What is Backsliding?
When a person who is on the path of salvation "slides back" into their sins and turns away from God, this is known as backsliding
. "But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear"
(Zechariah 7:11). Backsliding can happen to any believer who allows sin and unbelief in their life, and it is a fearful thing, for "the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways"
Backsliding does not necessarily mean a loss of salvation, but it can certainly lead there.
This is why the Bible warns believers many times not to compromise their faith in Christ and to repent
when they receive the chastening of the Lord. "Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee"
(Deuteronomy 8:5; also see Hebrews 12:5-11). The Lord is faithful to discipline those He loves, drawing backsliders back to Himself.
In addition to chastening, backslidden believers will also experience conviction by the Holy Spirit, calling them to restore their relationship with the Father through repentance
. It is critical to heed these warnings because sin sears the conscience and ultimately hardens the heart — eventually to the point where a backslider is completely unable to repent. "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame"
(Hebrews 5:4-6). Those who once knew the way of righteousness but fell away and do not
repent will indeed come under judgment along with wicked sinners. "And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed"
The Scriptures are clear: you cannot be a partaker of Christ while you participate in the world's sins. "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God"
(James 4:4). This why we are warned not to quench
the Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19), resist
the Spirit (Acts 7:51), or grieve
the Spirit which God places in every believer: "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption"
(Ephesians 4:30), for if we reject the Holy Spirit within us, we have rejected our salvation.
After King David sinned with Bathsheba, he realized how close he had come to losing the Spirit. Most likely, David recalled that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from King Saul (I Samuel 16:14). David's heart was broken over his sin, and he cried out to God, "Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me"
(Psalm 51:11). If David had not repented when his sin was brought into the light, he may not have had another chance.
Ultimately, the Spirit of God
will not continue dwelling in a temple tainted with idols. "For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty"
(II Corinthians 6:16-18).
Thanks be to God that He is merciful and able to heal a person's backsliding
, as in the prodigal son
story in Luke 15:11-32. He even goes after His backslidden children saying, "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God"
(Jeremiah 3:22). Hosea 14:4 says that God "will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him."
And again, we read that those who turn to the Lord with all their heart "were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls"
(I Peter 2:25).
Those of you who have left the straight and narrow path to pursue things of the world (like the prodigal son), your Heavenly Father draws you back. Repent
, turn from your sins, and get back on track by bringing sin to the light, heeding the conviction of the Holy Spirit, reading the Word, and crying out to God. He says, "Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever"
(Jeremiah 3:12). To those of you who have lost your first love, Jesus says, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent"
(Revelation 2:5). Take to heart
the warnings of these Scriptures so that you will not be ashamed before Jesus (Yeshua) at His coming. "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee"
One final word of caution: it is extremely important that Christians exercise discernment in the Body of Christ. There are backslidden preachers and teachers who once knew the Lord, but have since fallen away and grown cold in their relationship with Him. Yet, these men and women are still preaching and performing mighty signs and wonders, for "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance"
(Romans 11:29). Guard your heart from these "certain men crept in unawares"
(Jude 1:4), because they are turning the grace of God into a license to sin in order to justify their own lusts. They preach a man-centered, prosperity-driven gospel, promising their followers liberty, but they themselves are servants of corruption (see II Peter 2:17-22). You will know them by their lack of spiritual fruit.