Can a True Christian (Believer) Backslide? Lose Salvation, Eternal Security?
Can a True Christian (Believer) ever backslide? There are some that say a true Christian can never backslide. They will say that this person was never saved in the first place. I agree that many people that "backslide" are not true Christians. But is it possible for a true believer to fall into sin and backslide for a time? Are there instances in Scripture where this has happened?
I am in no way making light of sin, I am simply asking the question if a true child of God can ever backslide. If you are a child of God and you fall into sin God is going to take you to the woodshed (Hebrews 12:5-11). And if that does not work God will take you home before your time (1 Corinthians 5:5, 11:29-32; 1 John 5:16-17; 2 Samuel 12:13-14).
Let us look first at what two great men of God have said about a true Christian falling into sin. Matthew Henry comments on Hebrews chapter six and Dr. J. Vernon McGee comments on Luke chapter 15 that deals with the Prodigal son.
In Matthew Henry's Commentary on Hebrews 6 he relates how a true believer may fall into sin:
"This therefore is no proof of the final apostasy of true saints. These [True believers] indeed may fall frequently and foully, but yet they will not totally nor finally from God; the purpose and the power of God, the purchase and the prayer of Christ, the promise of the gospel, the everlasting covenant that God has made with them, ordered in all things and sure, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the immortal seed of the word, these are their security. But the tree that has not these roots will not stand," Matthew Henry's Commentary on The Whole Bible, page 2389.
Matthew Henry believes that Hebrews chapter 6:4-9 deals with unbelievers that were never truly saved, not people that have lost their salvation as many today teach. I agree 100% that Hebrews chapter 6:4-9 deals with unbelievers that were never truly saved in the first place.
Dr. J Vernon McGee's Commentary on the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32:
"Somebody is immediately going to say, 'Well, this is the fellow [When the prodigal returns from the far country to his Father] who is a sinner, and he is going to get saved.' No, I'm sorry to tell you that such is not the picture that's given to us here. This is not the picture of a sinner that gets saved. May I say to you, and say it very carefully, that when this boy was living at home with the father and was in fellowship with him, he was a son, and there was never any question about that. When this boy got to the far country and was out there throwing his money around, he was still a son. That is never questioned. And when this boy went down and hit bottom and was out there with the pigs (and if you'd been half-mile away looking over there among the pigs, I don't think you could have told him from a pig), he was not a pig--he was a son. In this story that our Lord told there was never any question as to whether the boy was a son or not. He was a son all the time...If you're God's child, you can't sin and get by with it. You may even go to the pigpen, but, my friend, you can never enjoy it. If you're a son of the Father, there'll come a day when you're going to say, 'I will arise and go to my Father,' and you will go." page 314, 316.
Are there any Scriptures of a sinning believer?
In 2 Samuel chapter 12 the prophet Nathan confronts King David about his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her honorable husband Uriah. It had been about nine months since King David committed murder and adultery without repentance. If a believer cannot backslide then some of the Psalms would have been written by an unbeliever. King David's sin of murder and adultery prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a true believer can backslide for weeks, or even months.
Merrill F. Unger in his commentary on the Old Testament said this about King David and his sin with Bathsheba, "The whole incident shows how a true believer may backslide and fall into terrible sin that warrants physical death (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 John 5:16)," page 427.
The book of Jonah is very near-and-dear to us all. Jonah is a true believer yet he willfully defies God and flees from His presence on a boat to Tarshish. Because of Jonah's sin and rebellion God sent a storm and a great fish to bring him to his senses. Jonah's rebellion is another clear case of a true believer that goes into sin for a time which results in God chastening His wayward child.
King Solomon is regarded as the wisest man to have ever lived. He wrote most of the book of Proverbs and the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes and he constructed the glorious Temple in Jerusalem which the Lord blessed (1 Kings 9:1-9). Yet at the end of his life King Solomon committed idolatry and even built high places to the false gods of his day. If a true believe cannot backslide then these books were written by an unbeliever.
"Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods,"
1 Kings 11:7-8.
In Genesis Lot is considered by some to be in a backslidden state while in Sodom (Genesis 13:13). Because of Lot's decision to live in Sodom his wife was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26) and his two daughters committed incest with him (Genesis 19:30-38). Yet in 2 Peter 2:7-8 Peter calls him a righteous man:
"And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)."
In the gospel of Matthew chapter 26:69-74 the apostle Peter denied that he even knew Jesus with cursing and swearing. Are you willing to say that Peter was not saved for the three years that he walked with Jesus during His ministry? That position is untenable my friend, this is a clear case a of a true believer that has backslidden:
"And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly,"
In the book of Judges we have the enigmatic story of Samson who was a Nazirite and a judge over Israel for twenty years. Samson constantly defiled his Nazarite separation through carnal appetites. Are you going to go against Scripture and dare call Samson an unbeliever due to his many sins?
The Bible has this to say about Samson in the great Hall of Faith in Hebrews chapter 11:
"And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets,"
The life of Samson further illustrates for us that God can still use a Prodigal son or daughter after they repent and turn to Him. Even after all of Samson's sins, God still used him for His Glory (Judges 16:28-30)!
Some still might argue despite this mountain of Scriptural evidence that these examples are from the Old Testament and therefore do not apply to us in the New Covenant. Let's look at 1 Corinthians chapter 5 that deal with a sinning Christian where Paul tells them to deliver him to Satan so that his soul will be saved:
"It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife...To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus,"
1 Corinthians 5:1, 5.
You have already read the commentary on the Prodigal son in Luke chapter 15. Scripture is abundantly clear that a true believer can backslide for a time. Scripture is also clear that if you do backslide you will pay a heavy price for your open rebellion that will give occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme His Holy name (2 Samuel 12:14).
For any Prodigal sons or daughters that may be reading this I know how you feel right now. I have been where you are and I can say with full confidence that you are the most miserable person in the world right now! I am here to tell you to look around and observe the pig pen that you are in, because that is no place for a true child of the Lord. Arise from the filth that you are in and return to our Father! Say with the Prodigal:
"I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,"
If you say that you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior yet there was never a prolonged change in your life in which you were serving our Lord faithfully I would humbly submit to you that you were a false "convert." You are not backslidden my friend, you were never truly saved in the first place. Click here to see your dire situation.
"And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple,"
Listen to these sobering and painful words from Charles Spurgeon to those of us that have backslidden in our walk with Christ:
"Next I may be speaking to someone who has been a backslider and is a backslider even now. Are you sighing, 'Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord?' Well may you say so. By your wretched wandering you have disgraced the name of Christ and you have dishonored the cause which you profess to love. You have made the enemy blaspheme and you cannot wonder that your rest is broken? If anybody ought to be a mourner you should take front rank among those who lament for the church of Christ seeing that you have done it so much damage that you will never be able to undo it even by a long life of usefulness."
(Charles Spurgeon, "A Dirge for the Downgrade and A Song of Faith," Isaiah 66:10)
Eternal Security Of the True Believer:
"But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man [This means "No Man"] is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand,"
"And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God,"
1 John 5:11-13.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life,"
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day," John 6:37-39.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life...He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,"
John 3:16, 18.
"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?"
"That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory,"
"And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption,"
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,"
"To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,"
1 Peter 1:4-5.
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him,"
"So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
1 Corinthians 1:7-8.
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," Romans 8:38-39.