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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Galatians 5

Verse 1

With freedom (τη ελευθερια). Rather dative case instead of instrumental, "for freedom," "for the (article) freedom that belongs to us children of the freewoman" (Galatians 4:31).

Did Christ set us free (ημας Χριστος ηλευθερωσεν). Effective aorist active indicative of ελευθεροω (from ερχομα, to go, go free).

Stand fast therefore (στηκετε ουν). See on Mark 3:31; 1 Corinthians 16:13 for this late word from perfect stem of ιστημ, "keep on standing therefore," "stay free since Christ set you free."

Be not entangled again (μη παλιν ενεχεσθε). "Stop being held in by a yoke of bondage." Common word for ensnare by trap. The Judaizers were trying to lasso the Galatians for the old yoke of Judaism.

Verse 2

I Paul (εγω Παυλος). Asserts all his personal and apostolic authority. For both words see also 1 Thessalonians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 10:1; Colossians 1:23; Ephesians 3:1.

If ye receive circumcision (εαν περιτεμνησθε). Condition of third class and present passive subjunctive, a supposable case, but with terrible consequences, for they will make circumcision a condition of salvation. In that case Christ will help them not at all.

Verse 3

A debtor (οφειλετης). Common word from οφειλω, to owe for one who has assumed an obligation. See on Matthew 6:12. See Galatians 3:10. He takes the curse on himself.

Verse 4

Ye are severed from Christ (κατηργηθητε απο Χριστου). First aorist passive of καταργεω, to make null and void as in Romans 7:2; Romans 7:6.

Who would be justified by the law (οιτινες εν νομω δικαιουσθε). Present passive conative indicative, "ye who are trying to be justified in the law."

Ye are fallen away from grace (της χαριτος εξεπεσατε). Second aorist active indicative of εκπιπτω (with α variable vowel of the first aorist) and followed by the ablative case. "Ye did fall out of grace," "ye left the sphere of grace in Christ and took your stand in the sphere of law" as your hope of salvation. Paul does not mince words and carries the logic to the end of the course. He is not, of course, speaking of occasional sins, but he has in mind a far more serious matter, that of substituting law for Christ as the agent in salvation.

Verse 5

For we (ημεις γαρ). We Christians as opposed to the legalists.

Through the Spirit by faith (πνευματ εκ πιστεως). By the Spirit (Holy Spirit) out of faith (not law). Clear-cut repetition to make it plain.

Verse 6

Availeth anything (ισχυε τ). Old word to have strength (ισχυς). See on Matthew 5:13. Neither Jew nor Greek has any recommendation in his state. See Galatians 3:28. All stand on a level in Christ.

Faith working through love (πιστις δι' αγαπης ενεργουμενη). Middle voice of ενεργεω and "through love," "the moral dynamic" (Burton) of Paul's conception of freedom from law.

Verse 7

Who did hinder you? (τις υμας ενεκοψεν?). First aorist active indicative of ενκοπτω, to cut in on one, for all the world like our use of one cutting in on us at the telephone. For this late verb see on Acts 24:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:18. Note the singular τις. There was some ringleader in the business. Some one "cut in" on the Galatians as they were running the Christian race and tried to trip them or to turn them.

Verse 8

This persuasion (η πεισμονη). "The art of persuasion," the effort of the Judaizers to persuade you. Only here and in ecclesiastical writers.

Verse 9

This proverb Paul has in 1 Corinthians 5:6. It is merely the pervasive power of leaven that is involved in the proverb as in Matthew 13:33, not the use of leaven as a symbol of evil.

Verse 10

Whosoever he be (οστις εαν η). Indefinite relative clause with εαν and subjunctive. It seems unlikely that Paul knew precisely who the leader was. In Galatians 1:6 he uses the plural of the same verb ταρασσω and see also αναστατουντες in verse Galatians 5:12.

Verse 11

Why am I still persecuted? (τ ετ διωκομαι?). Some of the Judaizers even circulated the slander that Paul preached circumcision in order to ruin his influence.

Verse 12

I would (οφελον). Would that, used as conjunction in wishes. See on 1 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 11:1. Here a wish about the future with future indicative.

