Can A Christian Fall From Grace? – What That Means

  • By: Brian Sloan
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Are you afraid you have experienced a fall from grace? Maybe it’s some other person that you believe has experienced a fall from grace. To be honest, people are all over the board when using the term “fall from grace.” Why don’t we take a look at a passage from the New Testament to help us come to an understanding of what the term means?

A “fall from grace” as Paul spoke about in his letter to the Galatians means that you have chosen that God’s grace alone is not enough. Your faith and salvation must be based on Jesus PLUS the law, good works, or righteous behavior. It means that you are depending on something other than the grace of God. It doesn’t mean that you have lost your salvation.

A Fall From Grace…What is it? Can I?

Okay, so maybe how I defined it normally isn’t the way you hear it used, huh? People may see a pastor or evangelist who has failed morally and lost their leadership position.

So, they say that he’s had a fall from grace. Or, you may see a strong Christian who goes through a time in the “spiritual wilderness,” or a Christian who has been hurt by a church and goes through a period when they are not in church. Maybe you might use the old term “backslider.” So, you may say a backslider has experienced a fall from grace.

Well, it’s your choice to use the term for situations like that if you want to. However, a closer look at the scriptures might just give us a better definition of the fall from grace terminology, Don’t you think it’s the best choice for us to use the prhase as the person who wrote most of the New Testament did? I do.

Why don’t we put this definition of the term to the test? We’re going to see what the Apostle Paul has to say in his letter to the Galatians in just a bit and see if we can clarify this. I surely want to know if the phrase means that I can lose my salvation. That’s a big deal to me!

First of all, anytime we talk about grace we need to understand its definition.

A Fall From Grace – We Must First Correctly Define Grace

What does grace mean? The word “grace” is often used in everyday language, but it seems to have different meanings with various people. When it comes to the gospel and the Bible, grace is a very important concept. It’s one of the most important doctrines in Christianity because it’s about God’s unconditional love and mercy for us. It is also the subject of one of the most famous hymns in the world, “Amazing Grace.”

Grace is simply defined as God’s unmerited favor. We can’t do anything to earn it – it’s a gift from God. Even unbelievers receive a measure of grace from God. That is called “common grace” which doesn’t mean that have received eternal life but has to do with the general goodness of God in bringing life, food, clothing, anything good to this earthly experience.

However, we are speaking of the grace of God that is given to believers having put their faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior. The saving grace of Jesus Christ is available to all people because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is through His grace offered to us that we can be saved from the punishment of sin.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:8-9

A Fall From Grace – A Look From Scripture.

There have been volumes written by theologians about this topic using scriptures in various part of the Bible. Here we are just going to focus a bit on the message that Paul sent in the book of Galatians.

In Galatians 5:4 the Apostle, Paul, speaks about falling from grace.

For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.” Galatians 5:4

A Fall From Grace = Lose Our Salvation???

In this passage can we determine that a true believer, someone who is born again, can lose the salvation they have been given?? I think not.

Okay, I understand that there are very good denominations, good churches, good Christians who do not believe in the doctrine of Eternal Security. I know some really fine people that I love who believe that you can be born again, having surrendered your life to Christ and then, later on, get out of God’s will bad enough that you lose your salvation in Him.

So, as I give my little answer to the whole “fall from grace” question just understand that I am a believer in eternal security. If you’re a Christian and you don’t. I will see you in heaven, but you may worry a lot more about getting there than I do (saying that with a smile)! I just don’t believe that if you are born again (that was Jesus’ term for it), I don’t understand how you can be unborn.

I’ve done things that have not pleased my earthly Dad before. Maybe we our communication was somwhat broken during those times. Maybe I needed to apologize to Him or start behaving appropriately. However, I could never stop becoming his son. That’s about the way I see it with God. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit- providing that you have actually repented of your sins and received Jesus as your Savior.

A Fall From Grace – The Judaizers Speak

I love the book of Galatians. Paul’s main concern is about the false teaching that was going around that instructed Gentile believers to follow Jesus and the Mosaic law. The Galatian church was experiencing this false teaching from those who were called the “Judaizers.” They were doing their best to convince the Christian converts that all of the Old Testament laws and customs were still binding also. Circumcision for spiritual purposes was a big topic in that debate. Paul argues that Gentiles didn’t need to put themselves under the Mosaic law as the false teachers were saying. Jews and Gentiles both have freedom in Christ.

In essence, they were teaching Jesus PLUS practicing the law. Paul was using the term “fallen from grace” in the context of those who had accepted the “grace plus law” path to salvation. So, in essence, they had fallen away from the truth of God’s wonderful grace – not that they had lost their status as a child of God. He doesn’t say that they have fallen away from God (as in lost their salvation). They were being deceived by a false version of the Gospel.

