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Question: I am not sure I know the exact meaning of backsliding or if we ever really know when it begins. Are there different levels of backsliding....meaning turning your back on listening to God or receiving his love and blessings is one form. Is it possible to back slide several times a day? One part of the bible speaks of no redemption for those who willfully walk out of the favor of God. Yet Jesus taught his disciples to forgive 7 times or more a day if his brother repented and asked for their forgiveness. Would not our Heavenly Father also do this and more for those who love him but somehow find themselves continually messing up because of the weakness of flesh? I have come to him and left him more times than total sum of my life triple and more. Can I walk back expecting favor again.....or should I allow guilt to consume me so that I feel I am not worthy of going back because I know I will fall again no matter how hard I try. Why must staying close to God be such a battle for some, when we know very well the joy, peace and blessings we get from him? Many questions and much confusion. I was saved 23 years ago and I am still battling flesh, still battling Satan and still battling self will and finding it hard to allow God to use me the way he intends to use me. I know I need him and I know I can never run very far yet I still do it. I perplex myself!

Answer: The term "backsliding" is used almost exclusively by the King James translators and in the Prophets. Here are a few of the word definitions.

  1. Words used in KJV - backsliding, turning away
    Word meanings - turning away, turning back, apostasy, backsliding
  2. Words used in KJV - rebellious, stubborn, revolters, revolting, slide back, backslide, away, withdrew
    Word meanings - to rebel, be stubborn, be rebellious, be refractory
  3. Words used in KJV - backsliding, frowardly, variant
    Word meanings - backsliding, backturning, apostate, recusant

Text using the word "backsliding":

"The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot" (Jeremiah 3:6).

"And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also" (Jeremiah 3:8).

"And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah" (Jeremiah 3:11).

"Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, 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).

"Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion" (Jeremiah 3:14).

"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).

"Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return" (Jeremiah 8:5).

"How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man" (Jeremiah 31:22).

"Wherefore gloriest thou in the valleys, thy flowing valley, O backsliding daughter? that trusted in her treasures, saying, Who shall come unto me?" (thy...: or, thy valley floweth away) (Jeremiah 49:4)

"For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place" (Hosea 4:16).

"And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him" (none...: Heb. together they exalted not) (Hosea 11:7).

"I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him" (Hosea 14:4).

"But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear" (pulled...: Heb. they gave a backsliding shoulder) (stopped: Heb. made heavy) (Zechariah 7:11).


The obvious English definition of the term "backsliding" is applied only to God's people, not to unbelievers. In other words, the backslider must have at one point in his life been placed in a position close to God from which he has since slid back or away from and toward a more distant position from God. Backsliding does not necessarily mean a loss of salvation, but certainly may lead to it.

The New Testament is filled with warnings against a believer making compromises in his spiritual life. The one common cause of backsliding is sin allowed in one's life. The remedy is repentance and return to God. God offers hope of restoration for the backslider.

The classic example is the story of Peter's denial of Christ, his repentance and restoration.

A stern warning against the dangers of backsliding is given in Hebrews 6:4-12 and Hebrews 10:19-31. Hope is given to the backslidden church in Revelation 2:4-7 and Revelation 3:14-22.

The Holy Spirit is very persistent in calling the backslider back to a right relationship with God. It is most important to remain sensitive to His voice at all times and under all conditions. His responsibility is to reprove the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. If we refuse to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, God has no other means by which to call us back to himself. Therefore, if a person feels convicted in his heart about sin, the Holy Spirit has not given up on him yet. But he must listen and heed what the Spirit is telling him to do, before his heart becomes too hard to hear.

So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" (Also see Psalm 95:7-11.) "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." (Also see Psalm 95:7,8.) "Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And wwith whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? (Or disbelieved) So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it" (Hebrews 3:7-19).

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