Summary: Can you fall from grace? Absolutely. You can’t fall away from salvation, but you can reject the truth of grace.
Some of my fondest memories are road trips when my daughters were young. We had an Oldsmobile Delta 88 with a huge bench backseat. This was before child seats were the required, so they had plenty of room to play. But there was an imaginary line drawn down the middle of the bench and that was no-man’s land. They had to stay on their side of the line, or the other one would scream, “Daddy—she’s on my side!”
Most of the trips were pleasant, and we did a lot of singing. One of the songs the girls loved to sing was the old camp favorite entitled, “Oh, you can’t get to heaven.” It went something like this: “Oh you can’t get to heaven; (repeat) on roller skates. Oh you can’t get to heaven (repeat) on roller skates. Oh you can’t get to heaven on roller skates, ‘cause you’d roll right by those pearly gates; All my sins are washed away, I’ve been redeemed.” Another verse said, “Oh you can’t get to heaven (repeat) in a motor car; Oh you can’t get to heaven (repeat) in a motor car; Oh you can’t get to heaven in a motor car; ‘cause a motor car can’t got that far. All my sins are washed away I’ve been redeemed.” This went on and on…and on and on. Many of the verses produced waves of giggling. They’d sing a verse about how you can’t get to heaven in a Kleenex box ‘cause God don’t want no runny snots. Another verse said you can’t get to heaven in a limousine ‘cause the Lord don’t sell no gasoline.”
There are many ways you can’t get to heaven, but there’s only one way you can get to heaven, and that is by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Today we’re going to answer the question: Can you fall from grace? The phrase appears in our text today. But what does it mean? Does it mean that you can be lost, then be saved, and then be lost again, and that you need to be saved again? Is the Christian life nothing more than a vicious cycle of sinning, losing your salvation, repenting to be saved again, only to lose your salvation the next time you sin? What a terrible way to live! Yet there are millions who call themselves Christians who basically believe that. Let’s see what God’s says about this important issue.
Galatians 5:4-12. “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.’ I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”
Paul has been exposing these false teachers since the beginning of his letter. He finally gets so frustrated that he targets them with a little off-color humor. There’s no way to sugarcoat what he wrote. These Jewish teachers were so obsessed with having every male circumcised that Paul suggests they turn the knife on themselves. Eugene Peterson’s Message paraphrase captures his intent: “Why don’t these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12 The Message)
You may think that kind of statement isn’t politically correct in the church of all places, but Paul wasn’t trying to be polite. He had a good strong case of righteous indignation toward these false teachers. As we examine this passage, let’s dig a little deeper into three themes he introduces: Falling from grace; Running the race; and proving the case.
(1) FALLING FROM GRACE
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4) Can you fall from grace? Absolutely. Paul was writing to Christians who had fallen from grace. However, they were still followers of Jesus Christ. So contrary to what some groups teach, falling from grace isn’t the same thing as losing your salvation.