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According to the word’s common usage, backsliders are Christians who have, through obvious sin or some other lapse, failed to persist in their Christian commitment. If such people are genuine believers, their failure will not be permanent, for God deals with his children by bringing them to repentance. Absence of such divine discipline is an indication that they were never really God’s children (Hebrews 12:6-8; 2 Peter 2:9).

People may have failures, but if their faith is genuine any lapse will be only temporary. True believers demonstrate the genuineness of their faith by continuing in it to the end (John 8:31; Colossians 1:21-23; James 5:19-20; 1 Peter 1:5). Perseverance is not a condition for salvation; but it is an evidence of salvation (Matthew 24:13; see PERSEVERANCE).

In certain cases, what people call backsliding may be something far more serious. It may not be a temporary failure, but a settled attitude of rejection of what a person formerly believed. This is the sort of backsliding that Old Testament Israel was often guilty of, and is more correctly called apostacy (Jeremiah 2:19; Jeremiah 5:6; Jeremiah 8:5; Jeremiah 15:6; Hosea 11:7; cf. Hebrews 10:26-31; 1 John 2:19). The difference between backsliding as a temporary failure and backsliding as apostacy is seen in the actions of the two disciples, Peter and Judas. Peter was restored, but Judas was lost (Luke 22:31-32; Luke 22:47-62; John 17:12; Acts 1:15-16; cf. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10; see APOSTACY).

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Backsliding'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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