13 Lesson Thirteen: Galatians 5:16-26

Instructions: Translate the Greek text with help from the reader notes. Complete the MYON (Make Your Own Note) and Discussion Questions if you desire.

16 Λέγω δέ, πνεύματι περιπατεῖτε καὶ ἐπιθυμίαν σαρκὸς οὐ μὴ τελέσητε. 17 ἡ γὰρ σὰρξ ἐπιθυμεῖ κατὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα κατὰ τῆς σαρκός, ταῦτα γὰρ ἀλλήλοις ἀντίκειται, ἵνα μὴ ἃ ἐὰν θέλητε ταῦτα ποιῆτε.18 εἰ δὲ πνεύματι ἄγεσθε, οὐκ ἐστὲ ὑπὸ νόμον. 19 φανερὰ δέ ἐστιν τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, ἅτινά ἐστιν πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια, 20 εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθεῖαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις, 21 φθόνοι, μέθαι, κῶμοι καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις, ἃ προλέγω ὑμῖν, καθὼς προεῖπον ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες βασιλείαν θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν. 22 ὁ δὲ καρπὸς τοῦ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἀγάπη χαρὰ εἰρήνη, μακροθυμία χρηστότης ἀγαθωσύνη, πίστις 23 πραΰτης ἐγκράτεια· κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος. 24 οἱ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ] τὴν σάρκα ἐσταύρωσαν σὺν τοῖς παθήμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις. 25 Εἰ ζῶμεν πνεύματι, πνεύματι καὶ στοιχῶμεν. 26 μὴ γινώμεθα κενόδοξοι, ἀλλήλους προκαλούμενοι, ἀλλήλοις φθονοῦντες. SBLGNT


[SN] Πνεύματι (NSD) is a #dative of means.

[GMN] Περιπατεῖτε (PAM2P LF: περιπατέω) is a #contract verb.

[SN] Οὐ μὴ τελέσητε (AAS2P LF: τελέω): The aorist subjunctive with οὐ μὴ creates emphatic negation.


[SN] The explanatory conjunction γάρ introduces Paul’s rationale for the preceding prohibition.

[SN] Κατὰ τοῦ πνεύματος . . . κατὰ τῆς σαρκός: The use of κατὰ with the genitive expresses opposition.

[SN] Ἀλλήλοις (NPD) is the dative direct object of ἀντίκειται.

[LN, GMN] Ἀντίκειται (PDI3S LF: ἀντίκειμαι) occurs eight times in the NT and means “to oppose.” It is formed from the preposition ἀντί and the verb κεῖμαι (“to exist/be” or “to be set”).

[SN] The relative pronoun (NPA) with ἐάν expresses generality (“whatever”).

[GMN] θέλητε is PAS2P (LF: θέλω).

[SN] The demonstrative pronoun ταῦτα (NPA) is the direct object of the verb ποιῆτε (its antecedent is ἃ ἐὰν).

[SN] The negative particle μή should be read with ποιῆτε, so in translation ἃ ἐὰν θέλητε ταῦτα would function as a sort of collective direct object construction (“so that you would not do whatever you want”).


[GMN] Πνεύματι (NSD LF: πνεύμα) is a #dative of agency. #Dative of means is an alternative possibility, with the ultimate (implied) agent being God.

MYON [SN] Ὑπὸ νόμον: What does the preposition ὑπὸ with an accusative object communicate?


[SN] Φανερὰ (NPN LF: φανερός, -ά, -όν) is a #predicate adjective.

[SN] Ἐστιν (PI3S LF: εἰμί): Note that neuter plural nouns sometimes take singular verbs.

[SN] Τῆς σαρκός is a #genitive of source or #subjective genitive.

[SN] Thε phrase ἅτινά ἐστιν introduces a list of #predicate nominatives which run into v. 21. The indefinite relative pronoun ἅτινά (NPN LF: ὅστις) seems to be functioning as a basic relative pronoun in this case (“the works of the flesh, which are”).

[LN] Πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια: These nouns (all FSN) begin the list of fifteen vices that are characteristic of τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός. Πορνεία and ἀσέλγεια are both sexual sins, respectively sexual immorality and sensuality (with the sense of indulgence), while ἀκαθαρσία refers to physical, moral, and/or cultic impurity.


[SN] This verse continues Paul’s vice list, with nine more consecutive #predicate nominatives.

