As surprising as it may seem, many do not think that backsliding is a Biblical term. In Old Testament times, backsliding was a continual problem of God’s people as shown in Jeremiah 8:5, which states, “Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.” To backslide is to turn away from God’s truth and return to one’s former wicked life.
There are many warnings in the Bible concerning the danger of backsliding. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 10:12: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Even Paul himself was not immune to the danger of backsliding. In I Corinthians 9:27, Paul wrote, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
In guarding against backsliding, it is necessary to determine its cause. A little boy trying to explain why he fell out of bed said, “I just went to sleep too close to where I got in.” This simple illustration helps explain why some fall away from Christ after becoming a Christian. Upon entering the kingdom, it is necessary that one grow spiritually. It is sad that many refuse to grow, but remain close to where they entered the kingdom. We are exhorted in Hebrews 6:6 to “go on unto perfection.” Likewise, we are admonished in II Peter 1:5-7 to add to our faith: virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. By growing in these qualities, we will guarantee that we will not “go to sleep too close to where we got in.” In fact, II Peter 1:10 states, “if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”
Many refuse to grow because they remain closely tied to things in the world. In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of some who allow the “care(s) of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, (to) choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). To avoid this, we must sever our ties to the world and turn our full attention to spiritual growth. By pressing on to perfection, we will not “slide back” into the ways of the world which we left when we became Christians.