Galatians 5:1-6 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. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
What does it mean to “fall from grace”? We have this impression in our minds that when someone commits a serious sin or gets found out for some secret sin, that all of a sudden grace is gone and the person is left to the wolves, unable to be saved. But when that person is already saved, when that person has already been forgiven for every sin they’ll ever commit…how can they “fall from grace?” This is contradictory to the gospel.
I was reading a book earlier today called Jesus + Nothing = Everything (I highly recommend reading it), and one part in particular struck me. It struck me because I had never thought of things in the terms of the author, but they were no less true. He pointed out the passage I’ve quoted up above and caused the reader to look at the part where Paul tells the Galatians that some have fallen from grace. Notice he doesn’t say that they fell from grace because of some heinous sin. He says they fell from grace because they accepted legalism as a way to salvation. Legalism is the enemy of grace. It is literally the WORST enemy of grace.
For those of us who have been redeemed by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, those of us who have saved by grace through faith, we have been set free. That freedom means we’re not under legalism anymore. We’re not under the yolk of slavery that legalism brings. We’re free to obey the law, not oppressed by it. So when we fail and miss a step, either intentionally or unintentionally, it doesn’t mean that Jesus’ grace doesn’t still cover us. His grace is sufficient for all our sins, for all time. No sin can separate us from Him once we’ve already been justified and found not guilty. He already paid the price for our sin, so we can’t just fall away from His grace because we did something wrong. No, we can only fall from grace in one way. If we don’t trust in Him alone for that justification.
When we begin to think that it’s Jesus plus some other act or ritual that gets us to God, we’re not accepting grace, we’re trying to win God’s favor through our actions. That’s just not the way things work. He forgives us in one way and it’s through Jesus. When Christ died, the holy, sinless Son of God took on the sin of the whole world and bore the punishment for us all. In exchange, when we believe in Him for our salvation, we gain His righteousness, the perfect standing before God that only someone who has lived a perfect life can every receive. Because He already won the victory, we don’t have to worry about losing His grace.
God’s grace is powerful. It’s so powerful that once we’ve received it, we’re set free in a way that nothing else could achieve. His grace is enough. We don’t have to add to it. We’re not only saved by His grace, He continually works on us through His grace (sanctification) and ultimately brings us to Himself through grace. We can depend on that, we don’t need to depend on ourselves to earn standing with God.