Practical: Exhortations Based on Liberty
Galatians 5 – 6
 
Galatians 5 – 6. The two main sections of ch.5 can be correlated to the two exhortations at the end of the allegory in the previous chapter. First, how to deal with the bondwoman (vv.1-12); i.e. liberty as a result of understanding our position in Christ. Then, how to deal with the bondwoman’s son (vv.13-26); i.e. liberty as a result of walking in the flesh. In ch.6 we have a series of exhortations that give us a composite picture of what liberty looks like in action (vv.1-10). This is followed by a powerful conclusion (vv.11-18) in which the motives of all are exposed, and Paul earnestly pleads with the Galatians to listen.
 
  

Liberty as a Result of Understanding Our Position: Justification (5:1-12)

Christian liberty is an important subject in the New Testament. The basic principle is this: the Christian has been set completely free from every kind of bondage in order to do the will of God. The believer has been set free from the tyranny of indwelling sin (Rom. 6:7). Those who were once idol-worshiping Pagans have been set free from their bondage to Satan (Gal. 4:8). Those who were once Jews under law are no longer in bondage to law but are under grace (Romans 6:14). As those who are under grace, we have been liberated from the requirements of the Law, and every other "yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1). Having been set free in grace, there is liberty for the indwelling Spirit to act in our lives; "the perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25). When we are enjoying the liberty we have been brought into, our communion with God and our service for Him will be completely unhindered! In the whole wide world, the only people who are truly free, are the genuine disciples of Christ; "If ye abide in my word, ye are truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:31-32).

Read more… In Galatians particularly, the danger is of coming under the bondage of the law.

Exhortation to Stand Fast in the Truth of the Christian Position (v.1)

CHAPTER 5
Christ has set us free in freedom; stand fast therefore, and be not held again in a yoke of bondage. v.1 The very first exhortation is to “stand fast”. There is nothing more to be gained by working. “Christ has set us free in freedom”, and He wants us to stay free! The last thing we should do is fall into a yoke of legal bondage. Notice that it says “a yoke”… the definite article is absent, allowing for a broad application of the yoke to any form of bondage. These Galatians were never under the Mosaic law, and this exhortation applies to any legal system. If we are not “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1), we will not “stand fast in liberty”, and therefore we will “fall from grace” (v.4). It is very possible for Christians, in pretended spirituality, to set up human standards by which to measure themselves and others. These standards are a law, and they produce “a yoke of bondage”. Sometimes believers see weakness and worldliness coming in, and they want to stop the decline, so they set up a standard. It seems like a good idea, but it will only backfire. They will not achieve what they want to achieve by setting up a moral standard. “For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats [ceremony], which have not profited them that have been occupied therein” (Heb. 13:9).

Three Reasons why We should Stand Fast (vv.2-4)

  1. Law-keeping practically nullifies the work of Christ (v.2)
  2. Law-keeping is all or nothing (v.3)
  3. Law-keeping puts distance between the soul and Christ (v.4)
2 Behold, I, Paul, say to you, that if ye are circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. v.2 Reason #1: Law-keeping practically nullifies the work of Christ. By saying “I, Paul,” he invokes his apostolic authority. The was a serious error, and it called for divine authority. How solemn for Christian’s to teach otherwise! Paul here isn’t saying a circumcised person cannot be saved. It is more like “if you get circumcised after this”, then the work of Christ is set aside by your actions. Any amount of law-keeping sets aside the work of Christ. If you do 50%, and Christ the other 50%, the work of Christ will not help you because you will fail in your 50%! Even if Christ did 99% and you did 1%, Christ would still profit you nothing. Legalism nullifies the practical effect of the work of Christ. “Thus, not only is Christ a complete Saviour, but He is an exclusive one. The attempt to add to Christ is in fact to destroy salvation by Christ.”1 In ch.4 we learned that bringing Judaism into Christianity is really idolatry. In ch.5 we learn that bringing Judaism into Christianity insults the work of Christ. Note that he says “Behold, I, Paul, say to you, etc.”. He speaks as one who had been an ultra-legalist himself.
 
3 And I witness again to every man who is circumcised, that he is debtor to do the whole law. v.3 Reason #2: Law-keeping is all or nothing. If you try to do any part of the law – even the ceremonial parts, you become responsible to keep all the law – including the moral parts, because you are leaving the principle of grace. You are either resting on grace alone or the works of the law alone: there is no middle ground! People talk about polarizing an argument, and how it is not fair to formalize two moral poles in a debate setting, yet that is what the Holy Ghost (by inspiration through the Apostle Paul) does here! You are living by either the principle of grace alone, or works. Trying to mix the principles of grace and works will only result in the principle of works (Rom. 11:6). In God’s sight the ceremonial law is linked with the moral law. You cannot separate the rite of circumcision from the whole system of law, even though circumcision existed prior to the ten commandments. The ceremonial law is thoroughly cross-linked and integrated with the moral law. Bringing in any small part makes you a debtor to do the whole law, and thus it brings the curse, because “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). The law is on a different principle than grace. To take up with any part of the law is to put yourself on the ground of your own responsibility before God. That is a ground we cannot take, because we have sin in us. James says “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).
 
4 Ye are deprived of all profit from the Christ as separated from him, as many as are justified by law; ye have fallen from grace. v.4 Reason #3: Law-keeping puts distance between the soul and Christ. Every Christian blessing is “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) and enjoyed by the Spirit. Legalism had distanced the Galatians from Christ, and thus taken away the enjoyment of those blessings. The expression “fallen from grace” does not mean that they had fallen into immorality, but they had added law-keeping to the work of Christ for justification, and thus regressed from the only principle by which God justifies. One who has “fallen from grace” is a believer that has ceased to live by the principle of grace (a higher principle that rests on the sovereign grace of God for righteousness) and has begun to live by the principle of law (the lower principle of works as an effort to be acceptable to God). They have “fallen” from the principle of grace down to the principle of law; a “foolish” thing (Gal. 3:1). This verse is sometimes taken out of context by supporters of Conditional Security to say a Christian can lose their salvation. Ironically, this very verse condemns their position, because by denying the sovereignty of God in salvation, they put themselves on the ground of man’s responsibility, and thus under law.
 

