Do you know what Galatians
5:4 says? Even if just hearing the reference doesnít spark
your memory, Iím sure youíve heard the verse over and over
again. ďYou are severed from Christ, you who would be justified
by the law; you have fallen away from grace.Ē Weíve had
classes on this verse; heard sermons on this verse. We want to
make sure everyone knows they can indeed fall from grace. And to
be sure, that is exactly what this verse says. No matter how you
cut it, no matter how you try to explain it away, at the end of
the day, this verse warns us that we can fall from the grace God
has given us. We can turn our backs on the salvation God has
offered. If we, Godís children, surrender our lives to sin, we
will become slaves of sin. We will once again earn death because
of our sins (Romans 6:16,
The bigger question is do you know I
Peter 5:12? Peter said, ďI have written briefly to you,
exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand
firm in it.Ē I have spent so much time in my preaching figuring
out what it means to fall from grace, that Iím not sure Iíve
spent any time figuring out what it means to stand firm in Godís
grace. Romans 5:2
speaks of the grace in which we stand and through that the
rejoicing we can have in the hope of the glory of God. In Acts
13:43, Paul urged those who had listened to his teaching to
continue in the grace of God. Certainly, we need to give attention
to falling from Godís grace, but perhaps if we spend more time
learning to stand firmly and continue in Godís grace, we wonít
have to worry so much about falling from it. Certainly, we need to
heed the warnings about falling from the mountaintop. But if we
would avoid such a fall, what we really need to hear is how we can
plant our feet firmly on Godís plateau, hanging on to His grace
as a lifeline. If we stand firm in His grace and continue in His
grace then we will never fall from His grace.
So how do we do that? How do we stand firm in Godís
grace? How do we continue in Godís grace? Let us not see how
close we can get to the edge of Godís grace and try to keep
ourselves from falling, but rather, let us learn how we can rest
ourselves securely in the middle of Godís grace.
Listen to Godís gospel.
Standing firm in Godís grace begins with listening to the
message of Godís grace, the call of Godís grace. In Galatians
1:6-10, Paul registers his surprise that the Galatians are
quickly turning from Godís gospel of grace to another gospel,
that really is not good news at all. Listening to any other
supposed good news will only bring us under a curse.
In Hebrews 13:9,
we are encouraged to be strengthened by Godís grace rather than
being led away by diverse and strange teachings. Being
strengthened by Godís grace comes by being wrapped up in Godís
teaching. No wonder Paul urged Timothy to charge folks not to
teach any other doctrine and not to get caught up in speculations,
endless genealogies, and myths (I
Timothy 1:3-4). He further warned Timothy against teaching or
heeding any doctrine other than that which accords with Jesus
Christ (I Timothy 6:3-5).
By contrast, we see the very first Christians devoting
themselves to the apostles teaching in Acts
2:42. If we want to stand firmly in Godís grace, we need to
get firmly into Godís word and gospel. Donít let a day go by
that you donít devote yourself to Godís gospel.
Hope fully in Godís grace.
says we must set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought
to us at the revelation of Jesus. This is powerful. How many times
have we heard Christians say things like, ďWhen I die, I just
hope Iíve done enough to serve GodĒ? Or ďWhen I die, I just
hope Iíve overcome sin enough to go to heavenĒ? When we make
those statements, our hope is in the wrong place. We are putting
our hope in ourselves. We need to rest our hope fully on the grace
of Jesus and the work of God through Him. If we enter heaven, it
will not be because weíve done enough. It will be because of
Remember the debate regarding circumcision in Acts
15. Peter made it clear in Acts
15:10-11, that we are putting God to the test when we place
the yoke on us that we simply cannot bear. If we are going to try
to earn salvation by being good enough or keeping enough laws,
weíll never make it. We are saved by grace. That is where our
hope needs to be, in the grace of God. As Romans
3:24 says, we are justified by grace as a gift. We donít
deserve it. We canít earn it.
Consider another aspect of this reliance on Godís grace.
In II Corinthians 12:7-10, we see Paulís struggle with his thorn in
the flesh. When he asked God to remove it three times, Godís
response was, ďMy grace is sufficient for you.Ē Thus, Paul
said he was content with his weaknesses, distresses, calamities,
etc. He learned that he was right where God wanted him to be. He
was able to see even the thorn, a messenger of Satan, as Godís
grace to help save him.
Putting our hope in Godís grace is not simply about
relying on Him to let us into heaven in the end, but rather
accepting that what is happening right now will be used by Him to
save us in the end. We donít need to be stronger on our own; we
need to trust His strength and grace. As Romans 8:28-30 says, He will get us there if we will simply love Him
and put our hope in His grace instead of our strength.
