For an introduction to this series, click here.
Paul is not done with making strong statements:
"Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. severed from Christ,You are you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love." (5:2-6)
Paul says very plainly here that if you are trusting in your good works or your adherence to a system of rules to get to heaven, you will never make it. Now there are some out there who say the phrase, "fallen away from grace," teaches that people can lose their salvation. But there is so much scripture that plainly teaches that God's election is without repentance that this teaching must mean something else. It must mean that the people who can give up their belief in Christ to follow another system are not truly born again in the first place. They may be attending church, they seem to be saved or on their way there, but to embrace man-made systems is to reject Christ.
"You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!" (5:7-12)
I used to think that last phrase was a somewhat dirty joke inserted by Paul, but as I was studying this a couple of years ago, I came across information about the goddess Cybele, who was one of the principal deities of Galatia and who was later added to the Greek and Roman pantheon. Her priests were all castrated men. What Paul really seems to be saying here is there is no difference between the pagan religion of their culture and adding Judaism to Christianity. They might as well go ahead and join back up with Cybelian worship as to fall into the trap of the Judaizers.
"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another." (5:13-15)
Now finally Paul moves from teaching about the Law to other matters. It is always vital to remember not to use our liberty as a stumbling block to others. It is very tempting, once you learn that you are free from these man-made regulations, to go too far in your enjoyment of your liberty.
The next passage is one that is often misapplied, in my opinion:
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control; gentleness, against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (5:16-24)
This is Paul's answer to those who say that if we throw out the Law, then people will be free to live in sin. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are neither under the Law, nor do they gratify their flesh. It's really that simple. Man (with help from Satan) tries to make the Christian life a difficult burden, something impossible to do. But God says a life in the Spirit is as easy as walking.
A small part of the second part of this passage is very popular (I'm sure you already know what I am talking about), but it is almost always divorced from its context. When Paul wrote about the fruit of the Spirit, he was actually making a contrast against the works of the flesh. I don't think Paul intended for this passage to be severely dissected and each one of his terms studied very carefully. Of course I am not saying that is wrong, but it is the result of a shallow handling of Scripture (in one man's opinion, of course). It is more important for us to see the contrast and to understand Paul's point that the working of the Spirit in our lives will lead us to lead a peaceable life with all men, while the flesh will get us in trouble.