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  • Writer's pictureMichael Jakes

What Does It Mean To Fall from Grace?

The phrase “fall from grace” has long been a part of English vernacular. It is quite probable that you, as well as I have used this phrase at one time or another. Traditionally, when we speak of someone falling from grace, we are referring to an individual who has lost respect, status, or support due to action on their part.

Standing upon this definition, we have seen many in this age of technology and social media who fall into this category. With the temperament of this present world, it does not take much for this to happen. Many times, simply having a different or opposing opinion on issues is enough to turn the tide against the famous and popular among us.

In other cases, some have been guilty of questionable or unacceptable behavior, and have caused themselves to be plunged from the celebrity status they once occupied. Such are said to have fallen from grace.

What Does “Fall from Grace” Mean?

Other interesting definitions of this phrase begin to shed light on where we need to go, but still fall well short of properly establishing the true nature and scope of this important truth. Of this phrase, the Free Dictionary says, “to sin and get on the wrong side of God.”

Wikipedia expands upon this definition by saying, “…the transition of the first man and woman from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience.”

To gain a full understanding of what it means to fall from grace, we must start in the book of Galatians. The apostle Paul said:

“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

The matter of falling from grace happens to be one the most important teachings in the entirety of the Bible. In spite of this, it remains somewhat obscure to many, and entirely misunderstood. As we unpack this powerful verse, it will be important to keep in mind just what precipitated Paul’s writing of this letter. We find his reason in these two Scriptures respectively:

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6).

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” (Galatians 3:1).

The Galatians had been newly converted to Christ through Paul’s ministry, probably during Paul’s first missionary journey. False teachers known as Judaizers, who were Jews who had converted to Christianity were convincing these new converts that Old Testament customs were still binding, and that their new found faith would not be complete unless they kept these Jewish customs and laws. Paul wrote Galatians to refute this doctrine, and referred to it and any other teaching that would pervert the true gospel as “another gospel.” He went so far as to make this staggering declaration:

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).

We can see Paul’s love and concern for the Galatians as he speaks the truth; he did not want to see them fall from grace.

How Is a Person Justified?

To fall from grace is to fall headlong into the error of the Judaizers; and that was and is to believe that our righteousness can be secured and maintained through a mixture of law and grace.

To be sure there are modern-day Judaizers, who put a great emphasis on the things that they do. They have a works-based mindset, and hence rely heavily upon their works to justify or make themselves righteous in God’s sight. How is a person justified, or made righteous in the sight of God? Is it through the keeping of the law, or through faith in Christ?

The Judaizers concluded that both were needed to maintain a walk with Christ. It was a good thing to be saved, they surmised, but in order to be “more saved,” or “better saved,” you need to add the Mosaic law to your Christian diet.

Of course, we know that as Christians that the Mosaic law is no longer binding. The truth is, “Christ plus nothing.” We read:

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14).

The “handwriting of ordinances” referred to here is the Mosaic law. For the Christian, how do we define “law?” It can be defined as, a set of rules, a routine, or pattern of works that man uses as a means of obtaining righteousness or sanctification.

How Can We Fall from Grace?

With this in mind we conclude that anything can become law to us — including the Christian disciplines, i.e., prayer, Bible reading, fasting, attending church, etc. Simply put, when we place our faith in the things that we do, rather than what Christ has done for us, we fall from grace. Scripture makes it clear that we are saved by grace:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesian 2:8-9).

Since we have not been saved through or by our works, we must not suppose that we can live for Christ by them. While our works are necessary, and the Christian disciplines are mandatory, we must not conclude that these things justify us. Once again, Paul makes this abundantly clear when he wrote to the church in Rome, and of course to the Galatians:

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
“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 be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

How can the Christian avoid the peril of falling from grace? The key to doing this is to learn how to properly live the Christian life. I know how that may sound, because after all, we are God’s people, and of course we know how to live for Him, right?

Where Is Your Faith?

The question is, where is your faith? Is it in what you do, or in what Christ has done? The apostle Paul speaks again:

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Colossians 2:6).

What is he saying here? Simply that in the very same way that we came into Christ, which was by grace through faith, this is to be the very same we are to proceed in living for Him: by grace through faith. He expounds upon this precept further in Galatians:

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:20-21).

The way to live for the Lord, and remain free from the “fall from grace,” is to live each day by faith in Christ. To do otherwise is to set aside the grace of God, which is the spiritual equivalent of falling from it.

As the Scripture explains, if we could be justified through our works or the law, then Christ’s death on the Cross was meaningless; and we know this is not the case. So where do you stand? Are you living under law or under grace? To attempt to do both is to cancel out grace.

Dear Lord, thank you for your sacrifice; help me to keep my faith in you.

That's the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

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