The Meaning of Galatians 5:1 Explained

Galatians 5:1

KJV: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

YLT: In the freedom, then, with which Christ did make you free -- stand ye, and be not held fast again by a yoke of servitude;

Darby: Christ has set us free in freedom; stand fast therefore, and be not held again in a yoke of bondage.

ASV: For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.

Discover Galatians 5:1

What does Galatians 5:1 Mean?

Verse Meaning

Paul"s mainly Gentile readers were in danger of returning to slavery, not to the slavery of their heathen sins as before but to the slavery of the Mosaic Law. The false teachers were evidently telling them that they needed to submit to circumcision to be truly acceptable to God.
"Before plunging into this third section of his letter, Paul interjects a verse that is at once a summary of all that has gone before and a transition to what follows. It Isaiah , in fact, the key verse of the entire Epistle. Because of the nature of the true gospel and of the work of Christ on his behalf, the believer is now to turn away from anything that smacks of legalism and instead rest in Christ"s triumphant work for him and live in the power of Christ"s Spirit.... The appeal is for an obstinate perseverance in freedom as the only proper response to an attempt to bring Christians once more under legalism." [1]
In the quotation above, Boice used the term "legalism" as it is commonly used to describe both legalism and nomism.
In what sense has God liberated Christians from the "yoke of slavery" ( Galatians 5:1) that is the Mosaic Law (cf. Romans 10:4; 2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Hebrews 7:12; Galatians 3:24)?
Calvin and many reformed theologians have answered this question this way. They have said the ceremonial laws (e.g, animal sacrifices, dietary restrictions, feast days, etc.) are no longer binding on Christians because of the death of Christ. Nevertheless the moral laws (the Ten Commandments) are still binding. God has done away with the moral laws only in the sense that they no longer condemn us ( Romans 8:11). [2] The problem with this explanation is that it makes a distinction between two parts of the Law that the text does not make. The text simply states that Christ is the end of "the Law" ( Romans 10:4), not the ceremonial part of the Law. Furthermore if the Ten Commandments are all still binding on us, why have Christians throughout history ( Acts 20:7; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2) met to worship on Sunday rather than on the Sabbath? Some reformed theologians, following Calvin, believe that God abolished Sabbath worship along with the ceremonial laws. [3] This seems somewhat inconsistent. Others, following the Westminster Confession, regard Sunday worship as a continuation of Sabbath worship. [4] Nevertheless it Isaiah , of course, very different.
Dispensational theologians have suggested another answer to this question that to me seems more consistent with what Scripture says. They say that God did away with the Mosaic Law completely, both the ceremonial and the moral parts. He terminated it as a code and has replaced it with a new code, "the Law of Christ" ( Galatians 6:2). Some commandments in the Law of Christ are the same as those in the Law of Moses (e.g, nine of the Ten Commandments, excluding the command to observe the Sabbath day). God-given codes of laws that governed people"s behavior existed before God gave the Law of Moses (e.g, Genesis 1:28-30; Genesis 2:16-17; Genesis 3:14-19; Genesis 9:1-17). God incorporated some specific commands from these former codes into the Law of Christ even though they were not part of the Law of Moses (e.g, 1 Timothy 4:3; cf. Genesis 9:3). He also incorporated nine of the Ten Commandments from the Mosaic Code.
"May this procedure not be likened to the various codes in a household with growing children? At different stages of maturity new codes are instituted, but some of the same commandments appear often. To say that the former code is done away and all its commandments is no contradiction. It is as natural as growing up. So it is with the Mosaic Law and the law of Christ." [5]
"The "yoke" was used in current Jewish parlance in an honorable sense for the obligation to keep the law of Moses, and the Judaizers may well have urged the Galatians to "take the yoke of the law" upon themselves. But Paul bluntly points out that the ordinances of the law as demanded by the Judaizers constitute a slave"s yoke, so that he uses the word in the bad sense of an imposed burden, like slavery (cf. Acts 15:10; 1 Timothy 6:1)." [3]0

Context Summary

Galatians 5:1-12 - Hold Fast Your Freedom
We are free. The Son has made us free, and we are free indeed, though not free to disobey the dictates and promptings of our new nature. We are set free from minute prescriptions, from priestly rules and requisitions, from all that would cramp and hinder our spiritual development; but we are still under the law of Christ, who will see to it that the essential righteousness of the Mosaic law is fulfilled in us, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," Romans 8:1.
If the Mosaic law is kept as a means of salvation, we must fulfill it all, Galatians 5:3. For himself, as "we" suggests, Galatians 5:5, Paul had an assured confidence that his hope could not be disappointed. Christ is ever calling us upward, Galatians 5:8. Be on guard against the ferment of false teaching, Galatians 5:9. The Apostle shows the absurdity of supposing that he was in favor of circumcision, since, if that were the case, the long persecution of his life would cease, Galatians 5:11. These verses were in Bunyan's mind when he depicted Mr. Worldly Wiseman, of the town of Carnal Policy, as endeavoring to turn Christian out of the Way of the Cross to the house of Mr. Legality. [source]

