Commentary on Galatians, 5:5-12

Galatians 5:5-12

“5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, wait for the hope of righteousness.”

“through the Spirit, by faith”

It’s through the Spirit that we’re convicted of our sins, our eyes opened to the truth, made aware of our need for Christ, our wills freed in order to freely believe (enabled to believe), sins forgiven, redeemed, justified, brought into a right relationship with God, born again (regenerated) as a child of God, and empowered to live the Christian life. Salvation is by God’s grace through our faith in Christ. It’s not we working to merit favor with God, but the Holy Spirit working in us to lead us into God’s favor.

“wait for the hope of righteousness”

We are made righteous at the point of conversion. However, there is an ultimate righteousness that we have to look forward to, when we are finally out of this body of sin, and in the presence of God. That’s the righteousness that Paul has in mind here.

I think it’s significant that Paul uses the word “hope.” I believe the “hope of righteousness” has the idea that ultimate righteousness is conditional, conditioned on an enduring faith. Saving faith is an enduring faith, and not a act of a moment of time. This is something Paul teaches throughout his writings.

“6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any significance, but faith working through love.”

In Christ, circumcision or the absence of circumcision, makes no difference at all. Our salvation does not rely upon having it or not having it. Our salvation is through Christ alone, through faith alone, “working through love.” Though Paul mentions having love for one another in verses 13 and 14, I believe Paul is referring to the love of God for us, since our “righteousness” is the context of what Paul is talking about (John 3:16; Ro 5:8). Salvation does not depend on our working, but faith working in us, as a result of God’s love for us.

“7 You were running so well! Who kept you from obeying the truth?

The Galatian Christians started out well, having received Christ through faith alone. However, when the Judaizers came in with their “distorted” gospel, they added circumcision and works of the law to their faith. In other words, they were no longer relying on Christ alone for their salvation, but were now relying upon personal merit. Paul equates that to not “obeying the truth.” If they were no longer obeying the truth, then it follows, that their salvation was no longer according to truth. In other words, there is no salvation apart from truth. Paul most certainly is teaching conditional eternal security here. The means that got us saved, must keep us saved. Truth must endure in order for salvation to endure.

“8 This persuasion is not from Him who calls you.”

There is only one truth. There is only one true gospel of Jesus Christ. What they were now believing was not from God.

‘who calls”

It’s God who seeks and calls us to His Son. It’s God who initiates and leads throughout the
whole salvation process. In our depravity, we don’t have it in us to seek God on our own. Whenever anyone turns to Christ, it’s a response to God seeking us.

“9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”

Barnes Notes:

“A little leaven … – This is evidently a proverbial expression; see it explained in the notes at 1 Corinthians 5:6. Its meaning here is, that the embracing of the errors which they had adopted was to be traced to some influence existing among themselves, and acting like leaven. It may either mean that there was existing among them from the first a slight tendency to conform to rites and customs, and that this had now like leaven pervaded the mass; or it may mean that the false teachers there might be compared to leaven, whose doctrines, though they were few in number, had pervaded the mass of Christians; or it may mean, as many have supposed, that any conformity to the Jewish law was like leaven. If they practiced circumcision, it would not stop there. The tendency to conform to Jewish rites would spread from that until it would infect all the doctrines of religion, and they would fall into the observance of all the rites of the Jewish law. It seems to me that the second interpretation referred to above is the correct one; and that the apostle means to say, that the influence which had brought this change about was at first small and unimportant; that there might have been but a few teachers of that kind, and it might have not been deemed worthy of particular attention or alarm; but that the doctrines thus infused into the churches, had spread like leaven, until the whole mass had become affected.”

“10 I have confidence toward you in the Lord, that you will not be otherwise minded; but he who troubles you will bear his judgment, whoever he be.”

Paul was trusting God to work in their hearts and in that situation to lead them back to the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, that Paul himself had delivered to them….the only gospel that can save.

“but he who troubles you”

There were probably many who were teaching this perverted gospel message. However, as is normally the case, there was probably a ringleader. Paul himself was always the main speaker, but he always had traveling companions and fellow servants of the Lord with him.

“will bear his judgment”

Everyone is accountable to God. It’s likely that those who were teaching this false gospel, believed in it themselves. Thus, they were not true believers, and would stand before God to give an account for not only rejecting the true gospel, but also teaching it to others. It’s a very serious matter to teach anything that is contrary to the truth. That’s why pastors and Bible teachers need to be diligent students of God’s Word in order to ensure that what they’re teaching is actually the truth. (James 3:1).  That means being honest about what they’re reading, and not to allow positional bias to influence one’s interpretation.

“11 But if I, brethren, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? The stumbling-block of the cross has then been done away with.”

Paul was assuring the Galatians that what he preached was not what they were now believing. He makes the point that if he was not preaching the true message of Christ, he would not be persecuted. Persecution accompanies the truth of Christ. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. That has to do with the fact that Satan works hard against the truth, to promote antagonism and hatred toward Christians. He hates Jesus, and he hates those who belong to Him. Paul tells us that our warfare is spiritual, and that the rulers of darkness are right in the thick of it (Eph 6:11,12).

“stumbling-block of the cross”

There is just something about Jesus and His cross that is  offensive to the world.  People respond in anger and ridicule and hatred, and even with violence. Persecution for Christ goes with the territory.  Persecution for the name of Christ is to be expected, and endured joyfully (Matt 5:11,12). We’re never to be ashamed of our identification with Christ, but to fully embrace it, as the Apostles did (Acts  5:41). Great will be our eternal reward when we do.

“12 I wish that those who unsettle you would even cut themselves off!”

“cut themselves off”

Many translators and commentaries see this as referring to castration. However, I think that may be a bit extreme. What Paul may actually be  talking about is  exclusion from the church. Those who were causing all the trouble should be forced to cut themselves off from having anything more to do with the churches in Galatia.  Kinda like what employers sometimes do: Instead of firing someone, they will  allow them to “quit.” These trouble-makers shouldn’t be allowed to teach their false doctrine anymore. They shouldn’t even be allowed in the Galatian assemblies. The way we’re to deal with heretics, is to ex-communicate them.