Fallen From Grace
Galatians 5:2 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. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to believers in southern Galatia likely from his home city of Antioch, Syria in 49 A.D, prior to attending the Jerusalem Council meeting which occurred that same year. The Jerusalem Council settled the matter of circumcision. It would not be required in order for one to be a Christian.
Paul has just completed his first missionary journey in which he and Barnabas planted churches in southern Galatia at Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. This letter is the first of Paul’s letters.
The new believers in Galatia, influenced by Judaizers, have already turned from Paul’s Gospel to a false gospel of a mix of works and grace instead of grace alone. Judaizers claimed that Christians must also follow the Old Testament law, including circumcision. So Paul is writing to the Galatian believers to direct them back to the true Gospel of salvation by grace and not a combination of grace and works.
In this passage, Paul tells Galatian Gentiles that are uncircumcised that they should not become circumcised for the purpose of being acceptable as Christians (v. 2a). In fact it would have just the opposite effect. They would not be acceptable as Christians (v. 2b).
Those Gentiles, by being circumcised, would subject themselves to having to keep the “whole law” (v. 3). The “whole law” consists of over 600 commandments expressed in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. If obeying the law makes you a Christian you would have to obey the “whole law”, not just circumcision.
Those same Gentiles “have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law” (v. 4a). Paul is saying that you can’t have it both ways. On the one hand you can’t say that to be a Christian you must obey every commandment in the law while, on the other hand, you say that you are saved by grace through faith. Works and grace are exact opposites. If one is true the other is not. The Bible teaches that we are saved by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
So those who accept works based Christianity have rejected Christ. They have rejected grace. They have “fallen from grace” (v. 4b). Paul and Barnabas, during their visit, brought Christianity to these Galatian Gentiles. These Gentiles professed belief in salvation by grace through faith. If they now change to the opposite belief, a works based Christianity, they would forfeit Christ’s grace, they would fall from grace. They would not be believers in Christ as Lord and Savior.
Those who seem to change to works based Christianity were never Christians in the first place. They never fully believed in the power of Christ. They never really made Him their Lord and Savior. They always believed that they themselves were in charge of their own salvation. They believed in works, not grace. They fell from grace, forfeited the grace of God.
Next, Paul changes from the pronoun “you” to the pronoun “we” (v. 5a). He had been talking about non Christians and now he is talking about Christians. Christians are those who live their lives “through the (Holy) Spirit”, not through their own efforts (v. 5b). They believe in grace and not works.
The Holy Spirit indwells Christians from the moment they become Christians. They then “eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (v. 5c). This righteousness is referred to as “imputed righteousness”. They wait for complete righteousness as they continue to yield their life to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Righteousness comes only from God and cannot be earned through our good works.
So the term “fallen from grace” does not mean that Christians can somehow become non Christians. Once we are saved, we are always saved. True Christians can never lose their salvation.
Online Bible Commentary