Today, many churches and Christians equate the term fallen from grace as falling into sin. However this is not what the Apostle Paul is talking about.
He is talking about the difference between performance mentality religion and relational Christianity. So let's take a look at the passage where he refers to falling from grace.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. 12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
In the first verse of this passage we see Paul using strong words of encouragement to the Galatian Christians. He tells them to stand fast in their liberty.
So many times we do not contend for the liberty that comes from receiving the grace of God. We allow people to put us once again into a cage of bondage, to conforming to a list of do's and don'ts.
In Paul's day, that list was being taught by what were called the Judaizers. They were teaching that you had to perform certain acts in order to be right with God.
Today we call them legalists. They are the ones that teach that in order to be right with God you have to perform according to their particular list of do's and don'ts.
It is the same yeast or leaven regardless of the list that is being used.
So Paul's command to stand fast in the liberty that was provided by Christ is applicable just as much today as it was 2000 years ago. We are to stand fast.
We fall from grace, not when we sin, or when we do not perform, but we fall from grace when we start trusting in our performance rather than in the grace of God.
In Paul's day, people would fall from grace when they started to trust in the rite of circumcision rather than in the grace of God.
There is only one thing that we are to trust in. We are to trust in the price that Jesus paid on the cross for our forgiveness of sins and opening the door for us to have a right relationship with our heavenly Father because of that price.
So the meaning of falling from grace is not falling into sin. Falling from grace is falling from a trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross to a trust in our efforts and actions keeping us right with God.
So remember, to fall from grace is not a falling into anything. It is falling from something. It is becoming more and more distant from trusting in Christ alone.
Read the fallen from grace Bible verse again.
Galatians 5:4 NKJV
4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
Paul uses the same terminology that Jesus uses concerning the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Take a look at what He said about their teachings.
Meanwhile, the crowds grew until thousands were milling about and stepping on each other. Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees - their hypocrisy.
Now the word leaven is the same as yeast. Paul says that just a little bit of leaven will taint or infect the whole lump or whatever it is placed into.
In this case Paul and Jesus were both talking about performance orientated religion. It was all about outward appearances and trusting in what they did rather than who they knew.
This is one of the few places where Jesus warned of anything. He warned of performance based religion and theology. If Jesus thought it was important enough to warn us about, don't you think then it is important enough for us to take heed?
This is why Paul writes an entire book of the Bible fighting against this type of thinking.
The end result of legalism and following after the law is that it sets up people to compare themselves to others. It gives them a way to measure how spiritual they are compared to someone else.
This is why Paul tells the Galatians to get their focus back on loving one another. They had been tearing each other up because of this false teaching of performance based religion. He then tells them to fulfill all the law by just loving one another.
I will tell you plainly. If you find a church that is devouring one another, or if you are in a church that is devouring one another by comparing the sinners in the church with the spiritual people, you have found a church that has been infected with the leaven or yeast of the Pharisees. It has fallen from grace.
God needs to bring healing to them and possibly you.
I encourage you then to return once again to absolute and complete trust in the grace of God.
Fall back into grace. If this former legalist can do it, so can you.
Pastor Duke Taber is the Senior Pastor at The Vineyard Church in San Carlos Ca. He is an alumnus from Life Pacific College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He is a husband, father, and grandfather.
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