The Hope of Freedom: Galatians 5:1-6
“1) It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. 2) Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3) And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4) You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5) For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” Galatians 5:1-6
Paul’s argument now turns to a defense of freedom from the power of sin and the flesh. In Romans chapter seven he concluded that the Law was good, but sin uses the Law to bring people into bondage and captivity. Fallen human nature has no power to liberate itself from the deadly venom of sin.
However, Jesus Christ died on the cross to bring freedom from sin and Satan. He died to free people from the condemnation that comes from being under the Law. The violation of one small point of the Law means a person is guilty of breaking the whole Law. Therefore the Law brings condemnation and death. Why?
In Galatians 5:3, Paul makes it clear that those who choose to live by the Law are under obligation to keep the whole Law. The problem with trying to gain acceptance with God by keeping the Law is that the Law becomes your prosecuting attorney. Your must prove that you have kept the whole Law to be vindicated. Therefore, based on the Law the verdict is always “Guilty.” Why? Because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death. (Romans 3:23 & 6:23)
But those who place faith in Jesus Christ have a radically different verdict. It is always “Forgiven!” Why? Because their sentence was already paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. In this way Jesus sets us free from the curse that is inevitable by trying to be justified by keeping the Law.
Paul then uses circumcision as an example of the futility of starting down the pathway of trying to keep the Law. Circumcision is merely the first step into the bondage of being forced to keep the whole Law. Read Acts 15:6-11 very carefully. Peter was opposed to putting a yoke on the Gentiles that Israel could not bear; but rather he opted for justification by faith as manifest by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling Holy Spirit works through faith to make people clean, but sin works through the Law to make people dirty.
Some argue that Paul was not talking about the whole Law, but rather just circumcision. To them I ask the obvious question; “So on what basis are women sinful before God?” They are not circumcised. What is the basis of their guilt? The answer is simple: the Law stands as a witness against them. They have the same yoke of slavery around their neck as men.
The crux of Paul’s argument in this context comes in verse 4; “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace.” You cannot have it both ways. The system of the Law and the system of grace are in opposition to one another. Let me make a brief comparison.
The system of the Law is based on self works. The system of grace is based on faith in the finished work of Christ. The system of the Law is dependent on human flesh to be good and righteous. The system of grace is dependent on the inner work of the Holy Spirit to make people good and righteous. The system of the Law leads to guilt, fear and death. The system of grace leads to forgiveness, a clear conscience, agape love and life. The system of the Law leads to condemnation. The system of grace leads to forgiveness. The system of the Law leads to bondage and a yoke of slavery. The system of grace leads to freedom and acceptance in the family of God as joint heirs with Jesus.
Paul was trying to get the Galatian Christians to understand the utter futility of trying to combine the two systems. It might be easier to mix water with oil than blend the Law and grace. Verse 5 explains Paul’s resolve; “But we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.”
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global
The Hope of Freedom: Galatians 5:1-6