One of the prominent distinctions in the Bible is that there are exactly two categories of people: those who are true believers in the LORD (the “saved”) and everyone else (the “lost”).
Equally as important is the statement that “backsliders” (sometimes called “carnal Christians”)—those who claim to be “Christians” yet live as if they have never been saved—are not members of a third category.
As this article will detail from the Scripture, people fitting this description of "backsliders" are viewed as lost by the Scripture.
If you read the Scripture carefully, you’ll note both that in OT Israel and in the NT church are abundant references to those who make false profession of faith. For a time they appeared to be saved, but by their life they demonstrated that they were never actually saved.
To highlight that vital point, the Lord Christ said this very early in His ministry:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
By the Lord’s own words, the majority of the human race will, in fact, perish because they are deceived with the clear inference being that they thought they were on the right path!
[Those on the path to destruction are "morally psychotic", for lack of a better phrase. Only such a person would deliberately pursue a path that ensures their condemnation and eternal punishment.]
A few verses later, He continued in the same manner with an even more terrifying warning:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
Note that the Lord Christ would have challenged their claim if what they said was a lie. It would have been very straightforward for the Lord to have said something like:
“No you didn’t—you are lying! You really didn’t prophesy in My name or cast out demons or perform miracles. You did none of the things you claimed.”
His response implies strongly that they had performed the very deeds they claimed. The issue was not that the “many” failed in some way. Rather, they were those who “practice lawlessness” despite their claims to the contrary.
[Consider, for example, the “religious professions” of those who heard the Lord’s words here; they were Jews, not followers of Islam or Buddha (or any number of other false, “eastern” religions). None of those groups would ever refer to the Lord Christ as “Lord”; only those who would consider themselves “followers of Christ” would do so. Therefore, in this example the “objectors” will be those who consider themselves “Christian” even though their lives were characterized by “lawlessness”.]
The essence of the issue was that the Lord Himself denied that they were His true people:
“I never knew you.”
So-called “Christians” may attempt to create a third category of “backslidden” or “carnal Christian” as “spiritual cover” for their continuing disobedience, but such a classification does not exist within the pages of the Bible. What does exist is the repeated and grievous record of multitudes who claim, falsely, that they are true but whose lives betray their true allegiance to evil.
Apollyon knows all too well how to deceive, as well as how to lead the careless into ever-deeper self-deception. He inspires within the “backslider” to think the following thought:
“I’m a true Christian; however, I know that my life may not look like a Christian at the moment because I’m backslidden. Perhaps someday my faith may be restored to what it should be; I just don’t have much motivation now to make any changes. After all, I know that I may lose a few rewards but I’ll still make it to heaven.”
Those the Lord Christ described above were genuinely surprised to find themselves on the “wrong side” of the judgment because they were self-deceived. Once they realized their error it was too late to undo the damage or repent.
Judgment for their false faith finally—and permanently—caught up with them.
The purpose of this article is to examine from the Scripture the topic of “backsliding”. This series is presented in 7 chapters:
- The problem of sin and the representative positions of Adam and the Lord Christ.
- The biblical definition of true repentance.
- True faith in the Lord Christ.
- But what about “believers” who practice sin: sickness and death.
- But what about “believers” who practice sin: the “handing over” to Satan.
- But what about the Apostle Paul and "Wretched man that I am!" in Rom 7.24?
- Closing Thoughts