[LN] Εἰδωλολατρία: (FSN) refers to idol worship. It occurs four times in the NT, including three times in Paul (see 1 Cor 10:14; Col 3:5).

[LN] Φαρμακεία (FSN) has to do with sorcery/magic, especially regarding the use of mind-altering drugs or potions. It occurs only twice in the NT (see also Rev 18:23. For related nouns, cf. Rev 9:21 [φάρμακον]; 21:8, 22:15 [φάρμακος]).

[LN] Ἔχθραι (FPN LF: ἔχθρα) refers to attitudes of hostility/enmity or hatred. It occurs six times in the NT, including four times in Paul (see Rom 8:7; Eph 2:14, 16).

[LN] Ἔρις (FSN) has to do with (competitive) quarreling or altercations. It occurs nine times in the NT, only in Paul.

[LN] Ζῆλος (MSN) can refer to great zeal or deep passion (with positive connotations), but Paul uses it here negatively in the sense of “jealousy” (cf. Phil 3:6). It has sixteen occurrences in the NT, ten of which are in Paul.

[LN] Ἐριθεῖαι (FPN LF: ἐριθεία), “rivalry” (here “rivalries”), carries the connotation of seeking after one’s own gain/interests. It occurs seven times in the NT, including five times in Paul.

[LN] Διχοστασίαι (FPN LF: διχοστασία) has to do with division or dissension. It occurs only twice in the NT (see Rom 16:17).

[LN] Αἱρέσεις (FPN LF: αἵρεσις) can refer to “parties” or “sects” within a religious body (sometimes in a neutral sense, e.g., Sadducees and Pharisees; cf. Acts 5:17; 15:5), or it can refer to (threatening) sectarian teachings or “heresies” (cf. 2 Pt 2:1, αἰρέσεις ἀπωλείας). Here, as in 1 Cor 11:19 (the only other Pauline occurrence), it refers negatively to divisive factions.


[SN] Φθόνοι . . . τὰ ὅμοια concludes the list of #predicate nominatives begun in v. 19.

[LN] Φθόνοι (MPN LF: φθόνος) refers to to envy and is thus related to ἔρις (v. 20; cf. Phil 1:15 φθόνον καὶ ἔριν, which could be #hendiadys). It occurs nine times in the NT, including five times in Paul.

[LN] Μέθαι (FPN LF: μέθη) refers to drunkenness brought on by excessive alcohol consumption. It occurs three times in the NT, including twice in Paul (see Rom 13:13).

[LN] Κῶμοι (MPN LF: κῶμος), “carousing,” can refer to overindulgence in food, drink, or sex.

[LN, SN] Τὰ ὅμοια (NPN LF: ὅμοιος) means “like” or “similar” and is the final #predicate nominative in Paul’s list of vices. The term indicates that this list is representative, not exhaustive.

[SN] The demonstrative pronoun τούτοις (NPD) is a #dative of reference whose antecedent is the entirety of the vice list spanning 5:19–21.

[SN] The relative pronoun (NPA) is an #accusative of reference.

[GMN] Προεῖπον (AAI1S LF: προλέγω).

[SN] Ὄτι here introduces #indirect discourse, i.e., the object clause that clarifies the content of προεῖπον.

[SN] Οἱ . . . πράσσοντες (PAPMPN LF: πράσσω) is a substantival participle and serves as the subject of κληρονομήσουσιν.

[SN] The demonstrative pronoun τὰ τοιαῦτα (NPA LF: τοιοῦτος) is the direct object of οἱ . . . πράσσοντες (“those who practice such things”).


[SN] Τοῦ πνεύματός is a #genitive of production (“the fruit produced by the Spirit”).

[SN] Ἐστιν introduces a second list of #predicate nominatives—a list of virtues that stands in contrast with the previous list of vices (cf. 5:19–21). This list extends into v. 23.

[LN] Μακροθυμία (FSN), “patience/long-suffering,” can refer to a gentle inner demeanor (especially toward others) or to perseverance (e.g., amidst hardship). Given the immediate context, the former meaning is likely in view (cf. χρηστότης; see also 5:15).

[LN] Χρηστότης (FSN) refers to “kindness” or benevolence, especially that which is directed toward others.

[LN] Ἀγαθωσύνη (FSN), “goodness,” carries overtones of generosity toward others. It occurs four times in the NT, all in Paul (see also Rom 15:14; Eph 5:9; 2 Thess 1:11).


