Backsliding and Profession

What does backsliding mean? What does profession mean? What is the difference? What are the characteristics of a backslider and a professor? How do we correctly apply this in the Bible in relation to salvation and our state with God? Are there any examples of backsliders and professors in the Bible? When do we use those terms? This article seeks to answer the above questions with references from the Word of God.

I want to be very clear at the outset. I am not judging anyone, and we should never judge and point the finger at anyone to call them a backslider or a professor as this is wrong. It is not for us to know, only God knows those who are true (real) and those who are not. We can only encourage and warn people but judging and pointing out the finger is not a good example of being a Christian.

Many true believers claim that once we are saved, we can lose our salvation and we need to repent or confess again and put our trust in the Lord again and then we receive salvation again. They base their ideas on verses like 1 John 1:9 that deals with confessing our sins, and 1 John 3:9 and 5:18 in relation to the question of sinning. John here writes to believers, those who have already accepted the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. A believer still has the old nature, and it will never improve and never leave us until we are with the Lord. It is the old nature in the believer that sins. In 1 John 3, the apostle John refers to the idea of someone who practices sin, or who is continuously living in sin and making this a habit. That nature is totally opposite to God and for someone like that, again we cannot judge, but that person must question themselves whether they are true or not. A true believer does not and cannot continue living in sin totally away from God and His Word, but the true believer can fall into sin and can draw away from God for a time, but they will always confess and turn back to the Lord.

With that in mind, a backslider is a true believer, someone who is saved by grace and that alone (Eph 2:8-9) but has drifted away from the path that God has in plan for them. That person is living according to his own ways and will and does not separate from sin or the world. I will give one example in the Old Testament – that of Lot. In the New Testament in 2 Peter 2:7-9, we read that Lot was a true believer, a righteous person. The error of Lot here is that he lived with the wicked people in Sodom and was tormenting his righteous soul by seeing the wicked works of the people there. See Genesis 13:13, 18:20. Sodom was a place where people practiced every kind of evil and wicked things as part of their daily life. It was not a place for a godly or righteous person to live in. Can we think of places today that are like Sodom? We indeed dwell among wicked people, but we don’t need to associate with them in close fellowship and relationship. That was Lot’s mistake. I personally do not believe that he was doing these wicked works and sins with the people in Sodom. But he did not separate from the people and their sins. In fact, people go so far as to say that if one associates with wicked people and their works, then that person is seen to approve of their works as if they are doing it themselves. But the Bible clearly states that Lot was righteous and so we do not have the impression that he was doing those grievous sins with the people in Sodom. What happened to Lot? As a result of living far away from spiritual fellowship with God, he lost material things. His wife became a pillar of salt (Gen 19:26) because she disobeyed the command to not look back at the city (Gen 19:17) and he never saw her again. She was influenced by the works of the people at Sodom and her heart perhaps was still set on Sodom. What about his daughters? We only need to read Genesis 19:30-38 to see the miserable end of Lot. This is what happens when a believer backslides and continues their own way far away from the Lord. That person is still saved for eternity but their testimony on earth is lost. See 1 Cor 11:30; Heb 12:5-11; 1 John 5:16 for references of the ways that God can deal with a believer who insists on living a life far away from God and not thinking about God at all.

Let us look at an Old Testament example of a professor, or someone who says they are godly but are not. In 2 Kings 5 we read of a story about the healing of Naaman and how Elisha instructed him to wash in the Jordan and how he was healed of his leprosy. In the Bible, leprosy speaks of sin, which is the sinful condition of mankind away from God. The law of the leper is in Leviticus 14 where God instructed the people that if anyone was found to have leprosy, they were pronounced unclean, and no one was able to approach that person. Leprosy would spread to the body, and it can kill a person. With that in mind, Naaman although he was great in the sight of men, he had leprosy and this was not seen by man, but only by God. Elisha did not accept any money because he wanted to show that healing and salvation is only by grace, and it is free (see Eph 2:8-9; Rom 6:23). There was a servant of Elisha called Gehazi (he is an example of a professor). He had seen the miracles that Elisha had performed and tasted of the heavenly gifts (see Heb 6:4-6). He had heard Elisha using the phrase ‘as the Lord lives before whom I stand’ (2 Kings 3:14). When Gehazi saw that Elisha would not accept material items from Naaman after he was cured, read 2 Kings 5:20-27 to see what happened. Gehazi spoke the words ‘as the Lord lives’ but he could not continue because he certainly did not stand before the Lord. The unfortunate situation of what happened to Gehazi was a result of him wanting money and material items from a gentile person who was healed based on grace and not works. Gehazi was greedy and wanted to accumulate things for himself and then Elisha pronounced the leprosy of Naaman on him and since then he went out of the presence of Elisha and the Lord forever. We do not read of him ever being healed. Therefore, a professor is a person who claims to be a believer and to follow the Lord but is not true – the person has not been saved and has not accepted the Lord as their own Saviour.

