You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4, NASB)
Fallen from grace? That certainly sounds like they’ve lost their salvation. And the way the term is popularly used today doesn’t help, either. When we hear in the news about a celebrity who has “fallen from grace”, it typically describes someone who was behaving well but then suffered a moral failure. Perhaps they were arrested for illegal drugs, cheated on their spouse, or cheated on their taxes.
But in Galatians, falling from grace means something very different: falling away from the message of God’s grace and toward the Law.
Paul wrote Galatians to a variety of people. Some had accepted the Gospel; others were acquainted with the message but hadn’t accepted it. Still others had flirted with the idea of salvation by grace through faith but instead chose to seek rightness with God through keeping the Law.
In Galatians 5, Paul was speaking to those “seeking to be justified by law” (v.4) and notes that they were planning to “receive circumcision” (v.3). Clearly, this means they were unbelievers who had no clue how to get right with God.
How can we be certain that Paul was not speaking to believers who had lost their salvation? Notice the contrast between “you” and “we” in the passage:
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. (Galatians 5:4–5)
The Greek word for “severed” here conveys that some of the Galatians were “void of” Christ. In other words, those who seek rightness with God through Law-keeping inevitably cut themselves off from the truth of the Gospel. This makes it impossible for them to be justified before God.
So this is not a group of believers who have lost salvation. Instead, it’s a group of Galatians influenced and ultimately persuaded by Judaizers to mix Old Testament rule-keeping in with the true salvation message. This is why Paul separates himself and his fellow believers (“we”) as those in Christ who approach rightness with God in a different way—by faith, not by the works of the Law.
God’s Promise of Security
The New Testament is full of evidence that we cannot lose our salvation. Jesus said that the new life we have is eternal, not temporal, and we will never die (Luke 20:36). He said that no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28–29). Paul tells us that we’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13–14) and that our calling will never be revoked (Romans 11:29).
God will never leave us and never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We are protected by His power (1 Peter 1:5). God is able to save us completely because He always lives to intercede for us for any sins imaginable (Hebrews 7:25).
Why did Jesus so confidently say that of everyone the Father has given Him, He will lose no one (John 6:39)? Because it’s not our dedication, our commitment, or our promise-keeping that maintains our salvation. No, the book of Hebrews actually reveals the polar opposite: it’s God’s promise to Himself that secures our salvation (Hebrews 6:13–20).
The author of Hebrews speaks of a promise secured between “two unchangeable things” that anchor our souls. What are these two unchangeable things? God and God.
In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil. (Hebrews 6:17–19)
It is impossible for God (and God!) to lie. So when God promises God, you can count on it. And that’s the whole point–our salvation is anchored to a promise that God made to Himself: “since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself ” (Hebrews 6:13b).
God Won’t Deny Himself or You!
Some of our most frequent spiritual questions relate to the loss of salvation: But what if I die by suicide? But what if I get a divorce and then remarry? But what if I commit the same sin, willfully, over and over again?
These four words pester us: But what if I . . .? However, God already saw our concerns coming. He dealt with them entirely through the new covenant by anchoring us to a promise that He made to Himself.
We don’t maintain or sustain any part of God’s promise to Himself. As believers who are forever in Christ, the “But what if I . . .?” questions don’t have to plague us. We are not even in the equation!
Instead of asking, “But what if I . . .?” we need to be asking, “But what if God . . .?” And the answer to that question is a resounding yes: God did the very thing He needed to do to secure us forever. He promised Himself that He would never leave us:
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)
God placed His Spirit in us. He cannot disown Himself. So, He will never disown us!
This was all part of God’s perfect plan to secure us forever in Jesus. And it’s this security in Jesus that inspires and motivates us to live uprightly (Titus 2:11–12).