the believer guarantees his acceptance with God and verifies the validity of his faith (4:6).
         Paul wants these Galatians to understand that legalism and the Law has never delivered even one man from the penalty of spiritual death and the problem of physical death, but faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ has achieved both.  Instead of worrying and working, the believer can look forward to all that God has promised.

“For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”



“For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision” 
Literally:  “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any strength.”

         Paul here is saying that a circumcised Jew who gets saved has no advantage over an uncircumcised  Gentile who gets saved, and the reverse is also true.  Therefore, this means that circumcision is not essential for either justification or sanctification.  Paul is pointing out that there is no more virtue in being circumcised that there is in being uncircumcised.  It is irrelevant in Christ. 
         We are justified through faith, not by what we do.  Our physical conditions, whether they be circumcision or uncircumcision, being baptized or not being baptized, or any other condition apart from faith alone, has no effect whatsoever upon our salvation.  Again I repeat:  salvation is through faith in Christ ALONE!  We are justified only through faith in Christ, not through what we do or not do. 


         “but faith which worketh by love.”
         Literally:  “but faith working through love”

         The question that Paul raises here is not how one becomes a Christian, but how he lives as a Christian.  What is really capable of producing results in the life of the believer is “faith which worketh by (or expressing itself in)  love.”  It is his faith alone that brings him into union with God who comes to live in the believer and sheds abroad His love in the experience of that believer. 
         The Judaizers were claiming that works were necessary for salvation, but Paul is arguing that works were the evidence of the fact that one already has salvation.  The grace of God which saves men also teaches them to deny sin and to live holy lives (see Titus 11-14).  All true believers will be “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14; 3:8).  If we have true faith, we will show love for God and the brethren in our lives, but even that love is not the ground for our salvation and justification.  It is the result and evidence of our salvation.

         The motivation for the works of faith is love.  A true believer will work, not to gain or to keep his salvation, but rather to show his loving gratitude for all that Christ has done for him.  The love of Christ constraineth” him (II Cor. 5:14).  Divine love must be returned by human love (I John 4:19-20).


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