Galatians 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace.
The only, proper perspective to carry when it comes to grace is it is “undeserving”.
Grace cannot be earned through your efforts, your good works, or your ability to please God through your obedience. Grace is God’s “undeserved favor” toward you simply because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
God’s grace is based on Jesus’ work, and not yours. Therefore the only way you “fall out of grace” is by believing you can earn God’s favor through your own obedience or good works – this is what Galatians 5:4 calls “being justified by the law”.
The Pharisees and the religious leaders of the day were always “falling out of grace” because they believed favor and righteousness came through their own efforts, their ability to obey the law. Look at the conversation between the rich young ruler and Jesus (Luke 18:18-25).
He asked what must I do to receive eternal life? Jesus didn’t say “Believe in me” like He did to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-26). Jesus answered this man in accordance with the law, to reveal one’s own “self-effort” will not save you. The man said that he has kept all the law – and that’s when Jesus said you still lack one thing…
That one thing ultimately was understanding God’s grace.
And when you think that it is by your own efforts and obedience that you receive God’s blessings, you become like the Pharisees, believing your law-keeping (obedience) justifies you and is the pathway towards God’s blessing. But when you believe this way – you are actually“falling away from grace”, and “defaulting back into the law”.
Ironically, the longer you have been a Christian, the harder it seems to think this way! We easily receive God’s grace at the point of salvation because we recognize our need for God in our lives. But once we grow in Christ, mature and start walking the paths of righteous living, we can fall back into the trap of thinking our blessings come through our good works or obedience of what we do or don’t do. We might start feeling we now “deserve” God’s favor because of our service or good works, or we no longer deserve God’s grace because of what we have done.
The way to avoid this trap is to simply look at the illustrations that Jesus provides in Scripture:
- The picture of the ‘good shepherd’ with the lost lamb on His shoulders (Luke 15:5), reminds me that I need to be carried into God’s eternal dwellings – I cannot earn it.
- The robe, the ring and the sandals given to the lost son (Luke 15:22), are pictures of Christ’s righteousness, Christ’s authority, and Christ’s standing that I have been given – I cannot earn them.
So daily, thank God for His grace and favor and out of your position in Christ, step out in faith and do good works for Him!