What does it mean to “backslide”?

“Israel slides back like a backsliding heifer.” (Hosea 4:16)

Preachers often warn Christians and churches about backsliding. The term is familiar to some people, but others find it is confusing. Backsliding is used to describe a Christian who was once obedient to the Lord, growing in the Lord and serving Him faithfully. The once obedient Christian backslides by turning back to sin. The term comes from the Old Testament where God frequently rebukes Israel for its backsliding. The image is of a cow that plants its feet and pulls hard against the leading of its master. Israel was resisting the leading of God by turning away from Him to pursue idolatry and practice all manner of evil. A backsliding Christian is one who resists the leading of the Holy Spirit to pursue his own sinful way. Like the Israelites, the backsliding Christian turns his back on what he knows to be right to practice all forms of idolatry and wickedness.

The backslidden Christian lives in sin and does not grow in Christ. The backslider may maintain an outward appearance of religion while also pursuing sinful habits. He slides back spiritually, abandoning the progress he has made in obedience, ignoring the spiritual disciplines and forsaking the imitation of Jesus. The backslidden Christian takes off the Christlikeness he had once put on.

A serious warning needs to be given to the backslider. Backsliding is a serious problem because it is indistinguishable from false Christianity. The backslider may actually be an unsaved person who has deceived himself and others into thinking he is saved. The Christian who is in sin will not have assurance of salvation because their own heart will condemn them. (1 John 3:20) The backslider dare not attempt to comfort himself with the knowledge that because he is a Christian he can contiue in willful sin and still go to heaven. Willingness to live in sin is not a characteristic of a Christian, but of an unsaved person. “Whoever abides in Christ does not live in sin. Who ever lives in sin has not seen Him nor known Him.” (1 John 3:6) Those who refuse to repent give the lie to their profession of faith. A genuine Christian will eventually repent of sin, fall under the chastening of God (Hebrews 12:6) or die an untimely death (1 John 5:16).

The proper response to backsliding is repentance. Hosea 14 teaches backsliders to confess their sin to God and ask for His forgiveness. Backsliders must turn away from the sin they once loved to turn back to God. God promises the repentant He will hear and heal them. God promises the backslider that if he will confess his sin then God will not fail to cleanse him from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Why did God all Satan to tempt man?

The Bible says in the book Revelation that God will imprison Satan for one thousand years and will then throw Satan into the Lake of Fire forever. Since God has the power to restrain Satan why didn’t He do so as soon as Satan rebelled? Why didn’t God keep Satan out of the Garden of Eden and away from Adam and Eve? Why did God allow Satan to tempt men to sin?

The Bible does not give a direct answer to this question. Despite that, what the Bible reveals about the character and purposes of God helps in the formulation of an answer. Romans 9:21-23 speaks of the Sovereignty of God in His dealings with men. God allowed some, like Pharaoh, to persist in sin to show all mankind His wrath, power, patience and glory. God in His grace and wisdom allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve so that through their sin His wrath, patience, mercy and glory would be known to all people. Because man sinned we learned first hand that God is Holy and always punishes sin. We also learned that God is an overwhelmingly gracious God who gave His Son to die for our sin. Through sin we learn about God what we could never have known any other way. The sin of Satan and the fall of man allowed God to show that His grace is far greater than our sin.

The righteous angels study the gospel looking from the outside into something mysterious to them. (1 Peter 1:12) The angels do not understand the mercy and grace of God in the same way men do because the angels are not recipients of His grace. In the end, the plan of God that allowed sin will result in incredible, eternal praise to Him. “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10) All the redeemed will praise God for His righteous judgment of the wicked. (Revelation 19:1-2) The plan of God which allowed sin also allows people the opportunity to truly and personally know “the grace of God that brings salvation.” (Titus 2:11)

The words at the end of Genesis apply to this question. “You thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” (Genesis 50:20) Satan was bent on the destruction of man, and God allowed Satan to work great evil. All the evil Satan desired also accomplishes the eternal good that God ordained. God allowed Satan to tempt man for our eternal good and His eternal praise. Though a full answer cannot be given to this question we can rest in the character of God. God is perfect, wise and good. The Judge of the whole earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25) You can trust Him.

Does the Bible Command Absolute Obedience to the Government?

In times of national or international crisis strong feelings increase against governments. The last one-hundred years in America have seen many protests and riots against the federal, state and local governments. The last several years have endured the shameful chaos of the Black Lives Matter riots and the appalling spectacle of the Capitol riots. Some Americans seem to feel it is their duty to engage in less than peaceful protests.

Does the Bible permit Christian’s to disobey their government? Scripture gives repeated, strong commands to obey the government. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” (Romans 13:1) “Be subject to principalities and powers, obey magistrates.” (Titus 3:1) First Peter says, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” When questioned about submitting to the taxes of the Roman government, Jesus taught obedience. “Render unto Caesar that things which are Caesar’s.”

