As a young Christian, I heard the word “backslider” so often, I assumed it was found in every book of the Bible. It is not. The word “backslider” is found in this one verse only. I will admit however that the related word “backsliding” is a bit more common – It is used 16 times. But it is never used of the Christian who has slipped into sin. It is always in the Old Testament and almost always in connection with Israel.
But here it is. Interestingly, this “backslider” is not related to the Hebrew word describing “backsliding Israel.” The original word is used 14 times and is translated “backslider” once, but “turned” 8 times and “go back,” or “turn back” 5 times. Despite the differences, we shouldn’t have any problem understanding the meaning. A “backslider” goes back or turns away – and apparently he turns away from the Lord. So were all those references early in my Christian life appropriate? I think that perhaps they were.
Despite its rarity, and since it is a word common in some circles, I’ve decided to explore this verse just a bit. Let’s consider 2 men, 2 ends, and then 2 other ends.
There are two kinds of people mentioned in this verse.
And for the sake of a lesson lets just assume they are both Christians – but that isn not necessarily the case. We’ll start with that assumption this evening, because before someone can “backslide” he has to be at some elevated point. And before someone can turn his back on God, he has to facing the Lord in some way. So let’s say that both the men of this verse are “good” – one remaining so and the other “backsliding.”
But wait a minute, didn’t the Lord Jesus say, “There is NONE good but one and that is God?” I suppose we could quibble about the different definitions of the Hebrew and Greek words, but it probably wouldn’t produce much good. This is the same word that we find in Genesis 1:31 – “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” So for the sake of the lesson, lets just say that these two men in Proverbs 14 are “good” because God has made them so. They are both justified – “declared righteous” and therefore good by grace – not by innate goodness. They were both for a while good in character, because they were new creatures in Christ. But sadly, one of those good men became a “backslider” and his goodness was marred.
And as a result, the end of each of these men is different.
The man who continued to be “good” – “shall be satisfied from himself.” Please notice that there is no Hebrew word from which “shall be satisfied” is translated. Does that mean we can ignore those words? We should not ignore them. We must not take our knife and cut them out of our Bibles, the way Jehudi did in Jeremiah 36. But perhaps we can understand the verse better by temporarily skipping over the italicized words. “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” Or “the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be from himself.” Or “The good man will be filled with the results of God’s gracious gift of divine righteousness.” The eternal blessings of the saved do not flow out of improvements on the grace which saved them. Nevertheless, that saving grace will produce fruit which will bless, sustain, and satisfy him for eternity.
On the other hand, that Christian man who turns his back on the blessing he has been given, will suffer the loss of reward when he stands at Christ’s Bema. As I said last Sunday, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (the bema); that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” How many thousands of apparently redeemed people, turn their backs on the Lord and His blessings? How many turn to the world for their happiness, while the joy of the Lord stands before them? How many return to living in the flesh, refusing to crucify it with its affections and lusts?
One of the problems with modern Christianity or more specifically “Christendom,” is that people who claim to be God’s people but only backslidden, in reality are not converted at all. Churches today are filled with members who appear to be backslidden, when in fact they have never been spiritually any higher than they are at that moment. They can’t have backslidden because there was no spiritual high ground from which to have slidden.
But getting back to the true Christian who has backslidden into some sort of sinful lifestyle. The “backslider in heart” is filled with his own ways. That is, what he now possesses comes as a result of his corrupt spiritual condition. There is a choice between the rules of the road and the rule of God, and the “backslider” chooses to follow the way of the world. This explains why his life is in a constant detour. The meat of his current life can be explained by his backslidden condition. There is a proper way to worship Jehovah, but the “backslider” chooses to follow the multitude to worship in shallow, repetitious, worldly ways. As Proverbs 1 says, “Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.”
Don’t both that verse and our text tell us there are two ways for someone to be filled with this own way? There is the heart which is filled with its own devices and doing its own will without respect for God. And there is being filled with the result of that kind of life. “Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.” The end of these people is not good. As Ezekiel says, “Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.” The end of the truly good person – the saved and serving saint – shall fill and satisfy him. But the end of the “backslidden” good person will be eternally unpleasant.
I could and probably should stop right here, but there is another point to consider.
There are two different ends in the life of this “backslider.”
There is the front end and the back end. “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.” “Shall be filled” suggests that at the conclusion of his life – at Christ’s Judgment – the nature of self-centered will become obvious. He shall be filled with the poisoned fruit with which he has fed himself for years.
But a question which may be even more important – how did he become a “backslider?” Wasn’t the cause the same as the result? Doesn’t the verse even suggest this conclusion? The “backslider” moved from being a good servant of God to his fallen condition because he chose to be “filled with his own ways” that is – to backslide. Rather than reading his Bible he read internet articles – news articles, even articles about the Bible. Instead of regular attendance upon the preaching of the word in the nearest available church of Christ he forsook his assembling with the brethren. Instead of listening to the witness of the Holy Spirit in his heart, he began listening to Christian psychologists and popular Christian writers. He filled himself “with his own ways,” and in the process became a “backslider.” So this filling with himself became a characteristic of both ends of his life – the beginning of his corrupted earthly Christian life as well as its conclusion.
How much better off was that justified and good man who not only began with the Lord but chose to crucify his own ways, walking with the Lord up to the day of his graduation to Heaven?