Falling From Grace
What does it mean? Let’s first discuss what it doesn’t mean.
Bro. Carl was in his 90s and in great shape. He skipped down the aisle for us to sing for his birthday! His wife had lost her first husband who fell to his death from one of those tall antennae. Fast forward to 2012 and it was a work day at Grace Baptist. I thought I was the first to arrive early, at about 7 AM. We were supposed to do painting, yard work, etc. There was also an outdoor light to replace on the exterior of the 3rd floor. I pull into the parking lot to see the ladder extended all the way, and Carl at the top with the light fixture in his hands.
After my initial concern for his safety, my next thought was the news article that would come out about how his wife had now lost two husbands to falls. My picture would be there, as the miserly pastor who forced this elderly man to do such a dangerous job. The headline of course read, “Fall from Grace.”
It doesn’t mean that.
It doesn’t carry the secular meaning, ie, Will Smith’s fall from grace with ‘the slap.’
It’s not referring to Adam and Eve in the garden.
It doesn’t mean falling into sin. We fall into sin all the time.
It doesn’t mean losing salvation. They never had it. 1 John 2:19
And remember, Heb. 6 teaches that if you could lose it, it would be impossible to regain it again.
It doesn’t mean backsliding. The just man falls 7 times and rises up again.
So what does it mean? We’ll get to that.
In this section we see liberty versus bondage. Any legal system puts you under bondage, and you have to follow it meticulously.
Getting a ticket for speeding is an illustration. It will correct your future behavior. You become bound to obey. It hurts to have to pay a fine, and we don't want to hurt. It is an example of legalism that we all understand.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage [Gal. 5:1].
Paul is saying that since we have been saved by grace we are to continue on in this way of living. Grace supplies the indwelling and filling of the Spirit to enable us to live on a higher plane than law demanded. This all is our portion when we trust Christ as Savior. It is in Christ that we receive everything -- salvation and sanctification. Don't tell me I need to seek a second blessing. When I came to Christ, I got everything I needed. Paul tells me that I have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. Let's believe Him and start trusting. Let's stop trying some legal system of rules.
We have liberty in Christ. He does not put us under some little legal system. We can use the Ten Commandments as a general guideline for life, but we are called to a higher level to live. That level is where there is liberty in Christ. I have a liberty in Jesus Christ, and that liberty is not a rule, but a principle. It is that I am to please Him. My conduct should be to please Jesus Christ -- not to please you, not to please any organization, but only to please Him. That is the liberty that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise I will just see how close I can get to the line without going over.
Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing [Gal. 5:2].
Circumcision was the badge of the Law. A badge indicates to what organization or lodge you belong. Perhaps Christians should wear a badge because that is about the only way you could tell that some people are Christians. But Paul says that if you so much as put on the badge of circumcision, then Christ does not profit you anything.
Imagine a person claims they found a miracle drug that cured all that ailed them. They give a glowing recommendation for it, and then they say, "I also took another medicine new to the market during the same time frame." That last statement really blows the whole deal. You know nothing!
Now notice carefully what Paul is saying. If you trust Christ plus something else you are not saved. If you go so far as to be circumcised, which is only the badge of the Law, or if you go through some other experience and rest your salvation on that, "Christ shall profit you nothing." How can He profit you anything when you have made up a bottle of your own concoction rather than trusting Him alone for your salvation?
The way Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer put it always impressed me. It was something like this: "I want to so trust Christ that when I come into His presence and He asks me, 'Why are you here?" I can say, 'I am here because I trusted You as my Savior.' If He asked me, 'Well, that is commendable, but what have you done? I happen to know that you were president of a seminary, and that you were baptized. You were also a member of a church. You did many fine things during your ministry,' then I would reply, 'It is all true, but I never trusted in any of it for salvation. I trusted only You, my Lord.' " Is that the way you are trusting Christ? Paul makes it very strong when he says, "If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing." If you trust anything other than Christ, you are not a Christian.
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law [Gal. 5:3].
You cannot draw out of the Law just those things that you like. You cannot leave out the penalties and a great deal of the detail. You must take the whole Law or nothing. I am delighted that I am not under the Law. I have liberty in Christ! I must confess that I have a problem of always pleasing Him, but He is the One I am trying to please. I am not following some legal system.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace [Gal. 5:4].
You have missed the point of grace!
If you have been saved by trusting Christ, then go down to the low level of works, you have fallen from grace. This is what "falling from grace" actually means. Falling from grace does not mean falling into some open sin or careless conduct, and by so doing forfeiting your salvation so that you have to be saved all over again. It has no reference to that at all.
Salvation: How you get it is how you keep it!
Christ is no effect to you? Why did He die if He then needs your help to keep you saved?
It begs the question, is a person truly saved in the first place if they aren’t trusting in Christ alone?
How does God make a saved sinner good? Well, He gives him a new nature. There is no good in the old nature. Paul found that out.
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing," and he also found out, "...to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Rom. 7:18). And he cries out as a saved man, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). He is not afraid that he is going to lose his salvation, but he is a defeated Christian. God gives a new principle. We will find in this chapter that the new principle is the fruit of the Spirit.
Living the Christian life by this method for some Christians is as farfetched as living on Mars! They never expect to live there. Perhaps they have never even heard about the possibility. This is the life He wants us to live -- by faith. We are saved by grace; we are to live by grace.
