Setting

Having established the doctrine of liberty in Christ, Paul urges the Galatians to remain steadfast in this liberty and not be entangled again by the yoke of bondage. Then he goes into the practical applications of this doctrine, expounding the true meaning of Christian liberty in our daily living.

Key Verse

(5:18)

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Outline

  • Standing Fast in the Liberty in Christ
    (5:1-12)
  • Walk in the Spirit
    (5:13-26)
  • The flesh versus the Spirit
    (5:13-18)
  • Works of the flesh
    (5:19-21)
  • Fruit of the Spirit
    (5:22-23)
  • Death of the flesh and life in the spirit
    (5:24-26)

Segment Analysis

  • 5:1-12

    1.

    How does verse 1 function as a transition?

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    The word “therefore,” is a clue that this verse is a conclusion to the previous passages. In the preceding paragraph, Paul showed that believers who are born of the Spirit are the children of the freewoman and heir to the promise. Thus, 5:1 exhorts them to stand fast in the liberty they have already found in Christ. The second part of this verse warns against becoming entangled again by the yoke of bondage, and it leads us to the elaboration of this warning in the following verses.

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  • 2.

    According to verses 2 to 4, what are the consequences of attempting to be justified by the law? Explain each.

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    1. “Christ will profit you nothing.” For a Christian who goes back to the yoke of the law to be justified by works, the cross has lost its meaning. He has forsaken Christ, and he will not benefit at all from the saving grace of Christ.

    2. “He is a debtor to keep the whole law.” Anyone who chooses to be circumcised to fulfill the law has also chosen to obey all the statues and regulations of the law perfectly. Since he rejects the saving grace of Christ and seeks justification through his own works, he has to bear the burden of paying for his debts to God if he ever fails to keep even one letter of the law.

    3. “You have become estranged from Christ… you have fallen from grace.” Attempting to be justified by the works of the law means forfeiting the free gift of justification God has given to us in Christ.

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  • 3a.

    What three aspects of a Christian life are found in verses 5 and 6?

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    Hope, faith, and love (cf. 1Cor 13:13; 1Thess 1:3; Rom 5:1-5; Col 1:4-5)

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  • 3b.

    How are these aspects related to one another? Apply this to your life.

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    Our hope of salvation is built on our faith in God and His promises (“wait…by faith” in verse 5). Our faith in Christ is not merely an abstract concept but is demonstrated by works of love (“faith working through love” in verse 6).

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  • 4a.

    As believers, we have been justified by faith. Why should we still “wait for the hope of righteousness by faith”?

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    Although we have been justified by faith, we still confront the challenges of sin and flesh while we wait for the final realization of our deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:18-21). Thus, we look forward to the coming of “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2Pet 3:13).

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  • 4b.

    What does it mean that we wait eagerly “through the Spirit”?

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    Our hope is not through the works of the law but through the Spirit by faith (cf. Gal 3:2). The Holy Spirit is a seal that guarantees our inheritance. Having begun by the Spirit and experienced a foretaste of God’s glorious promise through the Spirit, we eagerly wait for the redemption of our bodies as we walk in the Spirit in this life (cf. Rom 8:23)

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  • 5.

    Identify the several references in verses 7 through 12 to the works of the Judaizers.

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    They hinder the Galatians from obeying the truth (7), persuade them not to obey the truth (8), trouble them (10), and persecute preachers of the gospel (11).

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  • 6.

    Why is the cross offensive? Have you suffered persecution as a result of the offense of the cross?

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    For the legalists, the cross of Christ is offensive because it removes all grounds for boasting about man’s merits. See also 1Cor 1:18-25.

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  • 5:13-26

    7.

    How can the liberty in Christ be misunderstood and misused?

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    The liberty is sometimes misunderstood as freedom to commit sin. As believers in Christ, we have been set free from the burden of earning a righteous standing before God, but that does not mean that we start living unrighteous lives. Christians must also practice righteousness (1Jn 3:7). The Scripture teaches us that we have become the slaves of righteousness after Christ has redeemed us from the bondage of sin, and we should live to God by leading righteous lives (Rom 6:1-23).

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  • 8.

    What does the word “flesh” mean here?

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    Sinful desires.

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  • 9.

    Have you experienced the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit? What is the solution, according to this passage?

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    To be free from the lusts of the flesh, we ought to walk in the Spirit (16, 25) and be led by the Spirit (18). We need to submit to the renewing power of the Holy Spirit and bear the fruit of righteousness through the Holy Spirit.

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  • 10a.

    Record and study the list on the works of the flesh in 19-21.

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  • 10b.

    What is the consequence of practicing the works of the flesh?

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  • 11a.

    Record and study the fruit of the Spirit as stated in 22 and 23.

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  • 11b.

    Why does the Scripture uses the word “fruit”? How is the analogy of the fruit an apt description of a Spirit-led life?

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    Just as a tree bears fruit because it has life, we can practice righteousness only if we are connected to the life of God and depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as a good tree would not be fruitless or bear bad fruit, a Spirit-filled life would be accompanied by good works (Mt 7:16-20).

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  • 12a.

    Record what this section says about the law.

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    All the law is fulfilled in one word: love (14). If we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law (18). There is no law against the fruit of the Spirit (23).

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  • 12b.

    Is a Spirit-filled life contrary to the law? What can we learn from this passage about the true meaning of liberty in relation to the law?

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    The fruit of the Holy Spirit is by no means contrary to God’s law. In fact, it fulfills the requirements of the law (cf. Rom 3:31; 8:3-4). Whereas the works of the law seeks to carry out the letter of the law superficially, the fruit of the Spirit is an outflow of the righteousness of God from the heart (cf. Rom 2:29). In this sense, we are freed from the curse of the law and mere outward observance, that we may live out the spirit of the law by faith in Christ and the power of the Spirit.

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