Sunday Evening Bible Study

March 24, 1996

Galatians 5:1-12


Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.

After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.

The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew, and that started by being circumcised.

Last time, Paul was used the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar to talk about the difference between trying to accomplish God's will through waiting for the promise, versus trying to accomplish God's will through the flesh.

God had promised offspring to Abraham, and when it didn't happen right away, the idea was cooked up to help God out with Abraham taking Sarah's servant, Hagar, and having a child with her.

And thus Ishmael was born.

But God's kept His word, and Sarah too had a child, the promised son, Isaac.

Paul said that Hagar was a picture of the flesh, trying to accomplish God's will through human efforts, just as the Judaizers were trying to achieve God's pleasure through their own works of keeping the Law.

And Hagar was a servant, a slave, a bondwoman.

When we are trying to accomplish God's will in the flesh, we become slaves.

But Sarah was a picture of salvation through grace, as God was able to keep His promise, not through any human scheming, but simply by His own hand.

In contrast with Hagar, Sarah was a free woman, the wife of Abraham.

We ended with:

Galatians 4:31  So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

It's a shame there's a chapter break here, because this same theme of Sarah vs. Hagar, free versus slave, grace versus law, is carried on into the next chapter.

:1-12  Stand fast in the liberty of the gospel

:1  Stand fast

How can you be "fast" when you're standing?

steko - to stand firm; to persevere, to persist; to keep one's standing

Paul is telling these believers to stand firmly where they are, in the liberty of Jesus.

:1  the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free

Jesus died to purchase our freedom from slavery.

We've already read:

Galatians 3:13  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

The idea is that we had been enslaved to the Law, and everytime it cracked it's whip over our heads, we'd have to jump in obedience.

But one day we were put up for slave at the slave auction, and Jesus stepped up and bought us out of our slavery.

And then, though legally belonging to our new owner, Jesus,  Jesus turns around and sets us free.

Rather than try to please God by obedience to the Law, we find that God has already taken care of everything that is required to please Him.

It's kind of like the gifts your kids sometimes buy you for your birthday.

Who really paid for the gift anyway?  You did.

God has paid the price of satisfying Himself.

And now all God wants is for you to trust Him, and let Him work in your life.

But when we go back to legalism, trying to please Him by obeying the Law, it's kind of like spitting in the face of all that God has done for you.

:2  if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing

circumcised -

Not in the sense that circumcision was of itself a bad thing.

God commanded Abraham to be circumcised, and he did it!

Even Paul took Timothy and had him circumcised so he wouldn't be offensive to the Jews.

Acts 16:3  Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

But for Paul, this wasn't done in any way for Timothy's salvation, but for the sake of the unbelieving Jews, so that Timothy could be better used to minister with Paul to these Jews.

We need to keep the whole context of Galatians in mind, and so here the circumcision that Paul is talking about is when a person is being circumcised, thinking that this was necessary for salvation.

Christ shall profit you nothing -

This is a pretty heavy statement!

If they choose to be circumcised under these circumstances, then it shows that the Galatians are trusting in the Law of Moses for salvation, and not just Jesus.

Salvation is not based on Jesus plus something else.

Salvation is based on Jesus only.

It's only the fact of Jesus dying to pay for our sins that saves us.

John Gill:  Christ is a whole Saviour, or none at all; to join anything with him and his righteousness, in the business of justification and salvation, is interpreted by him as a contempt and neglect of him, as laying him aside, and to such persons he is of no profit; and if he is not, what they have, and whatsoever they do, will be of no advantage; wealth and riches, yea, the whole world could it be gained, their works and righteousness, whatever show they make before men, God has declared shall not profit them; and trusting to these renders Christ unprofitable to them.

B.W Johnson:  They, Gentile Christians, could not thus become Jews and remain Christians. It would be proof of trust in Moses rather than Christ, in the law rather than in the gospel.

Mathew Henry:  Christ will not be the Saviour of any who will not own and rely upon him as their only Saviour.

:3  every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law

These people, by becoming circumcised were showing that they believed that they must follow the law to obtain salvation.

But if you're going to follow the law, you need to follow the entire law!

Deuteronomy 27:26  Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.

:4  ye are fallen from grace

This is a very hard saying.

Paul is saying that these people, in trying to be made right before God by following the Law, have fallen out of the "sphere of grace" into the "sphere of the Law".


Bad doctrine can take you away from Jesus.

I'm not positive he's saying that they've lost their salvation, but it sure looks awfully close to it.

Yet even if they have lost their salvation, the whole point of the letter is clear, they must come back to that place of simple trust in Jesus for their salvation.

Even if they've lost it, they can come back.

:5  For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

wait - apekdechomai - waiting for with effort, persistence, and intensity

hope of righteousness -

Not the idea of hoping that one day we'll receive righteousness, because that has already happened.

the "hope of righteousness" is the hope of heaven, which is the reward of righteousness.

Those of us as Christians, trusting in Jesus, are eagerly waiting for the day when we'll receive the reward of the righteousness that Jesus has already given to us.

Just as Abraham and Sarah had to learn to wait for God's promised child, Isaac, and to wait for God to do it, so we simply wait for God to do work and one day bring us to heaven as the reward for all the work that He's done for us.

:6  neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision

When we're trusting in Jesus, we find out the bottom line that circumcision doesn't do a thing.

