Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.III. THE WALK OF THE JUSTIFIED BELIEVER,
AS NOT UNDER THE LAW, BUT UNDER GRACE
The first exhortation is to maintain, by faith, the liberty which is found in Christ, to stand fast in that liberty where with Christ has made the believer free and not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. The believer has perfect liberty in Christ; he is absolutely dead to the law and the law is not to be used by him in any way. But Galatians 5:13, where the apostle speaks again of this liberty, must be brought in connection with the opening statement of this chapter. “For, brethren, ye have been called into liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” The liberty the believer has in Christ is to be used for holiness. When God redeems from the curse of the law it is a redemption unto holiness, to live a righteous and holy life; the holy Spirit indwelling the believer does not give license to live after the flesh.
But as being in Christ, dead to the law, if they become circumcised Christ would profit them nothing and they were bound to fulfill the whole law. Going back to the law for righteousness, they had fallen from grace. This is the only time “fallen from grace” is used in the Bible. It has been strangely misapplied by a certain system of theology to deny the security of the believer in Christ. It is generally used to describe a Christian who has fallen in sin and, as it is claimed, lost his relationship as a child of God and is, therefore, once more under judgment. Falling from grace does not mean this; it means to give up the grace of the gospel in order to satisfy the requirements of the law. To go back under the law and its bondage is falling from grace. Galatians 5:5 does not mean that a believer hopes for righteousness; he possesses righteousness by faith. Indwelt by the Spirit, the believer waits not for righteousness, but for the hope of righteousness by faith. And the hope of righteousness is the coming glory, when all those who are saved by grace will be glorified and be like Christ.
Then the earnest pleadings and warnings. They had run well; who hindered them? It was Satan who had led them astray. Once more leaven is used. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Even so it is today in Christendom. The leaven of a perverted gospel has well nigh leavened everything. He was deeply concerned about the spiritual condition of these Galatian Christians. But while he was in doubt about them and he was overwhelmed with grief because they abandoned grace, his heart, after all, was also in peace about them. “I have confidence in you through the Lord that ye will be now otherwise minded.” He cast them as his burden upon the Lord and he knew the Lord, who loveth His own, would after all bring it about that they would surely not be otherwise minded.
He who troubled them and bewitched them with that spurious gospel, whosoever he would be, would bear his judgment; and he wishes that these troublers were cut off. “And I, brethren, if I preach yet circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then is the offence of the cross ceased.” He had probably been charged by some of endorsing circumcision and preaching it. If such were the case, what further excuse was there for the Jews to persecute him? If he were still preaching circumcision the offence of the cross would have been done away. Circumcision stands for the religion of the natural man. The religious spirit of the natural man is always in opposition to the true gospel. Difficulties will cease and the world will even applaud the preaching if the religion of the flesh, the “do-religion” -- “observe” -- “keep” -- “reform”, etc., is proclaimed. Of this we see much today. The true gospel of grace, proclaimed upon the finished work of Christ, with nothing to do and nothing to pay, is still the same stumbling-block.
The believer possesses in Christ true liberty (Galatians 5:13); a liberty, as already stated, not to sin, but to walk and serve God in holiness. It is the liberty of the new nature, the divine nature, which gives power over sin. The law seeks to constrain the old nature, which is impossible; but it is the mighty constraint of love, given by the Holy Spirit. And that love is the fulfillment of the law. The law, as a rule, for the believer’s life is, therefore, not needed. The gospel of grace sets the believer free and makes him happy in the assurance of God’s love and his own salvation; and the Holy Spirit is there. Under His guidance and power, walking in the Spirit, the lust of the flesh will not be fulfilled. And the believer, walking thus, has the blessed assurance that sin shall not have dominion over him. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). The law had not the power to do this, but grace has delivered us from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-4).
In the preceding part of the Epistle he had set forth Christian justification by faith, in contrast with works of the law. He here shows that God produces holiness. Instead of exacting it, as did the law with regard to human righteousness, from the nature which loves sin, He produces it in the human heart, as wrought by the Spirit.
“This life, produced in us by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the word, is led by the Spirit who is given to believers; its rule is also in the word. Its fruit is the fruit of the Spirit. The Christian walk is the manifestation of this new life, of Christ our life, in the midst of the world. If we follow this path--Christ Himself--if we walk in His steps, we shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. It is thus sin is avoided, not by taking the law to compel man to do what he does not like; the law has no power to compel the flesh to obey, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, can be. The new life loves to obey, loves holiness, and Christ is its strength and wisdom by the Holy Spirit. The flesh is indeed there; it lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit lusts against the flesh, to prevent man from walking as he would. But if we walk in the Spirit, we are not under the law.” (Notes on Galatians--J. N. Darby)
The works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit are given in Galatians 5:19-23. In a more literal rendering, the works of the flesh, sixteen in number, are as follows: Fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strifes, jealousies, angers, contentions, disputes, factions, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revels and things like these. Such is the old nature of man and such the fruit it bears. They that do such things, living according to the flesh, shall not inherit God’s kingdom. And only the power of the Spirit of God can deliver from the outworking of this fallen nature, the flesh, which is still in the believer. The Holy Spirit is in the child of God to manifest this power, but it means subjection to Himself.
The Spirit also produces His own blessed fruit in the life of the believer. The first three parts: Love, joy and peace. These give the blessed consciousness the believer has in his heart of his relationship to God, which consciousness comes through the Spirit. The other six parts: “long-suffering, kindness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-control,” witness in the believer’s walk to the fact that the love, the joy and peace of God are realities in the soul. The believer who walks according to the Spirit manifests in his walk the fruit of the indwelling Spirit and against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh and its lusts. They have accepted the sentence of the cross which has put the old man with its lusts into the place of death. God declares us as dead with Christ and looks upon us thus (Colossians 3:3). And this great truth must be lived. The believer lives in the Spirit and is called upon to walk in the Spirit so that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in him. “Let us not be desirous of vain-glory (the law fosters such a spirit, but grace humbles), provoking one another, envying one another”--which is the sad effect of vain-glory, provocation and envy.