I think the important word here is ‘true’. Many people profess Christ but that does not make them a true believer. Many people go to church but that does not make that person a true believer no more than living in a garage makes you a car.

We can see classic examples of false profession in the parable of the sower. In Mark 4, Jesus gives four examples of how someone responds to the word of God when it is sown. This includes church goers and professing Christians. The examples of these seeds sown are as follows:

  1. The ones sown by the wayside – The word that was sown in their heart is immediately taken away by Satan
  2. The ones sown on stony ground – These immediately receive the word with gladness but they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble
  3. The ones sown among thorns – These are the ones who hear the word but the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
  4. The ones sown on good ground – These are those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.

Now obviously, only God truly knows the heart of a person but EVERYBODY who ‘backslides’ can be put in the first three categories. We know there will be a lot of professing Christians at judgment because Jesus said that MANY will be surprised when he turns them away (Matthew 7:21-23)

Dr John McArthur answers this question thus:

Certainly true Christians can backslide, if by that you mean they can regress into a period of spiritual dullness or disobedience. Those who do so will bring God’s discipline (Hebrews 12:6-11). That’s because God disciplines those who are true sons (v. 8).

But no, if you are thinking of backsliding as a perpetual state of willful rebellion or ungodly indifference on the part of one who professes faith in Christ. That situation is a sign of false profession (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 3:4-10).

  • The word backsliding is used two ways in Scripture. It is found only in Old Testament references to the nation of Israel (Jeremiah 3:22; 31:22; 49:4; Hosea 4:16; 11:7; 14:4, KJV). Sometimes it speaks of backsliding as the action of unregenerate people who turn stubbornly away from God (cf. Jeremiah 8:5). In that sense the Word cannot be used to describe true Christians.
  • Other times true believers are said to backslide (Jeremiah 14:7). All believers go through times when they do not grow or are set back in their growth by sin–they seem to be sliding backwards like a calf on a muddy slope (cf. Hosea 4:16, KJV). In that sense the word could apply to true believers.

Some people confuse this with ‘once saved, always saved so I can do what I want and still go to heaven‘. Paul put it like this

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Rom 6:1-2)

The fact is, if you think like that, then that could be a good indication that you are not truly born again in the first place. If this is the case, it would be a good idea to examine yourself to see if you are truly in the faith. (2 Cor 13:54)

Related Post:

How do you know that you are saved?

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Comments
  1. Michelle says:

    I’ve been posting on this subject for some time. People are so confused about what the bible has to say, and are so offended when we speak the truth in love.

    RC Sproul puts it simply in his book, Pleasing God.

    Keep speaking the truth. Blessings to you. ;)

  2. Sicarii says:

    Thought-provoking. I had thought extensively about this prior to your post.

    I now classify those days when I backslid as days when I wasn’t really a saved Christian, only one in name. When one is brutally honest with himself, this is very very true.

    Shalom!

  3. amplifiedwisdom says:

    yes! even paul backslide, he said “i die daily”. i like your posts here especially your name “realchristianity” keep it up! hoping i’ll make it to ur links? God bless!

    • Annie Walker says:

      Dear friend Paul did not backslide. The reason why he said that he beated his flesh daily is because thing came in his mind that he wanted to do. instead he prayer to God to deliverhim from thoes thoughts

    • Blob Williford says:

      Read the context of Galatians 2:20. Backsliding is not addressed here nor in the NT…..

  4. 1arabella says:

    I ask you to kindly answer me some questions
    1 Is the devil a prototype backslider, or is it more appropriate to call it fell-away ?
    2 does this give him fatherhood over backsliders and/or those who fell away ?
    3 do backsliders and the fallen-away come back – 2Pet 2,22
    how often the pig will be washed anew or, very unlikely, how often can a dog eat the vomited vomit ?
    4 To take Ted Haggard for an example of a man having continually sinned, is it correct to call his profession false ?
    My answer is yes, but why is he supposed to be RE-stored,
    when he was never “stored” ?
    5 Give me please some characteristics of a nowaday false brother who slipped in secretly ( Gal 2 )

    Thank you for taking the time to answer.

