Jan Lambrecht, «Abraham and His Offspring. A Comparison of Galatians 5,1 with 3,13», Vol. 80 (1999) 525-536
Just as after the Abraham passage of 3,6-12 Christ is mentioned in 3,13 quite unexpectedly, so also after 4,21-31, Pauls so-called allegory which deals with the wives and sons of Abraham, the sudden statement about Christ in 5,1 cannot but surprise the reader. Although the word order differs, both vocabulary and content of parts of 3,13a and 5,1a are identical or at least similar. Abrahams faith was already, by way of anticipation, Christian faith. Moreover, "those of faith" in 3,7 and 9 implicitly are believers in Christ. This also applies to 4,26. The children of "the Jerusalem above" are free because they belong to Christ, even if in v. 26 this is not (yet) explicitly stated. Therefore, a seemingly brusque transition from the Abraham text or the allegory to Christ should not disturb the reader too much.
The phrase "for freedom Christ has set us free" obtains most emphasis: by the position of th|= e)leuqeri/a| in front of the clause and immediately after th=j e)leuqe/raj at the end of the preceding verse (4,31)14; by the reiteration of the theme by means of the verb e)leuqero/w in the same clause; by the reference back to the whole of 4,21-31 (cf. Sarah the free woman of whom the Galatians are the children, and the free Jerusalem above); by the repetition of the same idea in 5,13 ("for you, to freedom you were called, brothers"); and, not least of all, also by its negative counterpart, the slavery, in the imperatival clause of 5,1b. Although in 5,1a the noun "freedom" probably possesses a positive nuance, Paul sees the verb "setting free" in the first place negatively, i.e., as a being freed from the slavery of the Sinai covenant and the law. In 4,21 he addresses the Galatians who desire to be "under the law"15. In 5,1b he says to them "stand fast and do not submit again (pa/lin) to a yoke of slavery". In 4,9 he already expressed the same warning: "how can you turn back again (pa/lin) to the weak stoixei=a, whose slaves you want to be once more (pa/lin)?". He will stress this warning again in 5,7-11 and also at the very end of his letter in 6,12-13. This is the freedom which Paul has in Christ (2,4: th_n e)leuqeri/an h(mw=n h$n e!xomen e)n Xristw|= )Ihsou=: in Jerusalem the false brothers slipped in to spy out the freedom of Paul and Barnabas in order to bring them into bondage or slavery).
Whether or not Gal 5,1 structurally belongs to what follows, the first five conspicuous and authoritative words of 5,2 ( !Ide e)gw_ Pau=loj le/gw u(mi=n) mark, it would seem, a new beginning16. They function to emphasize Pauls worry and fear. In verses 1-6 the name Christ is present four times in an accumulated way. By itself this frequency somewhat distinguishes these verses from the next subdivision (vv. 7-12)17. Paul points to what he considers the great danger in Galatia: Christians desire to live as Jews (cf. 2,14). Circumcision is closely linked with the law and all its commandments (see 5,3-4). Two systems are diametrically opposed: justification by faith and so-called justification by the law. They are alternatives, indeed. If the Galatians are going to choose the law, then Christ will be of no advantage to them; they will be severed from him; they will have fallen away from grace (cf. vv. 2 and 4). Over against those supposedly judaizing Galatians Paul in verse 5 puts the authentically