When the Apostle Paul wrote the church at Galatia, he addressed a problem that often arises to challenge the Body of Christ in a variety of ways. Paul urged the young church to correct a doctrinal error to which they had yielded: the mistaken belief that their position with God and the power to do His will were based on their keeping of the Law and not on His grace.
In Galatians 1:6, Paul writes, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel” (NKJV). The Judaizers were Jews who had accepted Christianity but believed that salvation was for the Jews only. They taught that for a Gentile to enter into the gifts and promises of God, he first had to become a Jew. According to the Judaizers, then, man’s salvation depended on his obeying the Law of Moses as well as trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus. In contrast, Paul’s message was that God’s promise and power were received by grace, and only by grace.
What about the works that the Apostle James spoke of in James 2:17? These works are the actions that spring from faith in the Word and from a heart in rightstanding with God. The works do not give us a better position with God. Instead, they reveal the position of power we already have in Him.
There is a common tendency in Christian life to lean on one’s own ability rather than on God’s ability to accomplish His plans. As I work with believers, I am often amazed by the traps that ensnare people who once were close to God.
Satan’s strategies become effective only when Christians fail to abide in God’s strength and grace. Instead, they take matters into their own hands, facing their situations without the power of God’s Word truly active in them. From the newest Christian to the seasoned saint, these tricks of Satan can pull people away from their true Source of power and focus their attention on human effort.
Later in his appeal to the Galatians, Paul says, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4 NKJV). What does it mean to be “fallen from grace”? It is to allow God’s grace to become null and void in our lives, to trust in something other than God’s ability to accomplish His work and His will. The Phillips translation of this verse puts it this way: “You put yourself outside the range of his grace.”
A subtle process draws us away from the grace of God. His grace empowers us to do His will, His way. But without a continually renewed, strong dependence on His grace within, we will begin to look to other ways of fulfilling the desires of our hearts.
To fall from grace is to work to do God’s will without having His power alive and active in us, which is necessary for the job. It is to live by laws, rules, and human effort without the deep awareness and trust that all is accomplished by grace through faith.