What Happens to Backsliders?

A Little Lesson

What happens to backsliders? When someone turns away from God back into unbelief or a practice of sin, can they be forgiven and restored back into fellowship with Him? Or is it too late for forgiveness? Learn more in this Little Lesson with Bible teacher David Servant!

Person wondering what happens to backsliders

The following excerpt is taken from a transcript of the video above.

I want to address a question that one of our beloved viewers wrote to me. I’m just going to read it to you verbatim and then we’ll discuss it.

This comment came after this viewer watched a video that I did on falling from grace. He said, “What about somebody who believed, and became devoted to Christ, but then became an unbeliever, and then reconverted, believes and is devoted again. Is that person lost forever?” I don’t know if you got that question.

Here’s a person that became a believer, by all indications, they were sincere, but then they backslid, and they became an unbeliever. If you would’ve asked them, do you believe in Jesus, they would have said no, at that point. They’ve gone from faith to unbelief.

But then, after some time they become a devoted follower of Jesus, again. And the question is, is that person lost forever? I don’t want to sound critical. My heart goes out to the person who asked that question, and I just… We run into so many people who are in that particular mindset where you only get one chance, they think, with God. I just feel so sorry for anyone who would think that, because you’ve never met anybody as gracious and merciful, and long suffering, in all of your life, and you never will meet somebody as long suffering and merciful, and gracious, as God is.

Now, you remember that one time Peter asked Jesus, how many times should I forgive my brother? Up to seven times? That was a funny question. So glad Peter asked all those dumb questions so I don’t have to ask them. And Jesus said, “No, not just seven times, seventy times seven.” A total of 490 times.

Again, if your brother sins against you, Jesus said in another place, seven times in one day and comes back and says, “I repent,” forgive him. Now, of course our forgiveness is predicated upon somebody asking for forgiveness, repenting. That’s how it is with God.

God is not just forgiving people who don’t repent, or don’t ask for forgiveness. No, that’s pretty clear in the Bible. God gives grace to the humble, but he resists the proud. If you’re not confessing your sin, you’re proud. Your pride is keeping you from doing that, and God resists you. He’s not forgiving you. If you humble yourself and ask for forgiveness, he forgives you.

If he expects us to do that up to 490 times, and I don’t think he meant for us to be keeping a little clicker, “Okay. That’s 473. You only got a few more.” No, I think he’s just saying, “Just keep on forgiving, as long as they keep on repenting.” Again, it’s hard to believe that they’re sincere when you get up around 480, but God expects that out of us. He can’t set a standard for us that he doesn’t keep himself. Again, I’m sure I don’t fully comprehend the fullness of the mercy of God. I think I might understand it better than some folks, like the dear person that wrote this question. I don’t think any of us really, really, really grasps it. Backsliders can repent, and God will take you back.

How about that story of the prodigal son? Now there’s a story for you about the love of God, and the mercy of God. The prodigal son wastes his inheritance. He takes half of everything that his father has, and then blows it all on crazy wild living. He comes to his senses and says “I’m going to go back and ask my dad for a job because my dad employs people.” The father sees his son from afar off.

Now, you know that another person who wasn’t as gracious and kind and merciful as that father could’ve said, “Here he comes. I’m going to pretend like I didn’t even see him. I’ll let him find me. I’ll just ignore him.” No, the father saw him from way off. Why? Because he was longing for his son to come home. Waiting, praying, watching. When he sees him, he’s way off on the horizon. He runs to him. He embraces him. He kisses him. He gives the order, kill the fatted calf and put a ring on his finger, and put a nice robe on this guy. The guy hasn’t even gotten his confession out of his mouth yet. That’s how willing and ready God is to forgive. If he just sees a little humility, a little turning, and you’re making the decision to get back where you’re supposed to be, God’s all over that.

The oldest son complained about it and so forth, but that’s a whole different story. That’s really what the parable is actually all about. Anyways. We focus now on the prodigal son himself, the mercy and the grace he got. Can backsliders come back? Oh my goodness, they can come back. I’m not encouraging anyone to backslide, but you could backslide 490 times, at least, and you could come back and God would forgive you every single time.

When we sin isn’t that a small form of backsliding? No matter how small the sin, it’s a small backsliding. Does God forgive you when you ask? Sure he does. This guy that we were asked about by this question, he became an unbeliever. He denied Christ. Peter denied Christ, denied him three times. Did Jesus take him back? Yes. He took him back, and made him the greatest apostle of his era. Maybe with the exception of the apostle Paul eventually. At least, for the first few years, Peter had the preeminent place amongst all the apostles. God was using him more than anybody else. Peter, the guy that denied he knew Jesus three times.

Oh my goodness. We have no clue, really, how merciful and gracious God is. When he sees a contrite heart, the angels rejoice when one sinner repents. Well, that doesn’t just happen one time. The backslider comes back, they’re rejoicing up in heaven, the angels are rejoicing.

I’m out of time for this lesson, thank you so much for joining me. Until next time, may the Lord bless you. Amen.