Walk by faith not by law.
explains that since the promise rests on grace, we must walk by
faith and not by law. If we are walking by law, then we are
putting our hope in ourselves. If we are walking by faith, we are
putting our trust in Him in whom we have rested our faith. Law
doesnít bring justification, it only brings wrath. Romans
3:20 already said that no one will be justified by law. In
fact, oddly enough, when Paul actually talked about falling from
grace, he didnít talk about someone who had decided to ignore
Godís law, but rather someone who was trying to be justified by
explains if we could be saved by law, then the law God gave in the
Old Testament would have done it. Instead, all it accomplished was
locking us all up under sin. It prepared the way for faith as we
learned that walking by law wonít help us. Paul highlighted this
in Galatians 2:15-19,
saying that the law wonít help us at all. Instead, we need to
walk by faith. No one will be justified by law-keeping. We will
only be justified by faith in Jesus.
Understand what this means on a practical level. This
doesnít mean I live however I want as long as I believe Jesus is
the Christ. This means I live the way Jesus wants me to because I
believe Him. As Galatians
2:20 says, when we live by faith, we are crucifying ourselves
and letting Jesus take control. The difference between walking by
faith and law, is not necessarily seen in the outward acts.
Someone walking by law may be baptized, attend assemblies, avoid
sins, read the Bible, etc., just as the person walking by faith
does. The difference is in the motivation. Those walking by law
are trusting in their own ability to be righteous. Those walking
by faith are trusting in Christís way to save them, so they
follow it. That will make all the difference when it comes to
standing firm in Godís grace.
Keep Godís grace pure.
Sadly, there is no point of good news that Satan wonít
try to pervert to his own ends. There is no good and wholesome
doctrine of Christ that Satan wonít twist in order to overthrow
the salvation of some and even make us afraid to teach what Jesus
has said. Some have heard the good news of Godís grace and
decided that standing firm in Godís grace means not worrying
about how they live, but just believing God will save them no
matter what. Because of that perversion, many of us are scared to
talk too much about Godís grace lest people get the wrong idea.
Standing firm in Godís grace means keeping Godís grace pure.
warns against those who would pervert the grace of God into
sensuality. Some would use the grace of God as a license to sin.
This may come in the form of confession or absolution offered by a
priest, even before the sin is committed. This may come in the
form of cherishing some iniquity in our heart (cf. Psalm
66:18) and thinking Godís grace means the sin doesnít
matter. This may come in the form of thinking, ďI got baptized,
I can do whatever I want now.Ē That is perverting Godís grace.
Yes, Godís grace means if we confess our sins, He is faithful
and just to forgive our sins (I
John 1:8-9). Yes, Godís grace means if we sin, we have an
advocate with the Father who is a propitiation for our sins, Jesus
Christ the righteous (I
John 2:1-2). But grace is not a license to sin. Grace is not
an excuse to sin. Grace is not a justification for sin. Grace does
not mean our sins donít matter.
demonstrates that the purpose of Godís grace is not to let us
sin. The purpose of grace was to make us die to sin and set us
free from our sins. Godís grace is given to us that we may have
progressive victory over sin, not so we can sink progressively
lower into it. Godís grace sets us free from sin, but enslaves
us to Him and His righteousness. That may sound bad to our modern
ears, but notice Romans
6:20-23 explains how glorious it is. Godís grace, having
loosed us from the bonds of sin, has freed us to bear the fruit of
sanctification and eternal life.
Therefore, standing firm in Godís grace does not mean
continuing in sin, but rather overcoming sin. As Titus
2:11-14 explains, the grace of God doesnít train us to sin
however we want believing weíll just be forgiven. Godís grace
trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, to live
self-controlled, upright, and godly lives as we await the grace
that will be revealed to us through Jesus in the end because
weíve put our hope fully in that grace.
Turn to God when you are struggling.
But there are tough times as Christians. While grace has
set us free to pursue righteousness and walk in newness of life,
temptation still rears its ugly head. We are naÔve to think Satan
will give us up without a fight. We like to think that being a
Christian means we have put temptation behind us; the bottle that
lured us, the greed that called to us, the lust that piqued us
will never cause us to turn our heads again. That is simply not
Standing firm in Godís grace does not mean nothing will
ever entice us to sin again. It doesnít mean weíll never have
a desire for wrong again. Standing firm in Godís grace means
when the temptation hits, we turn to God for help. Hebrews
4:14-16 makes it clear that we can find grace to help in our
time of need and temptation. Jesus knows what it is like to be
tempted. Jesus was tempted, as we are. He faced the lust of the
eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life as we do (cf. I
John 2:16). He overcame; therefore when we put our faith in
Him, He can lead us to overcome as well.
Sadly, too many of us donít stand in Godís grace when
we are struggling. Instead of doing what He says, like confessing
our struggles to each other (James
5:16) we try to face them on our own. We have marriage
problems and we keep them hidden. We have doubts and we cover them
up. We have a private sin and we think we can conquer it on our
own. We donít take it to God. We donít share it with others
and take it to God with them. Then our lives fall apart. We
somehow think if we take our struggle to Godís people and to God
that weíll lose. Absolutely not. That is exactly how we stand
firm and continue in Godís grace by going to God and His people
in our time of need. That is how His grace works. That is how we
continue in it.
