faith

Fallen From Grace

“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.” Galatians 5:1-6

What we believe defines our spiritual reality. Believe the promises of God and you receive His kingdom. Replace those promises with something else, and you are severed from the kingdom. It is NOT a matter of failing to do works to be saved.

For many Christians this is an uncomfortable and unresolved subject. Can people who were once saved be lost? There are several places in the new testament that at least infer that it can happen. In this passage Paul says “you are severed from Christ” if you seek to be justified by works. Paul also talks about being cut off from Christ after being grafted in when he sent this warning to the Romans:

“Then you will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.” (Romans 11:19-23).

It all comes down to faith and unbelief. Christ died for the sins of the whole world. Believe, and you enter the invisible kingdom. Refuse to believe, or stop believing, and you leave it behind. As Jesus said, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 11:24).

Spiritual Ecosystem

“We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

“But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:15-21.

Paul does a great deal to help us understand that God’s word is not a series of arbitrary commands. Nothing is there, “Just because I say so.” Adam had one command. Then he broke it and he was separated from the tree of life, and he eventually died. As more commands were added, more were broken. When the Law was given to Moses, breaking commands reached industrial levels of production. So, more rules do not actually make us Holy, let alone good.

Christ came to solve this problem. As Adam passed his sinful nature to all mankind, Jesus passes His nature to all who believe. The Law could not do this. We needed to be made new, by faith.

“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:45-48).

Falling Away

“Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.” Romans 11:13-24.

Once in awhile I am asked if I believe that a believer in Christ can lose his salvation. I say that he can, because he can stop believing. We all know people like that. They once believed, were faithful followers of Christ, served in the ministry, and then stopped believing after some personal crisis. I think you are using some tortured logic to say that such a person never REALLY believed. Yes, there are places in the Bible that tell us we are sealed, kept, set apart, etc. But aren’t those also promises that must be believed for you to receive them?

“Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” Hebrews 3:6.

“I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” Revelation 3:11

God will hold fast to us, if we will hold fast to Him. That has nothing to do with good works or earning your way to heaven. It has everything to do with whether you still trust in Him, or merely presume upon your own sense of safety.

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5

The Two Laws

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:1-11.

Very few of us who have ever flown on a commercial airliner really know how it works. In spite of that, we will step on board with more than 250 other passengers and let it take us all up about 30,000 feet, traveling at over 500 miles per hour, and deliver us across country while we sleep halfway through an audiobook. We may not understand how the technology functions, but we are confident enough to entrust our lives to it because it has a ridiculously high rate of success. Millions of people trust this to work every day, around the world, and it does.

Although it’s super unlikely that you will die in a plane crash, it is a 100% certainty that you are going to die of SOMETHING. And this last trip is one that few people are excited about taking. After all, there is very little customer feedback on how that trip went. And where. But some of us are excited about that trip, even though we’re not in a hurry to take it. That is because we’re excited about the destination, even if the way we get there is painful.

There is a law of sin and death. Even if you don’t admit it, you will experience it. You do sin, and you will die. And when you think about death, you may not admit it, but you are concerned about facing the judgment of God. The law of sin and death is like the law of gravity. What goes up must come down. You resist gravity every day. Every time you get out of bed, stand up, remain upright, and pick things up, you are using other laws to supercede that law. But eventually, you will lie down to rise no more. Unless there is another law that supercedes that. And there is. Our sin will eventually take our bodies. But God’s love has provided a way for you to have a new body where you will live eternally. The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus will not save your body from the law of gravity, but it does save your soul from the death that separates you from God forever. He washes away your sin by the blood sacrifice of His son 2,000 years ago so that you can escape the judgment. And you can receive this benefit even if you don’t understand entirely how it works. You are welcome aboard if you will take that step of faith and put your trust in Him.

Tracing Our Heritage

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

“That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’ But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Roman’s 4:13-25.

It is important for us to understand that our faith does not begin with Christ entering the world, and His subsequent death, burial, and resurrection. God had been laying the foundation for those events since man fell in the garden of Eden; when He covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness with the skins of the animals he slew in their place. It was the first time man had sinned, and the first time the innocent took the punishment for the guilty. It was the beginning of the pattern that would be fulfilled through Christ.

In Abraham we see a man who believed God and followed Him before there was a Mosaic Law. The law would not come until long after Abraham’s son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob, and his great-grandchildren, the twelve patriarchs, went to Egypt and stayed until they grew into ONE nation. What about the other nations? How is he their father? And how do they inherit the world? By believing God, and in His word, we become the sons of Abraham, the children of God.

“He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:11-13.