There are other examples in the Old Testament of a backslider and a professor. For more personal study, see King David (backslider) and King Saul (professor) as another example.

Let us look at some examples in the New Testament of a backslider and a professor and provide references from the Word of God. The most notable example is in the Lord’s disciples – Peter and Judas Iscariot, but I will not use these as examples as these are very commonly used.

When Paul was converted and became an apostle through the calling of the risen Lord, he and Barnabas had travelled to various places to establish local churches and encourage brethren. There was a young person who went with them on their first missionary journey, called John whose surname was Mark (Acts 12:25). Now Mark was a true believer but was influenced by the world around him at that time. He travelled with Barnabas and Paul and saw the hardship of missionary travel and Christian ministry and decided that it was not for him at that time and returned to Jerusalem for whatever reason, but we are not given the reason/s (see Acts 13:13). After some time when Barnabas and Paul decided to go back to cities to visit the brethren, Barnabas wanted to take Mark, but Paul decided it was not the time to take someone who had left them previously. As a result, warm feelings arose between the two and Barnabas separated from Paul (see Acts 15:36-38). We do not read of Barnabas and Mark further in Acts after that time, but perhaps Barnabas was encouraging Mark during that time. Much later when Paul was in prison writing 2 Timothy, he mentions that same Mark in 2 Timothy 4:11. No doubt Paul had heard about Mark’s restoration in relation to ministry and Christian work and Paul was able to write that Mark is useful to him for ministry. Mark was also mentioned in Paul’s letters – see Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24. It was much later that Mark then wrote the gospel of Mark. Perhaps Barnabas and Peter (1 Peter 5:13 we read that Peter calls Mark his son) had taught him about the Lord Jesus as the perfect Servant, because that is what Mark focusses on in his gospel. Mark knew that he was not a good servant at all, but because of his restoration, he was able to write about Jesus Christ as the perfect Servant, but most of all that He is the Son of God (see Mark 1:1).

Another example of a backslider is Demas (2 Tim 4:10). Demas was also a true believer and was part of Paul’s greetings in Colossians 4:14 but he backslid and 2 Timothy states that Demas had forsaken Paul (NOT the Lord Jesus) having loved the present world. It does not say that Demas lost his salvation, because he was a true believer, but he preferred the influences of the world rather than serving as a Christian. We are in danger of acting like Demas. We will not lose our salvation, but rather the joy of it when the world influences us and our decisions.

One example of a professor in the New Testament is Simon the magician who was thinking of himself as someone important and doing magic tricks to get the attention of people. In Acts 8 when Philip preached the gospel in Samaria, the people believed the gospel rather than looking up to Simon as they had previously been doing. Simon himself also believed and was baptised (see Acts 8:13) but he was only amazed at the signs and miracles. There was no true conviction in his heart. How do we know this? Later when Simon saw the laying on of hands, he thought it was something huge and he offered money to receive this power. His offer was totally rejected, and Peter had the words to tell him in Acts 8:20-23. When Simon heard the judgement, he did not even repent himself, but asked Peter to pray for him! Simon had the chance to repent but he did not even acknowledge that he sinned against the Lord. When the Lord Jesus was on earth in John 2:23-25, He knew that many believed in Him because of His miracles and not because He is the Son of God, so He knew what was in man. This is mere profession. The dangers of profession without coming to salvation are great and severe. We read this in passages such as 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Timothy 3:5, Titus 1:16, Hebrews 6:4-6, 2 Peter 2:20-22. Please read these passages carefully and in the context and you will find out that these passages speak about someone who professes to be a Christian but is not. Again, the end of someone who professes the name of the Lord but is not true is found in the verses in Matthew 7:21-23 when the Lord warned that not everyone who says Lord, Lord is true.

In concluding, a backslider is a true believer but their state, or condition with God is not a happy one because the fellowship with the Father and the Son is broken. Their standing before God is secure and eternal based on the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We can choose what types of Christians we want to be – backsliding ones, or true and faithful ones. May the Lord stir up our hearts to be faithful to Him. Dear reader, if you think you are a professor, then please turn to the Lord Jesus as your Saviour and start living for Him. You will have peace in your heart and be eternally secure based on God’s Word.

Published by philiptadros

Writer of various articles on bible topics

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