Thursday, August 30, 2007

Galatians, Chapter 5

Circumcision is certainly not a fun topic to talk about, especially if you're a guy, but in the fifth chapter of Galatians Paul illustrates a fantastic point pertaining to the practice. As we saw in chapter four, Abraham's life was one of promise built on faith. Part of that promise was the handing down of the covenant of circumcision, which became a major tenet of the Jewish faith. By the time Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians Christ had obviously come and changed the rules a bit, but they were still hung up on maintaining the law. Part of that law was circumcision.

In the beginning of chapter five we see Paul turn this on its ear. He pretty much confronts the Galatians by saying, "Okay, you're all about practicing the law and maintaining its traditions. If you're going to do that you had better follow all of the law." That's we're life gets tricky, doesn't it. We want to follow the laws we like, but when we are called on the carpet against the laws we don't like, yet we're expected to obey all of the law, suddenly it's not so important. This is what we see in the beginning of chapter 5.

"3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. – Galatians 5:3-6

How beautiful is that last sentence: "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." The love he is talking about here is Christ's love, and that is a love that is more pure than anything we can possibly imagine. Christ has absolutely no value in earthly customs, and He asks only that we believe in Him and love Him. The gift for this is of course a very nice perk, that being life eternal with Him. His love then manifests itself in the form of His Holy Spirit.

"16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." Galatians 5:16-18

What does the Spirit do in our lives? Sometimes it is easy to forget that the Trinity itself is in action today. Personally I find it hard to wrap my mind around what exactly the Trinity is. It's the same thing, yet it is three different, distinct parts. What is alive and working in the world is the Holy Spirit, and that is what we turn to when we are living in the spirit. In the above verses we see what it means to live in the Spirit, because if we are not living in the Spirit then we are ripe to succumb to our own sinful desires.

A friend of mine recently posed an interesting theory about living in the Spirit. At a recent Bible study session he proposed the idea that if we were always able to keep our eyes on Christ, never faltering in our devotion or wandering away from Him even for a second, we would be unable to sin. When you think about that isn't that what living in the Spirit means? Unfortunately it is not our nature to always do what the Spirit desires. We instead trip ourselves up and follow our sinful nature. As we see, that is a conflict with what the Spirit leads us to do.

Paul closes the chapter with an interesting dichotomy. When he lists the sinful desires you will notice that as you go through the list almost everything on it has some kind of regulation placed against it today. Hatred can lead to fights, which is against the law. Too much drunkenness can get you arrested. Things such as these are often heavily regulated and it is highly unadvisable to practice them in public. Taken strictly as a list most people would view these things as bad traits and practices.

In the second list, the one that lists the fruits of the Spirit, there is no law against them. You can love as much as you want without hurting. You can have as much joy as you can stand. All these are good, simple virtues any right-minded person would agree upon. Even taking the Spirit out of the equation on both lists, which list would be viewed as good and which would be viewed as bad? The Spirit wants what is best for us, and we can do little wrong to allow it into our hearts.


  1. How is Christ's love professed by His faith in us?
  2. Why do some people see the cross as offensive, like Paul states in verse 11?
  3. How do you see your own sinful nature trying to take over, even when you are seeking the Spirit?