Receive grace, give grace (Galatians 5:1-12)

Receive grace, give grace (Galatians 5:1-12)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, March 31, 2019

We are going to talk about Galatians 5:1-12, so please turn there as I introduce it.

When I was training for my first marathon, I would try to run a really, really long route each week. I am not really sure how far it was. A car tracked it at 26 miles, but that may not have been accurate. I only made it all the way through that route one time and my mapmyrun app did not work properly so I did not get a final reading on the distance. Technology and running can be a real bummer because it makes it like the run does not count if the technology does not track it. I would run down these country roads and it was quite enjoyable. Many times, I would get up in the morning and not really feel like going on this long run, but by 11:30 am I was ready to go. I most always started out really good. I felt good, I was running fast and I was in the best shape of my life at about 35 pounds less than I am now. But though I started out good, I did not finish well. My first 10 miles would go really well. Then between 10 and 15 miles I started to slow down. Then, almost every week, at about 18 miles, I would run up one particular big country hill and the wind would hit me at the top of the hill, then as that wind hit me I would think, “why am I doing this?” I would then stop, pull out my cellular phone and call Meagan. I did this from January through early April of 2013. It was funny because by late March Meagan would answer her phone and say, “where are you at?” She knew, regardless of how I started I could not finish this route. Meagan would come and get me and I would keep running until I saw her and end at about 20 miles.

Funny as it is, I would beat myself up for not finishing the route. I wanted to finish. I started so fast. But I did not end well. After I finished, I would get home and start stretching only to experience Charley-horses in my side and calves.

In the passage we are going to look at today Paul encourages the Galatians that they were running well. Paul encourages them to keep going.

My theme and application today is:

Receive grace, give grace

Let’s read Galatians 5:1-12:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. 10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

  1. Paul tells them “You are called to freedom.”
    1. Let’s look at verse 1.
    2. Paul had just finished talking about how we are children of the free woman, children of Sarah.
    3. Now, in verse 1, Paul says we have been set free for freedom.
    4. The New American Commentary shares: If Galatians is the Magna Carta of Christian liberty, then Gal 5:1 has reason to be considered one of the key verses of the epistle. With the language of freedom and slavery still ringing in their ears from the analogy of Hagar and Sarah, the Galatians are now told by Paul: “Plant your feet firmly therefore within the freedom that Christ has won for us, and do not let yourselves be caught again in the shackles of slavery” (Phillips).[1]
    5. They are set free from Jewish ceremonial laws and regulations BUT NOT from obedience to God’s moral standards.
    6. Paul gives an application, “Therefore…”
    7. This is a command: keep standing firm, do not be subject to the “yoke” of slavery.
    8. The law is described as a yoke. A yoke would be used to control animals and animals are NOT free. Here the yoke figuratively represents the burdensome nature of slavery.[2]
    9. We are commanded not to be subject to the Law which would be slavery.
    10. Jn 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
    11. Jn 8:36 So if the son sets you free, you will be really free.
  2. Now, Paul gives the consequences of the law, severed from Christ.
    1. Look at verses 2-6
    2. Verse 2: Paul specified that he is the one writing this.
    3. Paul essentially says, if you receive circumcision… in other words, if you follow the Law, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
    4. I think Paul is meaning if they are trusting in the law for salvation then Jesus is of no benefit.
    5. Verse 3: Paul repeats: if you receive circumcision you must follow the whole law. Again, I think what is meant is if you receive circumcision for salvation you must follow the whole law (see Rom. 2:25 as a cross reference).
    6. Verse 4: Those who are seeking to be justified (declared righteous) by the law have been severed from Christ. They have been severed: broken off, abolished, alienated from Christ.
    7. The Moody Bible Commentary believes that alienated is a better word.
    8. “The Greek word for “severed” means “to be separated,” or “to be estranged.” The word for “fallen” means “to lose one’s grasp on something.” Paul’s clear meaning is that any attempt to be justified by the law is to reject salvation by grace alone through faith alone.”[3]
    9. In this verse Paul specified that he is applying this to those who wanted to be justified by the law. This is a strong warning.
    10. Paul adds that they have fallen from grace.
    11. Luther interpreted this expression to mean “You are no longer in the realm of grace” and illustrated it graphically in the following way: For just as someone on a ship is drowned regardless of the part of the ship from which he falls into the sea, so someone who falls away from grace cannot help perishing. The desire to be justified by the law, therefore, is shipwreck; it is exposure to the surest peril of eternal death. What can be more insane and wicked than to want to lose the grace and favor of God and to retain the law of Moses, whose retention makes it necessary for you to accumulate wrath and every other evil for yourself? Now if those who seek to be justified on the basis of the moral law fall away from grace, where, I ask, will those fall who, in their self-righteousness, seek to be justified on the basis of their traditions and vows? To the lowest depths of hell!27[4]
    12. Wow! There are severe consequences for trusting in your own merits for salvation. We must trust in the grace of Christ.
    13. Verse 5: Paul begins explaining more “for” is an explanatory conjunction.
    14. Paul is explaining how they are waiting for the hope of righteousness:
    15. They are waiting by faith and through the Spirit
    16. ESV Study Bible: [this] means that Christians do not attempt to produce perfect righteousness in their lives by their own efforts (as Paul’s opponents were futilely trying to do), for their hope is not in themselves; instead, they wait for God to complete righteousness in them—either when they die and are with the Lord ( 12:23) or at Christ’s return (1 Cor. 15:49; cf. Rev. 21:27). An alternative explanation is that “the hope of righteousness” refers to the believer’s hope and expectation that God will declare that the believer is in fact going to be judged righteous at the final judgment.
    17. Verse 6: In Christ what matters is faith and that faith is working through love.
    18. The ESV Study Bible shares: Paul is not opposed to circumcision in and of itself but only if it is required for salvation. True faith is a living and active thing and produces love.
  • Paul says essentially “you were running well, pick up where you left off…”
    1. Look at verses 7-12
    2. Verse 7: Paul seems to be trying to encourage them. He says they were “running” well. They were living the Christian life well.
    3. Paul asks who hindered them and then he adds detail, they were hindered from obeying the truth.
    4. In verse 8, Paul adds, this did not come from Jesus. In other words this teaching did not come from Jesus.
    5. Verse 9: A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. Paul will copy and paste this for 1 Cor. 5:6. “Leaven is often used in Scripture to denote sin (Matt. 16:6, 12) because of its permeating power.”[5]
    6. So, we come to verse 10: Paul encourages them again. He has confidence in them, IN THE LORD. He has confidence in them, but only in the Lord. He has confidence in the Lord working in them.
      1. This is the way it should be for all of us. In the Lord we have an awesome future, but we do not live our Christian life in our own strength.
      2. Live in Christ.
    7. He has confidence that they will adopt no other view besides the correct one.
    8. Paul is also saying that the one disturbing them must bear his judgment.
    9. So, we come to verse 11, Paul is saying if he preaches circumcision, in other words, the law, why is he persecuted.
    10. Apparently, Paul has been persecuted and apparently, he is also accused of preaching the law. Paul says if this were the case the stumbling block of the cross is gone. The stumbling block is salvation by grace. The NET Bible notes: That is, if Paul still teaches observance of the Mosaic law (preaches circumcision), why is he still being persecuted by his opponents, who insist that Gentile converts to Christianity must observe the Mosaic law? The offense of the cross refers to the offense to Jews caused by preaching Christ crucified.[6]
    11. 6:12: Those who want to make a good showing in external matters are trying to force you to be circumcised. They do so only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.[7]
    12. Verse 12: is a simple, yet provocative, statement.
    13. Paul is essentially saying if you are going to believe in the law don’t stop at circumcision, castrate yourself. “The Greek word Paul used for mutilate was often used of castration, such as in the cult of Cybele, whose priests were self-made eunuchs.”[8]
    14. The Moody Bible Commentary shares: Paul sarcastically dismissed the legalists as troublers. As with Jesus’ command in Mk 9:43-45, Paul’s words calling for legalists to mutilate themselves were not to be fulfilled literally. Rather they were meant to stir the Galatians to cut off relations with the legalists.[9]
  1. Let’s apply this:
    1. We are set free, we must know that we are saved by God’s grace.
    2. We must respond in worship of Christ.
    3. Since we are saved by God’s grace, we must not think we are better than any other Christian.
    4. Since we are saved by God’s grace we must give others grace.
      1. We must not be judgmental.
      2. This does not mean we do not call out sin, it just means that we must be full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14).
      3. We must love and support people even when they fail. That is what grace is.
    5. We must recognize the strong consequences of living under the Law, alienation from Christ (5:4).
    6. We must wait expecting Jesus and His future Kingdom (verse 5).
    7. We must continue living for Christ as we started, we must keep the faith (verse 7).