  5. Alan Higgins says:

    1. I think Satan is a different kettle of fish as angels don’t need to be saved or redeemed as such. Hence the reason the topic is can Christians truly backslide

    2.Anybody who does not repent and put their trust in Jesus Christ has the devil as their father in any case

    3. Taken from the Barnes commentary which can explain it better then me
    But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb – The meaning of the proverbs here quoted is, that they have returned to their former vile manner of life. Under all the appearances of reformation, still their evil nature remained, as really as that of the dog or the swine, and that nature finally prevailed. There was no thorough internal change, any more than there is in the swine when it is washed, or in the dog. This passage, therefore, would seem to demonstrate that there never had been any real change of heart, and of course there had been no falling away from true religion. It should not, therefore, he quoted to prove that true Chrisfinns may fall from grace and perish. The dog and the swine had never been anything else than the dog and the swine, and these persons had never been anything else than sinners.

    This passage is often quoted to prove “the possibility of falling from grace, and from a very high degree of it too.” But it is one of the last passages in the Bible that should be adduced to prove that doctrine. The true point of this passage is to show that the persons referred to never “were changed;” that whatever external reformation might have occurred, their nature remained the same; and that when they apostatized from their outward profession, they merely acted out their nature, and showed that in fact there had been “no” real change. This passage will prove – what there are abundant facts to confirm – that persons may reform externally, and then return again to their former corrupt habits; it can never be made to prove that one true Christian will fall away and perish. It will also prove that we should rely on no mere external reformation, no outward cleansing, as certain evidence of piety. Thousands who have been externally reformed have ultimately shown that they. had no religion, and there is nothing in mere outward reformation that can suit us for heaven. God looks upon the heart; and it is only the religion that has its seat there, that can secure our final salvation.

    4. As I said, only God truly knows the heart. People say he was ‘restored’ but I go by scripture alone

    5. See http://realchristianity.wordpress.com/2007/12/06/how-do-you-know-that-you-are-saved/ to know if a person is truly saved. A false brother will NOT display these characteristics

  6. 1arabella says:

    Dear Alan,
    thank you,
    …”and it is only the religion…that can secure our final salvation”
    ????
    please explain, what you mean by ‘religion’.

  7. Alan Higgins says:

    As stated this was a quote from the Barnes commentary and if I am honest, I personally would not choose those words. So let me change it a bit (as I dont like being called religious)

    “Thousands who have been externally reformed have ultimately shown that they had not reformed internally and there is nothing in mere outward reformation that can suit us for heaven. God looks upon the heart; and it is only the internal change though being born again that has its seat there, that can secure our final salvation.”

    By the way, thanks for stopping by my blog

    Alan

  8. Stephen Thompson says:

    Hey Alan,

    This is a great site, God bless you for the work He has given you.

