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. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
~ Galatians 5:2-6
Finally content with his explanation, Paul makes it very plain to the Galatian believers – if you accept circumcision, and as a result, place yourself under the yoke of the law, you are “falling away” from your initial conviction to Christ and are instead abandoning your trust in Jesus to save you and are placing the responsibility for your salvation on your own shoulders. This is the most terrifying piece of scripture that I have read in some time. On the surface, it states that people who are soundly saved can fall away from grace, and choose to leave the God who saved them so that they may pursue their own path of salvation. But, is that possible?
As we’ve read before, no. Paul, in his letter to the churches in Ephesus, states that, “God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:4-5) and in his second letter to Timothy he proclaims, “God saved us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9). God, when He starts a good work in us (our conversion) is intent to see it through to its completion. We cannot simply walk away from our faith, not if we were truly set apart from before He spoke and the universe leapt into existence. We are chosen by God, set apart for salvation, and God will never abandon us, nor will He allow us to shipwreck our faith.
So, since it’s not the real Christians who are in danger here, who is it that Paul is talking to? Those who put on the veneer of Christian orthodoxy, but who, in heart, are merely pretenders. They are false converts who hold to the good news of God’s salvation for us so long as it appeals to their conscience and once a “better deal” comes along they jump ship and run to the next flashy thing. You know these people as pew warmers. Many become involved in their churches and some even attain the role of pastor or elder, yet they’ve never truly repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus alone for their salvation. Getting circumcised is, for them, just another religious duty for them and they’ll happily take on the legalism of the Mosaic law to appease their desire for religion. It’s for this reason that we are told to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). The apostle John, who knew and lived with Jesus, has provided an a great resource for us in 1 John 3:1-10. If this is a concern for you, I suggest reading that passage and seeing how you do. If you are truly saved God will not allow you to wander far, but it’s wise to investigate this as much as you can.
Paul then finishes this section by reminding us that it’s through the Holy Spirit, who lives in the hearts of those who are truly saved, by faith that we are pursuing righteousness, but apart from the law, because it is impossible this side of the veil of death. Our righteousness is in Christ, not in our own works, and anyone who abandons Christ to pursue it on their own is a fool. For those who are in Christ, nothing matters but our faith in Christ to bring salvation upon us and that, when it is within you, it produces love.