And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.
(a) Circumcision. For the Galatians, the issue was circumcision, but “the law” can be anything that puts a price tag on God’s favor – church rules, denominational traditions, confession of sin, tithing, the spiritual disciplines. These are not necessarily bad things, but if you think you must heed them to add to or improve upon Christ’s work, you have fallen from grace and become estranged from Christ.
(b) Keep the whole Law. Jesus would rather you were cold than lukewarm (see entry for Rev. 3:15). If you wish to live under law, you are obliged to keep it all. Neglect just one law and you will be judged guilty of breaking it all (Jas. 2:10).
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
(a) You have been severed from Christ, does not mean you have lost your salvation. You may let go of Christ, but he will never let go of you. Even when you are faithless, he remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13). But trust in your own efforts, and Christ will be of no benefit to you (Gal. 5:2). Like an unbelieving believer you will have cut yourself off from heavenly favor.
(b) You have fallen from grace. This phrase is often applied to influential people who have fallen into sin, but when you sin, you don’t fall from grace but into grace (Rom. 5:20). We fall from the high place of grace when we submit to the yoke of law. If you think God will bless you because you pray a lot, give a lot, or serve a lot, you have fallen from grace. You are no longer continuing in the grace of God, but are relying on your own efforts.
If you fall from grace you won’t fall out of the kingdom, but you will lose your freedom (Gal. 5:1). Paul never tells the Galatians, “You are losing your salvation.” Instead, he says, “You are indulging the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). The Galatians were becoming carnal, biting and devouring one another in vicious arguments. The danger was not that God would destroy them, but that you “will be destroyed by each other” (Gal. 5:15).
Remove grace from any community and you will soon have quarrels, strife, bickering, manipulation, envy, hatred, and all the other works of the flesh that Paul lists in Galatians 5:19–21. But none of these things will send you to hell. When Paul reminds the Galatians that “they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom,” he’s saying, “Those who belong to Christ shouldn’t act like those who don’t.”
Further reading: “What are the consequences of falling from grace?”
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