The Practical Superiority of Waiting and Working by the Spirit (vv.5-6)

v.5  – Faith is the principle to live by – counting on God alone.
  ↓   – Spirit is the power indwelling that allows us to live for God.
  ↓   – Hope is set before us to anchor our souls.
v.6  – Love is the motive for Christian service.
 
5 For we, by the Spirit, on the principle of faith, await the hope of righteousness. v.5 Waiting: the assurance of coming glory. By beginning “For we…” Paul is drawing a contrast between faith and legality. He unfolds something those of faith have that legalists can never have. That is, those who rest on the principle of faith have the assurance of salvation. Notice that it says “hope of righteousness” not “hope for righteousness” (NIV). We already have righteousness by faith; that is the truth of justification (Rom. 5:1). But the hope of righteousness is the hope (deferred certainty) of glorification… of one day being with Christ in the “glory of God” (Rom. 5:2) and being perfectly suited to His presence.2 The point is, that we are simply “waiting” for the hope of righteousness, while the legalists are “working” for righteousness.
 
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any force, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love. v.6 Working: faith acting through love. But while we do not work for righteousness, we do work. Faith works, not to earn a righteous standing, but because it is motivated by love. Love is the mode by which faith works. There will not be any fruit if love is not the motive. Love is a far more powerful motivator that the law. Meanwhile, in the Christian position (“in Christ Jesus”) neither ceremony nor lack of ceremony has any practical effect. Here is how love works: see diagram.
 
 God’s love in Christ ⇒  the believer  ⇒ Love toward God
 ⇒ love toward others

The Leaven of Legality: How it Enters and Spreads (vv.7-12)

v.7   v.8   v.9
Someone (“who”) brings it we let them persuade us it spreads
 
7 Ye ran well; who has stopped you that ye should not obey the truth? 8 The persuasibleness is not of him that calls you. vv.7-8 To be persuaded into legality is not of God. The Galatians had been going on well before they had gotten ensnared in legalism. This question of “who” tells us that a specific person had come bringing the evil doctrine. Paul is shocked by their “persuasibleness”. It is true that the movement toward the legal system was not of God, but he is really rebuking them for allowing themselves to be persuaded away from the truth. “Him that calleth you” is God. It is a good thing to have a good beginning. But it is much better to have a good ending. Are we standing firm in the liberty of grace?
 
9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. v.9 Evil spreads, if left unjudged.

Leaven in scripture is always a symbol of evil, and often of evil doctrine as well; e.g. "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matt. 16:6). As in physical baking, leaven is characterized by its infesting and spreading character. Yeast works in this way to create evenly spaced bubbles in bread. The Church is warned twice that evil must be judged, or the whole will be corrupted; in 1 Cor. 5:6 it is in connection with moral evil, and in Gal. 5:9 in connection with doctrinal evil.

Read more… It seems shocking at first that legality would be considered on par with fornication. But then, doctrinal evil is the more dangerous, because the natural mind tends to view it only a differences of opinion instead of positive evil. Also, which is worse: to murder, or to teach that it is acceptable to murder? The doctrine is more serious. Without right doctrine, the means of addressing moral evil is lost. This is why Paul’s rebuke of the Galatian error is even stronger than that of the Corinthians (Gal. 3:1). Galatian error strikes at the foundation of the gospel. Evil doctrine will spread through the whole assembly, if it is not judged. As an application, another point is that evil doctrine in one area will spread to other areas of doctrine, because the whole of scripture is interconnected.
 
10 “I” have confidence as to you in the Lord, that ye will have no other mind; and he that is troubling you shall bear the guilt of it, whosoever he may be. v.10 How deliverance could happen. Paul believed that the majority would be delivered from the mire of legalism by the Lord, who would cause the Galatians to receive this letter. He had confidence, not in them, but “in the Lord”. He knew that they were “after the pattern of Isaac, the children of promise” (Gal. 4:28). Deliverance from legality (and any evil doctrine) begins by reading and agreeing with scripture! We need to have “no other mind” than what God says in His word. If we do not bring our thoughts into subjection to the Word of God, human wisdom will enter and wreak havoc. But there would be governmental judgement on the leaders; “he that is troubling you shall bear the guilt of it, whosoever he may be”. God would take care of the evil workers. This ought to have made the true believers among the Galatians regard the Judaizers with dismay.
 
11 But “I”, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why am I yet persecuted? Then the scandal of the cross has been done away. v.11 Legality appeals to the flesh because it wards off persecution. Paul’s action of circumcising Timothy was being used by the Judaizers against Paul, to show that Paul was really a proponent of Judaism. This was not true. Paul had not compromised his principles with Timothy, but had rather used his Christian liberty to circumcise Timothy. What the Jews wanted was to reject Timothy because of his mixed background, so Paul had him circumcised! The case of Titus (Gal. 2:3), whom Paul did not compel to be circumcised, made Paul’s position very clear. Also, the constant Jewish persecution of Paul was evidence that he did not preach circumcision. When we compromise the gospel, the “scandal of the cross” vanishes. Think of how easy it would have been for the reformers, like John Huss to recant their position. If we just bring in a little of natural religion, the world will accept our religion. But if we stand fast in grace, there will be persecution. 
 