The Bible clearly teaches that Christian’s must obey the government in all things. However, one exception to this rule can be found in the New Testament. The Christian must disobey their government when the governing body demands disobedience to God’s commands. The Christian must obey the government when it says to wear a seat belt or pay taxes. The Christian must not obey the government if it forbids preaching the gospel (or proselytizing, as it is often called) or if it requires Christian churches to solemnize homosexual weddings. The Bible is clear, the Christian must always obey the Bible first and their governors second.

A caution is in order. Disobedience to the government must only take place when a clear command of God is at stake. The mask mandates during the pandemic did not violate God’s Word, therefore, where those mandates were legally enacted the Christian had the duty to obey them. Christian’s may disagree with a law and they have the freedom in America to voice their disagreement and to use all legal means to change the law. Christian’s cannot disobey a law just because they disagree with it or because it violates a strongly held belief. Christian’s are only permitted to disobey when the law of man clearly contradicts the commands of God.

Christians live in obedience to the government but place obedience to God over submission to the government because God is Supreme. God sets up and overthrows governments. God appoints governments and establishes each government official to be a minister of God for the promotion of good, the protection of the innocent and the punishment of evil. (Romans 13:1-6) All governments are under the control of God, even those governments which Him and His authority. The Christian obeys God because God rules over all nation, all kings and all men. The Christian obeys kings, presidents, judges and officers because God rules over all nations and has appointed those officials for good. We must obey earthly authorities because God gave them that authority. To disobey them is to disobey God, but above all else we must obey God in all things.

What does the Bible say about Russia?

Russia has blasted it’s way back into the front of everyone’s mind. The world is intent on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The sudden invasion of Ukraine has caused some to wonder what the Bible says about Russia and if this war is anything to do with Biblical prophecy.

One thing the Bible does not say about Russia is its name. The word Russia does not appear any where in Scripture. Instead, the Bible mentions a political power named Magog that attacks Israel from the north. Magog is believed to be the region north of the Caspian Sea. Russia is the largest, most powerful nation in that section of the world. As a result, most Bible students connect Magog with modern day Russia. The connection with Magog leads students of Biblical prophecy to believe Russia is going to be a major player during the end times.

The Bible says in Ezekiel 38 and 39 that Magog will lead a coalition of nations against Israel. God will direct Magog to attack Israel so, “that the heathen may know me.” (Ezekiel 38:16) When Magog attacks Israel, God will rise up in great anger against them. He will destroy the majority of Magog’s army with only one-sixth surviving God’s wrath. Israel will be saved from it’s enemies. Magog’s attack of Israel will probably take place during the Tribulation, before the return of Jesus, but the Biblical information does not allow a precise identification of when the events described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 will happen.

In Genesis 10:2 and 1 Chronicles 1:5 the Bible also briefly mentions that Magog is the name of one of Noah’s grandson’s. The only other significant mention of Magog in Scripture is in Revelation 20. The events of Revelation 20 take place after the one thousand year reign of Jesus. Satan is released from prison and immediately begins to con the nations of the world to rise up against God. Revelation 20:8 mentions only one nation by name, Magog. This could be because of the importance of Magog in Biblical prophecy or as an indication of how Satan brings even distant nations to battle against God. People will travel from Magog to assault the city of Jerusalem where they will be destroyed by God.

The Bible says little about Magog except that it will suffer the wrath of God when it attempts to destroy God’s chosen nation, Israel. Magog will play a significant role in end times events, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not the fulfillment of any Biblical prophecy. The future Magog may not even be Russia as we know it today.

Did Jesus Have Blue Eyes?

During a recent children’s activity one of the little boys asked his teacher if Jesus’ eyes were blue. The question amuses, but it addresses some deeper considerations that may normally be overlooked. What did Jesus look like?

No pictures of Jesus were ever taken. If any paintings or drawings of Jesus were made while He was on earth they have long been lost. Archeology has found no first century busts of Jesus and no texts describing His appearance. Much European art depicting Jesus is demonstrably inaccurate. Jesus was not European. The more He looks like King Arthur, the less accurate the image is likely to be. Other people groups have depicted Jesus in their own unique style and have fallen into the same errors as the Europeans. This author has seen images of Jesus with distinctively African features, including very dark skin, and of Asian Jesus’, including epicanthic folds. Jesus was not European, African or Asian.

The Bible gives a few descriptions of Jesus that guide our speculations of what He looked like. Jesus had a beard. Isaiah 50:6 prophesied that the Messiah would allow His abusers to pluck out His beard. Jesus was average looking. Isaiah 53:2 indicates that the Messiah would not be spectacular looking or exceptionally handsome. Nothing about Jesus’ appearance attracted others to Him.

Most importantly, the Bible plainly declares Jesus to be a Jewish man. Consequently, He would have had the features, skin, hair and eye coloring typical of an Israelite. A broad range of skin, hair and eye coloring can be found in any people group, but Jesus was most likely dark skinned (though not “black”), with dark hair and dark eyes. This is not at all certain, but Jesus most likely looked like an average Jesus man.

This question is important because Jesus was fully God and fully human. As a human Jesus descended from David, Judah, Jacob and Abraham. He was as genetically Jewish as any other Israelite. He might even have resembled His mother’s side of the family. Though blue eyes can be found in modern day Jews, Jesus probably did not have blue eyes.