Summary: We are set free - to the truest kind of liberty.
THE TRUEST FREEDOM
Paul established the contrast between bondage and freedom by the use of an allegory concerning Hagar and Sarah, and their respective sons (Galatians 4:22). When we are born into this world, we are born into bondage to the corruption of this world. When we are born again, it is into liberty and freedom (cf. Romans 8:21).
It is for liberty, freedom, that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). Our consciences are set free from the guilt of sin, and our lives released from the tyranny of the law. This is the truest kind of freedom. In this liberty we must stand fast, and not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
Christians are called to liberty, freedom (Galatians 5:13-15). Yet we are not to use our freedom as a pretext to indulge in carnal passions. Instead we are to operate within the context of Christ’s Law of love, serving one another rather than seeking service.
However, there is a battle going on within us (Galatians 5:17). This is why we must “walk in the (Holy) Spirit”: to which imperative is added a promise, “and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). If we are thus “led by the (Holy) Spirit” then neither our former sinful nature nor the externals of the Law have any further hold over us (Galatians 5:18).
Yet the battle is real, nevertheless. The “works” of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) are set over against the “fruit” of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). “Works” is plural, as being divisive; “fruit” is singular, as being harmonious (cf. Matthew 6:22; Acts 2:46).
The list of vices is not exhaustive: Paul ends it with, “and things like these” (Galatians 5:21). “As I warned you before,” he concludes, “those who (habitually) do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” ‘Put them to death!’ he says elsewhere (Colossians 3:5-6).
By contrast, the fruit which is cultivated in the life of the Spirit-led Christian needs no restraint: for “against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:23). This fruit-bowl is not a lucky dip but is the very definition of Christian character.
1. Agape “love”, reflecting God’s love for us: love for Him, love of His, and love for others.
2. “Joy” in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).
3. “Peace” with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1), peace within ourselves, peace with one another.
4. “Long-suffering” - including patience even towards those who aggravate or persecute us.
5. “Kindness” which brings an unselfish smile even out of the midst of pain.
6. “Goodness” which manifests itself in words and deeds.
7. “Faith” speaks of faithfulness, a trustworthy character.
8. “Meekness” is not weakness, but strength under control.
9. “Self-control” brings composure in the midst of the temptations of life.
In Galatians 2:20 Paul spoke in the passive voice of having been ‘crucified with Christ’ (cf. Romans 6:6). In Galatians 5:24, however, Paul speaks of those who are Christ’s having themselves “crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.” We may not passively await the Holy Spirit’s work but must also decisively act upon it ourselves (Romans 8:13).
However, we cannot do this on our own: so, thank God for the Holy Spirit! “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). The Greek word for “walk” here is different from the one previously used. Here it speaks of our deliberately ‘getting in line with’ the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives.
In the final verse of the chapter, Paul effectively warns us of the danger of getting out of step with the Spirit. Don’t be conceited, he says (which is “vain glory”); don’t provoke one another (which is to trip one another up); and don’t envy one another (Galatians 5:26).