12 I would that they would even cut themselves off who throw you into confusion. v.12 Legality eventually backfires. Paul wished calamity would overtake to the Judaizers. He makes a play on words. They were teaching that men must be circumcised in order to be saved, but Paul wished they would accidentally cut themselves off! The thought is that their system of teaching would mutate and turn around and mutilate them; that they would somehow fall under their own teaching. “Let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall” (Psa. 35:8).
 

Liberty as a Result of Walking in the Spirit: Sanctification (5:13-26)

In this section, Paul turns more to the practical side of liberty. To understand our position in Christ is the first step, but we also need to walk in a way that feeds the new nature, and starves the old. This is what it means to “walk in the Spirit”, the details of which follow. Many Christians understand that we are justified by faith not law, but they wrongly believe that practical holiness is by the law.3 Galatians 5 is a foundational chapter on the subject of deliverance from sin. Read more… The great lesson from this section is twofold: (1) the law can never provide deliverance from sin, and (2) deliverance comes through the presence and power of the Spirit of God.
  • The right and wrong use of liberty, love emphasized (vv.13-15)
  • The law cannot control the flesh, but the Spirit can! (vv.16-18)
  • The law can’t produce Christ-like qualities, the Spirit can! (vv.19-23)
  • Normal Christianity with regard to the flesh and the Spirit (vv.24-25)
  • Deliverance from the primary result of legality (v.26) 

The Right and Wrong Use of Liberty (vv.13-15)

13 For “ye” have been called to liberty, brethren; only do not turn liberty into an opportunity to the flesh, but by love serve one another. v.13 It is beautiful to see that the Christian calling is “unto liberty”. The Christian has been set completely free from every kind of bondage in order to do the will of God. This is the subject of Christian liberty. Read more… However, there is a danger that we might fall into the trap of license. We must understand that license can be just as detrimental to liberty as legality. Just because we are not under law doesn’t mean we have liberty to act in the flesh. There is a danger for those who have been trapped in the legal system, once they leave it, to cast off all restraint; e.g. 1 Sam. 14:32. Very often Christian liberty is used as an excuse for self-will and even sin. But divine love is the proper motive for Christian service. Love will regulate our use of liberty, and prevent us from being selfish in it. Rather than living for ourselves, we will seek to please others.
 
14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;” [Lev. 19:18] v.14 The man-ward part of the law is fulfilled by the command to love (see Matt. 22:35-40). Notice that this command was not even one of the ten commandments. Love is the proper use of liberty, not self-service. The Galatians were trying to keep the law, and they were failing altogether. The Christian who is motivated by love will fulfill the whole law, without being under it! In fact, we exceed the Mosaic law by loving after the pattern of Christ. The Mosaic law is the lowest standard possible for God to have fellowship with man; it still was “as thyself”. Our standard is far higher (Gal. 6:2).
 
15 but if ye bite and devour one another, see that ye are not consumed one of another. v.15 Sadly, the Galatians were an example of the kind of behavior that results from trying to keep the law for a holy life. How sad! They were not serving one another by love; they were tearing each other apart! In fact, they were in danger of being “consumed” in their biting and quarreling. This is a common symptom of groups of believers where legality has made inroads; constant competition and infighting. The law can be destructive.

The Law Cannot Control the Flesh, but the Spirit Can! (vv.16-18)

¶ 16 But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall no way fulfil flesh’s lust. v.16 What is the means of producing Christian holiness? The law? No. The only way to enjoy deliverance from sin is to “walk in the Spirit”. To walk in the Spirit is to think, act, and talk in the sphere of the Spirit’s occupation; i.e. in the interests of Christ. To walk in the Spirit is to obey every impulse of the indwelling Spirit. A good illustration has been used of an automobile. You can have the most powerful engine under the hood, but that engine is useless at the bottom of a hill if there is no gas in the tank. The engine is like the believer’s new nature… it has capacity and desire to please God. But it requires the activity of the Spirit of God (the gasoline) to power it. The Christian has the Spirit of God indwelling, but there is a need to occupy ourselves with the things of the Spirit (like filling our tank), so the Spirit will have liberty to act.
 
17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these things are opposed one to the other, that ye should not do those things which ye desire; v.17 Why is walking in the Spirit the only way of getting deliverance from sin? Because there is a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. The only thing that can oppose the flesh is the Spirit. The law will only strengthen the flesh; for “and the power of sin the law” (1 Cor. 15:56; see Rom. 7:8-11). The last part of v.17 is very commonly misunderstood; “that ye should not do those things which ye desire”. This is not the same as Rom. 7:19; “for the good that I would I do not”. Gal. 5:17 verse is saying that the Spirit is what will allow you liberty from the desires of the flesh. The “things I would” in Rom. 7 are the desires of the new nature, which he is powerless to perform. The “things ye would” in Gal. 5 are the flesh’s desires, which we are able to deny because of the Spirit. This is important because v.17 is NOT teaching that the believer is helpless against the flesh. If that were the meaning, it would conflict with v.16, which promises deliverance for those who walk in the Spirit!45
 
18 but if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under law. v.18 Paul lays stress on the point that neither deliverance from sin nor a holy life come from being under the law.6 When someone is in bondage under law, the Spirit does not have liberty to lead them. The two are mutually exclusive. To walk in the Spirit is to be led of the Spirit. That means we do not execute our activities according to a list of rules, but rather following the urges of the Spirit. Note: this doesn’t mean the Christian life is unorganized. Rather, it means that the Christian life is to be lived in total submission to Christ! Someone who is led of the Spirit of God will never put themselves under law.
 
