ST. PAUL'S LETTER TO THE GALATINAS
Lesson 4: Chapters 5-6
In our study of St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians, we have felt Paul's heart-wrenching pain at what he fears is the Galatian faith communities' abandonment of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in favor of a false gospel that may cost them their eternal salvation. It is a pain many of us can relate to when children or family members embrace other doctrines that are in opposition to the teachings Jesus Christ has entrusted to His Church. We ask, Lord, that You give us the wisdom and patience to explain the truth of the Gospel entrusted to the Church. We ask that You also give us the love we need to persevere in prayer on behalf of our disaffected family members and that God the Holy Spirit will open their hearts and minds so that the truth of grace will convict them. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
Christ has set us free..." He obviously means that freedom by which our Mother [the
Church] is free, and she obviously is free by faith. For this is true
freedom, to keep faith in God and to believe all God's promises. Therefore by
faith Christ has brought us back to freedom and made us free by the freedom of
Marius Victorinus, Epistle to the Galatians, 2.5.1
Owe nothing to
anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled
St. Paul writes with passion to the Galatian Gentile-Christian communities using arguments based on theology and on Scripture to convince them that there is no salvation "under works of the law." He also makes a personal appeal based on their former close relationship to urge the Galatian faith communities to return to the Gospel he preached to them.
Paul will use the literal Greek expression "works of Law" (without the article "the") nine times in two of his letters " six times in his Letter to the Galatians and three times in his Letter to the Romans. The following quotes are from the literal Greek translation, Interlineal Bible Greek-English, volume IV (underlining added for emphasis):
What exactly does Paul mean by the expression "works of [the] Law"? Is he referring to legalism and the misguided attempt to earn salvation for oneself through observance of the Mosaic Law? Is he referring to relying on obedience to Mosaic Law as a path that leads to salvation? Is he referring to the ceremonial works of the Law, like the Sabbath obligation, circumcision, dietary requirements, purity codes and the observance of the Liturgical calendar that is taking the place of faith generated by grace as he mentioned in Romans 9:32a and Galatians 3:2? Or does Paul's reference to the "works of law" refer to all of the above?
In the commentaries of the Church Fathers Origin, Jerome, Ambrosiaster and Theodoret of Cyrrhus, they wrote that Paul was primarily referring to the ceremonial works of the Law. They wrote those works became irrelevant in the coming of Christ: like circumcision (see Rom 2:25-29; 3:30; 4:9-12; Gal 2:3; 5:2-12; 6:12-15) the dietary laws (Rom 14:1-23; Gal 2:11-14), and the observance of feast days of the Sinai Covenant's liturgical calendar (Rom 14:5-6; Gal 4:10; Col 2:16-17).
Paul wants the Galatians to recognize that the old Mosaic Law, despite its good purpose in the age before the coming of the Messiah, was, with its purity rituals and ceremonial obligations, a "yoke of slavery" and a curse against any Israelite who did not perfectly keep the Law (Dt 27:26; 28:15; Acts 15:10). He tells them that the old Law stands in sharp contrast to the freedom of faith and the "light yoke" offered in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1; Mt 11:29-30). The grace of God has liberated all who come to Christ in faith from bondage to sin and death, and frees all believers from the curse of the Law that Jesus took upon Himself as He suffered on the Cross (Acts 13:38-39). Paul warns the Galatians, if they accept the "yoke of the Law" as necessary for salvation, they have rejected Jesus Christ as the foundation of their redemption and their entrance to spiritual life through the Sacrament of Baptism (Gal 2:21). Finally, Paul tells the Galatians in chapter 4, it is our faith in Jesus that sets us free to inherit the promises of the covenant God made with Abraham: a kingdom, many blessed citizens of the covenant kingdom, and a world-wide blessing "all of which are our inheritance in the Kingdom of the Universal Church.
The New Law in Christ Jesus is a law of love, a law of grace, and a law of freedom: "The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally lets us pass from the condition of a servant who does not know what his master is doing' to that of a friend of Christ " For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you "or even to the status of a son and heir" (CCC 1872; quoting Jn 15:15; also see Jam 1:25; 2:12; Gal 4:1-7, 21-31 and Rom 8:15).
Chapter 5: An Exhortation to Christian Living
Galatians 5:1-6 ~ The Importance of Faith and Christian Liberty
1 For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. 2 It is I, Paul, who am telling you that if you have yourselves circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 Once again I declare to every man who has himself circumcised that he is bound to observe the entire law. 4 You are separated from Christ, you who are trying to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we await the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Question: What three arguments is Paul making in 5:2-4?
