Galatians 5 – A Commentary

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 2:820- 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.


Galatians 5:16  This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

 What does it mean to “walk in the Spirit”?

 Eze 36:26-27  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.

 This prophecy refers to the New Covenant that Yahweh would make with the House of Israel. Anyone who receives Yeshua as his Yahweh appointed Master and Savior is part of the natural olive tree of Israel (Romans 11:16-24). Such a person will not only receive a new heart, but will receive the indwelling Holy Spirit as well (Eze 36:26). That Spirit will CAUSE the New Covenant believer to obey Yahweh’s laws.

 Why is the receiving of the Holy Spirit important?

 Rom 8:4-14  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against [Elohim]: for it is not subject to the law of [Elohim], neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please [Elohim]. But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of [Elohim] dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Messiah, he is none of his. And if Messiah be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Yeshua from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Messiah from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of [Elohim], they are the sons of [Elohim].

 This passage is full of incredibly valuable information that is too numerous to mention in detail here. In the context of “walking in the Spirit”, the bold passages are the most important.

 The mind that is not led by the Spirit is called “the carnal mind”. The carnal mind is led by fleshly lusts. The spiritually minded man, however, is led by the Spirit. The key is that the Spirit will lead a person to “mortify” (put to death) the deeds of the body; that is, the transgressions of Yahweh’s laws that result from yielding to the lust of the flesh (i.e., adultery, fornication, murder, etc.). The Spirit led person will be SUBJECT to the law of Yahweh (Rom 8:7).

 Here is Strong’s definition of “subject”:

 G5293  υποτ?σσω   hupotasso;  to subordinate; reflexively to obey: – be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.

In other words, the Spirit led believer will be under the law! To “walk in the Spirit”, then, is to allow the Spirit to cause us to be in subjection to and obey Yahweh’s law. More on the meaning of “under the law” is given below.

Gal 5:17  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would.

 The flesh wants to do things the law forbids. Some of these things are mentioned in Gal 5:19-21. The Spirit wants us to obey Yahweh’s laws. It wants us to be subject to His laws. If our flesh is allowed to choose what we do, the Spirit will not have its way with us.

Gal 5:18  But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law.

 We already saw how Paul taught the Roman believers that the carnal minded man cannot be subject to (put under) the law of Yahweh. By extension, the believer is subject to the law of Yahweh. Yet, to the Galatian believers he writes that they are not under the law. Is this a contradiction? No. It simply needs to be understood correctly.

The word “under” in Gal 5:18 is the Greek word “hupo”.

 G5259  υπ?  hupo  – A primary preposition; under, that is, (with the genitive) of place (beneath), or with verbs (the agency or means, through); (with the accusative) of place (whither [underneath] or where [below]) or time (when [at]):

 The Greek word for “under” in Rom 8:7 is “hupotasso”.

 As you can see, two different Greek words are used. Romans 8:7uses “hupotasso” and Galatians 5:18 uses “hupo”. The difference is with the ending “tasso”. Here is Strong’s definition for “tasso”:

G5021  τ?σσω  tasso  – A prolonged form of a primary verb (which later appears only in certain tenses); to arrange in an orderly manner, that is, assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot): – addict, appoint, determine, ordain, set.

The carnal mind cannot  submit to the law in an orderly manner. It must be led by the Holy Spirit into obedience. So “hupotasso”, when used in Romans 8:7,  is a positive word referring to how a person acts in an orderly manner under the law.  However, Paul uses “hupo” in Galatians 5:18 in a negative sense. The person who is led by the Spirit is not under the law in a negative sense. How can a person be “under” the law in a negative sense? Let’s look at a few examples of how Paul used “hupo” in other places in Romans and Galatians.

 Rom 3:9  What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

 Rom 7:14  For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

 Gal 3:10  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

 Gal 3:22  But the scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Yeshua Messiah might be given to them that believe.

 Gal 3:23  But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

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

The above verses all have negative connotations for the person who is “under” something. In the case of being “under the law”, it refers to being under the condemnation of the law. It obviously cannot mean the believer is no longer to be in subjection to the law, especially since the Holy Spirit would “CAUSE” New Covenant believers to obey Yahweh’s laws and since the law has been firmly “established”.

When a person sins, he transgresses Yahweh’s law;

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

Since the “wages of sin is death”, the law breaker is put on death row awaiting the death penalty to be carried out. That is what Gal 3:23 is referring to. Faith in Messiah Yeshua would release the condemned from being under the condemnation of the law. Once freed, the new believer would be led to obey Yahweh’s laws through the power of the Holy Spirit unless, of course, false teachers deceive the new believer into believing the law has been abolished (made void or nonexistent).

Gal 5:19-21  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell  before, as I have also told  in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of [Elohim].

The carnal works mentioned above result from breaking Yahweh’s laws. Committing such acts will place a person under the condemnation of the law. 

Gal 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  

There is no law that can condemn us if we have the fruit listed above because those fruits cause a person to obey Yahweh’s law. A person who loves Yahweh or his neighbor will not commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, murder, break the Sabbath, etc.

Gal 5:24  And they that are Messiah’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  

“The flesh” does not refer to the natural flesh on one’s body, but to the corrupt nature of man as a result of sin.  The “affections and lusts” refer to the corrupt leaning, evil desires, and deceitful lusts of the carnal mind or heart.

Rom 6:6  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.

Although the flesh/old man is “crucified”, Gal 5:17 suggests the flesh continues to live in us. John Gill has some interesting commentary about this.

 “And in consequence of this crucifixion of the body of sin, with Christ upon the cross, when he finished and made an end of it, sin, with its passions and lusts, is crucified by the Spirit of God in regeneration and sanctification; so that it loses its governing power, and has not the dominion it had before: not but that the flesh, or corrupt nature, with its evil affections, and carnal lusts, are still in being, and are alive; as a person fastened to a cross may be alive, though he cannot act and move as before, being under restraints, so the old man, though crucified, and under the restraints of mighty grace, and cannot reign and govern as before, yet is alive, and acts, and operates, and oftentimes has great sway and influence; but whereas he is deprived of his reigning power, he is said to be crucified: and though this act is ascribed to them that are Christ’s, yet not as done by them in their own strength, who are not able to grapple with one corruption, but as under the influence of the grace of Christ, and through the power of his Spirit;”

Gal 5:25  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We walk in the Spirit by allowing the Spirit to have its way with us. If the Spirit wants to cause us to obey Yahweh’s laws, we must not grieve the Spirit by fighting against it. We must not try to defend the false teachings of men who say the law is abolished. We must instead obey the law, knowing that the “doers of the law shall be justified” (Romans 2:13).

Gal 5:26  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

That is, provoking one another to anger as opposed to good works.

I hope this commentary on Galatians 5 has been helpful to you and, if you have been taught falsely concerning obedience to the law, that you will prayerfully rethink your position and allow the Holy Spirit to truly write Yahweh’s laws on your heart as was prophesied to occur under the New Covenant. Go to Part 1 

Jer 31:31-33 Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband unto them, saith Yahweh:  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith Yahweh, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.