What are the chief causes of backsliding?

What backsliding is NOT....

    • Apostasy
      • The true believer is a new creation with a new heart and spirit. 2 Cor 5:17.
      • The OVERALL trend in his life is fruit-bearing, holiness, perseverance. Gal 5:22
      • Some people claim to be believers, & have many of their characteristics. But they cease to make spiritual progress, draw back, & walk out on the faith.
      • Such people never had change of nature. They are lost. They are apostates. They are described in Luke 8:5-15, Jn 15:1-8, 2 Peter 2:20-22, Heb 6:4-8 etc.. Examples of apostates are Esau; King Saul; Judas Iscariot.
      • They enter into a settled state, and cannot be renewed again to repentance. The backslider is entirely different - as we shall see.

    • Doubt
      • The man doubted that God was his God - yet spontaneously cried to Him, desired Him, longed to glorify Him. He doubted; but his heart was right. Psalm 88.
      • John the Baptist had doubts about the Christ Whom he had recognised - but you would hardly consider him to be a backslider ! Matt 11:2-15.
      • Thomas could not believe Jesus was risen, but still gathered with the disciples and was soon after worshipping his Lord and God. John 21:24-29.

    • Falling.
      • No believer is free from sin. Romans 7:21-25. 1 John 1:8.
      • This does not alter the fact that the OVERALL trend in his life is to holiness.
      • Every major character in the Bible has at least one sin recorded in its pages. But to say that most of them were backsliders would be untrue and unfair.

    • Immaturity.
      • We enter the spiritual life by the new birth. John 3:3, 5-6, .2 Pet 1:23.
      • We are then as babes, who need to grow to maturity. 1 Pet 2:2. Eph 4:14.
      • But some born-again people remain babes, and do not grow to maturity. They display the instabilities, frivolities and characteristics of children. 1 Cor 3:1-4, Eph 4:14-16, Heb 5:11-6:3.
      • Such people are a greater grief than backsliders.
      • A baby who does not grow up breaks its parents' hearts far more than a growing child who is ill !!

What backsliding IS.

    • It only happens to believers, not counterfeit believers
    • It is a VERY RARE condition. Exceptional. You would be hard-pressed to find half-a-dozen individual backsliders in the Bible.
    • It is where a believer Sins, but does not repent at once. He ceases to walk with God for some time. His love is cold; his desires for God small; his obedience failing. He ceases to be what he once was
    • It is never a permanent thing. Eventually he is renewed again to repentance ( unlike the apostate ) and returns to his God.

Some examples

  • Samson. Judges 13-16. He forgot his calling followed his passions; and forsook his country. "He did not know that the Lord was departed from him". 16:20. But returned to he Lord before his triumphal death, Judges 16:28.
  • David 2 Samuel 11-12 He forgot his calling; followed his passions by sinning with Bathsheba; murdered Uriah; did not walk with God for a year; - but returned to the Lord after Nathan's rebuke, and confessing his sin returned in repentance. Psalm 51.
  • Jonah. Jonah 1-2. He tried to turn his back on his calling, fled from God's presence; was arrested by His strange providence; and repented and returned to the Lord in the fish's belly'.

Some things to note.

    • backsliding starts when a person ceases to be vitally aware ( deliberately or otherwise) of what God has called them to be.
    • The nation of Israel's backslidings are constantly attributed to its forgetting of its unique relationship with God. Exodus 32:4. Deut 4:7-9. Deut 8:11-20, Psalm 78:10-11..
    • That is why in the New Testament we are first of all called to REMEMBER what God has done for us, before we are urged to walk in His ways. Romans 12:1-2, Eph 4:1, Col 3:1-10.


    • the backslider may go very far away from God - into immorality, murder, deceit, yet in his heart he cannot finally forsake the Lord.
    • He is immediately restored on repentance. see 1 John 1:9.

To prevent backsliding, you must keep what God has done for you constantly in your mind. The means of grace in Acts 2:41-47 are the Scriptural way to do this.

    • Those who profess (or have professed ) to be believers, but who are not walking with God tonight, must solemnly realise :-
      • if you stay as you are now, you will be lost. Hebrews 12:14. The fact that you could not be renewed again to repentance will demonstrate that you are apostatising.
      • if you return to the Lord, there is unconditional pardon awaiting you. Isaiah 55: 6-7, Jer 3:12-14. 1 John 1:9.
      • The fact that you return will demonstrate that you are God's child, who was backsliding.


    • Return unto me, and I will return unto you, said the Lord of hosts " Malachi 3:7.