"I am the vine, you are the branches"
Can a Believer Fall from Grace?
Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” I remember many years ago the debate was, “Once saved always saved: True or false?” Those on the one side said, “No! If you are truly saved you can not fall from grace.” The other side said, “Yes, you can!” We want to look into this closer and see, according to Scripture, which side was correct.
What is grace? Most people say it is God’s unmerited favor. The word 'grace' (chen in Hebrew, charis in Greek) as it is used in the Scriptures literally means “favor, to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior.” Grace is God’s mercy, His compassion toward us. It is God’s work released in us to empower us. We can never merit God’s favor. We are always indebted to Him not only for giving us life, but eternal life if we accept it by faith. All throughout this life we need God’s mercy, His unmerited favor, grace, because we are sinners, and we are only saved through the shed blood of Yeshua (Jesus).
So then if we have God’s grace propping us up, per se, like a safety net, then how can we go wrong? But is it true that grace is nothing more than a safety net? Could there be more to it?
The Scripture tells us that we have been saved by grace through faith. So what is faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells us, "Now faith (pistis) is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." We must have grace and faith. We must have faith in the power of His grace towards us. We must have faith in the power of the shed blood of Yeshua to save us from our sins. Just like the Israelites had to put their faith in the shed blood of the Passover lamb that was put on their doorposts to protect them from the death angel, so we too must have faith in the shed blood of our Passover lamb Yeshua to protect us and cover us from eternal death. That is why we have the hope of salvation. We have not yet seen our salvation, so we put our faith, our hope, in God’s merciful grace and the shed blood of Yeshua to save us.
We were eternally damned, without hope. Ephesians 2:12 tells us, “Remember that you were at that time separated from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” We were sinners, and there was no way that we could redeem ourselves, no way that we could come before a righteous and holy God. But God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to be that sacrifice on our behalf. What mercy, what unmerited favor we received, what a gift! But we must ask ourselves, “why?” We were enemies. Romans 5:6-11 tells us, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Messiah Yeshua, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
So when man sinned in the garden, we were cast out of His presence. We had fallen short of God’s glory and we were eternally lost. God in His great mercy sent His Son to pay our eternal debt by His shed blood, and now we have been justified and washed clean by the blood of Yeshua. Romans 5:1-2 speaks to this very issue: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Messiah Yeshua. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We now have peace restored to our relationship with God, all based on the unmerited grace which He extended toward us. Justification saves us from the wrath of God and all is well, end of story... or is it?
The Rest of the Story
The purpose of His grace is not just to save us from wrath and damnation, but to fulfil God’s original purpose which He had in creating us in His image and likeness. That original purpose was to have children who had proven themselves faithful under testing and come to a maturity of character in which He could share as co-heirs the responsibilities of administering His creation. So grace is God meeting man where he is in order to bring man to Himself. It is the active demonstration of the unconditional love of God, but it does not meet us where we are just to leave us in that condition and merely overlook our deficiencies and shortcomings. God meets us where we are, in our sin and our weakness and our immaturity, in order to transform us and conform us to His image and stature. So, although God is long-suffering and patient with us in the extension of His grace toward us, there is an ultimate expectation in the ministry of His grace toward us for the fulfillment of our ultimate restoration.
So then if this all began when man sinned, then when we accept Messiah our Savior in faith, God’s grace is there for us when we sin? Not unless we repent of our sins. The Bible tells us that we should not let sin reign over us. If we are now under grace and we have been justified, then sin should not have any affect on us. Paul tells us in Romans 6:1-2, "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be!” The manifestation of God's presence in our lives at any time is not a validation of our present state, of our personality, or of our present lifestyle. It is an extension of unmerited grace toward us in the interim, while He is patient with us as little children who need to go through the stages of growth to reach maturity. He knows that we need His constant reassurance of parental love in the process. But while He will not withdraw His Presence while we act out our childish ways, we frustrate the grace of God and become transgressors when we build again the former things, instead of going on to maturity. And maturity means becoming His children, fully obeying His laws and commandments and no longer sinning, for sin is transgression against His laws and commandments, which are loved when one finally understands! "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
This is why Romans 8:1-4 tells us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua because through Messiah Yeshua the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” So it is possible to abuse the grace of God by continuing to live according to our own desires and our own will. When we live according to our flesh and not by the Spirit of God, we can fall into condemnation.
Romans 8:5-8 continues to say, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” So only when we walk according to the Spirit of God is there no condemnation.
Romans 6:12-16 continues to say, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” So what is this all about? We are not under the law and yet we are still obligated to keep the law?
Romans 7:4-12 says, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Messiah, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”
Romans 8:12-17 says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
So what can cause a believer to fall from grace? The first commandment tells us, “I am the Lord your God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Yeshua tells us that we are to love the Lord with all of our heart and soul and mind. So when a conflict of interest comes into our lives it can actually separate us once again from God. If we have not circumcised our hearts, how can we be born again? Unless we are born again we will not see the kingdom of God. If we do not crucify the flesh and die to ourselves, then how can our lives be hidden in Messiah? James 4:4 says, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” And again in 1 John 2:15-16, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”
When we run with the world and live like the world, even if we think that we are living for God, we are actually separating ourselves from the holiness and godliness of God and before we know it we have become just like the world. God is no longer our source. Hebrews 6:4-6 says, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” 2 Peter 1:10-11 says, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Revelation 3:5 says, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
Yes, we are saved by the grace of God, by the shed blood of Yeshua, by having faith in His sacrifice for us, for we can not save ourselves. So thanks be to God that salvation is a gift from God! But yes, we must remain in the grace of God, and to do that we must walk by the Spirit and obey God’s commands and His will for us, or else we will compromise God’s grace. If we fall from grace we must repent, turn back, and confess our sin, for He is faithful to forgive us. But if we neglect to examine ourselves, we run the risk of searing our conscience, resulting in complacency, and the lust of this world will overtake us.
This teaching is not conclusive, for there are so many other Scriptures that could have been added, but this is a start for each person to consider. We are to search out the Scriptures and study them and learn from them and follow them. If we are not putting time into our walk with God, then we have already broken the first commandment to not put other gods (things) before Him, and as Yeshua said, we are to love God with all of our heart and mind and soul. So I ask you today to examine your walk with God with an open mind and heart and seek Him out. A good relationship with God, one that allows you to walk in the Spirit of God, will equip you to be an overcomer in this world and help you in worldly temptations, for we are to mature in the Lord Yeshua the Messiah and allow the grace of God to grow with every passing day.