Imagine we’re playing a game called Bible Jeopardy and the answer to the question is “fallen from grace.” Your task is to come up with the correct question for that answer. A typical response from your average Bible-believing church-goer might be something like, “What happens when someone is caught in the act of sinning?” Thus, the typical assumption: one who falls into the snare of sin has fallen from grace.
Just so there is no misunderstanding, we should all be able to agree that sin is bad, it hurts people, it can cause pain and emotional distress to the accused, and to those around them. It deceives by looking appealing, but profits nothing. Therefore, it’s best to avoid sin for the good of everyone involved. It’s simply no longer a part of who we are in Christ. However, repeated sinning has nothing to do with having fallen from grace.
The mindset of thinking that sin separates one from grace can be traced back to many church dogmas which have created tenets based upon the mistake of taking portions of the Old Covenant (before the cross) and mixing them with ingredients from the everlasting New Covenant which was established by Jesus Christ. This erroneous practice is not limited to church ideology—I saw a local newscast recently that described a politician as having “fallen from grace” because they dropped out of the race for office due to accusations of past sexual misconduct. Taking Bible verses out of context is not a very exclusive club.
The phrase appears in the Bible once, in the fifth chapter of Galatians. The Apostle Paul had just spent the entire letter encouraging these believers to avoid being deceived by the Judaizers who came along to oppose the message of grace they had received from Paul and others. A Judaizer is defined as: to live like a Jew, follow Jewish customs, or live by Jewish law (see Galatians 2:14). The Galatians had been bewitched by these who taught a different gospel which appeared to mix law and grace … a common practice within much of Christianity today. In other words, this group of Jews had a problem with Gentiles receiving salvation freely and were seeking to induce them into Jewish customs found in the Mosaic law. For example, they taught that circumcision would be required in order to be saved or justified.
Armed with that small amount of information, it’s difficult to jump quickly from the beginning of Galatians to the end, because there is so much in-between that Paul brings to light regarding the contrast between works and grace. The book of Galatians can begin to look like one big Bible verse when you see all of it in context. But here is the passage as it relates to our subject:
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:1-4).
One is not defined as having fallen from grace because of a sin problem, it’s because they begin to trust in something other than Christ alone. Instead of Jesus plus nothing, it evolves into Jesus “plus whatever I do.” It may be through various commands from the old covenant law, or it may be through modern-day religious rules or ceremonial practices which do not bring life. Grace is the Person of Jesus Christ. Grace was given to those with a sin problem, grace is not taken away because of a sin problem. Otherwise, it’s not really grace.
We’ve been empowered to reign in life and can now reckon ourselves dead to sin by grace through faith alone. But the law of works has no connection to faith (Galatians 3:12). All it could do is bring a curse. Why? Because it was required to be kept perfectly, and if you broke one commandment under that system, you were guilty of breaking all of it. And as Paul stated, you cannot pick and choose which commands to follow—you would be obligated to keep the whole thing because it was all put together in one package that God would not allow to be broken up.
Paul proceeded to explain our position as believers being led by the Spirit, not by a written code as was the case under the previous covenant with the law which came through Moses. When we’re led by the Spirit, we have no connection to that law (Galatians 5:18). Something that is often ignored or forgotten is that we (non-Jewish) Gentiles were never under the law … never! The fruit of the Spirit can only occur in our lives apart from the law (Galatians 5:23). Being disconnected from the law is what allows people of all races to be joined as one in Christ. His life has been eternally dedicated to you, not the other way around. Trust and believe that what Jesus accomplished through the cross and resurrection is more than enough, and don’t fall from grace by trying to add something to a work that Jesus declared is finished.
For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage inside of a new and better covenant, and also gaining a better understanding of the teachings of Jesus, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee.
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