Can a backslider return to God?

Question: “Some maintain that once a Christina backslides they cannot return to God while other say they can.  What is the answer?”

Bible Answers

Many disagree over this question and believe they have scripture to support their position but fail to recognize that there are progressing degrees of backsliding from the unintentional to the intentional.

After reviewing common scripture used to support both positions, we will review how both opposing positions are correct, bringing harmony to what may appear to be conflicting scripture.

What is a backslider

The term backsliding simply means, "a person who had salvation and turned their back on God."

Unintentional Backslider

The unintentional has no intent to turn their back on God, but they start putting their interest ahead of God. With the devils prodding, rather than going to church they sleep in, rather than talking with God (praying) they are to busy with Facebook or a similar diversion, rather than meditating on God’s Word, they are busy reading the paper or watching television. Putting these types of actions ahead of God is what manifests into unintentional backsliding.

Intentional Backslider

On the opposite end of the backslider spectrum, we have those who have made a deliberate and intentional commitment to turn from God and return to the World. They have determined in their heart that they no longer want God to be their Lord and Savior.  

Result of being a backsliding

A man who strays from the path of understanding comes to rest in the company of the dead (Prov 21:16).

If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it (Ezek 33:18).

A backslider can repent and return to God verses

remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins (James 5:20).

Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding (Jeremiah 3:22-23).

So he got up and went to his father.  “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20). For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate (Luke 15:24).

Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Revelation 2:5).

God does not want anyone to be lost(2 Peter 3:9).

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Backslider cannot return to God verses

If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:6).

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened [light of salvation], who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance (Hebrews 6:4-6).

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left (Hebrews 10:26).

It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them (2 Peter 2:21).

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning (2 Peter 2:20).

It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them (2 Peter 2:21).

But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die (Ezekiel 18:24).

You have rejected me,” declares the Lord. “You keep on backsliding. So I will reach out and destroy you; I am tired of holding back (Jeremiah 15:6).



The difference between God’s desire for a “Christian to return” and it being “impossible to return” may be the degree of backsliding as defined by the intent and conviction of a person’s heart and their determination to turn away from God.

We have the unintentional backsliders who likely denies they are a backslider but have put the world ahead of God. These are the backsliders that God is calling to repent and reestablish a relationship with Him.

Then we have the intentional backslider that God’s word declares that He will not call. He said, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28).

As such, all of the above scripture is correct and flawless. There are those backsliders who may repent and return to God and there are those God has given a depraved mind, will never want to return, and God will never again call.

Some may question where the dividing line is between those who may return to God and those whom it is impossible to return. This point of embarkation is not clearly defined in scripture and may be considered a secret of God.

However, it is the condition of a backslider’s heart that determines if they may or may not return.

If you are a unintentional backslider

Know that your heavenly Father loves you and wants you to return like the prodigal son. Do not let sin, doubt, or guilt hold you back if you hear Him calling you, for He promises: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).


The answer to the question is that God loves us all and wants all to come to Him.  Those who have slid way but have not fully denied God in their heart are being drawn by God to repent and reestablish a relationship with Him, while those who intentionally rejected God and want nothing to do with Him will get what they want. Just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28), they will die (Ezekiel 18:24).

As in the beginning when you first repented and turned to God, God is calling unintentional backsliders, those who have not rejected Him.

Next Section: Does God call everyone?

Climbing From Hell To Salvation

Salvation Section

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