Sometimes the Christian life is described as a run (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Gal. 5:7). Other times the Christian life is described as a walk (Gal. 5:16; Eph. 4:1). We must keep moving in the Christian life. We must keep growing in the Christian life. We must stay the course. We must “hold fast.” We must not give up.

I told you about the many times that I could not finish that long running route. There was one time I did finish the route. Here is how I finished. I ran to the end. I did not give up. I had pressure to finish. Meagan was in Dayton so I could not call her to pick me up. I knew a few people I could call, but I did not want to call them. This pressured me to finish.

Some of us need to be challenged in our walk with Christ. We need challenged. I watch a show called “A Football Life” which is about various NFL players. I watched the episode about Bill Cowher, the former Steelers coach. It is interesting because you see him motivating players on the sidelines. He is telling them in a very strong way, “Your job is to rush the quarterback.” His motivation is yelling. But it works for the football players. Some of us need challenged. We need the Word of God to challenge us like a football coach. “Your job in Christ is to sack the enemy.” “Your job in Christ is to be contagious Christians and this sacks the enemy.”

Some of you have beat yourself up enough. You are giving yourself standards that are not from the Holy Spirit. Maybe, just maybe, you must lessen the pressure. After those long runs, I ran the 2013 Cincinnati marathon. Then in 2014 and 2015 I ran two more marathons. I ran a second Cincinnati marathon and in 2015 I ran the Pittsburgh marathon. But in my training in 2014 and 2015 I lessened the pressure. I could not finish that long running route. I wanted to but could not. So, I did not try to run longer than 20 miles straight. Remember the grace of God.

Receive grace and give grace.



[1] Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 352.

[2] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 5:1.

[3] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books.

27 LW 27.18.

[4] Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 359.

[5] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books.

[6] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 5:11.

[7] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2005), Ga 6:12.

[8] Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books.

[9] The Moody Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 75968-75970). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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