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I heard a Pastor through a teaching sermon on Galatians make mention that Galatians 5:4 is spoken from Paul in terms of “failing to grasp grace” rather than “falling from grace” as if justified believers could actually fall somehow away from Christ.

We read in context:

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.

Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all! And I testify again to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace! For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness.” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:1-5‬ ‭NET‬‬

Most translations seem to say “fallen from grace” so I don’t understand where this particular teacher is getting such an exegetical understanding.

Q: What am I missing and how can we resolve this?

3 Answers 3

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The expression “you are fallen from grace” “should be understood not in the sense that grace has been taken away from them, but in the sense that they have turned their backs on it.

One may also say ‘you have put yourself in a place where God cannot be good to you, or show you His goodness’”. “Fallen from grace” is not speaking about the Armenian doctrine of losing salvation by one’s sins; rather, it is speaking of turning from the method of salvation (grace) to seeking salvation by another way.

In this particular case Paul is highlighting the Law, specifically the Mosaic Covenant, as that alternative means of salvation.

The New American Standard Version states, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace”.

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  • Up-voted +1. Fully agree that the meaning is the deliberate turning away from grace and returning to a way of self-righteous justification by one's own works.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 9:34
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    It means the same thing: you fall away or God falls you from grace (hardens you). Tit for tat is the meaning of justice. Joshua 24:19-20: “But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.”
    – Michael16
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 5:56
  • -1 "You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace!" What does it mean to be alienated/severed from Christ? Can you be saved apart from Christ? This response seems to ignore the impact of the immediately contextual parallel statement to, "you've fallen away from grace." This response seems more concerned about refuting a named doctrine than simply exegeting the text.
    – Austin
    Commented Apr 5 at 19:15
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I am at a complete loss to understand or justify the translation of "failing to grasp" in Gal 5:4. The Greek is quite simple:

κατηργήθητε ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ οἵτινες ἐν νόμῳ δικαιοῦσθε, τῆς χάριτος ἐξεπέσατε.

The operative word here is the final one whose lexical form is ἐκπίπτω which literally means, "to leap out/off". It occurs just 10 times in the NT:

  • Acts 12:7 - Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists.
  • Acts 27:17 - which having taken up, they began using supports, undergirding the ship. And fearing lest they should fall into the sandbars of Syrtis, having lowered the gear, thus they were driven along.
  • Acts 27:26 - But it behooves us to fall upon a certain island."
  • Acts 27:29 - And fearing lest we might fall somewhere on rocky places, having cast four anchors out of the stern, they were praying for day to come.
  • Acts 27:32 - Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the lifeboat, and allowed her to fall away.
  • Rom 9:6 - And it is not as that the word of God has failed/fallen. For not all who are of Israel, are these Israel.
  • Gal 5:4 - Whoever are being justified in the Law, you are severed from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
  • James 1:11 - For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its flower falls and its beauty is lost. So too, the rich man will fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
  • 1 Peter 1:24 - because, "All flesh is like grass, and all the glory of it like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls away,
  • 2 Peter 3:17 - Therefore beloved, knowing this beforehand, you beware, lest you should fall from the own steadfastness, having been led away by the error of the lawless.

Since God loves all men and has extended grace to all men and wants all to repent (John 12:32, Acts 17:30, Rom 11:32, 2 Cor 5:14, 1 Tim 2:3, 4, 6, Titus 2:11, Heb 2:9, 2 Peter 3:9, etc), a "fall from grace" is not a failing of God but the failing of man to respond to the prompting and drawing of God.

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  • I appreciate the insight Dottard, but wouldn’t to “fall from grace” not grace to do with prompting? Where do you get the word “prompting” out of Scripture? Any Scripture for that matter.
    – Cork88
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 6:09
  • @Cork88 - Try John 6:44 - No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 7:13
  • John 6:44 uses the word “draw” meaning to drag or pull. It’s not used in the traditional English sense by which the definition would be: “to move or induce to action”. John 12:32 would also have to compare with John 6:37, 6:44, 17:2, etc. If all mankind is drawn, what keeps God from accomplishing His will? (Isaiah 46:9-10). John 12:32 cannot go against John 6:37-40. So the word prompting would not be accurate from Greek to English. We can leave it at that since we have been here before in debate.
    – Cork88
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 8:00
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As a Wesleyan/Armenian pastor I would correct the idea that people lose their salvation by sinning. Sin is a symptom of a greater heart issue. Human weakness and poor judgement may appear as sin to men but God knows the heart is not in rebellion. To "fall" from grace clearly indicates a turning away from a known position, a choice we are free to make. Very simply, you can't fall off a ladder if you didn't start climbing.

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  • +1 Great question! I was once taught from a Bible study course in Galatians that the person has fallen away from the doctrine of grace. While this is compatible with seeking salvation some other way, the whole message of Jesus was that we are cleansed by the Father by means of Jesus as in John 13 and 15. In John 15, "prunes" is the Greek word for "cleanses" (kathairó means cleanses, Strong’s Greek 2508). The Greek word for "prunes" is témnō, which is not used anywhere in the New Testament.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 5 at 17:13
  • @Rev Terry Chapman Welcome to BH. Do read the tour [below, left] to see how this site works. I don't want to agree or disagree with your answer in this comment but suggest that actual Bible quotes would make it stronger.eg: Where do you see in the Bible that "Sin is a symptom of a greater heart issue". I can't think of a Scripture to support that so if you have one would you consider editing it in?
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Apr 9 at 16:08

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