    I was raised in a fundamental baptist atmosphere but my family turned to southern baptist when i was 16. I am now 31 with my own wife and four children. I have remained in the SBC for some time now although I disagree heartily with its lack of concern for proper Christian behavior. They pretty much have the mentality that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, just human. I beg to differ. I believe God expects us to strive for perfection through Christ. God knows we will never attain perfection until His return, but I believe we should guard ourselves diligently and focus on our growth and devotion and god expects our diligence.
    Since being in my church, many sins have taken place and I have committed many sins. (I didn’t want to move where I am now when my parents forced me to back when I was 16, and I decided to rebel and commit every sin I wasn’t allowed to commit back home). I have gone through several salvation experiences because I was so lost in sin that I thought I lost my previous salvation. I sought counseling on this and was directed to 2 Peter 1:9 saying I was saved the first time but my sin has caused me to feel my guilt again and forget about my cleansing from Christ. I still struggle to this day with my salvation and keep falling into the same sins of pornography, adultery and angry outbursts.
    I do love the brethren but often judge them as false brethren because of their lack of concern for true Christianity that demands we step out of our comfort zone and follow Christ. I have done that many times but am looked at a goody-goody or hypocrite because I get easily discouraged and fall away.
    I was raised in hardcore Christianity and that’s what I expect from true believers. But at the same time I fall away. Is this falling away coming from my failing under Satanic attack or am I not really saved to begin with? I pride myself on scriptural knowledge and I say pride myself with tongue-in-cheek because true Christianity is not proud, but you get my point. I was raised in Christian school and sunday school and therefore have a pretty good background but I get hung up on this saved or not saved issue ALL the time. I can’t seem to get victory. I believe my judgment to my fellow brethren is my practicing discernment because they don’t seem to strive for the faith and weed sin out…just allow it and sweep it away if it happens. I want to battle sin and conquer the enemy with a hatred for the devil and his minions. I hate falling into sin, but it’s so easy. Can you make any sense out of this Alan? I am very distraught right now and could use all the prayer from you and the fellow readers on this site.
    Stephen

  9. Alan Higgins says:

    First of all thanks for stopping by and thanks for being honest as I am sure there are many people who are in the same boat as you. You are doing exactly what the Bible says and that is to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.(2 Cor 13:5) Have a read at my past post at http://realchristianity.wordpress.com/2007/12/06/how-do-you-know-that-you-are-saved. I think a lot of the things that you have spoken about will be answered in that post. Your relationship with sin will be a good pointer. As it states in the post, when you do sin, do you hate it and abhor it or do you try and justify it. I have my own personal struggles like everyone else so please do not feel you are on your own

    I would also advise listening to the message true and false conversion which can be found at http://www.livingwaters.com/learn/trueandfalse.htm

    Were you a false convert in the past or a true convert with struggles. Only God truly knows but that is neither here or there. You are still alive today so make sure you are saved today and then you can look back later on and to know if you was realle saved or not. Make sure you have a correct understanding of the gospel. You can read my message to non Christians at http://realchristianity.wordpress.com/a-message-to-non-christians/

    In regards to some of your struggles (which I have also had), can I advise you make every attempt to cut those things out of your life. You can go to http://www.x3watch.com which is accountability software designed to help with online integrity. When you browse the internet and access a site which may contain questionable material, the program will record the site name. A person of your choice (an accountability partner) will receive an email containing all questionable sites you may have visited. This information is meant to encourage open and honest conversation between friends and help you be more accountable to your online adventures

    If it is possible to block Porn channels via a PIN, get a friend to change it for you and ask them not to reveal the PIN to you. Maybe cancel your cable, satellite subscription if need be

    Matthew 5:30 says And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you

    Please let me know if I have addressed your issues and please keep in touch. If you prefer, email me at alanhiggins@hotmail.com

    God Bless

    Alan

  10. glenn mcnease says:

    read the last call from chick publications and read the Exposition of the even church ages by William branahm

  11. DB says:

    What about christians who read science stuff that makes them question God, but in return seek God, but find He’s silent and are thinking about being deists? Is that truedly backsliding or have they fully have to let go of the Christian God for it to be true? After all Darwinism, Dawkins books can hit a Christian pretty hard, like new ones.

  12. Alan Higgins says:

    DB, if we all christians are honest, we have all questioned God at one time or another. That is not the same as ‘a perpetual state of willful rebellion or ungodly indifference on the part of one who professes faith in Christ’. Now if you believe in the authority of scripture, then you cannot be a deist so is the question, do you believe that scripture is the final authority? I am starting a series tomorrow called ‘Is Christianity true?’ Nobody is asking you to throw out your brains. Examine the facts of Christianity and you will find it very compelling. God bless you

    Alan

  13. Laura says:

    DB

    True science agrees with the Bible.

