Updated: Jul 23, 2022
Backsliding, or the principles behind the term, is not ever used to describe a true born again believer in Gods Word. Those that do so, are propagating a false teaching that goes against Gods Word in more ways than one. It lends support to a subtle form of false religion rampant today that associates easy believism and quick prayerism, and its subsequent Christian imitation, deception and fruitless lives, with true conversion. Such are mere pretenders and imitators (like Judas, Balaam, Simon the sorcerer, Demas, the false believers and false disciples in Jn 2 and 6, etc), just like worldly nominal “Christians” who are merely “Christian” by name.
Backsliding is not characteristic of true believers and is never ascribed to true believers in the Bible, not even saved people that sinned after the similitude of King David (no mention of the term or even the principle or concept behind it anywhere in 2 Sam 11-12 or Ps 51, or any other Scripture reference to David).
Here is some solid Biblical proof that we know “backsliding” refers ONLY to lost people:
1. In Scripture, none of the sixteen occasions the word or its derivates show up does it ever refer to saved people but always to lost people and almost entirely to Israel as a lost nation: Pr 14:14; Jer 2:19; 3:6, 8, 11-12, 14, 22; 5:6; 8:5; 14:7; 31:22; 49:4; Hos 4:16; 11:7; 14:1-4. The NT is completely silent on the term itself and the principles behind it. For such a “prominent” subject of the average preacher today, one that occupies a fair share of their time, you’d think the NT would have something to say about it. But nada. Not even one mention, including by the Lord Jesus. And of course there is a very important reason for that: it’s only applicable to the lost Jew and nation of Israel.
2. The very definition of backsliding, translated from the Hebrew “shobab,” meaning to apostatize, to turn back to an idolatrous life; the behaviour of the apostate; one who falls from the faith and practice of religion (Webster’s 1828), and we certainly know no apostate is ever saved (2 Pet 2:17-22; Heb 3:7-4:11; 10:38-39; 1 Jn 2:19; Jn 6:66). The backslider is as the dog and pig who returns to the ways of his former life before making a profession (Is 56:10-11; Matt 7:6; 2 Pet 2:17-22; Pr 26:11).
3. The term refers to lost Israel who did not repent and believe what the prophets and priests preached, just like those in the wilderness and historically after (2 Cor 3:6-18; Ac 7:51-53). They always had the Word of God close by, even in their mouth, God always working with them and very nigh to them, and they always had great advantage and opportunity to be converted (Rom 10:1-21), God sending them prophets and priests and kings, and all things spiritual came through them (Rom 3:1-2; 9:3-5) — but they wouldn’t (De 30:11-20; 31; Matt 23:33-39; Rom 9:6-33; 10:1-8, 18-21; 11:1-25). They apostatized from the truth and light that had been revealed to them.
4. Some use Pr 14:14 as alleged support for saved backsliders: “the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways,” but that is not referencing saved people. Note that it’s in his heart that he is filled with his own ways thus not the ways of God, revealing the condition of his heart. The word “filled” refers to the fullness of the backslider. He is full of himself, not God, the very definition of an apostate, turning from the truth. He denies the Lord who bought Him (2 Pet 2:1; Ju 1:4). The backslider is not filled with God’s ways but his own, and God’s Word is clear those who don’t do the will of God are unsaved (Matt 7:21; Lk 6:46; 1 Jn 2:17; Matt 12:50; Heb 10:36; 1 Pet 4:1-2).
