The Book of Galatians
James J. Barker
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FALL FROM GRACE?
- One of the most
misunderstood phrases in the Bible is found in Galatians 5:4 Ė "fallen from
- This Scriptural
phrase is often taken out of context. For example, when high profile preachers
like Jimmy Swaggart get caught in adultery, the media reports that they had
"fallen from grace."
- They certainly
fell into sin, but they did not fall from grace.
- Some churches
teach that a man can be saved for a period of time, get into sin and backslide,
and then "fall from grace" and be lost. Though many sincere Christians hold this
view, in my opinion it is unscriptural.
- John Wesley
wrote, "I believe a saint may fall away; that one who is holy or
righteous in the judgment of God himself may nevertheless so fall from God as to
- The context of
Galatians 5:4 has nothing to do with losing one's
- On the
contrary, this passage is talking about religious people who are trying to
please God by keeping the law.
- If this
Scripture taught that a person could lose his salvation, it would contradict
many other Scriptures (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:47;
FALLING FROM GRACE MEANS BEING ENTANGLED WITH THE
YOKE OF BONDAGE (5:1-6).
chapter 5 picks up where chapter 4 leaves off. Those of us that are saved are
"free" (4:31). Therefore, if we are free, we should "stand fast
- This entire
epistle deals with the vindication of the pure gospel of salvation by grace. We
are saved by grace, not by keeping the law.
- "Run, man, and
live," the law commands,
But gives me neither legs nor
Far better news the Gospel
It bids me fly and gives me
- We no longer
need the external force of the law to keep us in Godís will because we
now have the internal leading of the Holy Spirit (cf. 5:5, 16).
- Grace supplies
the indwelling filling of the Spirit to enable us to live on a higher plane than
the law demanded.
- Putting oneself
under the law means being entangled "in the yoke of bondage" (5:1; cf. 4:9, 24,
25; Acts 15:1, 10).
- Circumcision is
not wrong, but teaching one is saved by getting circumcised is wrong (Acts 15:1;
- If a person
attempts to please God by being circumcised, then he is under obligation "to do
the whole law" (Gal. 5:3). People tend to have a "pick and choose" attitude
toward the law but that is inconsistent and contrary to Scripture (cf. James
2:10; Gal. 3:10).
- Over and over
in this epistle, Paul is saying that legalism eliminates the need for the cross
(Gal. 5:3, 4; cf. 2:21). "Christ shall profit you nothing" (5:2).
- Grace is a higher standard than the law (5:4). I know
people who are trying to live under the law (Orthodox Jews, SDA, other cults, et
al) and I know Christians that are living by Godís grace. Grace is a much higher
- Some interpret 5:4 to mean, "ye are fallen from the
sphere of grace." In other words, law and grace are two different spheres
and cannot be confused.
- "You cannot mix grace and law. If you decide to live in
the sphere of law, then you cannot live in the sphere of grace" (Warren
- When one lives by grace, he depends upon the power of
the Holy Spirit. But if he is under the law, he must depend upon himself and his
own efforts. And these efforts can never accomplish what faith can accomplish
"through the Spirit" (5:5).
- We are living by faith, waiting "for the hope of
righteousness," i.e. the second coming of Christ.
- Again, this is not through law-keeping ("circumcision" Ė
5:6), "but faith which worketh by love" (5:6; cf. vss. 13,
- Faith is complete dependence on God and it manifests
itself in service to God. The motive of all our service is love.
Therefore, it is "faith which worketh by love," i.e. our faith is prompted by
love, not by circumcision or any other rituals.
- It is our love for God and love for others. There are
many laws on the books which insist that parents treat their children properly,
see to it that they go to school, feed them, clothe them, etc. My wife and I do not do these things out
of fear of getting in trouble with the authorities. We do it because we
love our children.
FALLEN FROM GRACE MEANS NOT OBEYING THE TRUTH
- The Judaizers
considered themselves obedient to God because they were diligent in keeping
certain aspects of the law, such as circumcision. However, Paul rebukes them for
not obeying the truth (5:7).
- Legalism is
disobedience because God has stated very clearly that we are saved by grace and
we are kept by grace.
- Paul frequently
used athletic illustrations (5:7a). We do not run the race to win salvation. We
run because we are already saved. We run to win the prize (rewards, not
- The Galatians
had started out alright but they were now being hindered by the false teachings
of the Judaizers. By listening to them and accepting their errors, they were
disobeying the truth.
- Anytime this
sort of thing happens, and Christians are being "hindered," you can be sure it
is not of God. "This persuasion" (these errors) are from the devil
- "Leaven" (5:9)
in the Bible always represents evil, usually false doctrine (Matt. 16:6,
11), and sometimes immorality (I Cor. 5:1-8).
- Here in
Galatians 5:9, it represents legalism, the false doctrine of the Judaizers, who
mixed together law and grace.
- The natural
tendency of leaven (yeast) is to permeate all the meal and spread. Therefore, a
little leaven (error) in the church inevitably leads to more error and begins to
- It has to be
dealt with or else it will ruin a church. It cannot be ignored or left alone.
False teaching and false teachers bring the judgment of God (5:10). Paul was
confident that the Galatians would wise up and reject them
FALLING FROM GRACE MEANS AVOIDING THE CROSS
- Legalism avoids
"the offence of the cross" (5:11). Preaching good works or law-keeping appeals
to the flesh. Telling people they need to be born again annoys them.
- If Paul
preached circumcision, the Jews would not hate him and he would not be
persecuted (5:11). But he preached the cross and so he was persecuted and
- The cross is an
offence to man. Go out and knock on some doors and some people get upset
(especially Roman Catholics!) The cross is a reminder of manís awful sin. The
cross tells proud sinners that they cannot get to heaven by their good works.
The cross gives no place to the flesh.
- The preaching
of the cross offends people but we should try not to offend people.
- Paul appears to
be using sarcasm (5:12).
liberty is not license to sin (5:13). Those who take it that way probably are
not saved. We love Jesus, so we hate sin. Christian liberty is not license to
sin but an opportunity to serve (5:13b).
- On the one
extreme is license; on the other extreme is legalism. The
Christian life is not either one Ė it is liberty in Christ
- A.T. Pierson
said, "True freedom is found only in obedience to proper
restraint. A river finds liberty to flow, only between banks: without these it
would only spread out into a slimy, stagnant pool. Planets, uncontrolled by law,
would only bring wreck to themselves and to the universe. The same law which
fences us in, fences others out; the restraints which regulate our liberty also
insure and protect it. It is not control, but the right kind of control, and a
cheerful obedience which makes the free man."
- We are
saved by grace. We are kept by grace. And we serve by grace
(5:13; cf. I Cor. 15:9, 10).
- Love is the motive for Christian service (5:13, 14; cf.
- The law of God can be summarized in one word Ė "love"
(5:14). If I love God, I will not take His name in vain. If I love God, I will
not worship idols. If I love God, I will keep the Lordís Day holy. If I love
God, I will honor and obey my parents.
- If I love my parents, I will obey them. If I love my
neighbor, I will not lie to him or steal from him, etc.
- If I love my neighbor I will try and win him to Christ.
- If I love my pastor and I love my church, I will give
generously to support them.
- Trying to be saved by keeping the law gives place to the
flesh and this results in strife and hatred (5:15). The picture here is of wild
animals attacking each other. This Scripture proves that the law cannot force
people to get along with each other. No matter how many rules are set up, there
is no guarantee of spirituality.
- It is the Holy
Spirit who enables us to live for Christ (5:5, 16).
- There are at
least 14 references to the Holy Spirit in this epistle. Lord willing, we will
pick up on that next time (5:22-24).