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The Letter of Paul to the Galatians: Chapter 5

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1For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

2Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. 4You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working a Or made effective through love.

7You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? 8Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. 10I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. 11But my friends, b Gk brothers why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; b Gk brothers only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self‐indulgence, c Gk the flesh but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment,“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, d Other ancient authorities add murder drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.


a Or made effective

b Gk brothers

c Gk the flesh

d Other ancient authorities add murder

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

2.15–5.1 : Paul's gospel: faith in Christ frees us from law.

4.21–5.1 : The allegory of Hagar and Sarah.

21 :

The law in the Hebrew Bible comprises the first five books, the Pentateuch or Torah.

22–23 :

Gen 16.1–4,15; 21.1–7 .

24 :

Allegory, a method of reading a text that understands the characters, narrative, and other elements as speaking about another reality entirely. These women are two covenants, i.e., Hagar represents those descendants of Abraham who observe the law and Sarah those who through Christ are the true heirs to God's promise to Abraham.

25 :

Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, there are several variants of this text; see note a. Paul's identification of Hagar with Mount Sinai, where the law was given to Israel, is unparalleled.

26 :

The Jerusalem above … our mother, Paul draws on the prophets' vision of the pilgrimage of the nations to the restored Jerusalem (Isa 51.2–6; ch 60; 62.1–2; Zech 2.10–12). Ps 86.5 (Septuagint) (cf. Ps 87.5 ) has the phrase “mother Zion.”

27 :

Isa 54.1; see also Isa 51.2–3 .

29–30 :

Gen 21.9–10 . Genesis does not explicitly mention Ishmael persecuting Isaac, but the idea is found in interpretations of Gen 21.9 .

5.2–6.10 : Practical applications and exhortations.

5.2–12 : Paul's case against circumcision.

A Gentile, Paul argues, who accepts circumcision is seeking righteousness through the law, an act incompatible with faith in Christ.

4 :

See 2.16; 3.10–12 .

6 :

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, 6.15; 1 Cor 7.19 . The alternative faith made effective through love (note a) gives faith a passive sense. It is instigated through love, presumably God's love.

8 :

The one who calls you, God through Christ, see 1.6n.

9 :

Paul uses the same proverb in 1 Cor 5.6 . He is concerned that his opponents will win over the whole Galatian community.

11 :

Some of Paul's opponents may have alleged he was inconsistent in his position on Gentile circumcision, perhaps pointing out that he had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16.1–3 ).

12 :

A negative and bitterly sarcastic allusion to circumcision; see Phil 3.2 .

5.13–6.10 : The behavior of those called in freedom to live by the Spirit.

Paul presents a Christian ethic in reply to those demanding observance of the law from the Galatians.

5.13–26 : Christian liberty.

13 :

See vv. 1,6 . Slaves to one another, mutual submission is an important theme for Paul and his followers, see Eph 5.21; Phil 2.3 .

14 :

Lev 19.18; Mt 22.39; Rom 13.8–10 .

16 :

Desires of the flesh, the self‐indulgence (lit. “flesh”; note c) warned against in v. 13; see Eph 2.3 .

16–17 :

The opposition of the Spirit to the flesh ( 3.3; Rom 8.1–17 ) leads to inner conflict (Rom 7.14–24 ).

18 :

Rom 6.14 .

19–23 :

Catalogues of vices and virtues were a common form of ethical instruction in the Greco‐Roman world (see Mk 7.21–22; Mt 15.19; Rom 1.29–31; 1 Cor 6.9–10; 2 Cor 6.6–7; 12.20–21; Phil 4.8; Col 3.5–14; 1 Tim 1.9–10; 6.11; 2 Tim 3.2–5; 1 Pet 2.1; 4.3; 2 Pet 1.5–7; Rev 21.8; 22.15 ).

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