To return to circumcision and other aspects of old covenant ceremonial law would be to renounce the freedom brought by faith in Jesus Christ. This warning applies today to those Jewish Christians who call themselves "Messianic-Jews" who want to observe the dietary restrictions, rituals and feasts of the Sinai Covenant and still declare themselves as belonging to Christ. To legitimately observe the old rituals of the Sinai Covenant is no longer possible. There is no Temple and no altar of sacrifice; therefore there is no twice daily liturgy of worship and no Temple sacrifices, including all the festival sacrifices, which means there is no reason for the ritual purity rites. One cannot say one observes the Sinai Covenant because that is no longer possible; therefore, rabbinic Judaism is not Biblical.
The inspired writer of Hebrews, who is probably St. Paul, wrote concerning the ineffective offerings of ritual sacrifice after quoting from Psalm 40:7-9 (LXX 39:7-9) and 1 Samuel 15:22. Referring to God he wrote: First he says, "Sacrifices and offerings, holocaust and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in." These are offered according to the law. Then he says, "Behold, I come to do your will." He takes away the first to establish the second. By this "will," we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:8-10). And concerning the Sinai Covenant that is replaced by the New Covenant Paul wrote prior to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD: When he speaks of a "new" covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing (Heb 8:13).
through the Spirit, by faith, we await the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither
circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working
In verses 5-6 Paul provides reasons to support his statement in verse 4 that those who look for justification by the Law cut themselves off from divine grace. The Greek for "faith working through love" is also translated as "faith expressing itself through love" or "faith energized by love."
Question: What is the "love" in verse 5?
Answer: God's love ""faith working through/energized by [God's] love!
Faith alone is not sufficient to justify the sinner. If faith is not transformed into a living and active faith that is demonstrated in acts of mercy and service, it is empty. As St. James wrote, "faith without works is dead" "it is like a body without a soul (see Jam 2:14-26). In 1 Corinthians 7:19, Paul also declared the irrelevance of circumcision. In that passage he associated the labor of faith and love with obedience to the moral commandments of God, which of course also includes Jesus' two great commandments that are love of God and love of neighbor (Mt 22:38).
In the early years of the Church, prior to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD, it was permitted for Jewish converts to Christianity to maintain their cultural and ancestral ties to the Temple. This period of grace between the Old and New Covenants lasted forty years from the Resurrection of Christ in 30 AD to the spread of the Gospel to the ends of the Roman world. By 70 AD the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been declared from England to Egypt and from Portugal to Persia and India. It was then that God put an end to Old Covenant worship in the destruction of the Temple by the Romans. The forty-year period of grace between Jesus' Resurrection and the destruction of the Temple can be compared to the forty-year period of grace between the Israelites' departure from Egypt until the conquest of the Promised Land. God gave the Israelites the opportunity to make the adjustment to living under the Law of the Sinai Covenant, just as He gave Jewish-Christians the opportunity to give up what was good in the old to grasp what was eternal in the new.
The Council of Florence in 1442 declared that professing Christians, or Jews who are converts to Christianity, cannot observe the rituals of the Sinai Covenant as necessary for salvation without committing a grave sin. See the decree in the endnotes at the end of the lesson.(1)
Galatians 5:7-12 ~ You Were on the Right Path But You Have been Misled
7 You were running well; who hindered you from following the truth? 8 That enticement does not come from the one who called you. 9 A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. 10 I am confident of you in the Lord that you will not take a different view, and that the one who is troubling you will bear the condemnation, whoever he may be. 11 As for me, brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case, the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. 12 Would that those who are upsetting you might also castrate themselves!
In verses 7-12 Paul tries to persuade the Galatians to disassociate themselves from those who are trying to add circumcision and ritual observances of the Mosaic Law as a cause for salvation to the Gospel of Christ:
After warning the Galatians of the consequences of accepting circumcision as a path to salvation, Paul turns his attention to the agitators. He only knows that Judaizers have caused the problem with the Galatian communities. He does not know their names, but he does know that God who called the Galatians to faith in Christ Jesus did not send them.
9 A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.
In the Old Testament leaven was often used as a symbol of sin. In the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, no leavening agent was to be permitted in the houses of the Jews for a period of seven days as a sign that the people had cast all sin out of their lives and were in a state of ritual purity (Ex 13:6-7). In addition, only bread without leaven was burned on the altar of sacrifice in the Temple (Lev 2:4-5).