[LN] Πραΰτης (FSN) refers to “gentleness” or the absence of harshness toward others. It occurs eleven times in the NT, including eight times in Paul.

[SN, LN] Ἐγκράτεια (FSN), the final #predicate nominative in this list, refers to “self-control” vis-á-vis one’s deeds and desires. In light of Paul’s exhortation to combat the influence of the flesh (cf. 5:16–17), “self-control” is a fitting conclusion to this list.

[SN] Κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων: κατὰ with the genitive refers to opposition (“against”), while the demonstrative pronoun τοιούτων (NPG LF: τοιοῦτος), “such things,” refers to the list of fruits of the Spirit in vv. 22–23.

[TN] Here νόμος may be referring to Torah, but most likely it refers to “law” in a general sense (“there is no law against such things”).


[SN] Οἰ . . . τοῦ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ]: The article οἰ with τοῦ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ] converts the whole phrase into the subject of the clause (“those [who are] of Christ”).

[SN] Τοῦ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ] is likely a #possessive genitive or possibly a #genitive of relationship.

[GMN] Ἐσταύρωσαν (AAI3P LF: σταυρόω): This is the only occurrence of σταυρόω in Galatians that is not in the perfect tense (cf. 3:1; 6:14; see also 2:19 συνεσταύρωμαι).

[SN] Σὺν τοῖς παθήμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις: The preposition σὺν with the dative connotes #accompaniment and governs both of the following nouns, as indicated by their dative articles.

[LN] Παθήμασιν (NPD LF: πάθημα) refers to strong desires or “passions.” It occurs sixteen times in the NT, including nine times in Paul (this is its only occurrence in Galatians).

[LN, SN] Ἐπιθυμίαις (FPD LF: ἐπιθυμία), “desires,” is likely intended to be roughly synonymous with παθήμασιν (cf. the double duty of the preposition σύν and the linkage of the terms by καί). This is the second and final occurrence of this noun in Galatians (cf. 5:16).


[SN] Εἰ introduces the #protasis of a #first-class conditional statement. This means that, assuming the protasis is true (ζῶμεν πνεύματι), the #apodosis (πνεύματι . . . στοιχῶμεν) should result.

[GMN] Ζῶμεν (PAI1P LF: ζάω) is identical in form to the PAS1P because it is a #contract verb. We can know that the indicative is in use here because the subjunctive form would take the conditional particle ἐάν (thereby yielding a #third-class condition).

[SN] Both uses of πνεύματι (NSD) are #dative of means. The Spirit is the one by (means of) whom one should conduct one’s life.

[SN] The καὶ in this verse is adverbial (“also”).

[LN, SN] Στοιχῶμεν (PAS1P LF: στοιχέω) denotes ordering one’s life, usually in conformity to some sort of standard. It is a #hortatory subjunctive, which is the functional equivalent of a first-person plural imperative (“Let us conduct our lives by [means of] the Spirit”). This verb occurs five times in the NT, including four times in Paul (cf. Rom 4:12; Gal 6:16; Phil 3:16).

[TN] Εἰ ζῶμεν πνεύματι, πνεύματι καὶ στοιχῶμεν is an example of #chiasmus, which pertains to the structuring of texts via mirrored parallelism. This well-known Greco-Roman literary practice manifests here in the following pattern: (A) Εἰ ζῶμεν (B) πνεύματι (B’) πνεύματι (A’) καὶ στοιχῶμεν. Such a construction serves to enhance the rhetorical effect of the exhortation.


[SN] Μὴ γινώμεθα (PDS1P LF: γίνομαι) is a negated #hortatory subjunctive (“Let us not be[come]”).

[SN, LN] Κενόδοξοι (MPN LF: κενόδοξος), a #predicate adjective, is a NT #hapax legomenon that means “vain” or “conceited.” It should be understood vis-á-vis Greco-Roman agonistic culture, whereby one gains honor often at the expense of others (cf. Phil 2:3 κενοδοξίαν, lit. “empty glory/honor”).

[SN, LN] Προκαλούμενοι (PMPMPN LF: προκαλέω) and φθονοῦντες (PAPMPN LF: φθονέω) are both adverbial participles of #means. Προκαλέω means “to provoke”; for lexical information regarding φθονέω, cf. the LN for φθόνοι (v. 21).

Discussion Questions (5:16–26)

[5:24] What are other possible functions of the genitive τοῦ Χριστοῦ not mentioned in the SN, and how do other syntactical options impact how we understand the phrase οἰ . . . τοῦ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ?

