Galatians 5: Bible Chapter Summary

Grape vine closeup in vineyard / OeilDeNuit

The apostle Paul concluded Galatians 4 by urging the Galatian Christians to choose the freedom offered by Christ rather than enslave themselves to following the law. That theme continues in Galatians 5 -- and culminates in one of the more famous passages of the New Testament.

Make sure to read Galatians 5 here, and then let's dig deeper.

Major Themes

In many ways, Galatians 5:1 is a great summary of everything Paul wanted the Galatians to understand:

Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.

The contrast between freedom and slavery continues to be his major thrust in the first half of Galatians 5. Paul goes so far as to say that, if the Galatians persisted in their attempts to follow the Old Testament law, including the ritual of circumcision, then Christ would not benefit them at all (v. 2). He wanted them to understand that the more they pursued righteousness through their own actions and their own attempts to "try harder," the more they would alienate themselves from the righteousness of Christ.

Obviously, this was a big deal.

In verses 7-12, Paul again reminds the Galatians that they had been on the right path, but the false teachings of the Judaizers had knocked them astray. He urged them to fulfill the law by loving their neighbors as themselves -- a reference to Matthew 22:37-40 -- but to rely on the grace of God for salvation.

The second half of the chapter contains a contrast between a life lived through the flesh and a life lived through the power of the Holy Spirit. This leads into a discussion of the "works of the flesh" and the "fruit of the Spirit," which is a very common idea among Christians -- although often misunderstood.

Key Verses

We want to single out this particular verse because it's a bit of an eye-popper:

I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated!
Galatians 5:12

Yikes! Paul was so frustrated at the people causing spiritual damage to his flock that he expressed a desire for their circumcisions to become something different entirely. He was legitimately angry at self-proclaimed followers of God who abused followers of God -- just as Jesus was.

But the most famous portion of Galatians 5 contains Paul's reference to the fruit of the Spirit:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

As mentioned above, people often confuse the fruit of the Spirit with the "fruits" of the Spirit -- they believe some Christians have the fruit of love and peace, while others have the fruit of faith or goodness. This is incorrect, which is explained in more detail here.

The truth is that all Christians grow the "fruit" of the Spirit -- singular -- the more we are nurtured and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Key Themes

As with the previous chapters in Galatians, Paul's major theme here is a continued attack on the idea that people can earn their way into a relationship with God by obeying the Old Testament Law. Paul continually refutes that concept as a form of slavery. He continually begs the Galatians to accept the freedom of salvation through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

A secondary theme in this chapter is the logical consequences of both ways of thinking. When we attempt to live under our own power and our own strength, we produce "works of the flesh," which are damaging to us and others -- immorality, impurity, idolatry, and so on. When we surrender to the Holy Spirit, however, we naturally produce the fruit of the Spirit in the same way that an apple tree naturally produces apples.

The difference between the two systems is striking, which is why Paul continued to hammer home the many reasons for choosing freedom in Christ rather than slavery to a legalistic approach. 

Note: this is a continuing series exploring the Book of Galatians on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Click here to see the summaries for chapter 1chapter 2chapter 3, and chapter 4.

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Your Citation
O'Neal, Sam. "Galatians 5: Bible Chapter Summary." Learn Religions, Aug. 25, 2020, O'Neal, Sam. (2020, August 25). Galatians 5: Bible Chapter Summary. Retrieved from O'Neal, Sam. "Galatians 5: Bible Chapter Summary." Learn Religions. (accessed June 2, 2023).