Question: In what way is Paul using leaven as a
symbol, and how is he applying it concerning the Galatians?
Answer: Paul is using leaven as a symbol of an evil influence that can spread, like leaven can greatly expand a little dough. His point is, even if only a few Galatians submit to circumcision as necessary for salvation, their actions could have negative consequences for the entire community.
10 I am
confident of you in the Lord that you will not take a different view, and that
the one who is troubling you will bear the condemnation, whoever he may be.
Paul is confident that the Galatians will respond favorably to his arguments and that the greater sin will be on the one who misled them.
11 As for
me, brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being
persecuted? In that case, the stumbling block of the cross has been
Verse 11 probably refers to Paul's pre-Christian days. His opponents may have used the argument that Paul also used to believe in the necessity of circumcision before his conversion.
Question: What two points does Paul make in verse
The fact that Paul is being persecuted now that he preaches salvation apart from the old Law is proof that he no longer supports circumcision as a path to salvation, because he understand the Law was never intended to give righteousness or life (Gal 2:21; 3:21).(2)
Paul will also write about the Cross of Jesus Christ being a "stumbling block" for some, ... but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:23-24).
that those who are upsetting you might also castrate themselves!
This crude remark is Paul's curse upon the Judaizers and shows the depth of his anger with those who have disrupted the Galatian communities by their spiritually unhealthy interest in male private parts.
The Flesh Versus the Spirit
In verses 13-26 St. Paul elaborates on the true meaning of freedom as a Christian:
Galatians 5:13-21 ~ The Works of the Flesh
13 For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15 But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. 16 I say then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. 18 But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, 21 occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
In verse 13 Paul reminds the Galatians that they were called to freedom (13a), followed by a warning regarding the works of the flesh (13b), and his assurance that love is a remedy for the temptations of the flesh (13c).
14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Question: What passage is Paul quoting in verse
14? See Mt 22:34-40 and Lev 19:18.
Answer: In verse 14 Paul quotes Jesus' second greatest commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" that is also found in Leviticus 19:18.
The law is fulfilled in the commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself "therefore, Paul tells the Galatians to serve each other through love. Do not miss that Paul distinguishes between "doing" the Law and "fulfilling" the Law. The circumcised are obliged to "do" the Law, but those who have faith in Christ fulfill the Law through the love commandment. When Paul writes about the Jewish observances of the ritual Law, he consistently employs the Greek verbs "to do" (poiein in 3:10, 12; 5:3), and "to obey" (phylassein in 6:13). However, when he writes about those who are in Christ and their relationship to the Law, he uses the verb "to fulfill" (pleroun or anapleroun in 5:14 and 6:29). The word Paul uses for "love" in chapter 5 is the word "agape," which means "spiritual love" in Greek but which for Christians came to means the same "self-sacrificial love" with which Christ loved us (Gal 5:6, 13, 14, 22). It is the same word Jesus used in His command at the Last Supper that His disciples must love one another as He has loved them (Jn 15:12). Paul's point is that love completely satisfies/fulfills the requirements of the Law because it is a gift of the Spirit accomplished in Christ Jesus.
15 But if
you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by
In verse 15 Paul warns the Galatians that continued community division will lead to destruction. The imagery is of animals and not rational human beings and suggests the progression from biting to eating to consuming/destruction.
In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 that the greatest commandment was to love God in verse 37, and He quoted from Leviticus 19:18 in verse 39 that the second greatest commandment was to love one's neighbor. Jesus then stated that "the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments" "meaning that applying the commands of God in the entire content of Sacred Scripture depended on how one loved. Also see what Paul wrote about love fulfilling the law in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians (Rom 13:8 and 1 Cor 13:1-13).
19 Now the
works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry,
jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, 21 occasions of envy, drinking bouts,
orgies, and the like. I
warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not
inherit the kingdom of God.
In verse 18 Paul lists the "works of the flesh." He gives similar lists of vices that can cost one's eternal salvation in Romans 1:29-31 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, as he probably did to the Galatians when he first preached salvation to them.
Galatians 5:22-26 ~ Liberty and Love Through the Fruit of the Spirit
22 In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. 26 Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.
Paul contrasts the "works of the flesh" in verses 19-20
with the "fruit of the Spirit" in verses 22-23. Notice that it is not the Law
but the Spirit that bears the fruit of these good traits.
