Dr. Henry Waiters: Backsliding
Backsliding in the Old Testament has the idea of turning to the old life of sin and idolatry. In the New Testament it is set forth as involving a change in the believers, but not His standing. Webster says: “It is to lapse morally; or in the practice of religion, to revert to a worse condition.”
“Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of host”(Jer. 2:19).
“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him” (Heb. 10:38).
These verses clearly indicate how God regards backsliding, which has always been the tendency of God’s people: “And my people are bent to backsliding from Me” (Hosea 11:7). Departure from God occurs when: “Take heed brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb. 3:12); unbelief is “the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. 12:1).
The constant backsliding of the people of Jerusalem was observed: “Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit, they refuse to return, I harkened and heard, but they spake not alright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, what have I done? Everyone turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into battle”(Jer. 5:6).
Backsliding is likened to: “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord” (Jer. 3: 20).
To regain God’s favor, a backslider must: “Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgresses against the Lord thy God” (Jer. 3:13); “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings” (Jer. 3:22).
God promises mercy to sinners on these conditions: “Let the wicked forsake his way, the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). The wicked must forsake their thoughts and ways because: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:7). God desires that we shall think His thoughts, which are right, pure, and everlasting thoughts. He desires also that we shall take on His ways of pleasantness, and walk in His path of peace.
What is especially necessary to prevent backsliding? “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation, the spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). All believers are exhorted to “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves “ (2 Cor. 13: 5). When one has God’s law in his heart: “The law of his God in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Psa. 37: 31).
Historical backsliding: “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from Mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of host” (Mal. 3:7).
Because of Christ’s plain teaching, “From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” (John 6:66). They did not repent and return. The back-slider must: “Take with your words, and turn to the Lord: say unto Him, take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously” (Hos. 14:2), and God will say, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for Mine anger is turned away from him” (Hos. 14:4).
The progression of backsliding in these last days is a special danger and should be of great concern: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Max. 24:12). We are warned of the evils during this time: “And take heed to yourselves, lest at anytime your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, drunkenness, and the many cares of this life, so that day come upon you unawares” (Luke 21: 34).
In view of these perils surrounding us, we are told to: “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of the man” (Luke 21: 36).
Dr. Waiters can be reached at 704-636-3369.