The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

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Galatians 5:2-4 "Severed from Christ"

In the epistle to the Galatians Paul deals with the matter of law and grace and the fact that we are saved by grace, by God’s unmerited favor, without the works of the law. The reason he was saying this was because some were teaching the Galatians that they had to keep the law and that they even had to be circumcised. As we said previously, there are, broadly speaking, two versions of false teachers: the one leads people astray by effectively perverting the grace of God into a license for immorality (Jude 1:4) and the other leads them astray through legalism i.e. through imposing adherence to the law of Moses (Sabbath, circumcision, tithe, ceremonies etc.) and to things that God never intended for believers. The Galatians had fallen victims of this second type of false teachers. Paul dealt with the issue making clear what such departure from the true Gospel would mean:

Galatians 5:2-4
"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."

You cannot be severed from something, if you were never one with it. These people were true believers, one with Christ. However, this would change if they sought justification through the law. In that case they would be severed from Christ and they would fall away from grace. Therefore it is indeed possible to be severed from Christ and fall away from grace i.e. to be with Him today but to no longer be with Him in the future, to have ourselves severed from Him, by - in the case of Galatians - following a perverted doctrine. Notice also that they would fall away from grace. It is not that grace would expel them but rather that they themselves would fall away from it. Therefore grace holds us as long as we want to be held by it. But if one wants it, he could fall away from it.

Furthermore, as Paul testifies of them just a couple of verses later:

Galatians 5:7
"You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?"

See that he uses past tense: they were running well. But no longer. Somebody hindered them, obviously by teaching them to obey the law and get circumcised. As a result, they were no longer running well. Instead, they were on their way to be led astray. Therefore, it is possible to run well but then to stop running well and even be led astray i.e. fall away from the right path and out of the race of faith altogether.

Now the question to be asked is: if somebody is severed from Christ and therefore he falls away from grace, will He still be saved? I believe the answer is clear in Ephesians 2:8 and in John 15. According to Ephesians salvation is by grace through faith. If these Galatians would fall away from grace then they would no longer fall into the case of Ephesians 2:8. In addition, according to John 15:6 :

"If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned."

Whoever does not abide in Christ, whoever is severed from Him, has the end described in the above passage and which in turn also tells us what would happen in the case of the Galatians that would be severed from Christ.

To summarize: yes, is it possible that a believer is, because of following a deception, severed from Christ. And this, as in the case of Galatians, can happen when someone replaces the work of Christ with the law and tries to attain righteousness through it.

Unfortunately some misuse Galatians to go to the other extreme, saying that God cares only for our faith and the works have no real importance, as if faith and works could exist separately from each other. But it is not really like this. As Luther very correctly said:

"it is impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire1".

This is true. There is no salvation but only by faith and there is no true faith without the respective fruit, the works that should normally accompany it. Fruitless "faith" cannot save, not because the fruit would supposedly save us and this is missing. In contrast, it cannot save us because fruitless faith is not a true faith. It is dead as James said (James 2:26) and such faith does not save. The message of this book is in no way salvation through works. There is NO such salvation! What there is is salvation through faith, a faith though that has to be kept to the end and which should be - and will be if we stay united with Christ – fruitful. In fact I would summarize the message of this book in the passage from Galatians 5:6 we saw earlier:

"in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love."

Faith, love, works (action)! All three go together and I do not think that any of these can really exist as stand-alone and without the others.



1. Luther: An introduction to St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.


Next section: 2 Timothy 2:11-13: "if we deny him, he will also deny us"


Author: Anastasios Kioulachoglou