Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
The word 'liberty' describes freedom from bondage and tyranny. Our faith in Jesus' work on the cross has translated us from a place where we were previously bound and under the tyranny of sin. But in Christ, we have liberty. And the Apostle Paul is telling the Galatians to "stand fast" in that liberty. The idea of standing in that liberty describes a person persevering. In other words, no matter what you face whether it be trials, hardships or persecution, the charge is to persevere. Jesus paid a high price for our liberty. Now it is our job to stand fast and not be moved.
If a believer allows himself to be moved from this place of liberty, he will be moving back into bondage. For the Galatians, they never knew God previously. Therefore, they did not understand the Law. So what kind of bondage would they be going back into?
The Galatians were previously under the bondage of sin. They would have worshiped false gods and lived lives of moral failure. To be honest, they were not unlike we used to be. Paul is warning the Galatians that if they do not stand fast in the liberty that Jesus purchased then they will be willingly putting themselves under bondage. They will be trading in one form of bondage for another. They will have stepped away from the bondage of heathenism into liberty only to submit themselves under a new bondage called religion.
Sadly, this is the plight of many in the modern church including myself. I was saved from a life of sin. I woke up one day and sin no longer felt good. Instead, I was in a prison and could not get out. But hallelujah someone told me the good news of the gospel that Jesus died for sinners like me. And when I put my faith in him it was like the words from the old Charles Wesley hymn:
And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior's blood. He died for me who caused His pain! For me? who Him to death pursued? Amazing love how can it be that thou my God should die for me?
Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke; my dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed thee.
Don't be entangled again to bondage Galatians. Don't be entangled again to bondage Christian. Stand fast in the liberty that Jesus purchased for you.
Galatians 5:2-3 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.
Paul was warning the Galatians that if they allowed themselves to be circumcised for righteousness' sake, then they are disconnecting from Christ. Overall, the idea an attempt to do something outward to become more righteous. If they embraced the Law, they would be indebted to the keeping of the whole Law. And since man cannot keep the whole Law, they would be under the Law's curse.
Jesus would not profit them at that point because the grace that Jesus purchased on the cross is not given to a person based on the doing of Law or performance. Instead, it is given based on faith.
Galatians 5:4 KJV
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
Galatians 5:4 NKJV
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
Galatians 5:4 NIV
You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Galatians 5:4 (NASB)
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
I put all these different translations because I wanted you to be able to see the idea being communicated by the Holy Spirit. First, there is a word in the Greek text that describes the idea that Christ has become of no effect to a person who submits Himself to Law. But look at these verbs used by the other translations: estranged, severed and alienated. Christ has become of no affect because the person has been severed or separated from the supernatural grace that flows through faith in Christ.
The word in the Greek describing this process is apo and the idea is "away from." So because of faith in an improper object, Law rather than grace, the believer is moved to a place where they have been severed from Christ and fallen away from grace.
Now there are a few points we must clarify here: (1) For the Galatians, this is a matter of salvation. They are being told that God's plan includes Law. They are being introduced to another Jesus all together. This will result in a separation from the presence of God. (2) Most Christians in the modern church do not believe they have to keep the Law to be saved, but they are taught that they must perform better when they fail. So the answer to their sin problem is to try harder, pray harder, read more, get involved in more ministry, go to another Christian 12 step Bible study... And it is Law that severs from Christ and causes a falling from grace for daily Christian living.
Listen closely! I am not saying that all these people are going to Hell. I don't know if they ever placed their faith in Jesus properly for salvation or not. What I am saying is that if they are trying to live for God through Law, they are severed from the flow of grace that was purchased at Calvary and they are attempting to live for God in their own strength and that is why they are failing miserably.
One last point I want to make about this verse is that when you fail or sin, you do not fall from grace. When you fail or sin, as a Christian, you are supposed to fall into grace. Grace was purchased by Jesus for sinners. Grace is power from God so that we do not fail, but grace is there to forgive us when we do fail.
Galatians 5:5-6 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
This is the way the Gospel works. Righteousness is produced in the life of the believer through the Holy Spirit dispensing grace in our lives. But the Holy Spirit cannot dispense grace into the life of a person who has no access to grace. Access to grace is freely given to the one who has been declared righteous based on faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. You see when we speak of righteousness; we must be reminded that righteousness starts from a position before it can ever become a condition. In other words, if you want your life to show righteousness then you have to be in the righteous one. When you are in Christ, grace produces righteousness in your life and righteous acts flow through you.
It's not circumcision or un-circumcision that allows righteousness to be produced in our lives. Paul is letting us all know that something outward cannot make righteous; unfortunately, this is where most of the church lives. They are always attempting to do more or try harder to make themselves feel better. Instead, it is faith through love. When you were saved, what did you feel? You should have felt overwhelming joy because your burden of sin was removed. If you had any sense His love should have translated to overwhelming love toward the one who died to give you forgiveness. When we exhibit faith through that love, the result is grace and righteousness.
