Paul begins the fifth chapter of his epistle with the idea that it is Jesus who has made us free from sin, and we should stand firm in that freedom and not seek freedom from sin by any other means. Jesus told us that the truth will make us free (Galatians 5:1; John 8:32). However, he later proclaimed that he is not only the Truth but also our Way and our Life, and no one is able to come to the Father except through him, i.e. Jesus (John 14:6). This is what Paul has been trying to get across to the Galatians. It is Christ alone who sets us free from sin (John 8:36), and if it is he who frees us from sin, then our righteousness also comes by Jesus (Romans 6:18).
There simply is no other way to become righteous. For example, suppose we are traveling along a road toward a place called “Righteousness” but the road ahead is apparently blocked and for local traffic only. There is a sign, saying: Detour to “Righteousness” take “Jesus”. If we become adamant and try to get to “Righteousness” by using the same road we simply will not be able to attain our goal, because we have not taken the route that will take us there—Jesus! The detour “Jesus” will not help us, unless we choose to take it (Galatians 5:2).
Returning to Paul’s letter he claims that those who seek to be justified by the Law cannot be justified by Christ, because they make themselves a debtor to the Law rather than grace (Galatians 5:3-4). I have a sister who had a debt she owed and didn’t want to get married until the dept was paid. The young man who loved her told her that he wanted to marry her immediately, and he would pay the debt. She had a choice: either she would make herself responsible for the debt or she would allow the one she loved to take full responsibility for it, although he had never incurred the debt himself. Likewise, if we make ourselves debtors to the Law, grace can mean nothing to us, because we are not availing ourselves of its benefits. Jesus has made himself responsible not only for our debts, but for our righteousness. If we seek to be righteous by any other means than Jesus—Jesus has no affect upon our lives. It is as though we reject him or don’t believe him.
In Christ neither lawfulness nor lawlessness is of any benefit. In other words, there is no advantage to being a Jew or a gentile in one’s walk with Christ (Galatians 5:6). There are those today who cannot understand a life without structure and also those who cannot understand living by the numbers, where everything is predictable. Neither philosophy is a benefit in walking with Christ. He saves us where we are, and loves us where we are, but he, not our philosophy, is our Way, Truth and Life. It may be difficult for brethren to understand one another at times—how one can be so structured or how one can live so much in the moment, but Jesus is able to express his righteousness under either condition. We are simply not to judge one another or feel compelled to adopt another’s philosophy as a better means of attaining righteousness, because such an idea does not come from the Lord (Galatians 5:7-9).
Paul hoped the Galatians would be convinced with his letter that they should not continue in this path, but those who caused this trouble would be judged by God. It may have been implied by them that Paul had really intended for all to be subject to circumcision (i.e. practice the Law of Moses), but if that were true, why did Paul suffer persecution by the Jews? If that were true, why was the cross of Christ an offense to the Jews (Galatians 5:10-11). Why, indeed, was Jesus crucified in the first place, if righteous could be obtained through the Law of Moses?
Therefore, if we are indeed called into liberty or grace, we should not abuse the grace of God by acting out of human impulse rather than the Spirit of God, but be graceful and loving toward one another, as this is the fulfillment of the Law (Galatians 5:13-14), that is there is no law, in Judaism or among the gentiles that prohibits being kind and loving toward one another. However, if we become bent on criticizing one another, like in this case those of the circumcision being dissatisfied with the religious life of their gentile brethren, we will find that a partisan lifestyle will consume our Christian community.