[5:19–21] Paul’s vice list contains a fairly even mix of singular and plural nouns. Why did Paul not make every item either singular or plural?

[5:23] Does νόμος here refer to Torah or to the concept of “law” in general?

Word Study: Eλευθερία (“freedom”)


The noun ἐλευθερία denotes the state of being free and is typically translated as “freedom” or “liberty.”[1] It appears eleven times in the New Testament (including four times in Galatians).

 Ancient Use of Ἐλευθερία

Freedom had a range of meaning in the Greco-Roman world, often related to the socioeconomic status of slaves. The Liddell-Scott-Jones lexicon notes that the language of freedom was most commonly used with the following meanings: (1) freedom from something; (2) manumission, or the freedom an owner gives to a slave; and (3) license to act with liberty.[2] A Delphi inscription from 200–199 BCE illustrates a common usage in regards to slaves purchasing their manumission: “The purchase, however, Nicaea hath committed unto Apollo, for freedom.”[3] Meanings (1) and (2) are related in the sense that a slave would receive freedom from a master through the act or purchase of manumission. Freedom as liberty—meaning (3)—is expressed in Plato’s Gorgias where it is linked to “self-indulgence” (ἀκολασία), i.e., one has the liberty to indulge in debauchery.[4]

Through a study of ancient documents, Adolf Deissmann demonstrates the formulaic usage of ἐλευθερία in regard to the price of slaves, which suggests a more technical usage of the term. Deissmann notes that the words ἀγοράζω (“I buy”) and τιμή (“price”) often coincide with ἐλευθερία in documents related to the sale and purchase of slaves in the Greco-Roman world.[5] This understanding of freedom is also closely connected with the adjectival form ἐλεύθερος, which can describe a manumitted person.

In LXX Lev 19:20, the word ἐλευθερία is used similarly to meaning (2) above, and in the context of Torah holiness codes it describes the treatment of a man who lies with another man’s slave without offering the manumission payment required for the slave’s freedom. Ἐλευθερία is used twice in Sirach (see 7:21; 30:25), both times in the context of a slave seeking freedom by manumission. In 1 Esdras 4:49, 53 and 1 Maccabees 14:26, freedom takes on a different meaning. In these cases, it is the freedom of the nation of Israel under subjection to another nation.

There are two notable uses of ἐλευθερία in James 1:25 and 2:12, often translated “liberty.” Both occurrences in James relate to the “law of liberty.” Many scholars believe that this refers to the Mosaic Law, which can be described as “perfect” (Ps 19:17). In this context, freedom is associated with meaning (1), in that the “law of liberty” brings freedom from the consequence of breaking the covenant. There are also two Petrine uses (1 Pt 2:16; 2 Pt 2:19). In the former passage, freedom is associated with meaning (3), license to act with liberty. Here the reader is encouraged not to allow freedom to lead to evil. In 2 Pt 2:19, on the other hand, ἐλευθερία denotes general freedom from slavery (but not necessarily through manumission).

Paul and Ἐλευθερία

Paul uses the word ἐλευθερία a total of seven times in his letters (Rom 8:21; 1 Cor 10:29; 2 Cor 3:17, Gal 2:4, 5:1, 5:13 [twice]). For Paul, freedom has three specific meanings: (1) general freedom from something; (2) the license to act in freedom; and (3) freedom from Torah.

In Romans 8:21, Paul describes the state of creation (κτίσις) as being under bondage to decay, and he describes how creation eagerly awaits its liberation from this decay. In this context, Paul uses ἐλευθερία to refer to general freedom from something, namely the bondage of decay caused by subjection due to sin. This freedom is liberation by an outside influence, God, from corruption, death, and sin.[6] Paul describes this sense of freedom using the metaphor of creation to describe Christian freedom as well. While believers live in “present suffering” (decay/bondage), it is nothing compared to the hope of “glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18).

