Have you ever temporarily lapsed into unbelief and sin after you became a Christian? The condition of backsliding results from spiritual apathy or disregard for the truth of God’s Word. It results in a departure from a winsome confession of faith and Biblical ethical standards. Actions are affected by our attitudes toward God and His Word.
Jesus said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
Backsliding is different from apostasy, which spurns the grace of God by renouncing the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31). When a person renounces his faith in Christ that person was never a true child of God, and never was among the elect of God (John 3:18-21, 36; 5:24-29).
On the other hand, the elect individual, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and redeemed by God has been delivered once-for-all from the bondage of sin. Backsliding is not a “fall from grace” in the sense that a Christian once saved by grace can lose his eternal life in Christ. He is God’s child forever, and He has placed His life in the believing sinner.
There were times when the disciples of Jesus withdrew from fellowship with the Lord (Matt. 26:56), Peter denied Christ (26:69-75), Corinthian believers lived in sin (2 Cor. 12:20-21), the Church in Asia became lukewarm (Rev. 2:4, 14-15, 20), etc.
The people of Israel serve as an example for Christians today. We are exhorted to persevere in righteousness and doing the will of God. Israel forsook her covenant with the LORD God (Jer. 2:19; 8:5; 14:7), and demonstrated her unfaithfulness by disobeying God.
In the New Testament backsliding is viewed as an individual problem, although it is possible for churches to become backslidden, too.
Why do Christians become backslidden? We all still possess the old nature that is “corrupt through deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22; Rom. 7:13-24; 1 Cor. 3:1-3). Lack of continuous fellowship by “abiding” in Christ results in a lack of spiritual vitality and ineffective Christian service (Jn. 15:4-8). There is no other way to live the Christian life except by maintaining an intimate fellowship with our Lord. If we do not maintain that vital contact with Him we cannot sustain spiritual growth and effectively minister in His name.
Unbelief (Heb. 3:12), bitterness (12:15), love for the world (2 Tim. 4:10), love for money (1 Tim. 6:10), adherence to worldly philosophy (Col. 2:8), legalism (Gal. 3:1; 1:6; 5:7), indifference and spiritual coldness (Rev. 2:4; 3:16) are other causes for backsliding.
Backsliding grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), and it displeases our Lord (Heb. 10:38). There are natural consequences that follow this sin (Lev. 26:18-25).
How can we prevent backsliding in our spiritual life? It is essential that we “abide” in Christ (Jn. 15:4-7), remain spiritually alert (Eph. 6:18), put on the full armor of God (v. 10), be prayerful (1 Thess. 5:17), etc. Seek to love the Lord God with all your mind, heart and personal being every day.
We can thank God that He patiently perseveres with His saints. Just as we are to persevere in doing His will, we can be thankful that He has made a wonderful covenant with us in the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. The grace of perseverance is one of the great benefits of the atoning death of Jesus Christ for our sins. The solution for backsliding is found in the abiding love and mercy of our God of grace who remains faithful to His promises.
Backsliding is serious business. Martin Luther well said, “The offenses given within the church are greater than those given among the heathen because when Christians degenerate, they are more godless than the heathen.”
We have a choice. We can progress or regress in our Christian life. We have a great responsibility in how we choose to live the Christian life. God is able to strengthen and progressively sanctify the Christian if we cooperate with Him (Heb. 3:12; Phil. 3:10-16).
The promise to every backsliding Christian is to, “Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:7). Acknowledge your sin, turn from it, trust in the Lord for forgiveness and ask the Holy Spirit to take control of your mind, heart and daily life. Jesus says, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5).
It is reassuring that the Bible clearly teaches that the truly spiritual regenerate can never be lost. We are his forever children. Once his child by the new birth, always his child. However we can lose our fellowship with God and our effectiveness in Christian service. The God of all grace has provided a bar of soap; let’s use it often (1 John 1:6-10; 2:2).
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006 Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author’s written consent.
SELAH! Pause – reflect- just think of that!