Paul has made his case against the judaizing teachers. He has proven how antithetical their teachings were to the gospel. In Galatians 5, he seeks to apply what he has said practically.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. ~Galatians 5:1
Paul begins by reminding the Galatians what Jesus’ main objective for them really was. This is Christ’s will for you: freedom. Freedom! That is why he came!
Therefore, do not submit to these false teachers. If you do, you might as well forget Jesus. You are a prisoner. You have to keep the whole law. You have no grace. Don’t you get it, guys? Circumcision cannot save you! If you submit to this one point, you lose the gospel. You lose the gospel. You become a slave to the law. Circumcision cannot save you! Baptism cannot save you! Churchgoing cannot save you! Good theology cannot save you! Asceticism cannot save you! Morality cannot save you! Good deeds cannot save you! None of it even counts if you are doing it under compulsion! You want to know what counts? The only thing that counts? Faith. Faith is our only hope of righteousness. Faith in Jesus is our only hope of righteousness. It is his righteousness we are counting on, not our own. Faith working through love, that is. Faith working through love.
The root of every single action you take, whether it be vow-making, repentance, study, fasting, serving, teaching, preaching, working, eating, drinking, fellowship, etc., etc., must be love because God is love. God gives faith and faith works. The way that it works is not through mechanical actions or mere assent, but through love. Love.
If what you are doing is a result of men’s fear-instilling or men’s intimidation or men’s whip-cracking or men’s exclusion-threatening or men’s guilt-shaming or men’s alliance-making or men’s world-loving or men’s life-coaching or men’s or men’s or men’s or men’s or men’s…guess what? You are disobeying the truth. You have ceased to run. You are listening to the wrong voices. You are being deceived by godless men; men who will be punished for their heresy.
Paul reasons by reminding the Christians just who these guys were. They were men who misrepresented him to gain position and power. They acted and spoke as though 1. they actually knew Paul and 2. Paul agreed with them. They were deceitful. They were a hindrance to Paul. They disregarded the truth. They were unworthy of respect.
Therefore, Paul is angry. He is crystal clear when he speaks his opinion of these men publicly. His intent is not slanderously motivated, but warning oriented. He is the one who has been slandered. He is discounting their false ways in an effort to warn his brothers and sisters. Incidentally, these men have already discounted themselves by their false teachings, deceptive misrepresentation, and distortion of the gospel. Paul faithfully brings their dangerous inconsistencies to light because he loves his church, his gospel, and his Jesus so very much.
Paul comes full circle and lands back at the beginning saying, “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.” This is Christ’s will for you: freedom. That is why he came. All freedom given us, however, must be subject to love. It is not about who is circumcised or who has more knowledge or who fasted this week or who is involved in the most ministry or who puts in the most volunteer hours or who can play the instruments or who has the best gifts or who attends the most services or who gives the most money or who or who or who or who…No. The only who this is about is the One who kept the law in our place. This is about his love. This is about love that serves by faith. It is about love that thinks less of oneself and more of others — even to the point of sacrificing any and all liberty for the sake of another (like Jesus did!) Those who would follow some set of rules for the sake of the law, or worse, see how many rules they can break for the sake of liberty, these kinds of men will destroy one another foolishly trying to outdo one another for selfish gain.
Do not believe them. Do not follow them. Do not submit to them. Instead, learn how to love one another like Jesus loves you. Walk in love. Walk in the Spirit. Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.