Question: Paul describes the "fruit" and not the "works" of the Spirit in verses 22-23. What are the "works of the Spirit"? See the list of the seven gifts of the Spirit in CCC 1831 and Is 11:1 compared to the twelve "fruits of the Spirit" in CCC 735-36, 1832, and Gal 5:22-23. Also see the chart in the handouts.
Answer: The Catechism lists seven gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, good council, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of God. The Catechism lists twelve fruits of the Spirit: self-control, modesty, patience, generosity, gentleness, charity (love), joy, kindness, goodness, peace, faithfulness, and chastity. It is the internal gifts of the works of the Spirit that yield the external actions of the fruit of the Spirit.
Chapter 6: Living in the Spirit
Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and
adopted as children, given confidence to call God "Father" and to share in
Christ's grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.
St. Basil, De spiritu Sancto, 15.36
Galatians 6:1-10 ~ Life in the Community of Christ
1 Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself. 4 Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason to boast with regard to himself alone, and not with regard to someone else; 5 for each will bear his own load. 6 One who is being instructed in the word should share all good things with his instructor. 7 Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, 8 because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit. 9 Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. 10 So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.
The ethical exhortation that began in 5:1 continues in chapter 6:1-10 with Paul's practical advice for the individual Christian and for his community concerning the faith and freedom of the Gospel. His practical advice includes:
In verse 1 Paul is writing about the obligation to
correct a Christian brother or sister who is committing sin. It is an
unpleasant but a necessary task to promote the welfare of our Christian
brothers and sisters as individuals and as the Church that is the Body of
Christ. Such correction must be an act of gentle mercy and encouragement
motivated by love.
Question: Jesus spoke about the same kind of correction of a brother or sister within the covenant family in Matthew 18:15-17. What did Jesus say was the correct procedure in such matters and what additional warning does Paul add?
Paul adds that the one doing the correction should also guard himself that he is not tempted to commit the same sin.
2 Bear one another's
burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.
The entire life of Jesus Christ is the law of Christian living. His Law of love is summarized in His commandment to love (Jn 13:34-35), in being willing to accept Christ's easy "yoke" of love (Mt 11:29-30), and to carry the burdens of others as Jesus did for us: He himself bore out sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Pt 2:24).
This is another of those times when Paul uses the word "fulfill" when he writes about those who are in Christ and their relationship to the Law. Here he uses the verb anapleroun. To "bear one another's burdens" is to "serve one another through love" as Paul wrote in 5:13.
3 For if anyone thinks
he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself. 4 Each one must examine his own work, and
then he will have reason to boast with regard to himself alone, and not with
regard to someone else; 5 for
each will bear his own load.
The discipline of self-examination is the cure for self-deception. Paul is encouraging a comparison between what we were before coming to Christ with what we are with the Spirit living within us and to give the glory to God. The word "load" in verse 5 refers to a soldier's equipment pack. Correcting one's own behavior avoids burdening others with our corrections.
6 One who
is being instructed in the word should share all good things with his
Paul is referring to catechetical instruction. One should offer the material and financial support a congregation owes to their spiritual leaders (Lk 10:7; 1 Cor 9:11-14).
7 Make no
mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, 8 because the one who sows for his flesh
will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will
reap eternal life from the spirit.
The concept of sowing and then reaping the harvest of what has been sowed for good or for ill is frequently a teaching in Scripture (see for example Job 4:8; Jer 17:10 and Jesus' parable of the seed and the sower in Mt 13:1-9 and 18-23).
Question: With the understanding that the sower is each person, and the field in which the seed is sown is one's life, what is Paul's point?
Answer: Just as a farmer will harvest the same crop he planted, so a person plants every thought, word, and deed into his life. What he has "planted" has a consequence that not only affects this life on earth but also the life to come. Those who sow "in the flesh" can expect to reap nothing but sin, the consequence of which is death and decay. Those who sow "in the Spirit" will reap holiness and the promise of eternal life and heavenly glory.
9 Let us
not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we
do not give up. 10 So then,
while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those
who belong to the family of the faith.
Paul urges the Galatians to persevere in doing good because the reward is eternal. They must do good for themselves and for the family of the Church.
