To the Galatians 5:1-26

5  For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore, stand firm,+ and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.+  See! I, Paul, am telling you that if you become circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.+  Again I bear witness to every man who gets circumcised that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.+  You are separated from Christ, you who are trying to be declared righteous by means of law;+ you have fallen away from his undeserved kindness.  For our part, we are by spirit eagerly waiting for the hoped-for righteousness* resulting from faith.  For in union with Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any value,+ but faith operating through love is.  You were running well.+ Who hindered you from continuing to obey the truth?  This sort of persuasion does not come from the One calling you.  A little leaven ferments the whole batch of dough.+ 10  I am confident that you who are in union with the Lord+ will not come to think otherwise; but the one who is causing you trouble,+ whoever he may be, will receive the judgment he deserves. 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 torture stake+ has been eliminated. 12  I wish the men who are trying to unsettle you would emasculate themselves. 13  You were called to freedom, brothers; only do not use this freedom as an opportunity to pursue fleshly desires,+ but through love slave for one another.+ 14  For the entire Law has been fulfilled in one commandment, namely: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”+ 15  If, though, you keep on biting and devouring one another,+ look out that you do not get annihilated by one another.+ 16  But I say, Keep walking by spirit+ and you will carry out no fleshly desire at all.+ 17  For the flesh is against the spirit in its desire, and the spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you do not do the very things you want to do.+ 18  Furthermore, if you are being led by spirit, you are not under law. 19  Now the works of the flesh are plainly seen, and they are sexual immorality,+ uncleanness, brazen conduct,+ 20  idolatry, spiritism,+ hostility, strife,+ jealousy,+ fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, sects,+ 21  envy, drunkenness,+ wild parties, and things like these.+ I am forewarning you about these things, the same way I already warned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.+ 22  On the other hand, the fruitage+ of the spirit is love, joy,+ peace,+ patience, kindness, goodness,+ faith, 23  mildness, self-control.+ Against such things there is no law. 24  Moreover, those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed to the stake the flesh together with its passions and desires.+ 25  If we are living by spirit, let us also go on walking orderly by spirit.+ 26  Let us not become egotistical,+ stirring up competition with one another,+ envying one another.


Lit., “hope of righteousness.”

Study Notes

For such freedom Christ set us free: By using the Greek words for “freedom” and “free” several times in his letter, Paul emphasizes “the freedom we enjoy in union with Christ Jesus.” (Ga 2:4) He contrasts this freedom with the slavery he described in the preceding chapter. The above expression could also be rendered “With her freedom, Christ set us free,” which would highlight that such freedom can be enjoyed only as children of “Jerusalem above,” the free woman.​—Ga 4:26.

a yoke of slavery: The Law given to the nation of Israel was righteous and holy. (Ro 7:12) Thus, it was impossible for imperfect humans to observe the Law perfectly. Anyone returning to that Law after becoming a Christian would “be confined again in a yoke of slavery” because the Law would condemn him as a sinner and a slave to sin. Christ’s ransom sacrifice brought freedom from that “yoke.”​—Ac 15:10; Ga 5:1-6; see Glossary, “Yoke.”

You were running well: Paul here uses the metaphor of running a race to describe how the Galatian Christians had successfully been pursuing the Christian way of life. He uses similar figures of speech several times in his letters. (Compare Ga 2:2; see study note on 1Co 9:24.) The Bible often uses the concepts of walking and running to denote following a certain course of action.​—Ge 5:22; 6:9; Eph 4:17; 5:2.

leaven: Or “yeast.”​—See Glossary and study note on 1Co 5:6.

ferments: Or “spreads through; affects.” The Greek verb used here, zy·moʹo (to leaven), is related to the noun for “leaven,” zyʹme, also used in this verse. Paul uses the same phrase (“A little leaven ferments the whole batch of dough”), apparently a proverbial saying, at 1Co 5:6. Paul’s point is that just as a little leaven ferments a whole batch of dough, so false teachers (in this case advocates of circumcision) and their teachings can corrupt an entire congregation.

the stumbling block: Or “the offense.”​—See study notes on Mt 13:57; 18:7.

