What Does It Mean To Fall From Grace?
In Galatians 5:4 Paul says.
have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law;
you have fallen from grace.
For years throughout the body of Christ we have been taught that we must live up to a certain standard of behavior in order to maintain our acceptance in the family of God. I used to teach from a booklet called, ‘The Ten Do’s and Don’ts for the Christian.’ When I would discuss this with our preacher or with one of the elders I was told that we are now living under the Law of Christ and that my eternal salvation was dependant on how well I was able to keep these laws. If I were to sin and die without having asked for forgiveness I would end up in hell. Every prayer, even to this day, in the church I attended, would include a request that the Lord would forgive us our sins and our unforgiven sins. As a result, I was always conscience of sin and doubt as to the security of my salvation.
We were also taught that one could fall from grace and be eternally lost. Let me reassure you that falling from grace does not mean that we lose our righteousness before God. Paul said in Rom. 11:5-6,
“So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”
To say that God’s grace can be taken away from you, or forfeited by you through your actions and deeds, is to contradict the very definition of the word. Grace is no longer grace if it is initially attained, or perpetually kept, through our performance. The apostle Paul taught that it was impossible for those in Christ to lose their salvation (Romans 8:38-39), going so far as to say that nothing present or anything to come could separate us from His love.
So what does it mean to fall from grace? The answer lies not in religion, not in tradition, not in how you feel about it, but in the Word of truth. In fact, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms who the people are who have fallen from grace. He declares that “you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” .
Paul said in Gal. 5:4 (NLV)
“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.”
Read it again. Who is it that has fallen from grace? Is it those who are “living in sin” (such as, sex, drugs, and drinking) that we in the church so frequently condemn and point the finger at as those who have fallen? No, it is remarkably the opposite. Those who have fallen from grace are those who are “seeking to be justified by the law”! That’s right. To fall from grace is to knowingly or unknowingly revert back to thinking that you can do something to maintain the right standing you already have with God through Jesus Christ. It is foolishness that all of us have fallen into at one time or another and it is the greatest deception that the body of Christ has ever faced.
If the grace of God is undeserved, unmerited, unearned favor with God, then how can you lose it? The answer is you can’t. His grace was never something He rewarded you with because of your great performance. It was a gift that He lovingly bestowed upon us and then asked for nothing in return other than our thanks. And yet the gift is much more that that. There is life and power in God’s grace from one moment to the next as we rest in it. In fact, it is his grace that is “instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age…zealous for good deeds” Paul said in Titus 2:11-14,
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
If we attempt to live once more by law and depend upon our own ability to live a righteous life, we have in our minds fallen from the grace that is in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul’s letter to the Galatians was not dealing with their embracing a lifestyle of sex, drugs, and drinking. Just the opposite was the case. These people had drifted backwards in their thinking about the gospel to which they had once so gratefully responded. The road they were sadly traveling back down again was the road of law-keeping for righteousness. Paul, therefore, was disappointed and perplexed that they were “so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7).
If we teach that we must live according to certain laws and rules then we are preaching another gospel than what Paul preached. Read carefully the following scripture where Paul explains what he is teaching. Gal. 3:10-14,
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Read this letter to the Galatians very closely and you will quickly see the common theme that runs throughout. According to Paul, there were “false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4). Peter himself “began to withdraw and hold himself aloof (from the Gentiles), fearing the party of the circumcision” (Galatians 2:12) and the consequences he might face from them for enjoying his freedom in Christ. This in turn put others back in bondage to law as “the rest of the Jews joined him (Peter) in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:11-13).
The issue at hand continues as Paul writes that “by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16) and that “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:21). He goes on to ask several rhetorical questions comparing the works of law against faith in Christ, perhaps for the purpose of waking the Galatians from their foolish state of mind (Galatians 3:1-5). Paul goes on to point out that “those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer” while those who “are of the works of the law are under a curse” (Galatians 3:9-10). Like a tenacious bulldog, Paul presses on with his mission of dispelling any notion that a man can be right with God through his performance. He reminds the people “that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident”, that “the law is not of faith”, and “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law…so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:11-14).
If we have bought into the idea that righteousness is earned by following law then in our minds we have fallen from the grace that sets us free. Just think about it. Why would Paul be bringing these things up if the Galatians were standing confidently in the finished work of their Savior? If their falling from grace was tied to a sex, drugs, and drinking, why doesn’t he address these issues? I’ll tell you why. It’s because they were not standing firm in the faith. Their bondage was to working for righteousness, not drinking Budweiser’s. The deception that the Galatians had fallen for was the same one that has plagued the saints throughout history. They were doubting the testimony of Paul concerning the righteousness they had in Jesus Christ. They, like so many through the ages, were going back to the law, back to their works, in an attempt to justify themselves before the Lord. And it is that very mindset that puts you, me, and anyone else into the miserable condition of having fallen from grace.
Paul’s impassioned plea to these confused saints in the first century is his same plea to us today: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). If you have been caught in this trap, the way you get out is by renewing your mind once again on the most comforting and reassuring message ever proclaimed…the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24)!
Because of what Christ has done for you, you are now seated high on the highest mountaintop of all that God has to give you. You reside on the peek of “grace” mountain, seated in fact in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). There is no loftier position a man can enjoy. Your righteousness is a gift that is now forever yours. There are no exchanges, no refunds, no recalls. You’re stuck with the gift whether you choose to believe it, enjoy it, or not.
Have you fallen from grace? I hope not. But if you have, you will know it because your confidence will have switched from what Jesus has done to what you are doing. The peace and the joy that you once knew will be replaced by fear, anxiety, and condemnation day after day. Why? Because your doing can never measure up to the righteous requirements of the law. Heck, you can't even measure up to your own standards or that of your neighbor!
So what is the solution? It is to believe the gospel and to rest in knowing that "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). Continually remind yourself of the righteousness that is now yours in Christ according to the gospel given to the apostle Paul by the risen, ascended Christ.
Do not give in to the temptations all around you to work your way into right standing with God. Get up, my friend, and stand firm in the truth! He has made you right and to try to add to what He has done is to say you think He did not complete the task…and another fall from grace.