    Evolution is a theory, it is not true science and has no REAL sceintific basis.

    The big bang theory, is just that – it’s not science.

    Research long and hard, the real evidence for and against evolution and creation. You’ll find that scripture has true authority. History and science are in harmony with the Word of God.

    Secondly my advice would be not to read Dawkin’s books as a ‘new Christian’ – his claims are closer to fiction than fact, many scientists refute his work. Question his motives and search for evidence on his claims (as I’m guessing you’ve already read some of his work.) But beware any author like Dawkins, atleast until you have strong roots in the faith and are well read.

    As for Darwinism, it has many atrocities to answer for and is evil to the core. Avoid.

  14. Pastor Mark Quick says:

    It is most important to reconcile Scripture and interpret Scripture with Scripture. The Bible does speak of the assurance of a believer’s salvation. But it also speaks very loudly about the need to remain faithful to Christ and the dreadful consequences of failing to do so.

    I am going to list Scriptures that speak to people who are believers. They are addressed to people who are clearly saved. They are Scriptures that clearly tell us to hold on and remain faithful.

    I believe I am secure in Christ. I believe no one can separate me from the love of God. I believe no one can pluck me from his hand. I believe nothing can separate me from him – except one thing – me. And I believe this based on the Scriptures that follow.

    Revelation 3:5
    Revelation 2:26
    Hebrews 3:14-15
    John 15:1-6
    1 Corinthians 15:1-2
    Colossians 1:21-23
    1 John 2:24-26
    Ezekiel 18:24

    There is no argument, absolutely none, that these verses are speaking to a person who has genuinely believed. And these verses challenge us to remain faithful and warn of the dire consequences of failing to do so.

    All the debate about whether someone was really saved in the first place is a side issue. The verses above are speaking to people who are believers and they are telling us to remain faithful to the end. All the other aside, we are told to remain in Christ – indicating there is a choice in the matter.

    -Pastor Mark Quick
    Sugar Land, Texas

  15. mary ciocca says:

    im going through same thing as
    Stephen Thompson i was raised strict baptist i went to christian baptist school mother made me attend church 4 times a week
    i was saved when i was 13 i they used in the school we had to memorize the bible i used to know the bible very well i stopped going to church when i got older and back slideded for a long time coming back to church once in a while i seems like it gets harder and harder each time i go back to church now i cry when im in church when i go to church it brings emotions to me and i cry in church i cant seem to stop crying when im in church it almost discouraging me from going to church or reading the bible yes i am struggling whit my faith i try not to worry about it but put it in gods hands but at the same time i feel i must make some steps im trying to read my bible .but its not touching my heart. i church to go to church and its not helping

  16. Alan Higgins says:

    Mary thanks for your comments. Please read the first three paragraphs that I gave to Steve. Maybe you just need to start from scratch and pour out your heart out to God and ask him to surround you with people who can encourage you

  17. Lee says:

    hi alan…. Say i became a christian back in my teenage years and was really going for it but over time and through college and work the fire kinda died down, and I started to do things i shouldn’t, going where i shouldn’t.. and i know its wrong, but how do i get out of it?

    On one hand, the church and the song says ‘all you have to do is cry out to jesus, cry out louder, get on your knees longer, go to church more often, read the bible more often and he will come and save you’. You of yourself cannot do anything until God comes and decide to relieve you of your torment and give you a pure heart. So the ball is kind of in god’s court.

    on the other hand i’ve heard preachers thunder, ‘You have to choose holiness!, until you knowingly and consciously choose it you are not free and the ball is in your court’

    My question is i know i’m supposed to do all of it, and I do it. But when i read the bible, get on my knees and plead, 5 minutes into it i feel such a hypocrite knowing that i will be like the dog ‘going back to the vomit’ despite all the pleading to be set free. So i thought why be such a hypocrite, if i’m going to sin why should i be praying or reading the bible and acting all holy.