Three soul conflicts. There are three soul conflicts spoken of in the New Testament. It is important to keep them distinct in our minds, or we will fall into error. For example, we might confuse the conflict of the two natures with the conflict between the flesh and Spirit. It might lead us to think that practical Christian holiness is a hopeless cause. Thanks be to God, that is not true!
 
# Reference  Combatants
Solution to the conflict Applies to:
(1) Rom. 7:7-25 The old nature & the new nature  Believe the Gospel and be sealed A quickened soul that is not sealed
(2) Gal. 5:16-25 The flesh & the Spirit  Give the Spirit its proper place  A Christian that is in a bad state
(3) Eph. 6:10-20 A Christian & the Devil  Put on the whole armor of God  A Christian that is in a good state

The Law Cannot Produce Christ-like Qualities, but the Spirit Can! (vv.19-23)

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strifes, jealousies, angers, contentions, disputes, schools of opinion, 21 envyings, murders, drunkennesses, revels, and things like these; as to which I tell you beforehand, even as I also have said before, that they who do such things shall not inherit God’s kingdom. vv.19-21 The Works of the Flesh. The terrible and unchanging character of the flesh is now presented. These sins are called “works” as opposed to “fruit” because they are produced by the efforts of man under law (v.18). Actually, the law only inflames the flesh and will result in the outcropping of these works (see Rom. 7:8-14, the experience of a quickened soul under law). Being put under law will only encourage the flesh to rise up and break the commandment. It is like putting blood in front of a shark. Another point to remember is that the flesh is capable of the same things in believers as the sins of unbelievers; c.p. this list with the catalog in Romans. “They who do such things” are those who habitually practice these things and are characterized by them. They will be damned; for they “shall not inherit God’s kingdom”. This is not talking about a brother overtaken in a fault (Gal. 6:1). A believer may fall into one of these sins, but a true child of God will never be damned. The apostle’s point is that God judges the sinner for their actual sins, not merely for rejecting the gospel. Paul brings this out to show believers the seriousness of sin, not to bring into question their Eternal Security. See also Eph. 5:5-6.
 
Category Sins against…  Romans Galatians
moral our bodies  Rom. 1:24-27 Gal.5:19
spiritual God  Rom. 1:21-23 Gal. 5:20a
social fellow man  Rom. 1:28-32 Gal. 5:20b-21a
 
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is (1) love, (2) joy, (3) peace, (4) long-suffering, (5) kindness, (6) goodness, (7) fidelity, 23 (8) meekness, (9) self-control: against such things there is no law. vv.22-23 The Fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit produces both good “works” and “fruit”. But here “works” aren’t taken up so much as “fruit”. Fruit is the moral features of Christ reproduced in the life of the believer (see John 15). Works (plural) flow from that character (singular). Fruit is the effortless product of the new nature given liberty through the Spirit. Just as a plant bears fruit true to its species (Matt. 7:16), the fruit of the Spirit will be Christ-like qualities. It is one fruit with nine parts. In nature, the only fruit that has nine parts is the pomegranate, which was to be replicated on the priests’ garments in the Old Testament, along with bells. These nine qualities should characterize our walk as Christians, because we have the Spirit of God indwelling is! The law cannot control the flesh (vv.16-18) and cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit (vv.19-21), yet the law is not against these Christ-like qualities; “against such things there is no law”. We must remember when taking up this subject that the law is not evil, and it is not our enemy. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12). The problem is with us; i.e. our sin nature. The law in itself is not bad, but law-keeping is a bad idea.
  1. Love. The first and primary work of the Spirit of God in our lives is to “shed abroad the love of God in our hearts” (Rom. 5:9). When this happens, we are filled with the realization of God’s unconditional love, that caused Him to send His Son to die for us. This agápe love is “love of a settled disposition”. This means it has nothing to do with feelings. Being filled with the love of God, we will show that same love to others, the same way God loves us; not because of something good or desirable in the object. The law cannot make a person love. Only grace can do that.
  2. Joy. When we have a sense of God’s love, the natural result is to be filled with a deep, inward joy! We have so much in Christ that our hearts can overflow with genuine gladness. Paul could say, in spite of suffering, “rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). Self-occupation, which is what legality results in, will never produce joy.
  3. Peace. When we understand the place we have in Christ, and what the love of God has done for us, we are filled with a deep, inward peace. We know that our security is entirely in the hands of a faithful and loving God, and that we rest on the finished work of Christ! Legality puts us on the ground of our own responsibility before God, and therefore results in fear and anxiety. It isn’t so much peace with God; that we have as a result of justification. It is more the peace of God.
  4. Long-suffering. If we are established in grace, we will find it easier to be patient with others. When injustices come our way, we will be willing to suffer it. Why? Because we will remember that God has been very patient with us, and it would be out of character to treat another with less courtesy that we have been shown by our Father. Legalists tend to be impatient, because they are always comparing others to themselves.
  5. Kindness. In a similar way, when walking in the Spirit, we will be kind to others. We will reflect “the kindness and love of God our Savior” to a lost world, which knows very little of true kindness. To be kind is to be protective of the helpless, generous to the needy, forgiving to the offensive, and gentle with all.
  6. Goodness. God is good, and those who are filled with His Spirit will reflect that quality. Goodness is moral perfection. It is having good motives, and carrying those motives into action. By nature, man is not good. But the Christian has a new nature, and the Spirit of God as the power to act on the impulses of that nature. Goodness involves the motive as well as the action.
  7. Fidelity. The seventh quality is fidelity toward God. Fidelity is faithfulness to God. Walking in the Spirit will make us trustworthy servants of God. We will be sincere in our commitments to Him, and will therefore walk in obedience to His Word.
  8. Meekness. The Spirit will also reproduce the meekness of Christ in our lives. “Meekness” is not giving offense. It is connected in scripture with gentleness; “by the meekness and gentleness of the Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1). Christ Himself is the perfect example of meekness. Also we might think of Moses who is called the meekest man that ever lived (Numbers 12:3).
  9. Self-control. In some cases, self-control is the quality least seen in the lives of believers, especially those living in affluent countries like the United States. Our whole culture urges us to have as much of everything as we can get; food, sex, entertainment, etc. This is not self-control. The secret to having “self-control” is to offer our lives up to the Spirit’s control. Legality may seem at first like a good way to curb the appetites of the flesh, but it actually does the opposite (Rom. 7:7-11)!
The first three qualities are spiritual; they govern our state of soul (love, joy, peace). The next three qualities are social; they govern our interactions with others (long-suffering, kindness, goodness). The last three qualities are moral; they govern our moral character (fidelity, meekness, self-control).

