I don’t know about you, but I think most people looking at today’s title would think, “Wow! What terrible thing must a person do to be severed from Christ and fall from his grace.”
In fact, we often use that phrase, “fallen from grace,” in society today for people who once used to be seen as honorable but who fell into utter disrepute because of something they did.
But the whole context of this passage is not murder, or rape, or bribery, or some other such vice. Rather the context of this passage is legalism. By trying to become righteous before God through keeping the law, we become severed from Christ and we fall from his grace.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. (2-3)
In other words, it’s all or nothing when it comes to the law. If you are determined to become justified before God through the law, it doesn’t stop at circumcision. You have to go all the way and keep every single law in the Old Testament or you’re not going to make it.
It’s also all or nothing in the fact that if you are determined to be justified before God through law, Christ’s death has no value to you at all. It’s not like the Judaizers were saying, that Christ plus works equals righteousness before God. It’s either obey the law perfectly, or put your faith in Christ and have his righteousness credited to your account. There is no in-between.
That’s why he tells the Galatians,
You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (4)
The word “alienated” in the NIV is translated much more harshly in the ESV. It says you are “severed” from Christ.
Basically by turning to the law to make yourself righteous before God, you turn your back on Christ. You’re telling him, “I don’t think your work on the cross is enough,” and in doing so, you spit on all his suffering that he endured there.
Some people such as the Mormons teach, “By grace you are saved after all you can do.” But Paul clearly states that by putting any faith in your own works, you actually fall away from grace, not put yourself in it.
Paul then says,
But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. (5)
I believe here that Paul is talking about how the hope that we have, that though right now we struggle with sin, the day will come when we will be made righteous not only in our legal standing before God, but in reality.
In Romans 8:23, Paul talks about how we groan while we are in this body, longing for the day when we will receive our new bodies. Why? For one thing, we will no longer face sickness or death. But I think the other thing is that once and for all we will be free from sin in our lives. That’s the righteousness we hope for. And anyone who has that hope will not indulge in sin. Rather, they will live day by day trying to please the one who saved them. Not because they have to earn their salvation. But because they’re rejoicing that they have already received it.
And so Paul says in verse 6,
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
How about you? Are you still trying to earn God’s favor in your life? Is that why you’re trying to do good things? Or do you believe that God has already made you righteous in his sight, and look forward to the day when you will be made perfect? And is it from that belief that you love God and want to please him?
How are you living your life?