The opposite of love is fear towards God. When a person is not in right standing with God, he is motivated by fear instead of love. A person who is trying to live for God through Law is being motivated by fear rather than love. He is compelled by his fear to do more and try harder every time he fails. But he is never able to find peace because he is separated from the grace that produces righteousness. His attempt to live for God through Law places him in a perpetual curse because he is in a state of perpetual failure because victory requires grace from God.
Galatians 5:7-10 7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.
The tense of the verb ran describes the fact that the Galatians at one time were running the Christian race. When you add the word well, the idea is that they were running the race in an honorable or brave manner, but then someone hindered them.
The idea of the word hindered in the Greek is to cut into or to make an incision. So the overall idea is that the Galatians were doing an honorable and brave job of running the Christian race. They were on the right course, and then another runner cut in on them slowing down their progress.
I wonder how many Christians through the ages have been cut in on? Unfortunately, untold millions have been railroaded by a false gospel as the Galatians were. But it is important that we understand the enemy of our soul has multiple weapons in his arsenal. Yes, he has been known to use addictions, false religion, and family disruption.
But he will also use bitterness. I wonder how many stories are out there of believers who were running an honorable race and then they were cut in on? How many we're doing work for God and the Pastor decided that your service in that area was no longer needed? How did you feel? How did you respond?
Maybe you were married and serving God with your spouse and then they deceived you... they cheated on you. You thought you were running well. You loved God. And now a root of bitterness has cut in on your race. Your progression has been slowed. Will you finish the race child of God?
There are no excuses. Pastors make mistakes just as we do. Spouses are susceptible to the wiles of Satan just like everyone else. Friends and family members are also targets of the enemy’s destruction. In the name of Jesus who loved you and died to purchase your grace, make your move child of God! Move past that thing that has cut in front of you. Repent of your bitterness. Let it go! It will destroy your walk with God. It is slow and insidious, and you will awaken one day and realize you are not even in the race. I know it hurts! I know it is painful! But Jesus didn’t cause the pain. He died to give freedom from the pain.
So the false doctrine of the Judaizers has cut in on the Galatians and moved them away from the truth. When a person is disconnected from the "truth" of the Gospel and moved into a false gospel that teaches another way to victory other than the finished work of Christ, the result is stagnation and a getting off course.
Paul goes on to say that the one who had called them did not tell them to run this way. Then he speaks of a little leaven leavening the whole lump. Recently, we did a study on leaven when we taught the parables. Leavening is the process of fermentation. When yeast or bacteria is introduced into certain food and drink environments, the by- product is the production of carbon dioxide. This serves a purpose of aerating the product in which these organisms were introduced.
However, it is important to understand that when these organisms are introduced into this environment, there is no longer any control of the process. The whole batch becomes tainted and leavened- not just a portion. While it does not happen all at once, it is thoroughly accomplished all the same.
You may find one passage (and that is debatable) in the Bible where leaven is used in a positive fashion. Every other time, leaven is used to describe sin, or more specifically, false doctrine. Listen closely child of God. There are preachers especially on TBN that are preaching a false gospel. It is leaven, and it will insidiously spread throughout the entirety of who you are. It will begin to affect your ability to walk with God because it is false doctrine and it will cut in on your race. Do not get mad! Look at yourself. Look at your walk. If you are walking in victory fine, turn me off. But if you are not, you better listen to what I am telling you, and you better turn the other person off.
Paul finishes this passage by saying he has confidence that if the Galatians will turn to the Lord that their minds will be set straight and they will get back in the race. Ultimately, the ones who have done this to the Galatians will bear their own judgment. Paul assures that it is coming.
You know just as these Judaizers have done wrong to the Galatians, many Christians have been wronged also. Paul's exhortation to us would be to get your mind right and focused on Christ and a proper presentation of the Gospel. Get back in the race. Let God handle the cleanup…people that do wrong, whether they call themselves Christians or not, will be dealt with by God. I don't know about you, but I don't have time to let those hurts cut in on my race...not if I ever want to hear those words, “Well done my good and faithful servant."
Galatians 5:11-12 And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. 12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
The word offense describes a stumbling block- something that is in the way and causes one to trip. The context of this passage compares and contrasts circumcision to the cross. If circumcision was being preached by Paul, then he would be accepted by those that were trying to hold onto the old way of doing things. But because he holds firm to the truth of the cross, it has become an offense or stumbling block.
When Paul says that he wishes that they would "cut themselves off", the Greek has the idea of mutilation. The idea is emasculation. There was an area in the region of Galatia where they worshiped the goddess Cybele. One of the ways that the heathen priests would show their selflessness and devotion to this goddess was to castrate themselves.
This is probably the harshest thing that Paul says in all his writings, but his concern is that the people are being led to drink poisonous doctrine. If cutting off the foreskin is going to make you more holy...why stop there? Go on amputate the whole thing. Mutilate yourself if that is what you think is going to bring you salvation.
For us today, maybe the statement should be...if fasting is going to bring you victory over that sin and 3 days without food and water didn't do the trick maybe you should try 2 weeks without food and water. Of course, the result will be physical death.