Walking in the Spirit is Normal to Christianity (vv.24-26)

24 But they that are of the Christ have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts. v.24 To be a Christian is to have accepted God’s judgement on the flesh which took place in the cross of Christ (Rom. 8:3). This is a one-time thing done when we receive Christ as our Savior. When we believed the gospel we said ‘Amen’ to God’s judgment of the flesh at Calvary. There is an ongoing need for spiritual circumcision (see Col. 3:5), but that is a different thought. This is “normal” Christianity. If you are grappling with the flesh, trying to reform it with law, you are not walking in the proper Christian position.7
 
Three things that the cross delivers us from.8 There is a progression with these things. We need deliverance from one first, before we can clearly see the other, and so on.
  1. Gal. 3:13 – the cross delivers us from the law (specifically Jews).
  2. Gal. 5:24 – the cross delivers us from the flesh.
  3. Gal. 6:14 – the cross delivers us from the world.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us walk also by the Spirit. v.25 This is an exhortation to walk consistently. We have been sealed with the Spirit of God, and now our Christian state is, in the absolute sense, “in the spirit”. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Rom. 8:9). We must walk practically in that sphere. You might say, ‘since we are fish, let us swim in the water’. Walking in and by the Spirit of God is our natural habitat. We cannot expect to flourish spiritually if we are feeding the flesh. On the contrary, we can expect to flourish if we feed the new nature!
 
26 Let us not become vain-glorious, provoking one another, envying one another. v.26 Failure to walk in the Spirit had resulted in fleshly competition in the assemblies of Galatia. To become vain-glorious (proud) or to envy one another is to be on the principle of law in our souls; i.e. “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves” (2 Cor. 10:12). Paul has presented the solution in this chapter. If there is strife among brethren, it is a result of walking the flesh rather than in the Spirit. In the following chapter, Paul gives us a description of what true liberty looks like, and it is the opposite of what is described in v.26.
 

Liberty in Action: Results of “Walking in the Spirit” (6:1-10)

Liberty in Action. Each of these things are characteristic of a believer that is walking in the Spirit. Also, these are things that a legalist wouldn’t be found doing.
  • Liberty… restores a fallen brother (v.1)
  • Liberty… undertakes for others in the sorrows/cares of life (v.2)
  • Liberty… remains humble in spirit (v.3)
  • Liberty… conscientiously fulfills individual responsibilities (vv.4-5)
  • Liberty… abounds in generosity and good works (vv.6-10)

Liberty Restores a Fallen Brother (v.1)

CHAPTER 6
Brethren, if even a man be taken in some fault, ye who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest “thou” also be tempted. v.1 Legalism occupies us with self and hardens us toward a fallen brother. The law could only condemn one taken in a fault. Grace is disposed to restore. The onus is on those who are spiritual. “Ye which are spiritual” refers to those who are walking in the Spirit, and enjoying true liberty. Not every child of God is spiritual; for example the Corinthians were denounced as being carnal rather than spiritual (1 Cor. 3:1). The mark of true spirituality is the willingness to restore. It is also a rebuke to the legalists, who boasted themselves of great spirituality, but were in fact acting in the flesh. A legalist wouldn’t restore a fallen brother because he views the one that sinned as inferior to himself; “the Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican” (Luke 18:11). Restoration ought to be done in the spirit or attitude of “meekness” (Gal. 5:23), which is not giving offense, and “lowliness” (Eph. 4:2) which is not taking offense. The only thought we should have of ourselves is, “I could have done the same thing.” Self-judgment in addition to spirituality is required to help restore another. Someone who is habitually judging themselves will be able to help another judge themselves. The class of wicked persons (1 Cor. 5) should not be confused with one who is “overtaken in a fault”.
 
Restoration. When a man is “overtaken in a fault”, who is he to be restored to? Is it merely to his brethren? No. Restoration is first to the Lord. In fact, restoration is the Lord’s work (Psa. 23:3; Luke 24:15). Those who are spiritual can be used by God in the restoration process. This can involve bringing the fault before the person, bringing out scripture to them, and praying for them. It is a very difficult work, and it requires patience and love. Here it is not so much gift that is in view, although pastors must be spiritual to be effective. Nor is it office, although overseers must be spiritual as well. This verse describes the state of soul required for one to do that work.