A Fall From Grace – A Simplied Example

Let’s put this is in what might be a silly, but understandable example. For many years in the church where I grew up, they kept the number of “daily bible readers” in Sunday School. It was an accountability system to try to get people to read their Bibles. I’m not going to criticize it. It was what it was.

However, let’s say someone has only been a Christian for a few months or even a few years. This person is a true believer, born again, trusted Christ as Savior…whatever term you want to use, but they are truly a Christian. Okay, now imagine that their job requires them to move to another church.

They become acquainted with the pastor and love his sermons about Jesus and develop respect and trust in this pastor. After a while, they begin to notice his really strong stance on reading the Bible every day. Then eventually, they hear his teaching that says if you do not read the Bible every day there is no way you can be saved. He teaches – you must trust Jesus PLUS read your Bible all seven, not six days a week to be saved.

Well, they have so much trust in this pastor that they latch on to the salvation by Jesus PLUS Bible Reading seven days a week. They become fastidious daily Bible readers. They begin to trust in Jesus and their daily scripture reading as their hope for salvation.

Is reading the Bible 7 days a week good? I think it’s a great idea. But, would they be wrong for making it a legalistic standard? Certainly. They would have fallen away from the truth of grace – that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, not Christ and reading the Bible every day. Make sense?

So, if a born-again Christian gets sidetracked with some bad doctrine, do they just lose their salvation and are on their way to hell? Of course not.


A Fall From Grace – Losing Your Salvation?

So, let’s summarize – Paul was speaking to Galatian Christians who had fallen from grace by grabbing hold of some dangerous doctrine. Had they lost their salvation and were on their way to hell? Certainly not. Paul took the time to write this letter to the Galatian church to correct the false teaching that said – Jesus PLUS the law = righteousness. He was really passionate about the subject. He actually referred to the Judaizer’s teaching as “another gospel.”

The false teachers urged the Galatians to believe that they should have Jesus and a law-based relationship with God at the same time. Paul informs them that this is not an alternative open to them – The spiritual dynamics of grace and law are not compatible as a lifestyle.

Before you think I am discounting the Old Testament as unimportant. I’m not. However, as the method by which we live our life, grace must be the driving factor that brings us to good works – not the opposite.

I would urge you to take some time to read and study Paul’s letters. He was consistently challenging believers to walk in the newness of life by grace in the spirit of God, not by the letter of the law. He was simply teaching from the platform that Jesus had come to establish. Notice what Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew.

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” Matthew 5:17

Jesus fulfilled the law. He live a perfect life, died – carrying all our sins with Him, and rose from the grave so we could be forgiven and have new life.

So, Paul doesn’t mince words when he speaks to this grace vs law subject. He knew the law inside and out, but he had found true freedom in what Christ had done at the cross. So, he was extremely critical of false teachers who were teaching this “other gospel.” In the first chapter of the letter, he had said –

“Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.  I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.” Galatians 1:8-9

That’s how much a big deal the grace of God was to the Apostle, Paul.

Why Take A Chance?

Ok, now you’ve read how I and a whole of lot of other people believed about this fall from grace passage. We don’t interpret it at all to mean that you could lose your salvation.

My question is, in terms of our own eternal destination, why should we even risk it? What I mean is, what if there was a chance that other theologians were correct? If you have rebelled against God, or maybe have pushed Him away, or haven’t been interested in your spiritual life at all, why not turn to Him now?

Commit your life to Christ and live a life that honors him. You can work out the doctrinal stuff later. But, give your life to Him now. Repent of your sins, talk to Him, walk with Him, pray to Him on a daily basis so there will be very few doubts, if any, about your eternal destination regardless of what you believe about eternal security.

Be a True Believer

One reason I say that is because there are people who pray a prayer for Jesus to save them, and then soon go right back to living their lives as they always did. They don’t change a bit, but say they are going to heaven because the “said a prayer.”

Well, saying words of a prayer, and meaning those words and giving your life to Christ can be two different things. Also, I’m afraid that there are many people who say “I was saved as a child, so I’m okay.” However, they have lived a life away from God for decades. So, does that mean they weren’t truly born again – that they just said words they didn’t mean or even understand? Maybe so.

I ask again. Why even risk it? If you have doubts, turn to Him, repenting of you sin, asking Him to be your Lord. He will do so.

So, again – no. The “fall from grace” phrase that Paul used wasn’t about losing your salvation.

But, still the most important thing is to make sure that you are a true child of God. If you repented of your wrongdoings and have trusted Him for the forgiveness of your sins then you are His child.

Sometimes your behavior will be great and other times not so good. But, HIs grace is always there.

He’s not going to leave you. He is not going to fail you. His grace is perfect. His love is eternal.


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