the stumbling block of the torture stake: Jesus’ death on the torture stake was the basis for removing the Law. Paul and other Christians preached the message that faith in Christ’s sacrifice was the sole way to gain salvation. (Col 2:13, 14; see study note on Ga 5:1.) That message became a stumbling block, that is, a cause for offense, to Jews who insisted that circumcision and adherence to the Mosaic Law were essential for gaining God’s approval.​—See study note on 1Co 1:23.

torture stake: Or “execution stake.”​—See study note on 1Co 1:17.

emasculate themselves: Or “castrate themselves; become (make themselves) eunuchs.” Lit., “cut themselves off.” Paul’s strong, even sarcastic, language is not meant to be taken literally. Paul uses hyperbole when he wishes that advocates of circumcision make themselves physical eunuchs. (See Glossary, “Eunuch.”) By doing so, they would disqualify themselves from performing the very Law that they were promoting. (De 23:1) Additionally, some commentators feel that Paul alludes to castration rites of some pagan worshippers, putting those who insisted on circumcision on the same level as such idolaters.

You were called to freedom: Here Paul warns that by giving in to fleshly, or sinful, desires, Christians would be abusing the freedom that they enjoy with Christ. (Ga 2:4; 4:24-31) Those who appreciate this freedom use it to slave for one another out of love, serving others in a humble manner.​—See study notes on Ga 5:1, 14.

an opportunity to pursue fleshly desires: Lit., “an opportunity for the flesh.” The Greek term for “flesh” (sarx) occurs several times in the verses that follow. (Ga 5:16-19) Here it refers to the sinful nature of humans.​—See study note on Ga 5:19.

through love slave for one another: Paul encourages Christians not to use their lives to pursue selfish goals but to slave for their fellow believers out of love. His use of the verb “to slave” may imply that they should humbly treat one another with dignity and respect, as a slave would a master. The expression “slave for one another” could also be translated “serve one another in a humble manner.”

has been fulfilled: The Greek expression can mean two things: One rendering could be that the Mosaic Law “finds its fulfillment” in this one commandment. Another possible rendering is that it “finds its full expression” in this commandment. In either case, a person fulfills the entire Law by showing love because love is the basis of the Law. In this verse, Paul quotes the commandment found at Le 19:18. He quotes that same verse at Ro 13:9, where he makes the point that all commandments of the Law are “summed up in this saying” about loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Here at Ga 5:14, some Bible translations read “is summed up,” which is also a possible rendering of the Greek term.

Keep walking by spirit: In this context, a person who walks by spirit seeks the direction of God’s spirit and allows it to influence his thoughts and actions. Though he may have sinful desires, he rejects them immediately, refusing to entertain them. He thereby avoids becoming a practicer of sin. (Ro 8:4-6; Jas 1:14, 15) Paul contrasts this conduct with conduct governed by any improper fleshly desire.

the flesh . . . the spirit: In this chapter, Paul often portrays “the flesh” and “the spirit” as being in conflict with each other. Here “the flesh” refers to sinful human nature and “the spirit” refers to God’s holy spirit, though it could also include the impelling force of a person who is guided by holy spirit. (See Glossary, “Spirit.”) God’s spirit is a force for righteousness in his servants, but the sinful flesh wars continually against the spirit’s influence. At Ga 5:19-23, the works of the sinful flesh are contrasted with the fruitage of the holy spirit.​—Compare Ro 7:18-20.

the works of the flesh: In the preceding verses, Paul describes the constant conflict between “the flesh” and “the spirit.” (Ga 5:13, 17) In the list that follows (verses 19-21), Paul enumerates 15 works, or practices, that are related to “the flesh,” that is, sinful human nature. (See study notes on Mt 26:41; Ga 5:13, 17.) “The works” Paul lists here are the result of what a person thinks about and does when he is influenced by the sinful flesh. (Ro 1:24, 28; 7:21-25) At the end of the list, Paul adds the expression “and things like these” to show that the list was not meant to include every possible work of the flesh.​—See study note on Ga 5:21.

sexual immorality: As used in the Bible, the Greek word por·neiʹa is a general term for certain sexual activities forbidden by God. One lexicon defines por·neiʹa as “prostitution, unchastity, fornication” and adds that this word is used when speaking “of every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse.” Such forbidden activity would include not only prostitution, adultery, and sexual relations between unmarried individuals but also homosexual acts and bestiality, all of which are condemned in the Scriptures. (Le 18:6, 22, 23; 20:15, 16; 1Co 6:9; see Glossary.) Jesus showed that sexual immorality is wicked by classing it with murder, thievery, and blasphemy.​—Mt 15:19, 20; Mr 7:21-23.

