Galatians 5 – A Commentary – Part 1

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Messiah has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

A common misunderstanding of the phrase “yoke of bondage” is that it refers to the law of Yahweh. This is a huge mistake and has led many into lawlessness and sin.

A “yoke” is a harness that joined two animals together so they could pull a plow as one. The weaker animal was in bondage to the stronger in that where the stronger animal went, the weaker had to follow. Both, however, were in bondage to the farmer. In context, the “yoke of bondage” does not tell us who or what the bondage was to or who or what was enslaving people. Can they have been in bondage to the law?

Deuteronomy 4:8 And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

Deuteronomy 10:13 To keep the commandments of Yahweh, and His statutes, which I command you this day for thy good?

These two verses teach us that Yahweh gave a righteous law to Israel for their good. How, then, can it be a bondage? Did Yahweh deliver Israel out of Egyptian bondage only to put them in bondage to His law?

There are other things that bring people into bondage. Here is one written about in Galatians.

Galatians 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

The “elements of the world” refers to the traditions and commandments of men (Colossians 2:8, 20- 22). It does not to refer to the things of Yahweh, but of the world. All men, whether Jews or Gentiles, were or are in bondage to the elements or rudiments of the world. Yahweh’s law redirects an individual to walk in obedience to a righteous law.

Another form of bondage is found in Galatians 4:21-31. The key verses are:

Galatians 4:24-25 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which genders to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

Galatians 4:30-31 Nevertheless what says the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

The Apostle Paul is talking about the Sinai covenant (Old Covenant) in which the law was given and the New Covenant through Messiah Yeshua. The former leads to bondage and the latter to freedom. How does the Sinai covenant lead to bondage? Through breaking it.

1 John 3:4 Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Whenever the law is broken it is sin. Sin puts a person in bondage. We become “servants of sin” when we allow sin to rule over us.

John 8:34 Yeshua answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin.

Romans 6:6-7 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.

When a believer is immersed/baptized in the name of Yeshua Messiah, his old self dies and a new man emerges from the water that is no longer a slave to sin, but free. Yet, Paul writes;

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of [Elohim];

Now let’s think this out. If all have sinned, that means all have broken Yahweh’s law in some way. For the Jews living under the Sinai covenant before the atoning sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua, their only hope for justification was through repentance and obedience to the law. They had animal sacrifices, but animal blood was insufficient to totally cleanse an individual from sin.

Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

When Yeshua shed his blood, a total cleansing from sin was now available. He freed the sinner from the bondage of sin and gave him liberty. This is the freedom and liberty spoken of in Galatians 5:1.

Galatians 5:2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Messiah shall profit you nothing.

This verse cannot be isolated from its context, so let’s include verses 3 & 4.

Galatians 5:3-4 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Messiah is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace.

It is crucial to understand the purpose of circumcision in this context. It was done in order to be justified (vs.4). Therefore, in verses 2 & 3, the circumcision is for justification. The word “justified” means “to be rendered just or innocent.” The Jews living under the Sinai covenant without a means to truly become justified or innocent, believed obedience to the law was their only hope. They sought to be justified by the law whether it was by circumcision, not stealing, not committing idolatry, etc.

The Galatians were not in the same situation as the unbelieving Jews. They were already justified by faith, having entered the New Covenant through the blood of Messiah Yeshua. But now, they were being misled into believing they needed to be circumcised in order to be justified. The same problem was dealt with by the council in Jerusalem in Acts 15.

Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved.

Acts 15:5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt you [Elohim], to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

The Apostle Peter saw the error in such thinking and said;

Acts 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Master Yeshua Messiah we shall be saved, even as they.

He declared salvation/justification was by grace, not by law. Notice the yoke was not obedience to the law, but trying to be saved by the law rather than by grace through faith.

Back to Galatians 5:2-3:

Galatians 5:2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Messiah shall profit you nothing.

Why? Because they are seeking justification by their own works of obedience to the law rather than through the finished work of Messiah.

Galatians 5:3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

Why? Righteousness and justification can only come through the law when it is perfectly obeyed. They were placing themselves under a system of justification requiring full obedience to the law. Since they refused to be justified by faith, they must be justified by works. Sadly, however, they had already sinned with no way to be fully cleansed of those sins. Therefore, they were fallen from grace (and salvation). Yahweh had extended grace to them in totally cleansing them of sin, but they rejected His means of justification and chose their own means which can only lead to death.

Galatians 5:4 Messiah is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace.

Messiah’s efficacious blood would do no good for a person who chose to be justified by the works of the law.

Galatians 5:5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Such righteousness can only come through the shed blood of Messiah Yeshua and being clothed by his righteousness.

Galatians 5:6 For in Yeshua Messiah neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love.

This is a reaffirmation that salvation/justification is by grace through faith, not of works.

Galatians 5:7-10 You did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion comes not of him that calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Master, that you will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubles you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

A false teacher or teachers were influencing the Galatian believers to embrace an alternate means of justification other than by faith. Hopefully, Paul’s letter to the Galatians prevented any from falling from grace.

Galatians 5:11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.

Paul yet preaches circumcision? Didn’t Paul just say not to get circumcised according to Christian commentators? The truth is, Paul did not teach never to get circumcised. He taught never to get circumcised in order to be justified. Did he not have Timothy circumcised? Since he did (Acts 16:3), does that mean he and Timothy fell from grace? Obviously not. Timothy was not circumcised in order to be justified, but as a means to not hinder the Jews in the region from accepting the good news of Yeshua.

Actually, false accusations were being brought against Paul for teaching the Jews to forsake Moses and to not circumcise their children (Acts 21:21). Paul’s ensuing actions proved to all that the accusations were untrue. Paul indeed believed that children should be circumcised on the eighth day as Yahweh commanded.

Galatians 5:12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

It was better for the false teachers to be cut off than for believers to fall from grace.

Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Believers have been called unto liberty. That does not mean we are at liberty to break the “old” law. It means we have been liberated from sin and self justification. To believe we are no longer in bondage to the “old” law and are now free to, for example, eat pig, is to give an occasion to the flesh. The flesh lusts after what Yahweh calls an abomination, but ignorant teachers tell us it’s OK to now eat swine’s flesh. They are in for a rude awakening as Isaiah 66:15-17 teaches.

 Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Is it not strange that false teachers tell us believers are not under the law and that we are fallen from grace if we obey the “old” law and yet, Paul teaches to obey this “old” law found in Leviticus 19:18? How does one show love to his neighbor? By obeying Yahweh’s laws of not stealing from him or coveting his wife or goods; by not lying about him or leading him into idolatry; by not causing him to work on the Sabbath or murdering him, etc.

The law is a guide for all true believers. It tells us when we are sinning (Romans 3:20) so that we can go to our Savior Yeshua to be cleansed. Do not believe the false teachers who tell us we do not need to obey the laws Yahweh gave to Moses. They were given for our good. Blessed be the Name of Yahweh for His wisdom and love in giving us His laws.

Part 2

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