“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” –Galatians 5:4
The verb translated “are justified”, in the original text is a present tense. The passage should be rendered, “Christ has become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are trying to be justified by the law.” Moreover, the phrase, “are fallen from grace”, has nothing to do with falling from salvation.
Many religious bodies teach that a person can lose one’s salvation. Jesus said this would not happen. Eternal life cannot be lost. “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28, 29). The true believer will persevere in the faith because of the preservation work of the tri-holy trinity.
With that being said, a person can fall from grace in this sense. A person falls from grace when they turn from a theology of grace, to a theology of legalism. Commenting on this passage, the British theologian John Stott (27 April 1921 – 27 July 2011) said, It is impossible to receive Christ without acknowledging that you cannot save yourself; that’s why you received Christ, … when you turn to Christ, and receive him you are saying, “I cannot be saved. I need somebody else.”
Speaking in a general way, people believe in three ways of salvation.
A person can be saved by God, in grace, through faith.
A person can be saved by man, that is by himself.
A person can be saved by some combination of God and man.
The second method of salvation cannot be true, for the Bible teaches the utter inability of the natural man to do anything to please God, apart from regeneration. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). “So, then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8).
The third method of salvation cannot be true, for it is impossible to determine what God would have a person do, and then what He is willing to do, by way of a combined effort, in order for a person to be saved. What God would have a person to do is to be perfect. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). What is certain is that no man is perfect. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
The Bible says that God will not give, or share His glory with anyone. God will never allow a person to boast and say, “I appreciate what God has done for me, but I am also very proud of what I have done to achieve salvation.” Such a testimonial would diminish the glory of God. That cannot happen. Therefore, as Jonah has stated, “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).
What then, is this saving grace of which Paul writes?
It is a reference to the principle of salvation. It is the method of salvation, but it is not salvation. “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:6).
In Galatians 2:21 Paul speaks again about grace as the principle of salvation, the method of salvation. He says, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
If a person is trying to be saved, or justified, by any other principle, or method, other than grace, then, “Christ is dead in vain.”
Paul says nothing about falling from salvation, but he is concerned that individuals might “fall from”, or turn from, the grace method of salvation to a works method of legalism, believing that is salvation. How can we fall from grace?
We fall from grace when we fall into Law, or legalism. Then, when a person sins, a person falls into grace. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Moses fell into grace after he murdered the Egyptian. David fell into grace despite his many transgressions. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom. 4:8).
Have you fallen from grace? If you are relying on being a good person, doing good works, being a Church member, having been baptized, or keeping the sacrament for salvation, then you have fallen from the principle, and method, of grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. Repent, and return to the Author, and Finisher of your faith, Christ Jesus the Lord.