“ye are fallen from grace.”
Can a Christian really fall from grace?
We see in Galatians 5:4 that there were Christians in the Galatian church who, as Paul declared, had fallen from grace. How? What had they done? What sin had they committed to separate themselves from the bountiful grace of God?
They had not sinned. At least, not by our definition.
The Galatians committed no scandals. They were not worshipping idols. They were not committing adultery. They were not allowing the world to infiltrate them. But they were doing something so opposed to the grace of God that it caused them to fall from grace.
They were seeking justification by works.
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”
The fallen from grace were not those who had fallen into sin. They were those who were seeking forgiveness and freedom from sin by the works of the law. They were fallen from grace because they were no longer living by grace. They were living by works.
That is how we fall from grace.
We know that we cannot earn our salvation by works, but by accepting God’s grace by faith in Christ alone. Yet how many of us, once saved, then strive to earn righteousness, holiness, sanctification through works. We urge the lost to receive grace through faith, but once they do, we hand them a list of things they have to do to be “good Christians.” We preach salvation by grace but judge the righteousness of the saved by their adherence to our list of works. We come to God by grace to be forgiven, then work to earn His favor and approach His throne, not with humility, but with pride in our own merit—for we have obeyed the law and think we deserve to stand in His presence.
We are fallen from grace.
The Galatians had accepted Christ by faith. But there were saved Jews in the church who were teaching that the saved Gentiles had to be circumcised—and abide by the law. Paul, when he heard this, wrote to them, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7. These Christians were perverting the gospel because they were preaching salvation and justification by works. So do Christians today pervert the gospel when after preaching salvation by grace, preach justification by works.
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh by justified.” Galatians 2:16
We pervert the gospel, we fall from grace, when we look at ourselves and say, “I do not drink that. I am holy. I do not wear that. I am holy. I have not committed that sin. So I am holy. I have not gone there. I am holy. I don’t act like sister so-and-so. I am holy. I have higher standards. I am holy.” The Christian who lives under grace does not judge his or her holiness by what he or she has or has not done, but by what Christ did on the cross. We cannot make ourselves holy by our works. We cannot be justified by works.
Even the apostle Peter erred in his thinking. When the gospel was spreading to the uncircumcised Gentiles, Peter at first did not hesitate to eat and fellowship with them. But when he was around the Jews who were preaching that the Gentiles must be circumcised, he separated himself from the uncircumcised Gentiles as he would separate himself from an unclean pig. And Paul confronted him. Paul did not want the Jews to compel the Gentiles to live by the law and be circumcised because “… no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11). Circumcision, the law, meant nothing. Faith in the grace of God alone mattered.
The Christian who falls and sins is not fallen from grace. In fact, the Bible says we cannot fall from grace by sinning.
“But he giveth more grace.” Hebrews 4:6a
When we sin, we are not removed from grace. No. God gives us more grace. Paul explains, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).
So why do so many Christians condemn other Christians who have made mistakes as fallen from grace? Because we are a proud people, who would rather judge our righteousness by our behavior and appearance than by Christ’s blood. We would rather elevate ourselves above another’s brokenness than kneel to help them clean it up.
Have you fallen into sin? You have not fallen from grace. You do not have to earn your way back to God. All you have to do is confess your sin to God and accept His free gift.
Have you fallen from grace and withheld it from others? God has plenty of grace stored up for you, if you will receive it.
“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth them with his hand.” Psalm 37:24