Give God the glory.
There is a great paradox that we must accept if we will
stand firm in Godís grace. Sadly, I think there are some who
simply cannot handle this paradox and this alone causes them to
fall from Godís grace. Philippians 2:12-13 presents the paradox. In the same sentence we
are told to work out our own salvation but to do so because God is
the one working in us. Which is it? Are we to work out our
salvation or to rely on God working in us? It is both.
shows how this paradox fits with standing firm in Godís grace.
Do you see the paradox here? Paul says he is what he is by Godís
grace. However, the grace wasnít in vain because he worked
harder than anyone. But, he only worked harder than anyone because
of Godís grace in his life. Here is the mixture. We are working.
But we are doing so because God is working. When we trust in the
working of God, then we can work and we are not working in vain.
However, Godís work is not in vain because we are working. Both
We stand in Godís grace when we work hard and give God
the glory. We need to acknowledge God in all our ways (Proverbs
3:6). We need to understand that it is by Godís grace that
we live and move and have our very being (Acts
17:28). He gives us life, breath, and all things (Acts
17:25). When we look with the eyes of the flesh, all we can
see is our own effort. But we are standing firmly in Godís grace
when we look with the eyes of the Spirit and of faith and give Him
the glory, acknowledging Him in all we do. We may not be able to
quantify Godís working, we may not be able to test it in a
laboratory, we may not be able to measure it with our manmade
instruments, but we are standing firmly in Godís grace only when
we work our hardest but give God the glory for what we accomplish.
Offer Godís grace to others.
If you want to stand firmly in Godís grace, you must
share the message of Godís grace with others. Paul testified of
Godís grace in Acts 20:24. He commended the Ephesians to God and the word of His
grace in Acts 20:32. He
told others about the grace God had for them.
Sadly, all to often we donít offer Godís grace to
others. We offer His law to them. Someone falls short and we
respond with ďHow dare you?Ē How dare we who have all sinned
take that message to our fellow failures? Sadly, too often we come
to those who have fallen, especially those who were already in
Christ, like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal in Luke 15:28-30. We wrongly act as if we have never needed Godís
grace, as if we ourselves are not standing firm in Godís grace
but rather within our own personal strength and righteousness. We
roll out the law and beat them with it. That is, if weíll get
close to them. They are the ones we donít want here. They are
the ones who make us look bad. Somehow, that is not the image
Jesus conveyed. It wasnít the religious and personally righteous
that flocked to Jesus, it was the sinful and despicable.
In his book, The
Jesus I Never Knew and then again in Whatís
So Amazing about Grace, Philip Yancey tells the story of a
friend who works with the down-and-out in Chicago. A prostitute
came to the man with a story of despair. She told of drug abuse
and renting out her own daughter. She didnít know what to do.
The fellow didnít know what to tell her. He finally asked if
sheíd ever thought of going to a church for help. ďI will
never forget the look of pure, naÔve shock that crossed her face.
ĎChurch!í she cried. ĎWhy would I ever go there? I was
already feeling terrible about myself. Theyíd just make me feel
worseíĒ (Whatís So
Amazing about Grace, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1997, p 11; The
Jesus I Never Knew, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1995, pp
147-148). It was the prostitutes and sinners that came to Jesus.
Why? Because He brought them a message of grace and it changed
their lives. Think of the sinful woman in Luke
7:36-50. Jesus didnít pelt her with the law about
fornication; He offered her grace to become free from fornication.
She accepted it and loved Him and apparently overcame her
fornication. That is the message we need to take to others. When
we do, we are standing in Godís grace.
Please, donít misunderstand. We certainly need to rebuke
sin. Jesus taught that too (Luke
17:3). We do not turn a blind eye to sin as if grace means it
doesnít matter. Didnít we already establish that a few points
back? But even when weíve had to discipline a brother or sister,
we still donít treat them like enemies, but admonish them like
brethren, offering them grace and love (II
Thessalonians 3:14-15). Then we are standing in Godís grace.
Please understand what this point means. Taking the gospel
to others is not something on a checklist of Christian homework.
We need to take that message for our own sakes as much as others
need to hear. It is by sharing that message of grace that we can
stand firmly in Godís grace. We need to tell that story for our
benefit whether or not anyone ever listens.
Sadly, we can fall from grace. Perhaps so many brethren do
fall from grace because we spend so much time talking about when,
why and how that happens. Maybe if we spent more time talking
about how to stand firmly and continue in Godís grace, fewer of
us would fall. I encourage you, quit worrying about falling from
grace. Start focusing on standing firm in it. When you focus on
standing firm in Godís grace, then you can realize the promise
Peter offered in I Peter 5:10, ďAfter you have suffered a little while, the God of
all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will
himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.Ē Stand
firm in His grace. He will take care of you.
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