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith [Gal. 5:5].
This is the only verse in this letter that even vaguely sounds prophetic. Jesus is that blessed hope we wait for. But in a letter which has the goal of emphasizing walking in the Spirit and not the flesh - you don't need much challenge about being righteous, rather, you focus on trusting and waiting for the true righteousness which is from above.
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love [Gal. 5:6].
No legal apparatus will produce a Christian life. The formula is simple: "faith which worketh by love." That is the way to live the Christian life. Faith will work by love. Love will be the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? [Gal. 5:7].
Paul chides the Galatians. He is giving them a gentle rebuke. They were doing excellently until the Judaizers came along. "The truth" is the gospel, of course, and the Lord Jesus Christ in person.
This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you [Gal. 5:8].
It didn't come from Christ but from a different source.
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump [Gal. 5:9].
In Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, leaven is always used as a symbol of evil. In Matthew 13:33, when the woman hid leaven in three measures of meal, the leaven was not the gospel. It may be the kind of a "gospel" that is passing around today as legal tender, but it is still evil. In fact, Paul says that it is no gospel at all. The Lord Jesus warned His disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees (see Matt. 16:6). I think we need to be warned today of the leaven of legalism. It is an awful thing.
We all like bread rather than communion wafers, right? Leaven tastes good! And so it is w/ the natural man.
I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be [Gal. 5:10].
Paul believed that the Galatians would ultimately reject the teaching of the Judaizers.
And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased [Gal. 5:11].
This verse is important to note. Paul asks, "If I preach circumcision, why am I persecuted?" Adding something to the gospel makes it acceptable. The gospel, by itself, is not acceptable to the natural man. Preaching the gospel does antagonize some folk. Paul asks, "If I am including something else in the gospel, why am I being persecuted?"
One way of knowing you stand for the right is many will disagree, and you may sometimes have to stand alone!
Look at that last phrase of v. 11
"Then is the offence of the cross ceased." Actually, the cross of Christ is an offense to all that man prides himself in. It is an offense to his morality because it tells him his work cannot justify him. It is an offense to his philosophy because its appeal is to faith and not to reason. It is an offense to the culture of man because its truths are revealed to babes. It is an offense to his sense of pride because God chooses the poor and humble. It is an offense to his will because it calls for an unconditional surrender. It is an offense to his self esteem because it shows the exceeding sinfulness of the human heart. And it is an offense to the core of his being because it tells him he must be born again. You know, that was almost insulting to the Pharisee Nicodemus that night when Jesus told him, religious as he was, that he must be born again. For the same reason, some who are preaching the New Birth get in trouble with their congregations. Some members don't want to be born again -- they feel like they're good enough as they are. It's an insult to them.
I would they were even cut off which trouble you [Gal. 5:12].
I wish these Judaizers were removed from you.
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another [Gal. 5:13].
There are three methods of trying to live the Christian life -- two of them will not work. One is a life of legalism, which Paul has been discussing. The other is the life of license, which Paul discussed in Romans 6: After we are saved by grace, can we live in sin? Paul's answer is, "God forbid." You can't live in sin and be a Christian. Now you may fall into sin, but you will get out of it. The Prodigal Son can get in the pig pen, but he won't settle down there -- the pig pen won't be his forwarding address. He will leave it. The Christian life is neither the life of legalism nor the life of license.
The third method of living the Christian life is the life of liberty, and in the remainder of this chapter he will give us the modus operandi for living by liberty.
Grace does not set us free to sin, but it sets us free from sin. You see, the believer should desire to please God, not because he must please Him like a slave, but because he is a son and he wills to please his Father. He does what God wants, not because he fears to do otherwise like an enemy, but because he wants to do it, for God is his friend. God is the One who loves him. He serves God, not because of pressure from without such as the Law, but because of a great principle within -- even the life of Christ that is within him.
We serve God because we love Him. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (see John 14:15). I wonder if a disciple had said, "I don't love You," would our Lord have said, "Then forget about My commandments"? The whole basis of obedience is a love relationship to Him. The Law never could bring us to that place. It was negative to begin with. It produced a negative goodness -- which is the kind of goodness a great many people have today. You can say, "I don't do this and I don't do that." But what DO you do?
All legal systems produce only negative goodness. They never rise to the sphere of positive goodness where one does things to please God for the very love of pleasing Him. He wants us to serve Him on that kind of basis.
Now Paul is going to reduce it to a simple statement, then he will amplify what he means.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself [Gal. 5:14].
Here the Law is reduced to the lowest common denominator. This is the acid test for those who think they are living by the Law. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." The "one word" is love.
But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another [Gal. 5:15].
I have always wanted to preach a sermon on this text, and I would entitle it "Christian Cannibals." Did you know that in many churches today the Christians bite, eat, and devour one another? And the bite is as bad as that of a mad dog. There is nothing you can take that will cure the wound. All you can do is suffer. There are a lot of mad dogs running around today. They will bite and devour you. Unfortunately, the world has passed by the church in our day, and I'm sorry it has because there are many fine people in our churches and many wonderful preachers throughout this country. But the lives of some Christians are keeping the world away from certain churches. I personally know examples of this. I know churches in which the Christians have no love for each other, but they bite and devour one another. It is a terrible thing! Aren't you glad for the feeling of family and spirit of unity we enjoy? It's all made possible by grace, and not the law.
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