There is a lot more going on in these verses than just a really popular memory verse about the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-23). These verses really hinge off of some very strong language that Paul uses back in verse 12: “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate (castrate) themselves.”
Evidently there are some people who have infiltrated the Galatian church who are encouraging believers to take advantage of their “freedom in Christ.” They are basically saying that because you have been given freedom in Christ you can live any way and do anything that you want to. The most recent version of this heresy tells people that if they have prayed a prayer and have “fire insurance” then they can sin as much as they want because they have a “get out of hell free card.”
Paul says, NO WAY JOSE’ to this spiritual bunk. He, in no uncertain terms, tells the Galatians that the litmus test to determine if you are genuinely saved is not whether you have prayed a prayer or not but whether you are daily being led by the Spirit of God and demonstrating evidence of this by the way that you live. He lists 15+ “works of the flesh” and juxtaposes these against 9 “fruit of the Spirit.” Essentially he is reiterating what he said to the Corinthians:
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor. 13:5)
Galatians 5:22-23 are indeed great verses to memorize. But whenever you ponder these verses keep their context in mind and it will make their meaning even more powerful.
Now go forth and be fruitful!