“Christ has freed us so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. Therefore, be firm in this freedom, and don’t become slaves again” (Galatians 5:1 GW)
Galatians chapter five begins our look at the final section of this important Biblical book. In the first two chapters of this letter, Paul the Apostle discussed his personal experience with God’s grace and his ministerial work from a positive (Galatians 1:21-24) and negative (Galatians 2:11-14) perspective. Galatians chapters three and four then shifted the focus of this epistle to the difference between grace and the Law with support from the Old Testament patriarch Abraham.
Here now in chapters five and six, Paul will close this letter to the Galatian churches with some practical instruction. Much like his New Testament letters to the churches at Rome (chapters 12-16), Ephesus (chapters 4-6), and Colosse (chapters 3-4), the final section of this letter will offer help in implementing the concepts that Paul has developed throughout the previous chapters.
One commentator offers a summary and a preview of what we’ll find in Galatians chapter five…
“Chapter 5 articulates the crucial, practical aspect of Paul’s justification by grace through faith. The Judaizers were concerned that the Gentile Christians would not conform to their conceptions of Mosaic godliness, therefore, they tried to force the OT regulations upon them. However, Paul was equally concerned with godliness, but he affirmed that it is not a result of external rules but of a changed heart (i.e., internal guidance, cf. Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:26,27).” (1)
Finally, the closing portion of this letter to the Galatians reminds us that there are two ways of approaching God: self-focused or God-oriented. A self-focused relationship with God says, “God will accept me if I meet the right performance criteria.” A God-oriented approach says, “Jesus has already met the right criteria and I am made acceptable to God through His sacrifice.”
These two approaches are mutually exclusive. Those who seek to find acceptance with God by following a list of “do’s and don’ts” must abandon salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Those who accept Christ must abandon any attempt to get right with God through their own efforts. As we’ll see, the first approach results in bondage to an external set of regulations. The second approach implements the kind of internal change that leads to genuine freedom.
Of course, its possible to use such freedom in an inappropriate manner. Paul certainly recognized that danger and he will go on to address that concern over the course of this chapter.
(1) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, Galatians 5 Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL07/VOL07A_05.html