Sermon Notes: Galatians 5:1-15

Freedom to indulge in righteousness

Galatians 5:1 might be one of the most isolated and misused verses in the history of the Bible. 

How? It is often used among young bucks and cage stage new believers as:

  1. An excuse to sin and call it freedom in Christ. 

Our author does not have that in mind. 

The opponents of the gospel in Galatia have likely suggested that if people are free from the law for righteousness they will think holiness is of no value. People can just sin and claim that their sins are forgiven and have no constraint in their behavior. 

  1. That’s not an invalid concern. 

This raises a valid question: Where is any grounding for ethics in a church where the law is no longer the community’s ethical code?

  1. Here is how Paul put it to Titus:

Titus 2:11-15 (CSB) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works. 15 Proclaim these things; encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

How can we be ethical people when the law is not our ethical center for God’s righteousness?

The apostle will answer this question for us.

Jesus’ work purchased freedom from the law so we can belong to God and indulge in all the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to submit to one part of the law for righteousness is to submit to all of it for righteousness. V. 1-3

  1. Circumcision was the seal of the old covenant. 
  2. Circumcision stands for the entire system of laws. 
    1. So to submit to circumcision makes one responsible for keeping all the laws.
    2. We can’t pick and choose what parts of the law will save and what parts of the law will fail to save.  
  3. “For freedom” is not freedom for freedom’s sake. 
    1. Freedom is given so that we can indulge in all the fruit of holiness. 
      1. Freedom is freedom from the curse of sin so that we can pursue what matters and what really brings joy. 
    2. 5:23 “The law is not against such things.

Trying to get God’s righteousness by keeping the law alienates us from the riches of God’s grace. V. 4

  1. Paul is not saying people lose their salvation. That’s not possible. 
  2. It is true that folks who misappropriate the gospel and are off theologically need correction. And that is Paul’s point. 
    1. Illustrate: Have you ever tried to drink your beverage at a restaurant using a straw and it has a slight perforation in it? You just can’t get a drink from the glass to your mouth. 
    2. When you get a new straw that is not flawed, you get that delicious refreshing drink right where it is supposed to be. 
      1. Jesus is the drink and grace is the straw that gives access to the drink. 
      2. Those trying to be justified by keeping the law are using a straw with a hole in it. You just can’t access what you need. 
  3. Using the law for justification will actually keep us from accessing all of Christ and being nourished by him. 
    1. Using the law for spiritual nourishment will starve us to death. 
    2. Using the law for righteousness is a failure to remain in the Vine. 

What does hanging onto grace look like so that we don’t fall from it? V. 5-6

Verse 5: For we through the Spirit by faith, the hope of righteousness, eagerly await. (Translation mine) 

OR For we through the Spirit by faith eagerly await the hope of righteousness. (Translation mine)

  1. Fighting for future grace. 
    1. The order of the original text focuses the emphasis on Paul’s point, and that’s why he wrote an awkward sentence. 
    2. The focus is “the hope of righteousness”, and the rest of the sentence tells us how we get there. 
    3. Paul is hanging our current pursuit of righteousness on our future hope of being made completely righteous. This is called the hope of future grace. 
    4. Therefore, we strive for what is promised. 
    5. This means that righteousness is a fight we have to fight with faith walking by the Holy Spirit as we believe it will be completed. 
  2. We fight for future grace through living in the Spirit, exercising faith, that we will be made practically holy, and that works itself out in love for each other not bickering over law. 

Don’t let gospel diversions keep you from running well. V. 7-12

NOTE: “running” carries the meaning of making progress in the transformation of one’s conduct. In other words, they were progressing in living out the faith ethically in public and in private. Their gospel sanctified conduct was moving in the right direction. 

But something stopped and stunted that progress. 

  1. Gospel diversion doesn’t come from God who called us to faith. V. 7b-8
  2. Just the tiniest persuasion from the gospel ruins the whole thing by multiplying the wrong thing. V. 9
    1. In this instance, it is the sinful “leaven” of adding circumcision to Jesus for salvation. 
    2. Sin multiplies death in imitation of the kingdom multiplying to produce life. 
    3. The Spirit inspired the illustration of leaven to show how the kingdom multiplies but also how sin can have a multiplying effect. 
      1. All Satan and the dark kingdom can do is imitate God’s activity in a dark manner. 
      2. Matthew 13:33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and mixed into fifty pounds of flour until all of it was leavened.”
  3. Those who introduce gospel confusion must be dealt with appropriately. 
    1. Gospel diversion will be disciplined either by the Lord in his good Fatherly supernatural way or God working through church leadership. V. 10. 
  4. The offense of the cross is the cross’s denial of any other way for salvation and knowing God. V. 11
    1. Thus we preach the cross and willingly receive whatever abuse comes our way.
  5. Know that It is not evil to ask for justice for those who have disturbed and hurt the good, the right, and the holy and not repented. V. 12
    1. The Psalms of imprecation are reminders that God cares about doing justice for his people who are innocently blindsided and hurt by sin. 

Freedom is not so we can indulge in sin. Rather freedom is so we can indulge in Jesus without the hindrance of sin. V. 13

  1. God called us to belong to Jesus to free us from sin in order to be free to find our greatest joy in Jesus. 

What is the real moral ethic of the law? V. 14-15

  1. It is not to be circumcised or to make the law a vehicle for a theological police state. 
  2. It is to love God well and love your neighbor as yourself. 
  3. If we don’t love from freely pursuing Jesus and indulging in all his good, we will just be a flesh show that beats each other up over whose flesh is fleshier. 


  1. By faith, we walk the line between justification by faith and the fact that my sin still has consequences with God and man.
    1. Jesus alone – don’t submit to a yoke of slavery AND a little leaven leavens the whole lump. 
      1. This tension between freedom and consequences from sin is to be embraced and worked out among us together on mission. 
      2. I am to embrace the reality that my sin is atoned for. 
      3. I am also to embrace that God has woven consequences with him and others into his universe as a way of restraining sin, and if I walk down a road of sin, it will catch up to me. 
      4. Whatever one sows, they will reap. 
      5. Both of these are true. They are not at odds. We live right in the middle of the tension. That is where holy worship will flourish.
  2. As we set our aim on the mission of God’s glory among all nations, let the hope of future grace have its pruning effect as we stay on track with the Holy Spirit and his people. 
  3. Keep an eye out for gospel diversions in yourself and discipleship relationships. Satan distracts with such foolishness. Be careful. 
    1. Be careful not to walk down fringe pathways dragging the name of Jesus and your fellow Christians through those aberrant ideas. 
    2. Let the Holy Spirit prune in a diversity of relationships in the fellowship. 
  4. Worship the Lord in covenant fellowship, on mission, in unity, loving one another, at peace, and full of joy. 
    1. This is what Paul was seeking to preserve for the Galatians by dealing with additions to Jesus. 
    2. Pray these things daily for TRC: Mission/Love/Unity/Peace/Joy

Corporate Prayer

  1. Increase our people
  2. Increase our holiness
  3. Increase our sending

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s