uncleanness: Or “filthiness; depravity; lewdness.” Of the first three “works of the flesh” mentioned in this verse, “uncleanness” (Greek, a·ka·thar·siʹa) is the broadest in meaning. This word appears ten times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Literally, the word refers to something physically unclean or filthy. (Mt 23:27) The figurative meaning encompasses impurity of any kind​—in sexual matters, in speech, in action, and in spiritual relationships, such as the worship of false gods. (Ro 1:24; 6:19; 2Co 6:17; 12:21; Eph 4:19; 5:3; Col 3:5; 1Th 2:3; 4:7) “Uncleanness” can therefore refer to various types of wrongdoing of varying degrees of seriousness. (See study note on Eph 4:19.) It stresses the morally repugnant nature of the wrong conduct or condition.​—See Glossary, “Unclean.”

brazen conduct: Or “shameless conduct; wantonness.” As used in the Bible, the Greek word a·selʹgei·a denotes conduct that constitutes a serious violation of God’s laws and that stems from a brazen, disrespectful, or boldly contemptuous attitude. This term appears ten times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Mr 7:22; Ro 13:13; 2Co 12:21; Ga 5:19; Eph 4:19; 1Pe 4:3; 2Pe 2:2, 7, 18; Jude 4) One lexicon defines the word as “debauchery, licentiousness, lewdness, i.e., [to] be unrestrained in moral attitudes and behaviors.” Jewish historian Josephus used this Greek term when describing that pagan Queen Jezebel erected a shrine to Baal in Israel. This act was an outrage, one that brazenly flouted public opinion and decency.​—Jewish Antiquities, Book 8, chap. 13, par. 1 (Loeb 8.318); see Glossary.

spiritism: Or “sorcery; occultism; use of drugs.” The Greek noun here rendered “spiritism” is phar·ma·kiʹa, which basically refers to “use of drugs.” This Greek term possibly came to be connected with spiritism, magic, or the occult because drugs were used when invoking the power of the demons in order to practice sorcery. The Septuagint used the Greek word phar·ma·kiʹa to render Hebrew words for “magic (arts)”; “secret arts”; and “sorceries.” (Ex 7:11, 22; 8:7, 18; Isa 47:9, 12) Paul uses the word to refer to occult practices, which may be suggested by his listing “spiritism” immediately after idolatry. (See Glossary, “Idol; Idolatry.”) The related noun phar·ma·kosʹ is rendered “those practicing spiritism” at Re 21:8.​—Re 22:15; see Glossary.

jealousy: The Greek word zeʹlos conveys the idea of an intense emotion that can be either positive or negative. Paul lists it here among “the works of the flesh.” So in this context, the word conveys the idea of a negative emotion that a person feels toward a suspected rival or toward someone whom he believes to be enjoying an advantage over him. First-century Christians were given strong counsel to avoid this type of jealousy.​—1Co 3:3; 2Co 12:20; Jas 3:14, 16; see study note on 1Co 13:4.

fits of anger: Or “outbursts of anger.” Paul here uses the plural form of the Greek word rendered “anger.” It could include not only outbursts of uncontrolled anger but also anger that is seething in one’s heart and finds expression later. Anger is listed along with other detestable works of the flesh, such as sexual immorality, brazen conduct, idolatry, spiritism, and drunkenness.

sects: See study note on Ac 24:5.

wild parties: See study note on Ro 13:13.

and things like these: This expression shows that Paul did not provide an exhaustive list of everything that would be considered a work of “the flesh,” that is, of the sinful human nature. (See study note on Ga 5:19.) Paul uses a similar expression at the end of 1Ti 1:10. The Christians in Galatia would need to use their “powers of discernment” in order to identify things that are similar to these sinful practices. (Heb 5:14) For example, malicious slander is not specifically mentioned as a work of the sinful flesh, but it frequently accompanies “hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions” mentioned at Ga 5:20. Those who unrepentantly engage in practices that are specifically identified as “the works of the flesh” or that are “things like these” will not inherit the blessings of God’s Kingdom.

