Falling from grace?

If one defines “grace” as “unmerited favor,” as I think is typical, why do we even have the phrase “fall from grace”? If one could fall from it, that implies that there was something going on to merit or deserve that grace. If that is the case, then grace is no longer grace — it is reward.

I think the fact that salvation is by grace through faith is enough to prove that salvation cannot be lost. If we didn’t deserve it to begin with, then there certainly isn’t anything that we could do to “undeserve it” even more to the point of falling from it.

Grace is free. It is unmerited, undeserved, even unsought. It is not of him who wills or of him who runs, but of God who has mercy.

4 thoughts on “Falling from grace?”

  1. What about Galatians 5:4? Paul says: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” If it is not possible to fall from grace, how could Paul tell the people in Galatia that they did? What about the book of Hebrews and the warnings of apostasy there?

    1. The warnings in Hebrews — I assume you refer to chapter 6 — are mostly hypothetical; the author is responding to people who believed that they could lose their salvation, and the point is made that if it were possible to fall away from Christ, the only way to attain salvation again would be to crucify the Lord again; in other words, the author of Hebrews makes the point that falling from grace is an impossible absurdity.

      In Galatians 5:4, Paul is not speaking of believers — of those who have received grace. Paul is speaking of those to whom grace was offered, but the people chose instead to seek justification from the Law, effectively making whatever evangelistic offer of grace given to them meaningless.

      Had these people actually received grace, well, now, that’s a different situation entirely.

  2. Rick: I agree with most of your evaluation, but the idea that some persons referred to in Hebrews chapter 6 thought they could lose their salvation, a doctrine common to Arminians, is not found there. Further, your apparent uncertainty that people in the epistle rejecting God’s salvation grace could ever have received it at any time, requires clarification. The epistle reveals that God is just in His grace to a degree that is mind-boggling, and it’s very important to clarify what it teaches in this matter.

    6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
    6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
    6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

    This speaks of an impossibility of salvation for unbelievers guilty of final rejection of the salvation offer after complete enlightenment in everything vital for salvation. It doesn’t speak of believers falling from grace and an impossibility of restoring them. The topic regarding believers is misleading appearances they may present. The meaning of the passage about believers develops from Heb.5:12-14 & 6:1-3.

    5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
    5:13 For everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
    5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

    In 5:12-14 the writer admonishes professors of the faith who do not advance from childrens’ milk to the strong meat of mature believers, due to hardships. Their devotion to Christ suffers since they resemble unbelievers who question the wisdom of pursuing all that applies to living for Christ.

    6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; (maturity) not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
    6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

    In 6:1,2 the writer speaks of the need to leave the basics, and go on in the faith. There is no need to repeat repentance of former evil works that led to salvation, once God forgives us for them. Once faith in God is established, there’s no need to seek it again, and once we’re baptized unto Christ, we don’t need to do so again. Once we’re aware of the resurrection and judgment to follow, there’s no need to learn this again, and once we’re commissioned to the work by laying on of hands, we must get on with the work.

    6:3 And this will we do, if God permit.

    In 6:3 the writer indicates that, by God’s enabling, professors of the faith will grow in Christian life & duty. In 6:4-6 he tells readers that if, after receiving God’s grace in salvation, they really needed to repeat the basics, they would be in a tragic state. They would be like apostates offered God’s salvation grace, and seeming to accept it, actually never do. The falling away refers only to unbelievers, for the writer’s terminology is indicative of those who explore the salvation offer, but do not actually accept it. They taste of (sample but never ingest) the heavenly gift, Christ’s offer of salvation, and partake of (sample but never possess) the Holy Ghost, the one who puts us in Christ, and taste of (sample but never apply) the good Word of God & understanding of future judgment. The writer says that, after receiving all of the enlightenment vital to salvation, some turn away from the offer, preferring darkness. Full enlightenment bestows all that’s needed for salvation, including partaking of the Word of God (satisfying the intellect) and the Holy Ghost (satisfying the spirit and emotions). These agents are crucial to show us the truth of salvation. Such enlightenment reveals all reality and truth of God about salvation. This breaks the hearts of all who now see their sin separating them from God, and the Savior’s great love and willingness to reconcile them to God by His great self-sacrifice. Belief after such enlightenment brings permanent cleansing of sin by the blood of Christ (1 Jn.1:9).

    But, even after this enlightenment, some Hebrew professors of Christ might see little value in His love & sacrifice, really preferring a supposed salvation by keeping of Old Testament law, as taught by leaders perverting the purpose of the law. Heb.6:6 says that such persons cannot be renewed in full enlightenment to bring them unto repentance of sin that precedes conversion. Enlightenment by the Holy Ghost and God’s Word is the means God chose to endow salvation. To prefer Old Testament ways after receiving all enlightenment necessary for salvation, would be to trifle with Christ’s holy sacrifice and with the Holy Ghost, and shame Him who died to make forgiveness possible. In effect, such a person says of Christ’s sacrifice, “Do it again, it didn’t work the first time.” This is a refusal of cleansing by Christ’s blood, though God allows only cleansing by that sacrifice for atonement. Thus one who disdains Christ’s sacrifice in full knowledge of its holy purpose can’t be converted. Salvation for him would require Christ to be crucified again (and require rewriting of scripture), an impossibility as seen by Heb.9:25-28 that says Christ died once for the sins of many. We see why scripture says “receive not the grace of God in vain…now is the accepted time…now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). The now is that moment of enlightenment by God’s grace as we first truly grasp the purpose of, and infinite love underlying, Christ’s sacrifice. At this point who will disdain such love but one devoted to darkness or another salvation method?

