What Does It Mean To, “Fall from Grace?”

What does in mean to, “fall from grace?” Many times when a political or religious leader falls into sin we see in the news that they have, “fallen from grace.” While this is used a lot, it is not the correct and biblical definition of the phrase.

Galatians 5:4 tells us, “4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” What a horrible thought that someone can fall from grace. So to begin we must start by looking at the context. Robert Gundry explains what was going on in his book, “A Survey of the New Testament.” In this he writes, “Many of the first Christians, being Jewish, continued in large measure their Jewish mode of life, including attendance at the synagogue and temple, offering of sacrifices, observance of Mosaic rituals and dietary taboos, and social aloofness from Gentiles[1].” This type of mixing old and new covenants can also be called Galatianism. This is where you take the old covenant, put it in a pot, then you take the new covenant, put it in a pot, and you mix both of them all together. What do you get? Galatianism, this is when we try to be justified by the law.

Through studying the ark of the covenant we can see a picture of this phrase. The ark of the covenant was this golden chest which held three items inside. It held a pot of manna, Aaron’s rod which budded, and the second pair of Ten Commandments. All of these items were placed inside the ark and covered with the mercy seat on top. This mercy seat was one solid slab of gold with two cherubim angels on top. Now grace is our high place. We are under a new covenant of grace. If we try to go back to the law, we literally have to pick up the mercy seat to see the Ten Commandments. Grace is higher than the law. To fall from grace is when someone goes back to the law. You have left your high ground.

Here God wants to bless you, but you keep trying to earn it. Simply because we are no longer under the law, does not mean that we can sin. Before there was any laws, things like murder, theft, and bearing false witness were wrong. The truth Is that the grace of God that causes us to live a holy life.

The Church in Galatia was trying to go from faith to works. We are called to live by “faith to faith.” (Romans 1:17). Grace means unmerited merited favor, so the only way to fall from undeserved favor is to try and deserve it. As soon as you try and earn God’s unearned favor, you have just fallen from grace.

[1] Gundry, Robert Horton. A survey of the New Testament. 4th ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2003.

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