SO WHO DID FALL FROM GRACE?
By Charles Blair
Yes, there is a Bible way to fall from grace, and some have evidently taken it. What is it, and who fell?
Satan didn’t fall from grace. Yes, he fell, from his glorious status as “the anointed cherub who covers” (Ezekiel 28:14). One of three named angels (Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer), he was perfect in beauty and in conduct until iniquity was found in him (Ezk. 28:12, 15). Yes, he fell, but not from grace, for Jesus did not take on Himself the nature of angels (Hebrews 2:16), no grace or salvation for Satan and his (fallen) angels, now the demons. Satan did not fall from grace; he fell from glory!
Adam and Eve did not fall from grace, though they fell. Their status before sin was innocence, not knowing good and evil, that is, not accountable, for “sin is not imputed where there is no law,” Romans 5:13b. As the unaccountable infant is safe because of the universal scope of Christ’s death and the lack of any personal responsibility, so our first parents were safe until the entrance of sin, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) “But they were cast out of the garden! Didn’t they fall?” They certainly did—not “from grace” but “into grace!” For God promptly took the lives, and hides, of innocent animals to provide a picture of redemption, pointing forward to the shed blood of Christ and the covering of imputed grace righteousness rather than the “fig leaf” self-righteousness they had done for themselves.
The pre-flood world did not fall from grace when God sent the universal flood in Noah’s day. He (and his family) “found grace in the eyes of the LORD,” Genesis 6:8. But those who rejected God’s word spoken through His prophet were surely never in grace, but condemned by immorality to judgment. The infants and unaccountable among them were safe in eternal terms, but none were “saved by water;” those who were in the ark before they went into the water were saved, brought through the judgment storm and delivered to the other side by the gracious provision of God. But those who got in the water but not in the ark—well, that’s another story! They fell from works into judgment.
Lot did not fall from grace. When the angels brought him out of Sodom, he acknowledged (Gen. 19:19): “thy servant hath found grace in thy sight.” He fell from prosperity, and was reduced to being a “cave man,” whose daughters had adopted the moral standards of Sodom, but Peter explains how this physical deliverance explains the spiritual truth. In II Peter 2:4-9, the Holy Spirit calls Lot—Lot!—“just,” and “righteous,” and “godly.” These are hardly the terms we would choose, but Peter explains; he “vexed his righteous soul” –that part of him committed to faith in uncle Abraham’s Messiah—with the ungodly deeds of the wicked. He fell from wealth, but not from grace.
Well, then, just who did “fall from grace?” Sometimes (usually!) it helps to look at the context. “Even a diamond is more beautiful in its proper setting.” To tear a few words from a passage of Scripture and wave them as proof of an expanded theory may result in “theory-ology.”
What is the context of Gal. 5:6? A group of heretics had infested the Galatian Association, at least four churches named in Acts Chapters 13 and 14, teaching that Paul’s word of grace was fine so far as it went, but not enough! They wanted to add circumcision and law-keeping, evidently including animal sacrifice, making salvation a matter of “grace + law” rather than “the gospel of grace.” Reading the immediate setting, 5:1-10, will tell us who “fell [away] from [the] grace principle:” those Judiazers who sought to add works to grace as the basis of right standing before God. Who today is “fallen from grace”? Those who seek to add baptism, communion, living a good life, indeed anything human, to the eternal, absolute principle of grace as the only basis for salvation. Good works are a natural expression of grace, but salvation is “not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
R. Charles Blair, August, 2017
Pastor, Poplar Grove Baptist Church, Hickman, KY
Director of Missions, West Kentucky Baptist Association
Former Dean, Mid-Continent Baptist Bible College, Mayfield, KY