TOPIC: CHRISTIAN CHARACTER
QUESTION: DOES GOD CONDEMN BACKSLIDERS?
Study References: I John 1:9, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, Isaiah 55:7
Revelation 2:5; "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent."(ESV)
The backslider is a disobedient child of God and he will be punished for it, yet every born-again child of God who falls into sin is still God's child but disobedient.
It is true that a backslider does not deserve salvation. What a tragedy when a child of God brings reproach on the cause of Christ! It may be an outrageous sin such as drunkenness or adultery. Or it may be sins like the sins of these other backsliders - Noah, Lot, David. Or it may be a backsliding in the heart that does not seem so bad to outsiders but really results in damning souls that might have been won.
Who knows whether in God' s sight a cold heart, that does not win souls and never has the anointing for power, may be more wicked than the man who is tempted and falls into drink or blasphemy or adultery! What could be worse than letting a soul go to Hell for millions of years because of our carelessness, our love for the things of this life? But in either case, the backslider deserves nothing good from God. That means that I ought to have gone to Hell long ago! How many times I have failed God! How many vows I have broken! How many duties I have neglected!
But then the same thing could be said about every Christian in the world. We deserve nothing good from God. No one does. It would have served us right for Him to let us all go to Hell.
But, thanks be to God, my salvation is not depending upon my works. I did not deserve salvation when I got it, and I have never deserved it any thirty seconds since that time! Salvation is all of grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." And when we get to Heaven there will not be one living soul who can say, "I deserved this. I earned my way to Heaven." No, how our hearts will run over with gratitude and rejoicing when we say there that "Jesus paid it all", "All to Him I owe".
And that is true of my life today as I trusted Jesus as my Savior. Oh, thank God for His mercy that never fails! He saves every sinner who trusts in Him, and He keeps every one of His erring children. He chastises them but He does not lose them.
Not only does the backslider not deserve his salvation, but others will often judge him and think he is not saved. Had I seen Noah lying drunk and naked in his tent, I might have said, "You old hypocrite! God ought to have let you die in the flood with the rest of the drunkards!" I would have thought, perhaps, that there was no difference in Noah's lying there drunk and another man whom I saw two days ago lying drunk outside a saloon in Philadelphia.
I think my indignation would have mounted high against David had I been there and had I known how he seduced Bathsheba and had her husband killed. I might well have thought, "You hypocrite, you psalm-singing sinner! You pious adulterer and murderer! You ought to be in Hell!" Had I been the judge, I probably would have sent David on to Hell.
So with Lot down in Sodom, calling those wicked, licentious wretches "brethren." So with Peter when he cursed and denied that he even knew Christ. Doubtless, I would have thought he was unconverted. If God had left it to me, I might have sent these backsliders on to Hell. Certainly I would have doubted their sincerity when they told me that they loved God.
Oh, but I would not have known the agony in David's heart which later found expression in the pleading confession of Psalm 51! And I could not have known the distress of soul in Peter as, weeping bitterly, he went out on a cool morning of that spring day after he had denied the Savior! And I could not have known that Lot "vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds" down in Sodom, as 2 Peter 2:8 says happened.
The backslider in heart still has in him the voice of God, still has the Spirit of God dwelling in him, and is still God's child. Others will criticize and judge him and think him unsaved.
Even the backslider himself may feel that he is unsaved. In the first chapter of 2 Peter, we are urged to add certain graces so that we will not be as backsliders - barren and unfruitful. Verse 9 says: "but he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." How many Christians have forgotten that they were purged from their old sins! There are many, no doubt, who give up their hope.
So backsliders lose the joy of salvation and lose the assurance of salvation, too. How many decide that God has forsaken them! They know that they were once saved, but now that they have fallen into sin, they do not have any joy. They feel that God does not love them anymore. Only day before yesterday a sad-faced woman came to tell me how she had been so preoccupied and had so neglected prayer and the Lord's Word that she felt perhaps she had committed the unpardonable sin! In fact, of the scores of people who come to me wondering if they have committed the unpardonable sin, perhaps not one of them has, but all are backslidden Christians. If one had really committed the unpardonable sin, he would not be worried about it. He would not hear God's Spirit calling. Besides, the unpardonable sin is committed only by lost people. But backsliders often feel that God has forsaken them forever.
Thanks be to God, that is not true! God never forsakes one of His own, even though we sin grievously and even though He may punish us severely. The backslider is still God's child and is still saved.
1 John 1:9; "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."(ESV)