What does it mean to backslide? Let’s look into this question according to the Bible.
How to Avoid Backsliding
The Apostle Paul admonishes Timothy, his son in the faith, to avoid backsliding. Paul advises him:
“Keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:19-20).
Paul doesn’t tell us what these backsliders did, but he does tell us how to prevent it.
New Believers are All Babes in Christ
Christian salvation begins when a person believes in Jesus’ Name and is born again. All newly born-again people are what the Apostle Paul calls babes in Christ:
“Brothers, I could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to worldly, even as to babes in Christ” (1 Corinthian 3:1).
Everyone starts the Christian life as a baby, and that’s normal; it’s not a blameworthy moral deficiency. But that babe in Christ is expected to mature in the faith, just as a newborn baby needs to become a responsible adult. When someone remains an infant, it is blameworthy.
Believers are Expected to Grow
One example of how believers grow is by reading God’s word, which teaches us about God and our relationship with Him.
About what God is like.
About how God sent Jesus to provide salvation by dying on the cross for our sins and rising again.
About how to partner with God to advance His Kingdom.
About how to discern good from evil and right from wrong.
But this spiritual growth is not automatic. People who’ve believed in Jesus can still choose right or wrong actions. When believers consistently make morally good choices, they become better at making good choices. They develop their conscience (Hebrews 5:14). Then, when faced with future moral issues that involve discerning the best option, they’re prepared to choose wisely.
When we don’t grow or we make poor choices, we become carnal and remain babes. The author of Hebrews explains this to his readers:
“For though by now you should be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God and have come to need milk rather than solid food. Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a baby” (Hebrews 5:12-13).
Why Christians Backslide
One of the most common reasons Christians backslide is to avoid persecution. Unbelievers often look down on believers and don’t appreciate the stands we take because of our biblical morality. So, believers are unfriended because others feel uncomfortable around us, and some of us backslide by compromising our standards
Paul says some try to avoid the shame of the cross:
“It is those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh … only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:12).
Christians also like to have fun, and some pleasures are sinful. Some start innocently but these activities eventually spiral out of control. There are ways to enjoy life without sin, but Christians caught up in or addicted to immoral activities can backslide when we allow sinful pleasures to rule our lives.
Christians have the same emotional needs as non-believers. So, losing friends because we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior hurts. Therefore, some of us backslide and keep our faith in Jesus secret. Most non-Christians want to believe they’re either good enough to make it to heaven or that believing in Jesus is just one of many ways to heaven, not the only way. Believers can live more comfortably if we keep silent about our faith. But if we do, we backslide.
Christians are born again as babes in Christ, but we’re expected to grow in our faith.
Christian growth is not automatic; we must learn about God and develop our conscience.
Christians backslide when we silence our testimony or get seduced by worldly pleasures.
Backsliding is not keeping the faith or a good conscience, which means a believer can reverse the expected growing process and revert to being a babe in Christ.