Liberty Undertakes for Others in the Sorrows and Cares of Life (v.2)

¶ 2 Bear one another’s burdens [‘baros’], and thus fulfil the law of the Christ. v.2 The second thing a liberated soul can do is bear the burdens of others. The word ‘burdens’ here is different than in v.5. Here it is ‘baros’, and it has the thought of a pressure which can be transferred to another or shared. It is used in Matt. 20:12; “the burden and heat of the day”. A different word for “burden” is used in v.5. How do we do this? I believe the primary way we can share one another’s burdens is by sympathizing with them, but also by prayer and giving. If we do bear one another’s burdens, we will actually fulfill a law; not the law of Moses, but “the law of Christ”. The ten commandments did not require an Israelite to bear the burdens of another. The law of Christ is the Christian’s standard, and it is far higher than the law of Moses. What did Christ do? We read, for example in Isa. 53:4 (quoted in Matt. 8:16) that Jesus bore the griefs and carried the sorrows of those around Him. He lived a life of total sacrifice for others. This is our standard! (Note that there is no curse attached to the law of Christ, as there was with the law of Moses.) Legalists do the opposite. Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees of binding “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne” on others, but meanwhile “they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matt. 23:4). Some have abused this scripture, and put themselves under bondage. It is possible to take up the words of Christ to His disciples, such as in the Sermon on the Mount, as a legal code, and so doing, encounter a more fiery law than was given from mount Sinai. Sadly, this is what many Christians do. We need to realize that fulfilling the law of Christ is the automatic fruit of walking in the Spirit.

Liberty Remains Humble in Spirit (v.3)

3 For if any man reputes himself to be something, being nothing, he deceives himself; v.3 The third thing a liberated soul can do is maintain a humble spirit in their spirit. Legalism leads to pride and a sense of self-accomplishment. The law says, “love your neighbor”, but meanwhile occupies one with self. We see this with the Pharisees; “he [Jesus] marked how they [Pharisees] chose out the chief rooms” (Luke 14:7). The principle of works always occupied one with self. People take up with the law because they believe there is something good in man. This is, as Paul states, nothing more than self-deception. If we manage to keep some part of the law, we are filled with pride. If we fail in some part (inevitable), we are filled with self-disappointment, which can branch into morbid self-introspection on the one hand or hypocrisy on the other hand. Grace makes nothing at all of man, because it rests all on the finished work of Christ. Therefore, the mind is free to be occupied with others, and not self. This is perhaps a rebuke at the false apostles among the Galatians who were propping themselves up to be something great, when they were really nothing. They were fooling themselves.
 
Pride and Laziness. As you can see from the punctuation, v.3 and vv.4-5 are closely connected. Those who are full of themselves, thinking they are more than they are, are prone to take credit for the work of others. We see this clearly with the religious leaders at the time of Christ (see Matthew 23:4). On the other hand, those who remain humble in service will be conscientious and diligent workers, because they recognize our true place relative to our Lord and Master.

Liberty Conscientiously Fulfills Individual Responsibilities (vv.4-5)

4 but let each prove his own work, and then he will have his boast in what belongs to himself alone, and not in what belongs to another. 5 For each shall bear his own burden [‘phortion’]. vv.4-5 The fourth thing a liberated soul can do it be faithful in “his own work”. We are all responsible for our own labor and its results. Paul does not say this to put us on the ground of our own responsibility before God as to justification. He is speaking of practical responsibilities. The Judaizers were stealing the fruit of Paul’s labors. The word for ‘burden’ in v.5 is a different Greek word than in v.2. Here it is the word ‘phortion’, and it has the thought of a special load, like freight assigned to a ship. Jesus used it in Matt. 11:30, saying “my burden is light”. It is not wrong to share our sorrows with others (v.2), but it is wrong to push our responsibilities off on others (v.5).910 It should be remembered that, though we are responsible for our own burdens, we are never alone. We are still yoked with the Lord Jesus, who said; “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.

Liberty Abounds in Generosity and Good Works (vv.6-10)

¶ 6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teaches in all good things. v.6 Scripture shows that it is right and proper for believers to financially support those that serve them (1 Cor. 9:9; 1 Tim. 5:18). In fact, this is one of the scriptural uses for the collection, although this verse is the individual aspect, while we get the collective aspect in Phil. 4:14-16. Read more… This is God’s way of supporting the ministry of His word. Christian giving is always to be the exercise of the one giving. Giving should never be by compulsion, although modern evangelical methods of fundraising often stoop to that level. Legality results in restricted hearts, but grace results in liberal hearts.
 
¶ 7 Be not deceived: God is not mocked; for whatever a man shall sow, that also shall he reap. 8 For he that sows to his own flesh, shall reap corruption from the flesh; but he that sows to the Spirit, from the Spirit shall reap eternal life: vv.7-8 The government of God brought in in connection with giving. There is scarcely a more practical and foundational subject in that Word of God than the subject of God’s government in the lives of sinners and saints. Read more… The basic principle is this: because God is righteous and sovereign over all things, He generally rewards people on earth according to their deeds, whether good-for-good or evil-for-evil. The government of God is universal in that it applies to all people, whether believers or unbelievers, and across all dispensations (e.g. 2 Sam. 12:14). Paul nicely summarizes the government of God in v.7, illustrating it with the example of agriculture. We understand that, in agriculture, the plants that grow out of the ground are the same kind as the seed that you sowed earlier. If you plant beans, you should expect to get a crop of beans. In the same way, Paul says, “he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:8). Reaping “from the flesh” is governmental judgment. Sometimes God will mitigate the consequences of that judgment if there is repentance. Reaping “from the Spirit” will be in the spiritual realm, not the natural realm. Believer’s may reap materially (e.g. “good days”, 1 Pet. 3:10), but it is more often spiritual (e.g. “life eternal”, v.8). In the Old Testament, reaping was primarily material because their blessings were earthly. Our blessings are spiritual and heavenly. Some have thought to get rich through Christian giving, but God warns us about the folly of desiring to be rich (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Eternal life here is looked at, as it usually is in Paul’s ministry, as something the believer will have with Christ in glory; i.e. a future aspect. In John’s ministry it is looked at as a present possession. Read more… Reaping in the negative sense is often in this life. We will not reap “from the flesh” in heaven, although we may suffer loss at the judgment seat of Christ. Concerning the government of God, even the Gentile world is aware of this, and will say when a liar or cheat gets hurt accidentally, or when a pious person wins the lottery, “they got what they deserved”. Not only will we reap according to the kind of things we have sowed, but according to the measure we have sowed. Paul affirms in 2 Cor. 9:6 that “this is true, he that sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly”. You can’t expect to sow a little kindness and reap much. It is something we are easily deceived about. One great misconception that people have is that God will not not exercise his government. Paul warns against this: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked”. Since he says “be not deceived”, it is clearly possible that we might be deceived. To continue willfully in sin is to mock God. 
 