the fruitage of the spirit: Or “what the spirit produces.” The Greek agricultural term kar·posʹ, “fruit; fruitage,” appears frequently in the Scriptures. Here it is used figuratively to refer to qualities that God’s holy spirit, or active force, can produce in humans. (Ga 5:16) Just as a tree bears fruit when it is properly cultivated, so a person produces “the fruitage of the spirit” when he allows the spirit to influence his thinking and actions. (Compare Ps 1:1-3.) Such qualities reflect the personality of Jehovah God, the Source of holy spirit. (Col 3:9, 10) The list of qualities mentioned here is not intended to cover all qualities that holy spirit produces in Christians as its fruitage. (See study note on Ga 5:23.) Together these qualities characterize the new personality. (Eph 4:24) Paul here uses the singular form of the Greek word kar·posʹ, “fruitage.” Bible commentators have noted that this use of the singular form may imply that the desirable qualities specifically mentioned here form a whole; all are important to cultivate, and they cannot exist separate from one another.

love: Christian love (Greek, a·gaʹpe) is best defined by describing how it acts, as Paul does at 1Co 13:4-8. (See study note on 1Co 13:4.) John uses the same Greek term at 1Jo 4:8-10, where he describes “the love of God.” John even states that “God is love,” meaning that Jehovah is the very personification of love. (See study note on Joh 3:16.) Jesus said that love for God and fellow man are the two greatest commandments.​—Mt 22:37-39; see study note on Mt 22:37.

joy: The delightful emotion caused by the expectation or acquisition of good; a state of true happiness. The Greek word rendered “joy” is a deep-seated quality of the heart. Jehovah, “the happy God,” is the Source of joy, and he wants his people to be joyful. (1Ti 1:11) With the help of God’s spirit, a Christian can remain joyful even when facing hardship, sorrow, or persecution.​—Col 1:11; Heb 12:2; Jas 1:2-4.

peace: The Greek word for “peace” has a broad meaning. In this context, “peace” involves tranquility of mind and heart that comes from cultivating a close relationship with Jehovah, “the God of peace.” (Php 4:9; 1Th 5:23; Heb 13:20; see study note on 1Co 14:33.) God’s holy spirit is often mentioned together with “peace.” (Ac 9:31; Ro 8:6; 15:13) With the help of his spirit, those who are at peace with God promote harmony, unity, and good relations with others.​—Mt 5:9; 2Co 13:11; Jas 3:18.

patience: Or “long-suffering.” The Greek word could literally be rendered “longness of spirit” (Kingdom Interlinear) and denotes calm endurance, forbearance, and slowness to anger. Jehovah God is the supreme example of patience. (Ro 2:4; 9:22; 1Ti 1:16; 1Pe 3:20; 2Pe 3:9, 15) Paul mentions patience as an essential aspect of Christian love.​—1Co 13:4; see App. A2.

kindness: The quality or state of taking an active interest in the welfare of others and acting toward them in a friendly and helpful way. Jehovah God shows kindness even toward the unthankful and wicked. (Lu 6:35; Ro 2:4; 11:22; Tit 3:4, 5) A form of the Greek word for “kindness” is used to describe Jesus’ “kindly” yoke of discipleship, a yoke that is “easy to bear; pleasant.” (Mt 11:30; ftn.) Christians under that yoke are urged to clothe themselves with kindness.​—Eph 4:32; Col 3:12.

goodness: The quality or state of being good; moral excellence; virtue. One lexicon defines the Greek word for “goodness” as a “positive moral quality characterized esp[ecially] by interest in the welfare of others.” So a Christian needs not only to be good but also to do good. Though imperfect, a Christian can cultivate goodness by obeying Jehovah’s commands and by imitating his goodness and generosity toward others. (Ac 9:36, 39; 16:14, 15; Ro 7:18; Eph 5:1) Jehovah is good in the absolute sense. (Ps 25:8; Zec 9:17; Mr 10:18 and study note) He is a truly generous and considerate God.​—Ac 14:17.

