Commentary on Galatians, 5:1-4

Galatians 5:1-4

For a more detailed explanation of this passage, click on the link below:

Severed and Fallen….Galatians 5:4

“1 It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand fast therefore, and do not be entangled again to a yoke of slavery.”

Paul is telling the Galatians that Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and of the law. He tells them, therefore, to “stand fast. Don’t drift from the freedom that we have in Christ. Don’t place yourself back into slavery, for you are free.” If they do entangle themselves again to a “yoke of slavery,” then that means they are no longer free, or rather, they no longer possess salvation. We are either slaves to sin, or we have been freed by Christ. It’s either one or the other. It can’t be both.

“2 Behold, I Paul, say to you, that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no gain to you.
3 Indeed, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.

“Christ will be of no gain to you”

KJV:  “Christ shall profit you nothing”
NAS:  “Christ will be of no benefit to you”
NIV:   “Christ will be of no value to you”
LEB:  “Christ will profit you nothing”
ESV:  “Christ will be of no advantage to you”
HCS:  Christ will not benefit you at all”
NKJ:  “Christ will profit you nothing”
NLT:  “Christ cannot help you”

I think it’s really, really clear that if the Galatian Christians chose to be circumcised in order to secure their salvation, then Christ would be absolutely of “no gain” to them. He would be of “no value” whatsoever to them. How can Paul say it any plainer than that? If they chose to add to their faith, and rely upon circumcision, and other aspects of the law (Gal 4:9-11), to gain their salvation, then in their pursuit, they would actually, instead, lose their salvation. For salvation is only comes through faith alone, in Christ alone.

I guess at this point, for those who don’t believe the Bible teaches conditional eternal security, I would ask you this: How can we reasonably and responsibly interpret no gain, profit you nothing, no benefit, no value, no advantage, cannot help you, any other way except in its normal sense? What other words could Paul use to make it any clearer that these Galatians Christians would forfeit their salvation if they continued down this road they were on? 

“he is a debtor to keep the whole law”

Paul wants them to know that if they receive circumcision for the purpose of attaining salvation, then they’re obligated to keep the whole law, which of course, is not possible. If this is the path they choose to take, then they again place themselves under a system that has no power to save. Paul is repeating what he said earlier:

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ Now that no one is justified by the law before God is evident, for ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ However, the law is not of faith, but ‘the one who does them will live by them.'” (Gal 3:10-12)

In placing themselves back under the law, they place themselves back under a curse. If one is under a curse, then they can’t be in possession of salvation at the same time, as Paul indicates in the next verse:

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law…”  (Gal 3:13)

We are either under the curse of the law, or we have been “redeemed from it” by Christ. It has to be one or the other. Paul tells the Galatians plainly that if they choose to rely upon the law, then they place themselves back under the curse of the law, and obviously, there is no salvation in that. On the contrary, Christ came to “redeem” us from it.

“4 You are separated from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace.”

“You are separated from Christ”

KJV:  “Christ is become of no effect unto you”
NKJ:  “You have become estranged from Christ”
NIV:  “have been alienated from Christ”
NAS:  “You have been severed from Christ”
LEB:  “You are estranged from Christ”
ESV:  “You are severed from Christ”
HCS:  “are alienated from Christ”
NLT:  “You have been cut off from Christ”

No matter which translation we use, they all mean the same thing. If the Galatian Christians chose to “be justified by the law,” rather than by faith alone, then they’re no longer in union with Christ. They have been separated from Him. Christ, and what He did for them, is no longer “effective” in their lives. In other words, Christ has (become) “No effect” (KJV) on their spiritual condition whatsoever, as if they had never known Him. 

There simply isn’t any reasonable way around what Paul is declaring about the spiritual condition of the Galatians who have strayed from the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, in favor of  a gospel that is “distorted” or “perverted” (Gal 1:7). They have “fallen from Grace,” which means if they’re no longer under the grace of God, then they’re back under the law with its demands for total obedience.

Conditional eternal security is hard for many Christians to see and accept, but we must be willing to follow the truth wherever it leads. I think Paul leads us down a clearly marked path in this passage.