The Meaning of ‘Fallen from Grace’

You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4 KJV) 

Fallen from grace image showing a businessman falling by a fall sign on a wet flour

When you hear “fallen from grace,” what comes to mind? Surprisingly, what most people think it means is not what the Bible says. Let’s uncover what Paul meant when he wrote these words to the Galatians around 2,000 years ago.

In everyday language, “fall from grace” means to lose acceptance or a good reputation, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. However, this is not the biblical meaning.

Many Christians also misunderstand the term, thinking it refers to falling into gross sin, especially sexual sin. But in Galatians 5:4, “fallen from grace” refers to a subtler problem.

As always, context is crucial to deciphering an author’s meaning. The Galatian Christians were Gentiles who believed in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. By believing in Jesus alone, they were saved and received the Holy Spirit. When they first believed, they knew little to nothing about the Law of Moses, especially the commandment to be circumcised.

While rejoicing in their Savior, some Jewish teachers from Jerusalem (not sent by the Apostles) told the Galatians that believing in Jesus alone was not enough. These teachers insisted the Galatians were not saved until they followed the Jewish law, including circumcision.

In response to this teaching from the heretical Jewish teachers, some Galatian Christians accepted circumcision as a requirement to be saved. Although they were saved and had received the Holy Spirit by believing in Jesus’s work alone, they changed their minds and thought they now had to obey the Jewish law and circumcise their males to be saved( or maybe “really be saved”). Paul called this spiritual shift “fallen from grace.” Therefore, to fall from grace in this context was to shift from faith in Christ to trusting in circumcision as commanded by the Law.

However, falling from grace is not limited to circumcision. Paul later said circumcision or no circumcision does not matter (1 Cor. 7:19). The specific action was irrelevant. What mattered was the shift in faith and heart attitude from the work of Christ to the works of the Law, our efforts, or our religious activities. Although circumcision was the issue for the Galatians, it could be Bible study, tithing, fasting, prayer, working for God, denomination affiliations, doctrines, etc.—which are good things in themselves but could become stumbling blocks causing us to fall into the trap of trusting in them rather than Christ.

So stand firm on the grace God has called you unto.


What does “falling from grace” mean in your own words?

Apply the Word

Resist the temptation to rely on your works for salvation or acceptance. Remember, God saved you before you knew how to fast, give, or work for Him. Keep your trust in Christ alone.


Ask the Spirit to help you remain standing on grace alone.

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