Have You Fallen From Grace?
The Security of the Truly Saved
What does it mean to "fall from grace?" We find this expression uttered by the Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians. The specific verse is Galatians 5:4. The great Apostle tells us there that:
"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace."
This verse is used by some as a proof text that you can lose your salvation. But is that what this verse is saying? Not at all! For salvation is by grace through faith, plus nothing (Ephesians 2:8,9). This is one of a handful of verses, taken out of context and used to deny the eternal security of the believer. This doctrine, derived from Scripture, is best stated by the Westminster Confession of faith when it says:
"They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually
called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally
fall away from the state of grace: but shall certainly
persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved."
I. Pauline Evidence for Eternal Security
When one interprets a verse, it is always necessary to make sure you use all of Scripture to help to explain what is meant. Scripture does not contradict itself. The truth is that there is so much evidence for eternal security that it is hard to argue that this verse is advocating a different view. Especially since Galatians 5:4 comes from the pen of Paul, the Apostle of grace.
The definition of the word grace is unmerited favor. It is something you don't earn or deserve. It is a gift freely given by God. And, if you could do nothing to earn it, how can you ever lose it by something you've done? In Ephesians 2:8,9 Paul tells us:
"For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.
Further, in Titus 3:5 he tells us: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he has saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit."
And what about Romans 3:21-24? He tell us this:
"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:"
And of course Romans 4:4,5 says it very well. Paul couldn't be more clear when he tells us:
"Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
But to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
Finally, Philippians 1:6, in talking about the work that God is doing in every believer, informs us that:
"Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
Truly Paul believed that salvation was a work of God on behalf of the sinner, and not something the sinner could do on his or her own. And God will not be thwarted in bringing a sinner, saved by His grace, to Himself
II. Other Important Security Verses
As we examine other Scriptures, we get a more full picture of what Scripture teaches on eternal security. For instance we have Jesus' teaching:
"My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me, and I give to them eternal life. And they shall never perish. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:27-29).
The famous John 3:16 also comes to mind: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
And in John 3:36 we get more of the same: "He that believes on the Son has everlasting life, and he that does not believe on the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on him."
The writer of Hebrews, in talking about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is very clear in saying:
"For by one offering He has perfected forever them who are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14).
Finally, but not exhaustively, we have the words of the Apostle John who informs us that we can know that we have eternal life. This would not be the case if it weren't for eternal security. Here is what John has to tell us:
"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God" (I John 5:13).
III. Galatians 5:4 in Light of Eternal Security
A. The Context of the verse
So what is Paul saying in Galatians 5:4? What does he mean when he says "you are fallen from grace"? In the first place, we need to understand the context. Galatians is Paul's most angry letter, because he is speaking about some people perverting the Gospel.
During his first missionary journey he planted the church through preaching the true good news of the grace of God by faith. After he left, racial division arose among the churches as Gentiles, or non-Jews accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. A group of false teachers came on the scene who began insisting that the Gentile Christians practice all of the traditional Jewish customs. They taught that in order for them to be saved, Gentiles needed to be circumcised and follow the Jewish dietary laws.
Paul lets the Galatians know in no uncertain terms that this gospel being preached by these false teachers, known as "Judaizers," is not the true good news that he had preached to them. As a matter of fact, he proclaims to them that if anyone should preach a different gospel, that person should be eternally condemned (Galatians 1:8).
It is in light of all of this that Paul gets very personal with the Galatians and tells them;
"It is for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold, I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (5:1-4).
B. Two Key Words in the Passage
The words translated severed from Christ in other versions, are in the King James translated as "Christ has become of no effect unto you." The Latin Vulgate says that "your connection with Christ is made void." The Greek word here (καταργέω, katargeō) means properly "to render inactive, idle, useless, do away with, to put an end to". In this particular passage it means that they had withdrawn from Christ if they attempted to be justified by the law. They would not need him if they could be justified in any other way. So the work of Christ would be vain as far as they were concerned.
The word used for fallen in this passage is ἐκπίπτω/ ekpipto. The word can mean to fall away from a previously held position as those who teach against eternal security claim. However, in this context it would more likely mean "estranged from" or "separated from." Paul is warning against setting aside the grace that comes from Christ. Those who do this have truly run away from the true grace that comes from His blood. They are instead attempting to be justified by the law. You can't have it both ways. It is either Christ alone, by grace through faith alone, or it is justification by the works of the law, which, by the way, is impossible.
C. Help from I John 2:19
Any seeming contradictory verses to eternal security should be looked at in light of I John 2:19. Here the Apostle John tells us this with regard to apostate "believers":
"They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."
It is obvious that John's position is that those who give up the grace of God and leave the faith were never true believers in the first place. A true believer will always be a believer. Obviously this is not because of anything special in the believer, but by the grace and mercy of God.
The bottom line is that we all need to heed the advice of the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 13:5 and examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. Anyone who thinks that they can be saved by anything other than God's free grace which comes through accepting the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins, is fooling themselves. The wrath of God is still abiding on anyone who seeks justification outside of, or in addition to Christ (John 3:36). And those who add anything to the Gospel are leading people astray and are condemned by God.
The good news of Christ is the most wonderful truth in the universe. We must all seek to guard against anyone who would pervert it, or preach "another gospel." Let us be eternally thankful that though we were lost, by God's grace we are now eternally found. We are now sons and daughters of the living God. That is a good news worth preaching!