Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 19, 1961

Admonition To Backsliders

Ralph R. Givens, Oceanside, California

"Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, 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 forever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord. Turn, 0 backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion." (Jer. 3:12-14)

In these words the faithful prophet Jeremiah speaks of the continual backsliding of God's people in his day. The sad condition that existed then is also found in spiritual Israel today. The work of the Lord is hindered in many congregations because of backsliders. Many people get the wrong conception of the church and the power of the gospel because of the backslider. It is no wonder that the Holy Spirit says, "For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first. For it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after knowing it, to turn back to the holy commandment delivered unto them. It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had been washed to wallowing in the mire." (2 Pet. 2:20-22)

One may often sin and not be a backslider. Every sin is not a "willful" sin. One may be overtaken in a trespass; (Gal. 6:1) he may sin ignorantly. (Heb. 5:2) A backslider is one who willfully departs from God; he knows that he is astray but will do nothing about it. "Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God: but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called today; lest anyone of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Heb. 3:12, 13)

There are many who lived the life of a Christian for many years, made a great deal of spiritual progress and then turned back into the world. Not many escape the corruption that is in the world and come to Christ in obedience to the gospel. Those who do and then turn back into the life of sin are doing more harm to the blood bought church of Christ than the rank sinner who has never obeyed the gospel of Christ.

The fate of Lot's wife is a fearful warning to every child of God who is tempted to turn back from walking in the right way. Jesus said, "Remember Lot's wife." She is to be remembered as one who met an awful doom because of too much interest in that which was left behind. While running the Christian race the child of God must be constantly on guard against the enticements of the devil that cause him to look with longing upon the sinful pleasures of the world. "Look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain." Let us not even slow down in the race for the shining city of God which we see before us on the mountains of eternity, Let us not encourage the devil by a weak faith.

Becoming a backslider is a gradual process that does not take place overnight. The backslider is one who has "drifted" away from God. This slipping away from God is caused by not drawing close enough to him; and we draw close to him by hearing his word. "No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh to me." (John 6:44, 45) "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them." (Heb. 2:1) Faith comes by hearing God's word. (Rom. 10:17) And faith is made stronger by hearing the word. Therefore let the Christian study the Bible every day, for a strong faith guarantees an obedient life. Strong faith makes it easy to overcome the temptations of Satan and remember that God has said, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it." (1 Cor. 10:13)

When molten lava covered the old city of Pompeii, four prisoners with their feet fast in stocks were overtaken by the flood. They could hear the roar of the lava. Nearer and nearer the wave of death came until it spread to the door of the cell. In his fright the jailor fled, deaf to the cries of the men he had been appointed to guard. There was the door of escape, which the jailor had left open, and on the threshold of the doorway lay the key which the jailor had dropped in his flight. The key would unlock the stocks which held their feet so fast. If only they could reach the key! But it was ever just beyond their reach. It was mockery to their hopes. They fought and shrieked and tore their flesh in madness until the fumes from the distant volcano filled the cell and put an end to it all. And there lay the key just beyond their reach.

How like that old prison cell of Pompeii is sin. Fast in the stocks of evil, men are bound by the devil. They see the fateful approach of death and begin to think of a means of escape. Must they forever remain in bondage? No, there is a way of escape for every man through Jesus Christ our Lord. Faith that moves to obedience is the power that frees us from sin. (Rom. 6:17, 18)

Suppose those men in the prison cell had reached the key, opened the stocks and set themselves free, what would they have done next? Does anyone think they would have turned back and locked themselves fast again? Then what of the one who having been made free from the bondage of sin by the blood of Christ so far forgets his sense of values that he turns back again to the bondage of sin. Be warned my brother or sister that a fate more terrible than death by molten lava awaits you in that condition. We plead with you. THINK!