5. “Backsliding” completely contradicts the Biblical doctrine of true salvation, of true born again believers who do not backslide, they do not go backwards, but always move forward (Ac 7:39-53; Jn 6:60-69) and upward (Col 3:1-17). The affections of the truly saved are in heaven, not in earth (Col 3:1-3). Yes, sadly, they can lust after the flesh and sin (Rom 13:14; Eph 4:20-32), but they live in the spirit which has been quickened (Eph 2:1-5), they are spiritually minded and not carnally (fleshly) minded ever again (Rom 8:1-14), for they “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16), and they live after the Spirit Who indwells them, not after their flesh or the world (1 Pet 4:1-2; 1 Cor 2:12; 6:19-20), for their flesh has been circumcised from the heart/spirit which has been quickened, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;” (Col 2:13; Rom 2:28-29; De 30:6) and therefore they characteristically walk in the Spirit, for their flesh, the carnal nature and mind, the old man, is crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20; Rom 6:6; 8:1-16) and dead (Rom 6:6-11). Henceforth, sin has no power or dominion over the saint anymore (Rom 6:1-23), nor is the desire for it there any longer (Rom 6:1-2, 11-22; Ti 2:11-14). They are freed from the power and penalty of sin starting immediately at salvation (Rom 5:21–8:39).
The position and practice (which are inseparable) of the true believer is always that of increasing holiness, godliness, and righteousness (Ti 2:11-14; 3:3-9)—unlike the heretic who wilfully chooses false doctrine “Knowing that he that is such is subverted [twisted, corrupted], and sinneth, being condemned of himself” (Ti 3:10-11)— and obedience to God’s Word (Jn 14:23-24; 1 Jn 2:3-5) since God dwells in His saints, putting in them love for Him (De 30:6; Rom 5:5) and fear of Him, since He has made “an everlasting covenant with them,” wherein God promises “that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” (Jer 32:40).
They will not depart. They will not fall alway. They will not backslide. God never stops working in His children nor does He leave any of them to themselves (1 Cor 1:6-9; Phil 1:6; 2:12-13; 1 Th 2:13; 5:23-24; 2 Th 2:12-17; 3:2-3; 2 Tim 1:12; 4:18; Heb 13:20-21; Jer 32:37-41). God consistently “worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13). When the saint sins he is immediately chastened by God (Heb 12:5-11; 1 Cor 11:28-32). If he doesn’t respond to God’s chastening, he may suffer and even die (1 Cor 11:26-32; see 2 Sam 12:13), but that doesn’t mean he is going backward/backsliding. That’s just God dealing with a child whom He loves (Pr 3:11-12; Heb 12:5-11).
6. The actual backsliders according to Scripture are lost people feigning faith, apostates, false teachers, false pretending “believers” (Jn 6:60-66; 2 Pet 2:1-22; Rom 16:17-18; 2 Jn 1:9-11; 3 Jn 1:9-11), heretics (Ti 3:10-11; 1 Tim 6:3-5), wolves in sheep clothing (Matt 7:15-20; Ac 20:28-31), false pretenders with feigned faith (Ac 8:13-24; Jn 6:23-25; 6:60-66), hypocrites (Matt 23; 7:1-5), professors but not possessors (Ti 1:10-16), seed that fell on wayward or thorny or stony ground (Matt 13:19-22) who are left to themselves like bastards (Heb 12:6-8; cf. Jn 2:23-25; 1 Jn 2:19), that go backwards as we see both in the NT and OT.
Example in the NT: “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb 10:38-39).
Example in the OT: “But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.” (Jer 7:23-24).
7. The biggest issue with using the word “backsliding” is not even with the use of the term itself (although it is obviously a critical issue to misuse and abuse a Bible word when it means something entirely differen, behaviour more in line with the wicked who wrest God’s Word—2 Pet 3:16-17) but with the actual philosophy behind it. It is Keswick currency, like “lukewarm” (Rev 3:16-18) and “carnal,” (Rom 8:5-9), terms used to describe people that are actually unsaved and may likely never be saved (Pr 1:20-31; Phil 3:18-19; Rom 16:17-18; Gal 2:4-5; Heb 12:16-17), yet treated as saved, making them two-fold children of hell.
So when someone like Reg Kelly claims that all Christians are backslidden, and that he himself believes and practices backsliding and lives in a perpetual backslidden state— all of which is according to his very own words (“Esther Series: Secrets to Soul-Winning,” June 17, 2018), what are we to make of that? Is he implicating himself as an apostate, as one that has turned from the truth?