    Yet on the other hand I feel that if i just keep up with praying and pleading somehow just someway I’ll be miraculously set free from my sinful lifestyle. But I can’t seem to last through that pleading, i’ll go a week really reading the bible and wanting to get answers from it, then i’ll stop for half a year. i thought i should stop my farce of pleading and praying and maybe someday the true heart and intention to be set free will miraculously come upon me, then i’ll go about trying to live a holy life.

    Which begs the question I have a free will, but how exactly do I choose to have that heart that wants to change?

    Am i supposed to choose it knowingly and consciously until god is pleased with my choice, or am i supposed to pray and plead and afflict myself until god gives it to me, or maybe god has intended that i live this way in my sin, learn my lessons and then at 45 he sovreignly gives me the heart to change, or will god see that i’m incorrigible (even though i have earnestly sought redemption for many years through many means), decide i’m quite a useless brat and never give me this heart to change and i’ll be condemned to hell?

  18. Alan Higgins says:

    Lee, please see http://realchristianity.wordpress.com/2007/12/06/how-do-you-know-that-you-are-saved/

    Examine youself to see if you are a true or false convert at http://realchristianity.wordpress.com/2008/08/17/true-and-false-conversion/

    This should answer your questions thoroughly

  19. Greg says:

    read your artical not so sure i agree .Firstly on the good soil stoney soil etc the seed is the word of god and here I’m refering to christians and the soil is the condition of the heart to recieve.remembering to divide the word of god who was Jesus talking to and when,it was to the Jews under the law and it was before the cross. the word states if u believe with heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord u shall be saved.Not maybe but shall be saved u cant earn salvation if its a free gift from God Sins payed for past present and future .The word after the cross [finished work of christ] says we are the rightousness of God in Christ Jesus we need to remind ourselves daily what jesus has done for us and stand on his finished work, girde yourself with the belt of truth and the body armour of gods righteousness keep your eyes on Jesus stop being sin conscience we will never measure up on our own merit but in christ we sure do bless u all

  20. Alan Higgins says:

    Greg, you are correct, the seed is the word of God and the four scenarios is how people respond to that very word. Even though the bible states that you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth, that is not the only things you must do. You must look at the whole of scripture. There also must be repentance. I totally agree with you when you say that we cannot earn salvation and our works cannot get us in and I know we will always fall short but we should NEVER stop being sin conscience

  21. Zoe says:

    I believe that once we are saved we are saved. The only unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. I do think that we have to answer to Jesus for our life. I certainly don;t want to be at the back of the line with my head hung low. We are saved through the grace of God when we believe. And belief, yes is useless to God if we are living in a life of sin. I think this is why the bible makes it clear that living a riteous life is important if we want to be walking in POWER and truely love Jesus, we should want to. I think its a clever tactic however that Satan uses telling us-

    ” hooooooow can you be saved if you have sinned? you dont belong to Jesus or you wouldnt have been able to do that? and even if you weeeere you’ve gone past repentence….”.

    Thats a load of crap. (excuse my language as a christian) REBUKE him!! If you believe in Jesus and believe he died for you and have asked him into your life as an innocent child/or adult you have AUTHORITY over Satan. If you feel that Satan’s got you in a sinful trap than pray for God to give you a way out. If you know youre not doing wrong according to God’s word but humanely can’t understand why it’s so important that you don’t commit that sin, then pray for God to show you why. If you feel too weak, pray for strength.Thats what I did and YES for many years I fell away from a close relationship with God because my parents did and I got in the wrong crowd. I’ve done some awful things in God’s eyes. But at my lowest point at 22 God showed me I needed him. I cried myself to sleep once over my salvation, and cried out to God. In the morning I had a scripture pop into my head ‘ I will NEVER leave you or forsake you.’ I believe that and I believe Jesus even use’s people that have sinned to help others. But if you want a close relationship with God and if you want to show Jesus you love him then you need to change, but dont try and do it in your own power, thats why we have Jesus but you need to make the descision to rely on him and pray lots and have FAITH that you belong to Jesus. Don’t let Satan tell you different, cos thats when sin creeps back in.