9 but let us not lose heart in doing good; for in due time, if we do not faint, we shall reap. v.9 The government of God works positively and negatively. Often we speak of it only in the negative sense, as a warning against sinful deeds, but the principle applies to doing good. The context of reaping here is in a positive light! The reaping time (for sowing to the Spirit) isn’t necessarily now.11 There may be near term blessing that results from sowing to the Spirit, but our true reward is at the end of the pathway. It is easy to lose heart. We need to be reminded of the coming day of manifestation and be occupied with grace. Grace does not encourage lawless behavior; rather, it results in good works!
 
10 So then, as we have occasion, let us do good towards all, and specially towards those of the household of faith. v.10 The exhortation “do good to all” is very broad. We are to actively look for opportunities to do good. Doing good can often nicely be coupled with presenting the gospel. But our first responsibility is towards “the household of faith”. The principle of grace does not give license to sin, in fact it does the opposite, and it results in good works.
 

Conclusion: A Summary, Motives of Both Sides Exposed (6:11-18)

¶ 11 See how long a letter [in how large letters] I have written to you with my own hand. v.11 In those days, busy people would dictate and a scribe would write. The only inspired letters Paul wrote out with his own hand were Galatians and Philemon. Ordinarily, Paul would dictate to a scribe (or an amanuensis, such as Tertius), and he would sign with his own special signature to validate it (2 Thess. 3:17). However, this letter to the Galatians was of such urgent importance that Paul wanted to hold the pen. The result of Paul writing with his own hand, was that the printing was in “large letters”; i.e. block letters. This was likely a result of him not being used to writing.12 Some believe that Paul’s poor eyesight was involved (Gal. 4:15). At any rate, the fact that Paul would insist on writing with his own hand shows his deep concern over these poor Galatians. Personal references are absent, as a contrast to other epistles. Perhaps the absence of personal salutations is because of their low state. Yet Paul wished to show them, by taking the pen in his own hand, how much he was concerned for them.
 
12 As many as desire to have a fair appearance in the flesh, these compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not be persecuted because of the cross of Christ. 13 For neither do they that are circumcised themselves keep the law; but they wish you to be circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh. vv.12-13 The Judaizers’ motives are exposed: self-glorification, fellowship with the world, and a life of ease. They wanted to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ. The Judaizers were looking for “a fair appearance in the flesh”. It was an outward form they were interested in. What are we looking for? Are we trying to get our brethren into line, to appear a certain way? Or do we want to see hearts changed by grace? In Christendom today, often the emphasis is on outward forms. Tithing, attending church, etc. are not equivalent to real godliness. In fact, those outward things can be enforced without any inward reality. For example, a person can be circumcised without having faith. What is the motivation for compelling outward conformance to a standard, in this case circumcision? Paul answers; “they wish you to be circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh”. It was really selfishness. If you can get someone to jump through hoops and conform to an outward appearance then you have got them under your control, and it eases your conscience as you continue in sin. This is often the goal of those who spread legalism. In v.13 we find that the Judaizers weren’t truly living holy lives. They were trying to bring the Galatians under law to get a following, not because they were interested in producing holiness.
 
14 But far be it from me to boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. v.14 Paul compared the glory of the flesh to the shame of the cross. Religion allows man to continue in sin without acknowledging his guilt before God, and therefore religion is compatible with the world. The “cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” is totally incompatible, because it is the judgment of this world (John 12:31). The cross is the end of all this world glories in. Paul gloried in the cross, which would not give prominence to man, but rather is a symbol of the utter ruin of the first man. When we embrace the moral significance of the cross, the world will appear in a different light… as a distasteful thing. To the legalist, the world is glimmering and attractive. But to the spiritual Christian, the world is the enemy’s camp. The cross declares that the world is at open war with God. In that way the world is crucified to the believer. But on the other hand, the believer is crucified to the world. While we cling to the cross, we bear the shame a reproach of it; and the world will want nothing to do with us. It goes both ways: (1) the cross takes me out of the world, and (2) is takes the world out of me. Think of two countries in a state of war. Worldliness is at the root of many troubles that Christians experience, but the cross is the cure for it. Read more…
 
15 For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision; but new creation. v.15 If the cross of Christ separates us from the world (v.14), then the resurrection of Christ brings us into a new creation (v.15)! Ceremony and forms belong to the fallen old creation. The death of Christ has delivered us from the old creation, and His resurrection has brought us into the new. Read more… When Christ rose from the dead, He became the beginning and head of a New Creation (Rev. 3:14) where sin can never come! It is into this new creation, far beyond the reach of sin, that we have been brought; “if any man be in Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Paul’s point is that the law and its ceremonies have nothing to do with the new creation. Ceremony (“circumcision”) or no ceremony (“uncircumcision”) make no difference. Neither have status there. All God is looking for, and all He sees in the new creation, is Christ. How careful we need to be to not bring the things of the old creation into the new!
 
