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)
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “fall from grace” as “to lose acceptance or good reputation.” However, this everyday English meaning does not convey what Paul had in mind when he penned these words to the Galatian Christians.
In addition to the potential confusion from our every English usage, most Christians also assume fallen from grace means slumping into some gross sin, especially sexual sin. So to avoid blurring the meanings of this phrase, it is essential to understand the original meaning of the author(Paul) and the context in which he wrote these words.
The Galatian Christians were gentiles who had believed in Jesus as the Lord and Savior. They were not only saved but had received the Holy Spirit by believing in Jesus alone. Furthermore, when they first believed in Jesus, they knew nothing(or little) about the Law of Moses, especially the commandment to be circumcised.
But while they were rejoicing in their Savior, some Jewish’ teachers came from Jerusalem( not sent by the Apostles) and told the Galatians that believing in Jesus was not enough. These teachers insisted the Galatians were not saved until they followed the Jewish law to circumcise their males.
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.” To fall from grace in this context was to shift from faith in Christ to circumcision as commanded by the Law.
However, falling from grace is not limited to circumcision. In fact, Paul later said circumcision or no circumcision does not matter ( 1 Cor. 7:19). Therefore, the specific action was irrelevant. What mattered was the shift in the faith and attitude of the heart from the work of Christ to the works of the Law, our own efforts, or our religious activities. So although circumcision was the culprit activity for the Galatians, it could well be Bible study, giving and tithing, fasting, prayer, working for God, denomination affiliations, doctrines, or even “our man or woman of God”! —which are good things in themselves.
It is easy to take our eyes off Christ and put them on our own abilities! Resist this temptation.
What does it mean to fall from grace from Gal.5:4 above?
Apply the Word
God does not delight in the arm of the flesh and never will. It is a dangerous thing, although it appears as nothing to us, to depend on our works or abilities to secure what God has provided by His grace. Be careful not to allow your sincere heart, Christian giftings, or ministry graces to make you fall off the platform of God’s grace.
Ask the Lord to keep you from falling into self-effort in your Christian life or ministry.