Galatians 5:4-5. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
The strong language of verse four should not make us think that we can lose our salvation. Paul has made it clear that we are freed (5:1), and verse five tells us that we have the Spirit of faith, and that we have the hope of righteousness. Clearly these are descriptions of those who are in Christ. So the severed from Christ and the fallen from grace of verse four are possible for those who are saved in Christ. But how?
We are severed and fallen when we choose to live from law rather than grace. In those moments we have resisted the grace of Christ. Is God’s grace resistable? Some would say no, but I believe that it is (see Galatians 2:21). In fact, I would say that resisting grace is the only thing we can do in salvation. That is, the only thing we can do in salvation is negative. All the positives come from God alone and his life giving Spirit. If you are saved it is all because of God. If you are lost it is all because of you. If you have faith, it is from God. If you lack faith, that’s because of you.
But I believe that what Paul’s teaching, throughout his writings, tells us is that those who have the Spirit are guaranteed to return to the hope that they have by the Spirit of Christ who lives within them (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).
So yes, a Christian can set aside the grace of God (Gal. 2:21), resist the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), receive grace in vain (2 Cor. 6:1), and insult the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29). All without losing their salvation. We can be Galatians 5:4 and 5:5 at the same time.
We are called to live up to what we ARE. It’s about choosing a way to live each moment of each day. If you are freed to be free, then law keeping means in that moment that you are not trusting Christ and his indwelling life. Christ is now severed and you have fallen from grace. Not forever, but for the moment. Not in your spirit, but in your soul.
“To live is Christ” means that we have the hope of righteousness. We have the Spirit. We have faith in Christ. Therefore we will never turn from Christ completely and put our hope in law keeping. Law keeping can only crush hope. But Christ’s freely given life does give us the hope of righteousness through the guaranteed Spirit.
So don’t let Galatians 5:4 cause you to doubt your salvation and run back to the law’s systems of self salvation. Remember that 5:5 is the next verse. You have the Spirit. You have hope. You have Christ. Run to him.