16 And as many [Gentiles believers] as shall walk by this rule, peace upon them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God [Jewish believers]v.16 We are to measure everything by “this rule” (or standard), in contrast to the law. The law was the rule of the old creation, but Christ Himself is the rule of the new creation. The law is NOT the Christian’s rule of life… Christ is! Rather than impose a standard to govern our moral behavior, we should be occupied with Christ, and pass judgment on anything that is not in keeping with His character. Paul prayed for peace and mercy upon two classes: (1) “as many”, referring to the majority, the Gentile believers among the Galatians, and (2) “the Israel of God”, who were the believing Jews, which are the only part of Israel acknowledge by God.13 In his warnings against the effect of the Judaizers, Paul remembers that there is still an election according to Grace (Romans 11:5). This verse has been erroneously used by covenant theologians to support replacement theology. The Church, they say, is the “Israel of God”, replacing historical Israel. First of all, nowhere in scripture do we read that the Church has replaced Israel. Furthermore, to show the foolishness of this position, we can simply ask who are the “many”? Clearly, Paul is referring to Christians of Jewish ethnicity as “the Israel of God” in contrast with the false Judaizing teachers.
 
¶ 17 For the rest let no one trouble me, for “I” bear in my body the brands of the Lord Jesus. v.17 Having fully defended the gospel by the power and inspiration of God, Paul has made a watertight case. “For the rest”, the only remaining option for the Judaizers to “trouble” Paul on his mission would be a personal attack, portraying his motives as selfish. The “brands of the Lord Jesus” (scars of persecution) would prove Paul’s faithfulness to the cross, and silence every month. These brands identified Paul’s true Master: it was “the Lord Jesus”. The Judaizers had no such scars. The marks of the Lord Jesus are contrasted here with the mark of circumcision. These wounds were inflicted by Jews, mostly. The thought of brands is that which would mark a slave with the name of his owner. Paul’s scars showed that his Master was the Lord Jesus.
 
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen. v.18 The law brings the curse, but Paul prays for grace. Legality had made their spirits harsh. Where there is not an appreciation of the grace of God to us, there will be a lack of grace with us. The Galatians were biting and devouring one another… grace is what they needed. How wonderful to find an assembly that is permeated by the spirit of grace. Also, grace was needed because it can be very hard to take a stern rebuke like the book of Galatians.
 
The Importance of Having a Right Spirit. As the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9), the Lord is correcting our attitude. There are a number of times where we are exhorted to have a right spirit at the very close of Paul's epistles. Each occasion corresponds to a circumstance where is would be easy to develop a bad attitude or spirit:
  • 2 Timothy 4:22. It is easy to get a bad attitude when we look around a see failure in a day of public ruin.
  • Galatians 6:18. It is easy to get a bad attitude when we have been carrying on in a legal way, and when we have been corrected.
  • Philemon 25. It is easy to have a bad attitude when called on to forgive one who has offended us.
 

Footnotes

  1. Kelly, William. Lectures on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.
  2. “The hope of righteousness”… And what is that? That I shall be with Christ in the very same glory that He has. For this the believer is waiting. –  Kelly, W. Lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians.
  3. At this natural division the Spirit of God recurs to the thought of liberty with which He had opened the chapter. It is put forward in a twofold point of view. Liberty as a question of justification we had in the early part; liberty now we have as that which leads into, and ought always to be connected with, practical holiness. For we must remember that this is the subject-matter of the remainder of the chapter. Now there are many persons who more or less understand that Christ has brought us liberty in the matter of righteousness, or the standing of justified men in the sight of God; but they do not know liberty in the daily walk with God. –  Kelly, W. Lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians.
  4. The Holy Ghost, then, says, “In order that ye may not do the things that ye would,” The very point of the verse is this. He was showing them why they were called upon to walk in the Spirit; and what was the true preservative against the lusts of the flesh. … the Holy Ghost is an inward power, identifying Himself with the affections of the soul, and giving strength to desires after what is good, and against natural lusts, or any way in which the flesh may show itself. … Though the lusts of the flesh are there, you have the Spirit, too, in order that you may not fulfil those lusts. If what we have in our version, “so that ye cannot do the things that ye would,” were correct, it would be like blowing hot in the one verse and cold in the other. He would be telling them in one verse that they must walk in the Spirit, and in the next that they cannot do it after all. Such a rendering carries its own refutation on its face. I press this the more strongly, because it is a practical point to christian people. – Kelly, W. Lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians.
  5. It is not “so that ye cannot,” but “in order that ye might not.” – Darby, J. N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. G. Morrish, 1940.
  6. The Spirit of God it is which enables a Christian man to walk aright, not the law. – Kelly, W. Lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians.
  7. He shows that all that are Christ’s have gone through the great question of what was not His: they have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. They have submitted, by faith, to the sentence of death on all their nature — they have “crucified the flesh.” – Kelly, W. Lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians.
  8. Kelly, W. Lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians.
  9. The words for “burden” in vers. 2 and 5 are different; ver. 2 is the same as Matt. 20:12; ver. 5 as Matt. 11:30. – Darby, J.N. A New Translation. Galatians 6:2
  10. In fact, we have here the two great practical principles of Christianity: the one is active energetic love [v.2], which bears the burdens of others; and the other is personal responsibility [v.5]. – Kelly, William. Lectures on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.
  11. This reaping, plainly, is in glory. We are not to expect it here. We may meet with that which is sweet and grateful, but we are not to be surprised if we do not. – Kelly, William. Lectures on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.
  12. The apostle wrote himself, and, from not being used to writing, he drew attention to the large characters in the epistle. – Kelly, William. Lectures on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.
  13. Two parties are spoken of, and not one only. “As many as walk according to this rule,” are rather the Gentile believers; and the “Israel of God” are the Jewish saints, not the mere literal Israel, but “the Israel of God;” the Israelites indeed, whom grace made willing to receive the Saviour. – Kelly, William. Lectures on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.

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