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“Fallen from Grace”

June 16, 2012

Have you ever noticed how as time goes on certain words of phrases that once meant one thing now mean something totally different?

Words like ‘wicked’, ‘sick’ or even ‘gay’ once meant something far different to what is colloquially common these days.

Interestingly enough; every so often you’ll get a phrase or a word that doesn’t just mean something different to what it used to but now means the actual polar opposite.

“Fallen from grace” in my opinion has become one of these phrases.

What do you think of when you hear that term?

I’m guessing you think of someone who has ‘disgraced’ themselves. Someone who perhaps once behaved in a respectable way, someone, perhaps, of high moral standing who engaged in some manner of degrading behaviour.

We consider that these people have now ‘fallen from grace’.

That certainly seems to be the general consensus for this term, especially if you look at the lyrics of various song writers. Songs from Michael Jackson, Paloma Faith, P Diddy and others all seem to follow this line of thinking.

wikipedia even thinks that way:

“To fall from grace is an idiom referring to a loss of status, respect, or prestige.”

I wonder if you are aware of where this term originally came from?

It was actually language used by the Apostle Paul when writing to a church in Galatia. It can be found in the book of Galatians in the New Testament:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

Paul is writing to a group of people who are struggling with their Christian faith. You see at this moment in history people’s understanding of Christianity (and in particular their relationship with Christ) was still very new, and Paul was writing to bring some needed clarification.

There were two types of Christian in this context. The Jewish Christian who recognised Jesus as the promised Messiah and has converted from Judaism to Christianity and then the Gentile Christian who was basically a non-Jewish convert (so largely unaware of the pretext of Christianity).

The Jewish Christians had grown up with various traditions and laws about how they ought to live in order to maintain a good relationship with God. For example it was tradition (as it is to this day) for Jewish males to be circumcised. As such the Jewish Christians were telling the non-Jewish Christians that they too needed to pay attention to certain rules and regulations and even get themselves clipped.

The great thing about the Christian gospel is that it declares that you can be made right with God as a result of what Jesus Christ has achieved dying in our place on the cross. Paul reminds us here in this text that there are two ways to maintain relationship with God; either by following the law or by trusting in Jesus.

“if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.”

The only snag is that if you want to achieve it by following the law then you can’t put a foot wrong…EVER… WITH ANYTHING!

Paul therefore reminds his readers that seeing as we cannot maintain relationship with God by the law (as we have all gone wrong at some point) we need to do so by faith. This means that we should no longer submit to a yoke of slavery, we no longer need to stay bound by laws and traditions but rather by faith working through love.

It’s in this context that Paul uses the term ‘fallen from grace’, and he uses it to challenge and correct those whom rather than trusting in Jesus for their salvation have started to try and earn their salvation by good behaviour.

How counter-cultural this is!

Rather than living your life doing all that you can to keep up appearances and behave in the way that society deems you ought to. The bible seems to encourage us to trust in Grace. To trust in God’s provision. The bible tells us that we have no hope of maintaining righteousness and to attempt to do so without God’s help is to truly fall from grace.

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4 Comments
  1. A. Hill permalink

    “Paul therefore reminds his readers that seeing as we cannot maintain relationship with God by the law (as we have all gone wrong at some point) we need to do so by faith. This means that we should no longer submit to a yoke of slavery, we no longer need to stay bound by laws and traditions but rather by faith working through love.”
    Can you unpack this a bit more, it’s quite wordy? Especially the last sentence?

    • Hi A.Hill.

      First of all thank you for reading my blog – much appreciated and yes it would be my pleasure to try and unpack that a bit (I will try and be mindful of being less wordy – thanks for the heads up).

      Paul teaches us here and in other places that there is no person who can achieve favour or approval from God by their good behaviour. I think these days the constant message we are given is that we need to do better. Every day and in every context we are expected to keep certain laws and practices in order for us to not only be accepted by God, but also in many ways accepted by society.

      The New Testament shows us that this cannot be done. Paul says that if you do want to try and win favour with God that way then you need to keep His law 100% of the time, which obviously no one can do.

      However God’s law is not something that is to be ignored or something that has become obsolete, but rather it plays a significant role in our relationship with God. First of all it shows us the standard that God expects from us (ultimate justice) and then in doing so shows us how unattainable it is for people like us. It therefore ends up pointing to the fact that we need saving.

      When we have our eyes opened to the wonder of the cross. When we see how God’s ultimate justice and ultimate love meet perfectly in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ then we enter into the most liberating relationship possible.

      We no longer obey laws and traditions and religious practices in order to obtain God’s love but rather we do it as a result of God’s love. In view of such mercy I want to honour God. Like a son who spends his Saturday afternoon cleaning his dad’s car, not because he is scared of what might happen if he doesn’t but because he is so excited at the thought of pleasing his dad.

      This is what I believe Paul means by ‘faith working through love’, without sounding too wishy washy it’s now become an issue of love. When you see who Christ is and what He has done for you your heart changes and your faith is worked out through love.

      I hope that in my above ramblings there’s something that comes close to a sensible answer. Please let me know.

      Good to hear from you.

  2. Found your blog via the new frontiers blog site and I really love the quote at the top of your page “the mightiest thought a mind can entertain is the thought of God’ where is it from? Thank you very much

  3. Hi gracefoster,

    Great to hear from you and thanks for checking out my blog – I hope you enjoyed it.

    It’s actually an AW Tozer quote from his classic ‘Knowledge of the Holy’. The below link will hopefully take you to it.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Knowledge-Holy-Authentic-Classics/dp/1850786216/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340658410&sr=8-1

    Another great quote from that book that I love is:

    “Seeing as we are the handiwork of God, our problems and our solutions are theological in nature.”

    God bless,

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