New Defender's Study Bible Notes
5:4 fallen from grace. Paul is not discussing the security of one’s salvation here, but rather the two different proposed ways of achieving salvation. If we propose to earn salvation by the works of the law, we thereby reject the free grace of Christ, and He is “cut off” from saving us. In this sense only can we fall from grace. We are both saved by grace and kept saved by grace. We cannot cancel the grace which gives salvation by failing to keep working for it, for works could never earn God’s grace in the first place.
5:9 A little leaven. Compare I Corinthians 5:6, where the same sentence is used by Paul.
5:9 leaven. Here, as always, when leaven is used in a figurative sense, it obviously symbolizes evil doctrine (note Matthew 16:12, for example). Leaven, physically speaking, seems to improve the taste but actually is producing disintegration of the molecular structure of the foodstuff in which it is placed—also producing fermentation in sweet fruit juices. In this case, Paul uses leaven to represent the corruption of salvation doctrine by legalism, especially the insistence on circumcision.
5:12 cut off. The verb “cut off” actually means “mutilate” or “castrate.” The insistence of the Judaizers that the Gentile Christians be circumcised so disturbed Paul that he compared it to the practice of castration that some worshipers of the pagan goddess followed. Also, with bitter irony he suggested that the Judaizers regress all the way into paganism instead of Judaism, if they were going to trouble these new Christians in this way.
5:13 occasion to the flesh. There is an occasional danger in the misuse of the doctrine of grace—that is anti-nomianism (“against law”). Christian liberty might be so abused as to become libertinism, or license, and Paul must warn against that as well. In fact, the introduction of legalism would tend to split a church, with some anti-legalists going to the extreme of becoming anti-nomians, deliberately sinning “that grace may abound,” an idea from which Paul recoils in horror (Romans 6:1,2).
5:14 love thy neighbour. Note Leviticus 19:18. See also Christ’s affirmation of this truth in Matthew 22:39. The love which fulfills the law is not erotic love, of course, but unselfish love, of Christian charity (Greek, agape).
5:16 Walk in the Spirit. The Christian “walk” is synonymous with the daily Christian way of living (compare John 8:12; Colossians 2:6). We have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are new creations in Christ, so we do not need the threatened penalties of the law to constrain us to refrain from sin. “The love of Christ constraineth us” (II Corinthians 5:14), and a conscious commitment to the leading of the indwelling Spirit by God’s Word will enable us to live in a way pleasing to Him who has saved us, not to yield to fleshly lusts.
5:16 the lust of the flesh. This phrase, “lust of the flesh,” is also used in Ephesians 2:3, II Peter 2:18, and I John 2:16. The conflict between the Spirit and the flesh is prominent throughout Scripture, first mentioned as such in Genesis 6:3.
5:19 these. The apostle here lists seventeen typical sins of the “flesh.” The list is typical, not exhaustive, as he adds the phrase “and such like” to cover the rest. These include sexual sins, religious sins, moral sins, violent sins, mental sins—everything which violates the laws of God and man. It seems anomalous that teaching that salvation depends on obedience to the works of the law would actually lead to law-breaking, but it often does just that. Our sinful human nature somehow makes that which is prohibited more desirable.
5:20 variance. “Variance” means “intense dissensions;” “emulations” means “bitter jealousies;” “seditions” means “factious divisions.”
5:21 do such things. Those who “do” such things—that is, “habitually do” such things—thereby indicate they are not really led by the Spirit, and therefore not really saved.
5:22 fruit. Note that “fruit” is singular. There are not nine different fruits of the Spirit, but rather one ninefold fruit of the Spirit. These attributes should characterize all who walk in the Spirit, because He produces that fruit in their lives. In fact, this listing seems practically to define the nature of Christ! Christians, therefore, do not need the constraints of the law to make them possess these characteristics (Galatians 5:23), for they are the fruit borne by the indwelling Spirit.
5:24 crucified the flesh. Three times in Galatians, we are reminded that the Christian believer should be following Christ in His crucifixion (Galatians 2:20; 5:24; 6:14). We should offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice” to serve Him (Romans 12:1) so that we should not “serve sin” (Romans 6:6). Crucifixion is a very slow and painful death; just so, the death of a Christian to sin does not come in a moment of special blessing but is painful and slow. Nevertheless, it is basic in any truly effective Christian life.