Q: #549. What does it mean when the Bible says someone is "backsliding?"
A: The word “backsliding,” or a form of that word, is used in 17 places in the Old Testament (13 in Jeremiah, 3 in Hosea, 1 in Proverbs). Backsliding (Heb. “mshubah“) basically means the following: “to fall away from or forsake the truth,” “to fall back into a sin,” or “to fall away from God.” It can be considered synonymous with the word “apostasy” (Gr. “apostasia“), which is found twice in the New Testament in (Acts 21:21) and (2 Th 2:3). In most of the Old Testament uses, it is speaking about the backsliding of the Israelites.
If one believes in “eternal security” (as I do), then the backslider remains a part of God’s family, but his backsliding will break close fellowship with God. (Sin breaks our “communion” with God, but not our “union” with God.) In order to restore this close relationship, we need to repent and turn from whatever is causing our backsliding, and pray that the Holy Spirit will empower us to be where we need to be.
God is waiting for us with open arms if we will but turn to Him. Following are some encouraging things that God said to Israel if they would but repent and turn back to Him:
(Jer 3:14) Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you…
(Jer 3:22) Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.
(Jer 3:12) …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.
(Hos 14:4) I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: For mine anger is turned away from him.
A final verse from Proverbs:
(Prov 14:14) The backslider in his heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.