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Summary: The problem of backsliding defined and a possible cure is offered.

Backsliding, the cause and the cure.

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Backsliding is a term that is used from the pulpit on many occasions. Yet it is rarely found in the Bible. And yet, so much can be learned about this condition and what needs to happen in order for the backslider to return to the God of his salvation.


From two Hebrew a words which both mean: to return, to turn back but not necessarily to the point you started from.


The word is much used in present day discussions but only appears in the books of Jeremiah and Hosea and once in Isaiah (57:17) and Proverbs (1:32)

The main description of backsliding is found in Jeremiah Chapter 3 from which the quote references are taken.

The Condition.

Return to the things done formerly.

3:6 Harlotry. Committing idolatry, the worship of other gods.

3:8 adultery. Serving both the God of Israel and the gods of the surrounding culture

3:9 idolatry. The worship of the creation, especially wood and mineral objects.

The Problem.

Proverbs 26:11-As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his silliness (the proper meaning of the word).

There is in reality no turning back. What was there and nourished the old man has been vomited out and is now a source of sickness and disease.

The Results

33:5 Anger. God’s anger draws attention to the fact that the relationship is broken.

3:3 Weather. The crop cycle is interfered with.

3:9 Defilement. The land is corrupted and greatly polluted.

3:8&10 Treachery. Others can use the example to secretly go out and do the same while publicly denying their action. This is setting an example for others to commit even greater sins.

3:4 and Hosea 14:3 (implied) Division. Family relations break down, especially those between Father and Son.

3:21 Forgetfulness. God’s power is forgotten.

3:21 Sadness. The majority of people are no longer happy with life.

3:23 Misplace trust. People begin to look for help in all the wrong places.

3:24 Destruction. Shame (the word means idols) consumes your labour, your goods and your children.

3:22 The Call. While all this is going on there is a call for healing "Return and I will heal you. repeated in Hosea 14:4 and Isaiah 57:17.

The Cure.

3:13 acknowledgement. That the sin has been committed.

3:13 (refer to Hos 14:2&3) confession. Military might is useless, individual strength is useless; those with broken family relationships can find mercy.

3:13 Focus. On the fact that there is something that you have that is of value to God.

3:14 Turn back. To God from turning back FROM God. (Hos 14:4)

3:14 Acceptance. Recognize that God welcomes people back.

3:14 Goal. Recognize that there is a place where God wants you to be.

3:15 Knowledge and understanding. God replaces false teachers with good ones (compare with 2 Peter 2:22 and previous). Leads to understanding the pure milk of the word.

3:17 The presence. God shall dwell with them.


Those that try to go back to beginnings, forget that it is impossible to return to the past.

It is a sickness that no amount of preaching can cure. That is why lecturing backsliders doesn’t work.

The only one who can heal you of backsliding is Jesus Christ, the master physician.

Isaiah 57:17 For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly (babacksliding) in the way of his heart 18 I have seen his ways, and will heal him:

It is even the case that only God can make you realize that you are sick.

Only God can carry out the cure.

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