CLAIM: Paul says that believers can be severed from Christ. Does this mean that Christians can lose their salvation?
RESPONSE: It is clear that these are believers (v.1; 7-10). However, this doesn’t refer to losing salvation. These believers did not break the law; they kept the law (i.e. circumcision). The sin of Galatians 5 is going back under law—not breaking it. It would be way out of bounds to use this passage to threaten Christians, who are in sin. Instead, this refers to sanctification and spiritual growth. In a sense, Paul is saying that the power cord on their spiritual life will be unplugged, if they fall under law. There are a number of reasons to adopt this view.
First, this is the context (v.7-26). Paul isn’t addressing justification in this section of Galatians. He is addressing sanctification. A parallel passage helps to understand this passage: “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” (Gal. 3:1-4).
Second, this is the language. Paul says that Christ will be of “no benefit” (v.2). The Greek for “severed” is katargeō, which means “to cause something to be unproductive, use up, exhaust, waste” or “to cause something to lose its power or effectiveness, invalidate, make powerless” (BDAG).
Third, this is the argument of the letter. Throughout Galatians, Paul vehemently argues that law and faith are incompatible paths for spiritual growth (see also Gal. 3:3).