BACKSLIDING (RETROGRESSION)

Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California

Copyright 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved


The Biblical word "backsliding" is generally found in the older English versions such as the King James Version. I have taken this old English word and put it in a more modern terminology. I have chosen the word "retrogression." This word is typical of the believer who gets out of fellowship and perpetuates carnality into an apostasy which is characterized by a general attitude of indifference and sometimes even hostility towards Bible truth. This retrogressive believer progressively loses his spiritual motivation and momentum and is no longer advancing in the Christian life. Hence, he is retrogressing and has become a backslidden believer.

We usually think of backsliding as some type of immoral degeneracy. However, we must also remember that moral degeneracy, a self-righteous arrogant attitude and activity in life, renders the Christian just as backslidden or retrogressive as the believer who is living under some phase of immorality. The non-Christian becomes retrogressive by continually rejecting the Gospel and/or God's principles of establishment. The retrogressive Christian is characterized by continual unchecked negative volition toward Bible teaching.

Backsliding is turning away from God as seen in 1 Kings 11:9.

The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. (1 Kings 11:9)

Backsliding is leaving the first love as in Revelation 2:4.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. (Revelation 2:4)

Backsliding is departing from the simplicity of the Gospel per 2 Corinthians 11:3, Galatians 3:1-3, and Galatians 5:4,7.

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:1-3)

You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4)

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7)

Backsliding incurs the displeasure of God as seen in Psalm 78:57-59.

Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow. They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols. When God heard them, he was very angry; he rejected Israel completely. (Psalm 78:57-59)

Warnings against backsliding are presented in Psalm 85:8 and 1 Corinthians 10:12.

I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints--but let them not return to folly. (Psalm 85:8)

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! (1 Corinthians 10:12)

The guilt and results of backsliding are presented in Numbers 14:43, Psalm 125:5, Isaiah 59:2, Isaiah 59:9-11, Jeremiah 5:6, Jeremiah 8:5,13, Jeremiah 15:6, and Luke 9:62.

for the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the LORD, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword." (Numbers 14:43)

But those who turn to crooked ways the LORD will banish with the evildoers. Peace be upon Israel. (Psalm 125:5)

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)

So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away. (Isaiah 59:9-11)

Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them, a wolf from the desert will ravage them, a leopard will lie in wait near their towns to tear to pieces any who venture out, for their rebellion is great and their backslidings many. (Jeremiah 5:6)

Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit; they refuse to return. (Jeremiah 8:5)

"'I will take away their harvest, declares the LORD. There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them.'" (Jeremiah 8:13)

You have rejected me," declares the LORD. "You keep on backsliding. So I will lay hands on you and destroy you; I can no longer show compassion. (Jeremiah 15:6)

Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62)

Backsliding results in self-induced punishment as seen in Proverbs 14:14 and Jeremiah 2:19.

The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and the good man rewarded for his. (Proverbs 14:14)

Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me," declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty. (Jeremiah 2:19)

Arrogance leads to backsliding as stated in Proverbs 16:18.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

The natural tendency to backslide is presented in Proverbs 24:16 and Hosea 11:7.

for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. (Proverbs 24:16)

My people are determined to turn from me. Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them. (Hosea 11:7)

Backsliding tends to continue and increase per Jeremiah 8:5 and Jeremiah 14:7.

Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit; they refuse to return. (Jeremiah 8:5)

Although our sins testify against us, O LORD, do something for the sake of your name. For our backsliding is great; we have sinned against you. (Jeremiah 14:7)

Exhortations to recover from backsliding are presented in 2 Chronicles 30:6, Isaiah 31:6, Jeremiah 3:12,14,22, and Hosea 6:1.

At the king's command, couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king and from his officials, which read: "People of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. (2 Chronicles 30:6)

Return to him you have so greatly revolted against, O Israelites. (Isaiah 31:6)

Go, proclaim this message toward the north: "'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever. (Jeremiah 3:12)

"Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. I will choose you--one from a town and two from a clan--and bring you to Zion. (Jeremiah 3:14)

"Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding." "Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God. (Jeremiah 3:22)

"Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. (Hosea 6:1)

The backslider is commanded to recover from his condition in Psalm 80:3, Psalm 85:4, and Lamentations 5:21.

Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:3)

Restore us again, O God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. (Psalm 85:4)

Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old (Lamentations 5:21)

13. Divine discipline for tempting others to the sin of backsliding is presented in Proverbs 28:10 and Matthew 18:6.

He who leads the upright along an evil path will fall into his own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance. (Proverbs 28:10)

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)

Backsliding is not a hopeless situation as seen in Psalm 37:24 and Proverbs 24:16.

though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:24)

for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. (Proverbs 24:16)

We should endeavor to assist the backslidden believer to recover as stated in Galatians 6:1 and James 5:10,20.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (James 5:10)

remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)

The sin of backsliding should be confessed to the Father just as all sin should be confessed as stated in Isaiah 59:12-14, Jeremiah 3:13-14, and Jeremiah 14:7-9.

For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the LORD, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. (Isaiah 59:12-14)

Only acknowledge your guilt--you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,'" declares the LORD. "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. I will choose you--one from a town and two from a clan--and bring you to Zion. (Jeremiah 3:13-14)

Although our sins testify against us, O LORD, do something for the sake of your name. For our backsliding is great; we have sinned against you. O Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress, why are you like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who stays only a night? Why are you like a man taken by surprise, like a warrior powerless to save? You are among us, O LORD, and we bear your name; do not forsake us! (Jeremiah 14:7-9)

The promise of pardon to the backslider is presented in 2 Chronicles 7:14, Jeremiah 3:12, Jeremiah 31:20, and Jeremiah 36:3.

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Go, proclaim this message toward the north: "'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever. (Jeremiah 3:12)

Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:20)

Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin." (Jeremiah 36:3)

The promise of healing of the backslider is presented in Jeremiah 3:22 and Hosea 14:4.

"Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding." "Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God. (Jeremiah 3:22)

"I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. (Hosea 14:4)

Divine discipline is administered to encourage the backslidden to recover as seen in Hosea 5:15.

Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me." (Hosea 5:15)

The blessedness of those who stay away from backsliding is presented in Proverbs 28:14, Isaiah 26:3-4, and Colossians 1:21-23.

Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble. (Proverbs 28:14)

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Colossians 1:21-23)

Backsliding incurs righteous indignation from mature believers as seen in Psalm 101:3.

I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. (Psalm 101:3)

Backsliding is exemplified by: 1) Israel in Exodus 32:8, Nehemiah 9:26, Jeremiah 3:11, and Hosea 4:16, 2) King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:11, 3) Solomon in 1 Kings 11:3-4, and 4) Peter in Matthew 26:70-74.

They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' (Exodus 32:8)

"But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs. They killed your prophets, who had admonished them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. (Nehemiah 9:26)

The LORD said to me, "Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. (Jeremiah 3:11)

The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow? (Hosea 4:16)

"I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night. (1 Samuel 15:11)

He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. (1 Kings 11:3-4)

But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth." He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!" After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away." Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. (Matthew 26:70-74)

The seven steps toward backsliding are presented in Ephesians 4:17-19.

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (Ephesians 4:17-19)


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