People who teach that it is possible to lose your salvation normally use several prooftexts. At first glance the verses do appear to prove their point. However, upon further study it becomes clear that they have taken the verses out of context and forced a meaning upon the text which the author never intended. A case in point is Galatians 5:4.
I have had people point to Galatians 5:4 and say, “Doesn’t Paul say that at least some of the Galatian Christians had fallen from grace? And, if they could fall from grace, so can we today.”
How did they take the verse out of context?
We would agree that the book is addressed to Christians (Galatians 1:6,9; 5:1).
We would also agree that some of the readers had fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4) and some were on the verge of doing so (Galatians 5:2).
We would even agree that it is possible for believers today to fall from grace. The text clearly does not limit this falling to the Galatian Christians only. Any Christian who reverts to seeking to be justified by law has fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4).
The problem is in the conclusion we draw, not in the premises. The whole issue here is what falling from grace means. Does it mean that the believers in question have fallen from their positional standing in grace? If it does, then Paul contradicts himself because in other passages he clearly states that is impossible (cf. Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; Colossians 2:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:10; 2 Timothy 2:13). Since scripture is God’s Word, it cannot contradict itself. Thus, whatever Paul meant by falling from grace he did not mean falling from one’s position as a child of God.
Is there not another obvious alternative, one which fits the context and Pauline and biblical theology perfectly? Falling from grace means that a believer who reverts to pharisaical thinking and practices has fallen from a present experience of grace. While our position in the grace of God is secure, our experience of His grace is not.
If a believer today is unwittingly duped into joining a works-salvation cult, he will cease to experience God’s grace until he leaves the cult. In fact, if a believer joins any group, cult or otherwise, which teaches that we must produce good works in order to maintain our salvation, he will cease to experience grace. Even the linking of assurance to the quality of our lives can lead a believer to fall from a daily experience of grace.
Falling from grace is a real problem today. May we proclaim the gospel and assurance clearly so that we can help people begin anew or continue to experience God’s grace in their daily lives.
Note: One pastor who is a GES member reports to me that he has been using this monthly problem passage column as a basis for a series in his church on problem passages in the Bible. He reports that the response has been tremendous. That greatly encourages me. My goal is to promote clear gospel preaching by encouraging, edifying, and motivating others in the body of Christ.