    Throughout the epistle, the author expounds the superiority of Christ over Old Testament institutions, to show the error of returning to the latter. In verse 2:1 he speaks of not letting the principles of Christianity slip, and in 3:3 he compares Christ and Moses. In 4:1-2 he tells of resting in Christ, and failure of the wilderness wanderers of the Exodus to enter into God’s rest by faith. In 7:1-12 he speaks of Melchisedec, a theophany of Christ, as the priest superior to the levitical type. In chapter 9 he speaks of the superiority of the New Testament over the Old, and in 10:1-12 he notes the superior sacrifice of Christ by contrast with Old Testament sacrifices.

    The theme of Heb.6:4-6 is expounded further in Heb.10:26-39 where the subject in verse 26 is the apostasy of those who sin willfully, despite seemingly accepting Christ’s truth. In verses 38, 39 these prove to be unbelievers who know the truth, but draw back from it. No sacrifice beyond Christ’s all- sufficient one can redeem them, for Old-Testament sacrifices have been superseded by that of Christ.

    10:26 For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins…

    Verse 10:26 warns against turning from Christ, a condition of hopelessness, and verse 10:39 says true believers never draw back to perdition.

    10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

    Thus, to go on in the Christian faith in the face of hardship is to exhibit one’s saved status. To refuse to continue living to glorify God after an all-sufficient final enlightenment is to show ultimate ingratitude and mockery of God, illustrating no repentance unto salvation in a state of conscience that is incapable of conversion. The teaching of the Heb. 6:7-10 passages is equivalent to that of Jas.2:17-20 that says belief or knowledge of the truth of God that produces no good works to glorify God is dead, being like the belief of devils who know the truth of God, but are incapable of conversion.

    Now one who rejects full enlightenment of the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice isn’t fallen from grace, but is inconvertible, rejecting God’s Word and the Holy Ghost. This is seen also in 2 Pet.2:20-22 in the example of false teachers who, knowing the truth that cleanses the soul, turn from it; they’re said to be men for whom Christ died in verse 2:1, but seek another salvation method. Their behavior is likened to that of a pig washed in a futile effort at cleansing of a creature with a natural bent for a pigpen. It is also likened to that of a dog that chews something, seeming to eat it, but regurgitates it, then wastes its time on a second try at it. Unbelievers who are described in Heb.6:4-6 are those on whom is bestowed all the grace of God vital for salvation, even partaking of the Holy Ghost to enlighten the soul with truth of the Word. Yet they turn from the holy light of grace, preferring darkness as beasts incapable of conversion. The pure grace of God is extravagant, being conferred on even those who will only desecrate it. Perhaps God wills this to guarantee an to all an opportunity for salvation, and getting accustomed to darkness is to risk of being unable to tolerate light.

    Now in Heb.6:7-10, we see further evidence that the writer doesn’t include saved persons when he speaks of those who fall away from the faith and can’t be renewed.

    6:7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
    6:8 But that which beareth thorns and briars is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
    6:9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
    6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints and do minister.

    The writer tells believers that failure to pursue Christian maturity imitates the folly of knowing salvation truth, and turning from it in apostasy. In 6:8 he speaks of a fiery condemnation of unbelievers who prefer darkness over light. One who is offered God’s grace, yet rejects the offer of salvation, is like the earth that receives God’s good rain from heaven, but yields thorns & briars. This is contrasted with believers in terms of the earth that brings forth good fruit through rain from heaven. This describes the reaction of different people to the salvation offer, the lesson our Lord taught in the parable of the sower where good seed was cast on different types of soil (Mt.13:3 9).

    In speaking of saved ones in terms of earth that brings forth proper fruit under the blessing of rain from heaven, the writer says they have produced some proper works to Christ’s glory through saving grace, and such works are those that God will accept. He says that their meager works, limited by their poor attitude and failure to advance in maturity, won’t be forgotten. Indeed, he indicates that God would be unrighteous to forget their good works done for Him, regardless of the devotion producing them because these works justify them, or prove their salvation, as we’re also told in Jas.2:24. Their salvation is as guaranteed as God’s righteousness is guaranteed.

    Now God’s people can expect chastening for disobedience, as the Hebrews writer says in chapter 12, and to refuse lessons of chastening invites loss of rewards. Further, throughout eternity, we must all face the Savior who gave Himself fully for us, and we must face His company of great saints who gave everything for the glory of God. Might that result in eternal embarrassment for those among us who are slack in their devotion to Christ? (I don’t feel any advantage in this)

    Now many professors of faith falter in the Christian walk as pressures to mask our faith increase, but repentance and even gallantry in the cause of Christ, are ever possible. The church is obligated to encourage repentance from a state of unfaithfulness, and to discourage persistence in an unholy state of unfaithfulness that can cause our removal from this world in disgrace for dishonoring Christ in our lives.

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