    • Jackie says:

      Hi Zoe,
      I also believe that all one has to to to be saved is believe in their heart that Jesus is Lord and confess that God has raised Him from the dead. Once you genuinly do that, you are a born again child of God. The evidence of this is a CHANGE OF MIND towards sin, a subsequent lifelong struggle with sin and the sin nature, and an abhorrance of committed sin in our lives. A child of God does not seek for ways to get away with sin, they seek victory from it. A child of God should have a progressive experience of OVERCOMING sin and the flesh throughout their lives. God expects this. There may be, unfortuantly, periods of backsliding and occasional missed oportunities. But that is not evidence that a person was never saved.

  22. Hugh says:

    I’m a backslider. I so want to get back to God. I felt rejection by my church and I left them so I’m on my own again. And I had depression and I came out of it coincidentally at the same time I was leaving Christianity so now I find it hard to go back. I was only three years old in the faith and every day I was hitting headlong into trials. I’m afraid to go back to that. I believe everything necessary to have faith, and I hate my sin, I just can’t seem to fin my way back, or maybe I don’t want to. I’m in a sticky spot. Can someone tell me what to do please?

    • Jeff Reamer says:

      Wish I could Hugh- I’m in same boat and have lived in emotional pain for over 40 years over it. Pretty sad when you knew you were saved at one point and now use the internet where everyone is an authority on scripture regards every topic under the Sun to find answers and find 200 sites telling you simply never were saved and Victory daily proves who is truly a Christian.

      • michael m says:

        Perhaps because we became careless lukewarm didn’t deal with beseting sins seriously or followed a favourite sin or didn’t make progress in doing the good works that accompany salvation but done bad works . Or confess our sin daily and endeavour to seriously forsake them Or that we didn’t love God enough or our friends , Or be thankful to Him every day , or read His word enough and follow and obey it ; that what we lose is the Joy of salvation , the Confidence of saying we are saved and the assurance that we are truly saved ; rather than losing our salvation , or saying perhaps we were not saved . Losing assurance of salvation may be a means of bringing us back to God .
        Why not just admit we made a mess of it but by God’s grace and His word and Holy Spirit we will live as and confess we are christian; That the Lord Jesus Christ IS my Saviour and I Will rejoice in Him . ?. We may not be loud and brash ; but quietly and with confidence trust in Him . Remember , ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ we know of one man who was justified. Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE sinners . While we were yet sinners Christ died for us . So don’t let your faith in Him die . What must I do to be saved ?.Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved . He is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God by Him . Believe it .. And lastly , If you find Jesus knocking at the door of your heart let Him in and let the word of Christ dwell in you richly ……….. ? hope you will be encouraged to go on in the faith and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ as I do too .

  23. Jackie says:

    Hugh, you have a few things going for you. #1, you are honest with yourself and with God. #2, you love God and want to return to Him. This is all you need. All you have to do is pray to Him and express as honestly as possible your desire to come back. Believe me, He will in no way reject or refuse you. He will deposit in your spirit what to do, and you will find your way back. Just keep praying. He will lead and guide you.
    The most important thing is not to believe the lie that it is too late, or that God is angry with you. He is not angry at all with you. He is the God of second chances. He loves you.
    Let me know how it goes. Ill be happy to correspond with you and offer advice. Ive been there. Jackie

  24. Alison says:

    I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!

    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later. Cheers

  25. Kosgei eric says:

    Amen

  26. STEPHEN KARUME says:

    I THK GOD FOR WEL ORGANISED ,EDUCATING &INSPIRING THT AL CHRISTIAN CANNOT AFFORD TO MISS . (KENYA

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