faith: The term “faith” is translated from the Greek word piʹstis, primarily conveying the thought of confidence, trust, firm persuasion. At Heb 11:1, Paul gives a divinely inspired definition of the term “faith.” Like love, faith is defined by how it acts. (Jas 2:18, 22; see study note on Joh 3:16.) The Scriptures indicate that Christian faith should grow stronger; accordingly, Jesus’ disciples said: “Give us more faith.” (Lu 17:5) Paul commended the Christians in Thessalonica, saying: “Your faith is growing exceedingly.” (2Th 1:3; see also 2Co 10:15.) In the book of Galatians, “faith” is mentioned more than 20 times, most often referring to trust in God or in Christ, as in this verse. (Ga 3:6, 11) At 2Th 3:2, Paul says: “Faith is not a possession of all people.” To have strong faith, a person must have Jehovah’s holy spirit.

mildness: An inward calmness and peaceableness that Christians exercise in their relationship with God and in their conduct toward fellow humans. (Ga 6:1; Eph 4:1-3; Col 3:12) Since mildness is an aspect of the fruitage of God’s spirit, it is not acquired by sheer willpower. A Christian cultivates mildness by drawing close to God, praying for his spirit, and cooperating with its influence. A mild person is not a coward or a weakling. The Greek word for “mildness” (pra·yʹtes) has the meaning of gentleness coupled with power, or strength under control. A related Greek word (pra·ysʹ) is rendered “mild-tempered” and “mild.” (Mt 21:5; 1Pe 3:4) Jesus described himself as mild-tempered (Mt 11:29); yet, he was by no means weak.​—See Mt 5:5 and study note.

self-control: The Greek word here rendered “self-control” appears four times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Ac 24:25; 2Pe 1:6) This quality has been defined as “restraint of one’s emotions, impulses, or desires.” The related Greek verb appears at 1Co 9:25 (see study note), where Paul says regarding athletic games: “Now everyone competing in a contest exercises self-control in all things.” This Greek verb is also used in the Septuagint at Ge 43:31, describing how Joseph “controlled himself.” The Hebrew verb used at Ge 43:31 is also used at Isa 42:14, where Isaiah describes Jehovah as saying: “I . . . restrained myself.” Instead of taking immediate action against wrongdoers, Jehovah has allowed time to pass so that they might have the opportunity to turn from their bad ways and thereby gain his favor.​—Jer 18:7-10; 2Pe 3:9.

Against such things there is no law: There is no law that can restrict the extent to which Christians can cultivate the qualities produced by God’s spirit. All these qualities harmonize fully with the law of love set out in the Mosaic Law (Le 19:18; De 6:5) and in “the law of the Christ” (Ga 6:2; Joh 13:34). The expression “such things” implies that the fruitage of Jehovah’s spirit is not limited to the nine aspects listed here. The Christian personality is made up of these and other qualities, all of which are produced with the help of the holy spirit.​—Eph 4:24, 32; 5:9; Col 3:12-15; Jas 3:17, 18.

have nailed to the stake: The Gospels use the Greek verb stau·roʹo regarding the execution of Jesus Christ. Here Paul uses the term figuratively. (Compare study note on Ro 6:6.) It describes the strong and decisive measures that followers of Christ have to take in order to put the flesh, the sinful human nature, to death. When a Christian overcomes and controls the sinful “passions and desires” of “the flesh,” it is as if those desires are dead and no longer have any power over him. (Ga 5:16) Paul’s comment is closely connected with the preceding verses, emphasizing that those who belong to Christ should decisively put away “the works of the flesh” mentioned at Ga 5:19-21.

Let us not become egotistical: After contrasting “the works of the flesh” with “the fruitage of the spirit” (Ga 5:19-23), Paul adds the admonition found in this verse. The Greek word rendered “egotistical” (ke·noʹdo·xos) literally conveys the idea of “empty glory; vainglory.” It occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. One lexicon defines it as “having exaggerated self-conceptions, conceited, boastful.” This suggests a strong desire to receive praise from others for valueless, empty reasons. A related Greek word is rendered “egotism” at Php 2:3.

stirring up competition with one another: Or “forcing one another to a showdown.” According to one lexicon, the Greek word used here literally means “to call out to someone to come forward, freq[uently] in a hostile sense provoke, challenge.” Another lexicon defines it as “to challenge to a combat or contest with one.”