They which unsettle you (ο αναστατουντες υμας). Late verb from αναστατος, driven from one's abode, and in papyri in this sense as well as in sense of upsetting or disturbing one's mind (boy's letter) as here. In Acts 17:6; Acts 21:38 we have it in sense of making a commotion.

Cut themselves off (αποκοψοντα). Future middle of αποκοπτω, old word to cut off as in Acts 27:32, here to mutilate.

Verse 13

Ye were called for freedom (επ' ελευθερια εκληθητε). The same point as in Galatians 5:1 made plainer by the use of επ' (on the basis of, for the purpose of). See 1 Thessalonians 4:7 for this use of επ.

Only use not (μονον μη). No word for "use" in the Greek. Probably supply τρεπετε or στρεφετε, "turn not your liberty into an occasion for the flesh" (εις αφορμην τη σαρκ), as a spring board for license. On αφορμη, see on 2 Corinthians 5:12. Liberty so easily turns to license.

Verse 14

Even in this (εν τω). Just the article with εν, "in the," but it points at the quotation from Leviticus 19:18. Jews (Luke 10:29) confined "neighbour" (πλησιον) to Jews. Paul uses here a striking paradox by urging obedience to the law against which he has been arguing, but this is the moral law as proof of the new love and life. See also Romans 13:8, precisely as Jesus did (Matthew 22:40).

Verse 15

If ye bite and devour one another (ε αλληλους δακνετε κα κατεσθιετε). Condition of first class assumed as true. Two common and old verbs often used together of wild animals, or like cats and dogs.

That ye be not consumed one of another (μη υπ' αλληλων αναλωθητε). Negative final clause with first aorist passive subjunctive of αναλισκω, old word to consume or spend. In N.T. only here and Luke 9:54. There is a famous story of two snakes that grabbed each other by the tail and each swallowed the other.

Verse 16

Ye shall not fulfil (ου μη τελεσητε). Rather, "Ye will not fulfil." Strong double negative with aorist active subjunctive.

The lust of the flesh (επιθυμιαν σαρκος). Bad sense here as usual in Paul, but not so in 1 Thessalonians 2:17; Philippians 1:23. The word is just craving or longing (from επι, θυμος, yearning after).

Verse 17

Lusteth against (επιθυμε κατα). Like a tug of war. This use of σαρξ as opposed to the Spirit (Holy Spirit) personifies σαρξ. Lightfoot argues that επιθυμε cannot be used with the Spirit and so some other verb must be supplied for it. But that is wholly needless, for the verb, like επιθυμια, does not mean evil desire, but simply to long for. Christ and Satan long for the possession of the city of Man Soul as Bunyan shows.

Are contrary the one to the other (αλληλοις αντικειτα). Are lined up in conflict, face to face (αντι-), a spiritual duel (cf. Christ's temptations), with dative case of personal interest (αλληλοις).

That ye may not do (ινα μη ποιητε). "That ye may not keep on doing" (present active subjunctive of ποιεω).

That ye would (α εαν θελητε). "Whatever ye wish" (indefinite relative with εαν and present subjunctive).

Verse 18

Under the law (υπο νομον). Instead of "under the flesh" as one might expect. See Galatians 3:2-6 for contrast between law and spirit. The flesh made the law weak (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 9:10; Hebrews 9:13). They are one and the same in result. See same idea in Romans 8:14. Note present tense of αγεσθε (if you are continually led by the Spirit). See verse Galatians 5:23.