Galatians 6:11-18 ~ Conclusion
11 See with what large letters I am writing to you in my own hand! 12 It is those who want to make a good appearance in the flesh who are trying to compel you to have yourselves circumcised, only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those having themselves circumcised observe the law themselves; they only want you to be circumcised so that they may boast of your flesh. 14 But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God. 17 From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Paul concludes his letter with:
Some scholars believe this letter was written by a secretary in Paul's service, and he has now written the postscript himself, as he did in 1 Corinthians 16:21 and in 2 Thessalonians 3:17. Paul's letter to the Romans was also dictated to a secretary name Tertius who included his own greeting at the end of the letter (Rom 16:22). However, others believe Paul has written this letter himself. Paul is writing with "large letters" either for emphasis or because his eyesight is poor (Gal 4:15).
12 It is
those who want to make a good appearance in the flesh who are trying to compel
you to have yourselves circumcised, only that they may not be persecuted for
the cross of Christ. 13 Not
even those having themselves circumcised observe the law themselves; they only
want you to be circumcised so that they may boast of your flesh.
At the end of his letter, Paul returns to the issue of circumcision. He tells the Galatians the Judaizers urge them to accept the ritual of circumcision not out of conviction but because of their cowardice. They are being persecuted by their Jewish kinsmen and so they have abandoned the truth of the Gospel.
14 But may
I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the
world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Paul repeats what he wrote in Galatians 2:20 and 5:24. We have been crucified in Christ in that our sins and worldly attachments have been put to death. His point is that the Cross and not circumcision is the sign of our salvation (see 1 Cor 1:18).
neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a
Having been crucified with Christ, we have also been raised to new life in the Spirit to become sharers in divine life: ... he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you might come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire (2 Pt 1:4). Why a "new creation"? Because the regenerating grace of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus will come to permeate and transform the entire cosmos (Rom 8:19-23; Rev 21:1-4).
Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to
the Israel of God.
This is a common Jewish benediction (see Ps 128:6; Sir 50:22-23). "This rule" refers to verses 14-15. The "Israel of God" probably refers to both the old and also to the new Israel that is the "household" of the Church of Jesus Christ, if they follow this rule.
now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my
Some have suggested that Paul bore the stigmata of Christ upon his body, but this is not a phenomena mentioned by the Fathers of the Church in association with Paul. He is probably referring to the marks and scars left by his many beatings in defense of the Gospel (for example see Acts 14:19; 16:22; 2 Cor 11:22-31). Paul is implying that instead of the outdated fleshly mark of circumcision, he bears upon his body the brand of his apostolic labors like a slave bore the brand of his master. Paul's master is, of course, Christ.
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Paul's final blessing is similar to most of his other letters (see 1 Cor 16:23; 2 Cor 13:13; Eph 6:24; Phil 4:23; Colos 4:18b; 1 Thes 5:28; 2 Thes 3:18; 1 Tim 6:21b; 2 Tim 4:22b; Tit 3:15b). It is a reminder that it is the gift of the grace of Jesus Christ that gives us a renewed spirit and the promise of eternal salvation.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
What did Paul mean when he wrote that the Law is fulfilled in Christ? What in the "old law" is fulfilled, and what does the "new Law" mean to you in your daily walk of faith? See Gal 5:14.
1. The Church repeated St. Paul's teaching to the Galatians in the Seventeenth Ecumenical Council of Basel/Ferrara/Florence (1431-1449). The command to refrain from circumcision refers to the practice as a religious requirement for salvation and not as a medical procedure for health reasons. Council of Florence, Session 11, 1442: "It firmly believes, professes and teaches that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the Passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally. It does not deny that from Christ's Passion until the promulgation of the Gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore, it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore, it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practice circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation."
2. Paul will be accused of being a hypocrite when he has Timothy, the son of a Jewish mother and Greek Gentile father, circumcised. However, it was not because Paul was acknowledging any significance to circumcision other than the fact that, if Timothy was circumcised as a Jew, it would help Timothy in preaching the Gospel to Jews (Acts 16:1-3; 2 Tim 1:5).
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson:* = Scripture quoted in the citation
|Gal 5||CCC 1454*||5:20||CCC 2113*|
|5:1||CCC 1741, 1748||5:22-23||CCC 736|
|5:3||CCC 578*||5:22-23||CCC 1832|
|5:6||CCC 162, 1814||5:22||CCC 1108*, 1695, 2345*|
|5:16-25||CCC 2744*, 2819*||5:24||CCC 2515*, 2543, 2555|
|5:16||CCC 2515*||5:25||CCC 736, 782, 1695*, 2516, 2842, 2848|
|5:17||CCC 2515*||6:2||CCC 1642*, 2030|
|5:19-21||CCC 1478, 1852||6:15||CCC 1214|