In 1 Cor 10:29, Paul describes the newfound freedom that a Christian has in Christ. Here he addresses the specific question of eating meat sold in the marketplace that has been sacrificed to idols. Paul uses ἐλευθερία in the sense of “license to act with liberty” and discusses how Christians should monitor their personal liberty. Evidently, one’s freedom is not the only factor in discerning ethical dilemmas.[7] Paul describes two scenarios pertaining to the eating of meat sacrificed to pagan gods: one with an unbeliever, and one with a believer whose conscience is against eating the meat. Paul argues that one’s freedom should take into consideration the consciences of others, and how one’s liberty might build one up or cause one to sin. Thus, Christian freedom does indeed entail “being free,” but it is also concerned with the well-being of the other.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul describes the Christian’s unfading ministry of glory in comparison to the ministry of Moses, whose veiled face eventually faded. This section engages with Exodus 34:34. Through the Spirit, the veil is lifted, and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17). Here Paul uses freedom in the sense of general freedom from something, although this is perhaps the closest he comes to describing freedom with respect to Torah outside of Galatians. This freedom is a state in which the believer is “free of barriers that would impede spiritual understanding.”[8]

Galatians and Ἐλευθερία

Paul’s use of ἐλευθερία in Galatians is a major theme directly linked with his argument concerning Torah and the desire of some to force the Gentiles to live according to it (ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, 2:16). Thus, Christian freedom is held in contrast to the bondage that occurs through the Law. Paul argues that the Law is a yoke of “slavery” (cf. 4:1, 7, 22–25, 31; 5:1) and is of  “the flesh,” rather than being a means of justification. In contrast, it is faith that is of “the Spirit” and brings true freedom through Christ Jesus because it is faith that leads to justification.

The first occurrence of ἐλευθερία in Galatians is in 2:4, where Paul alludes to the freedom from Torah enjoyed by Christians. At this point, he is building a case for the defense of his apostleship and has not yet developed a strong argument against the works of the Law as a means of justification. Here Paul accuses some “false believers” (ψευδαδέλφους) of deceptively spying out their “freedom . . . in Christ Jesus,” with the goal of “enslaving” them (presumably under Torah). In this context, F. F. Bruce describes Paul’s use of freedom as the ability of Gentiles and Jews to observe table-fellowship, which Paul addresses specifically in 2:11ff.[9] Many commentators note that Paul describes this freedom in terms of concrete realities, rather than the Hellenistic sense of an abstract ideal.[10] In this first usage, Paul contrasts freedom with slavery, although he does not yet specify this slavery as under Torah.

While the liberty/slavery theme is a major part of Galatians 3–4, the next occurrence of ἐλευθερία is in 5:1, where Paul uses both the nominal and verbal forms. Here Paul describes freedom as the purpose of Christ’s act of setting the Galatians free (Τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν). This statement directly follows Paul’s extended discussion of Sarah and Hagar as the freewoman and the bondwoman, the former representing freedom in the Spirit and the latter representing slavery under the Law. James Dunn calls this verse the “climax of [Paul’s] exegetical appeal.”[11] This freedom is held in contrast with the “yoke of slavery” under Torah, and it also relates to the “heir” concept, which Paul draws upon earlier in chapter four. Significantly, it is Christ, not the Law, who sets believers free. Faith in Christ brings the freedom enjoyed by a true child of God, while Torah brings slavery (4:7).

The final two occurrences in Galatians are in 5:13. Paul argues in 5:13a that the Galatians are “called” to freedom by God. This would be the same usage of freedom as in the previous two instances. Bruce notes that, in this occurrence, Paul shifts from freedom “against legal bondage” [Torah] to freedom “against libertinism.”[12] This is signified by the qualification “only” (μόνον), which provides a clearer understanding of how the Galatians are to understand their freedom. In this case, their freedom should not be used as a tool of the “flesh,” which Paul contrasts with the Spirit in the following verses. Rather than practicing the “works of the flesh” (5:19ff), the Galatians are to use their freedom for loving service within the community of believers. (Kyle J. Williams)

  1.       BDAG, 316.
  2.       H. Liddell, G. Scott, and R. Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 532 (henceforth LSJ).
  3.       Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum, vol. 2, 845, cited in VGNT, 203.
  4.       LSJ, 532.
  5.       Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, trans. L. Strachan (New York: Harper, 1927), 323–325.
  6.       C. K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans, 2nd ed., Black's New Testament Commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1991), 156.
  7.       Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), 494.
  8.       Linda Belleville, 2 Corinthians, IVP New Testament Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 110–111.
  9.       Bruce, Epistle to the Galatians, 112.
  10.       See especially J. Louis Martyn, Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, 1st ed., AB (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 219–220; Bruce, Epistle to the Galatians, 112; Dunn, Epistle to the Galatians, 100; and Thomas Schreiner, Galatians, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 125.
  11.       Dunn, Epistle to the Galatians, 260.
  12.       Bruce, Epistle to the Galatians, 240.


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