Verse 19

Manifest (φανερα). Opposed to "hidden" (κρυπτα). Ancient writers were fond of lists of vices and virtues. Cf. Stalker's sermons on The Seven Cardinal Virtues and The Seven Deadly Sins. There are more than seven in this deadly list in verses Galatians 5:19-21. He makes the two lists in explanation of the conflict in verse Galatians 5:17 to emphasize the command in verses Galatians 5:13. There are four groups in Paul's list of manifest vices: (I) Sensual sins like fornication (πορνεια, prostitution, harlotry), uncleanness (ακαθαρσια, moral impurity), lasciviousness (ασελγεια, wantonness), sexual vice of all kinds prevailed in heathenism. (2) Idolatry (ειδωλατρεια, worship of idols) and witchcraft (φαρμακεια from φαρμακον, a drug, the ministering of drugs), but the sorcerers monopolized the word for a while in their magical arts and used it in connection with idolatry. In N.T. only here and Revelation 18:23. See Acts 19:19 περιεργα, curious arts. (3) Personal relations expressed by eight words, all old words, sins of the spirit, like enmities (εξθρα, personal animosities), strife (ερις, rivalry, discord), jealousies (ζηλος or ζηλο, MSS. vary, our very word), wraths (θυμο, stirring emotions, then explosions), factions (εριθεια, from εριθος, day labourer for hire, worker in wool, party spirit), divisions (διχοστασια, splits in two, διχα and στασις), heresies (αιρεσεις, the very word, but really choosings from αιρεομα, preferences), envyings (φθονο, feelings of ill-will). Surely a lively list. (4)

Drunkenness (μεθα, old word and plural, drunken excesses, in N.T. only here and Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13), revellings (κωμο, old word also for drinking parties like those in honour of Bacchus, in N.T. only here and Romans 13:13; 1 Peter 4:3).

And such like (κα τα ομοια τουτοις). And the things like these (associative instrumental τουτοις after ομοια, like). It is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is representative.

Verse 21

Forewarn (προλεγω)

--did forewarn (προειπον). Paul repeats his warning given while with them. He did his duty then. Gentile churches were peculiarly subject to these sins. But who is not in danger from them?

Practise (πρασσοντες). Πρασσω is the verb for habitual practice (our very word, in fact), not ποιεω for occasional doing. The

habit of these sins is proof that one is not in the Kingdom of God and will not inherit it.

Verse 22

The fruit of the Spirit (ο καρπος του πνευματος). Paul changes the figure from

works (εργα) in verse Galatians 5:19 to fruit as the normal out-cropping of the Holy Spirit in us. It is a beautiful tree of fruit that Paul pictures here with nine luscious fruits on it:

Love (αγαπη). Late, almost Biblical word. First as in Galatians 5:1, which see for discussion as superior to φιλια and ερως.

Joy (χαρα). Old word. See on 1 Thessalonians 1:6.

Peace (ειρηνη). See on 1 Thessalonians 1:1.

Long-suffering (μακροθυμια). See on 2 Corinthians 6:6.

Kindness (χρηστοτης). See on 2 Corinthians 6:6.

Goodness (αγαθωσυνη). See on 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

Faithfulness (πιστις). Same word as "faith." See on Matthew 23:33; 1 Corinthians 13:7; 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Meekness (πραυτης). See on 1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Corinthians 10:1.

Temperance (εγκρατεια). See on Acts 24:25. Old word from εγκρατης, one holding control or holding in. In N.T. only in these passages and 2 Peter 1:6. Paul has a better list than the four cardinal virtues of the Stoics (temperance, prudence, fortitude, justice), though they are included with better notes struck. Temperance is alike, but kindness is better than justice, long-suffering than fortitude, love than prudence.

Verse 24

Crucified the flesh (την σαρκα εσταυρωσαν). Definite event, first aorist active indicative of σταυροω as in Galatians 2:19 (mystical union with Christ). Paul uses σαρξ here in the same sense as in verses Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:17; Galatians 5:19, "the force in men that makes for evil" (Burton).

With (συν). "Together with," emphasizing "the completeness of the extermination of this evil force" and the guarantee of victory over one's passions and dispositions toward evil.

Verse 25

By the Spirit let us also walk (πνευματ κα στοιχωμεν). Present subjunctive (volitive) of στοιχεω, "Let us also go on walking by the Spirit." Let us make our steps by the help and guidance of the Spirit.

Verse 26

Let us not be (μη γινωμεθα). Present middle subjunctive (volitive), "Let us cease becoming vainglorious" (κενοδοξο), late word only here in N.T. (κενοσ, δοξα). Once in Epictetus in same sense.

Provoking one another (αλληλους προκαλουμενο). Old word προκαλεω, to call forth, to challenge to combat. Only here in N.T. and in bad sense. The word for "provoke" in Hebrews 10:24 is παροξυσμον (our "paroxysm").

Envying (φθονουντες). Old verb from φθονος. Only here in N.T.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Galatians 5". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/galatians-5.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.