Chapter Summary: Galatians 5

1  He wills them to stand in their liberty,
3  and not to observe circumcision;
13  but rather love, which is the sum of the law
19  He lists the works of the flesh,
22  and the fruits of the Spirit,
25  and exhorts to walk in the Spirit

Greek Commentary for Galatians 5:1

With freedom [τηι ελευτεριαι]
Rather dative case instead of instrumental, “for freedom,” “for the (article) freedom that belongs to us children of the freewoman” (Galatians 4:31). [source]
Did Christ set us free [ημας Χριστος ηλευτερωσεν]
Effective aorist active indicative of ελευτεροω — eleutheroō (from ερχομαι — erchomai to go, go free). Stand fast therefore (στηκετε ουν — stēkete oun). See Mark 3:31; 1 Corinthians 16:13 for this late word from perfect stem of ιστημι — histēmi “keep on standing therefore,” “stay free since Christ set you free.” Be not entangled again “Stop being held in by a yoke of bondage.” Common word for ensnare by trap. The Judaizers were trying to lasso the Galatians for the old yoke of Judaism. [source]
Stand fast therefore [στηκετε ουν]
See Mark 3:31; 1 Corinthians 16:13 for this late word from perfect stem of ιστημι — histēmi “keep on standing therefore,” “stay free since Christ set you free.” [source]
Be not entangled again [μη παλιν ενεχεστε]
“Stop being held in by a yoke of bondage.” Common word for ensnare by trap. The Judaizers were trying to lasso the Galatians for the old yoke of Judaism. [source]
d In the liberty wherewith. This is according to the reading τῆ ἐλευθερίᾳ ᾗ . Different connections are proposed, as with stand fast, as A.V.: or with the close of chapter 4, as, “we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free with the freedom with which Christ freed us”: or, “of her who is free with the freedom with which,” etc. But ᾗ wherewithmust be omitted. A new clause begins with τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ . Rend. for freedom did Christ set us free. For, not with freedom. It is the dative of advantage; that we might be really free and remain free. Comp. Galatians 5:13, and John 8:36. [source]
Made [ἠλευθέρωσεν]
With the exception of John 8:32, John 8:36, only in Paul. [source]
Stand fast [στήκετε]
Used absolutely, as 2 Thessalonians 2:15. Mostly in Paul. See on 1 Thessalonians 3:8. [source]
Be not entangled [μὴ ἐνέχεσθε]
Or, held ensnared. By Paul only here and 2 Thessalonians 1:4. Lit. to be held within. For an elliptical usage see on Mark 6:19. [source]
Yoke [ζυγῷ]
Metaphorical, of a burden or bondage. Comp. Matthew 11:29, Matthew 11:30; Acts 15:10; 1 Timothy 6:1. Similarly lxx, Genesis 27:40; Leviticus 26:13; 2 Chronicles 10:4, 2 Chronicles 10:9, 2 Chronicles 10:10, 2 Chronicles 10:11, 2 Chronicles 10:14. So always in N.T. except Revelation 6:5, where it means a pair of scales. See note, and comp. Leviticus 19:35, Leviticus 19:36; Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 16:11; Hosea 12:7. [source]

What do the individual words in Galatians 5:1 mean?

In freedom us Christ has set free stand firm therefore and not again in a yoke of slavery entangle yourselves
Τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν στήκετε οὖν καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείας ἐνέχεσθε

ἐλευθερίᾳ  freedom 
Parse: Noun, Dative Feminine Singular
Root: ἐλευθερία  
Sense: liberty to do or to omit things having no relationship to salvation.
ἡμᾶς  us 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Accusative 1st Person Plural
Root: ἐγώ  
Sense: I, me, my.
Χριστὸς  Christ 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Χριστός  
Sense: Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God.
ἠλευθέρωσεν  has  set  free 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ἐλευθερόω  
Sense: to make free.
στήκετε  stand  firm 
Parse: Verb, Present Imperative Active, 2nd Person Plural
Root: στήκω  
Sense: to stand firm.
πάλιν  again 
Parse: Adverb
Root: πάλιν  
Sense: anew, again.
ζυγῷ  in  a  yoke 
Parse: Noun, Dative Masculine Singular
Root: ζυγός  
Sense: a yoke.
δουλείας  of  slavery 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Feminine Singular
Root: δουλεία  
Sense: slavery, bondage, the condition of a slave.
ἐνέχεσθε  entangle  yourselves 
Parse: Verb, Present Imperative Middle or Passive, 2nd Person Plural
Root: ἐνέχω  
Sense: to have within, to hold in.

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