Up to this point in the Book of Galatians the Apostle Paul has heavily criticized the doctrinal understanding of the Christian Galatians acceptance of combining the Law and grace. They were being “foolish” in Paul’s judgment. Why place themselves back under a system that previously proved to be futile, if not condemnatory?
In Chapter 5, Paul turns the attention of his readership to the practical side of living a life of grace, in contrast to those attempting to live a life of legalism. Paul begins his survey by examining the utter meaninglessness of the law to a Christian by asserting that regardless if a person decides to be circumcised or not, faith in Christ was the main object for anyone’s salvation. A contemporary comparison would be baptism today. Just because a person gets baptized does not mean that person is justified before God.
Paul then moves to an examination of those legalistic false teachers and the characteristics they exhibit. They hinder the propagation and living of the truth. They are not called of God. Their doctrines, when allowed to proliferate, infect and ultimately subvert whole congregations, much like yeast does with a loaf of bread. Today there are all kinds of similar false teachers and preachers doing the same thing, leading people astray. So, why allow it?
Finally, if a person really wants to fulfill the law in his or her life, Paul’s prescription is golden. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is something that those in Galatian Church could not do by placing themselves under the law to attain their salvation, much like many Christians cannot do today by refusing to even talk to their next door neighbor. Yet Paul, like Jesus, said, “the whole Law is fulled” in that one statement. It does not get any more practical than that.
NEXT: Galatians 5:15-6:5 — The Spiritual Life