That's why Paul could have Timothy circumcised, because it really didn't change anything, other than physically.

But because it really doesn't do anything, that's why it's so dangerous to be trusting in it.


It's like saying that you're going to trust in your imaginary friend, Barney, to do your grocery shopping.

Trusting in Barney doesn't help you, nor hurt you, except if you really are expecting to see food in your refrigerator.

That's also why it's so dangerous when people trust in whether or not they've been baptized.

Baptism doesn't do anything really, except tell people what you believe.

1Peter 3:21  And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

:6  but faith which worketh by love

We might say it this way, "The only thing that's important is faith that is doing works through the influence of love."


Faith, works, love

There are three elements to this phrase -

First, (faith)

It must be through faith that salvation is received.

It is not earned by working, it is received by believing.

Ephesians 2:8-9  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Secondly, (works)

Paul would agree with James when he says,

James 2:17  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

It's not just some kind of faith that never produces anything in your life.

But if it's a real faith, it is a faith that will produce certain activities in your life, certain works.

The works are produced because the faith is the real faith.

Don't put the cart before the horse - it's not the works that produce the faith, it's the faith that produces the works.

You can't tell God that you'll clean up your life, and then start trusting Him.

You must trust Him, and then let Him clean up your life.

Thirdly, (love)

It's not just any, ordinary works that will be produced by this kind of faith, but works that are influenced through love (agape).

1Corinthians 13:3  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

If the good works that are coming out of your life aren't being motivated by love, then they're bogus, worthless!

How do you do works that are motivated by love?

Start by letting God love you so much, that you can't wait to express your love back to Him.

1John 4:19  We love him, because he first loved us.

:7-12  What happened?

:7  Ye did run well; who did hinder you

Paul describes the Christian life as a race.

The Galatians were running well, but now they've tripped and stumbled over something.

These bad teachers have caused them to stumble.

The writer to Hebrews (some say it's Paul) wrote:

Hebrews 12:1-3  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

We read this and think about how easily sin can come in and trip us up in our race with the Lord.

But we don't often think about how a bad teaching, or a bad doctrine can trip us up as well.


Bad Doctrine can stumble your walk!


People who have come from the "Name it and claim it" churches have been deeply hurt and disillusioned, wondering why God doesn't answer all their prayers like these wealthy pastors.  How come I am going broke?  Do I lack faith?  Is there sin in my life?

Other churches teach such a strict doctrine of submission to your elders, that the pastors and elders are literal tyrants over the people in the church.

People in the churches like the Jehovah's Witnesses, where they teach you can't have a blood transfusion, and then their children die of a disease that could have simply treated with a blood transfusion.

:7  that ye should not obey the truth?

These people were so caught up in the bad doctrine, that they weren't being obedient to what the truth says.


Get in the truth, and obey it!

There's plenty of truth in God's Word.

It's up to you to get into it, meditate on it, study it, and then obey it!

:8  This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you

The teaching of these Judaizers did not come from Jesus.

Let me say this again.

The teaching of these Judaizers did not come from Jesus.


Jesus doesn't give you bad doctrine!

If someone comes into the church and receives a revelation that goes contrary to God's word, that person did not receive it from God!

Test the spirits!

Judge the prophets!

Don't let your head get spinning just because someone says something with the tone of voice of somebody important!

:9  A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump

Paul uses this in 1Corinthians 5 to talk about how sin spreads in a church.

If you don't deal with open, blatant, sin, then it will start to spread from one person to another.

I see you sinning, and not getting spanked by the Lord, and so I think, "Gee, maybe I can get away with it too!" or, "I guess it's not that important for me to deal with sin!"

But now he's using it in talking about doctrine.


Deal with the bad doctrine.

If you let it go, then it will begin to spread.

And spread.

And spread.

:10  I have confidence in you through the Lord

NIV - I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.

This is neat of Paul to say this.

As tough as he's been on them, he has this confidence that they'll do the right thing in the Lord.


Try to have a positive hope for people you minister to!

It makes me sick when I hear a pastor talk about his congregation and how lazy they are, or how carnal they are, or how unappreciative they are.

When I hear that, I think to myself, "With a pastor like that, no wonder the people don't grow in the Lord!"

You need to give people a break, and hope in the Lord that they will grow, maybe even more than you!

Personally, I am awed at how God is working through all of you.

I get so thrilled when I hear stories from you about how you felt prompted to talk to this person or that person, and how God was able to use you ...

:11  And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?

Apparently, some of the Judaizers were even saying the Paul himself was teaching people to be circumcised.

Yet Paul says that if that were the case, then why were so many others persecuting him?

:11  then is the offence of the cross ceased

To the Jews, the preaching of the cross of Jesus was a stumbling block, an offensive thing.

1Corinthians 1:23  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

If Paul were to preach circumcision instead of the cross of Christ for salvation, then this stumbling block would be taken away from these Judaizers.

:12  I would they were even cut off which trouble you

cut off - apokopto - to cut off, amputate

Paul may be using this word in the Jewish sense of "cutting off" a person from fellowship, such as excommunication.

But it's a little ironic the way that he uses it here.

He's been talking about circumcision, the very ritual that the Judaizers were so proud of.

Circumcision is a "cutting around" of the foreskin.

And so Paul here, rather than wishing them to be circumcised, wishes these false teachers to be "cut off".


God is serious about false teachers.

He doesn't see a place for tolerating them.