A solitary figure standing at the edge of a stormy ocean, their back turned towards the crashing waves, symbolizing the eternal forgiveness and grace of God towards those who stray.

How Many Times Will God Forgive A Backslider?

Backsliding from faith can make us feel distant from God and wonder if we still have a chance at forgiveness and restoration. The good news is that God is always ready to welcome backsliders when they repent.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: God will forgive a backsliding believer an unlimited number of times as long as they confess their sins with a repentant heart.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we will explore biblical examples of God’s grace and willingness to forgive backsliders, examine factors like repentance and hardened hearts that impact forgiveness, overview theological perspectives on the issue, and provide guidance for those seeking to return to faith.

Defining Backsliding and Examples from Scripture

What is meant by backsliding from faith

Backsliding refers to someone who has embraced the Christian faith but has since regressed in their commitment and obedience to God. It describes a person who once actively pursued God but has now fallen back into old patterns of sin and unbelief.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to backslide means “to lapse morally or in the practice of religion.” So a backslider is someone who once walked closely with God but has slid backwards in their spiritual life and is no longer living out their professed faith.

Some common symptoms of backsliding include:

  • Loss of joy and passion for God
  • Decreased prayer life and Bible reading
  • Wandering eyes and hearts toward sin and unrighteousness
  • Compromise and spiritual apathy

Stories of backsliders who were forgiven like Samson, David, and Peter

The Bible contains several examples of noted backsliders who were restored and used powerfully again by God after a time of redirection and refocusing.

Samson – Samson was gifted with supernatural strength and called to deliver Israel from the Philistines. But he backslid into sin and compromise time and again, including consorting with prostitutes and eventually being captured, blinded and imprisoned by the enemy.

But after a period of testing and repentance “the hair on his head began to grow again” (Judges 16:22). And in a final act of sacrifice, God empowered Samson to topple the pagan temple and slay thousands of Israelites’ enemies.

David – David was boldly used by God to defeat Goliath and was anointed to be king of Israel. But later he committed brazen sin by committing adultery and then having the woman’s husband murdered to cover it up.

After nearly a year unrepentant, David was finally confronted and convicted of his backsliding. He earnestly sought God’s forgiveness and cleansing. God spared his life but there were still consequences to face.

Yet in time God fully restored David who continued to lead IsraelUntil the end of his 40 year reign.

Peter – Peter walked closely with Jesus for 3 years and even boldly declared he would die before denying Christ. Yet on the night Jesus was betrayed, Peter crumbled under pressure and proceeded to deny Jesus not just once, but three times.

Following Christ’s resurrection and Peter’s repentance, Jesus met Peter by the sea and fully restored him to fellowship and ministry. The book of Acts shows how Peter went on to become a pillar in the early church.

So while backsliding is grievous, these examples give hope that with sincere repentance, a backslider can be fully restored and used by God once again.

Requirements for a Backslider to be Forgiven

For a Christian who has strayed from their faith to receive forgiveness, wholehearted repentance and remorse for past sins are key. As GotQuestions.org notes, “True repentance means being truly sorry for wrong actions and attitudes and turning away from that old lifestyle.”

While stumbling in one’s walk with God is common, demonstrating a genuine desire to recommit one’s life to Christ opens the door for renewed grace. The Bible assures believers that “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).

Genuine repentance and remorse are essential

Backsliders must take ownership of what led them astray rather than making excuses. Blaming others or one’s circumstances won’t fly. As 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody wisely counseled, “There is no right way to do wrong.”

With humility, wayward Christians can acknowledge the foolish wanderings they’ve taken into sin and return to the Shepherd who will readily take them back into the fold (Psalm 23; Luke 15:11-32). Sincere confession coupled with pleas for mercy and changed behavior reopens the door to restored intimacy with God.

But more than just feeling bad and sorry for offending God, true repentance is proven in backsliders’ actions over the long haul as they demonstrate renewed faithfulness.

Even repeat offenses can be forgiven apart from the unforgivable sin

How many times will God keep forgiving repeat-sinning backsliders who stray and repent over and over? Some Christians get trapped in cycles of lapsing and asking for forgiveness time and again. While God’s patience isn’t infinite, even serial backsliders can find redemption as long as they continue turning back to the Lord.

However, repeatedly abusing God’s grace is risky. Persistent rebellion with no true change of heart and life can potentially lead to final rejection, especially if backsliders adamantly reject theconviction and warning of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus spoke of an “eternal sin” (Mark 3:29) that forever cuts sinners off from forgiveness and salvation. So while God is eager to pardon repentant backsliders, even serial ones, ultimately persistent defiance and contempt for the Spirit’s promptings leads people to cross a line into irreversible spiritual ruin.

Theological Perspectives on God’s Forgiveness of Backsliders

Views differ between denominations

Christian denominations have differing views on God’s forgiveness of backsliders. Some believe in unconditional eternal security – once you are saved, you are always saved, regardless of future sins. Others believe in conditional security – remaining in a state of salvation is conditional upon continued faith and repentance.

If one falls away, forgiveness and restoration is possible through repentance.

Calvinist and Reformed denominations, like Presbyterians, tend to lean towards unconditional eternal security. They emphasize salvation by grace alone. Good works flow from salvation but do not secure it. Salvation cannot be lost even if one backslides.

Arminian denominations, like Methodists and Pentecostals, lean towards conditional security. They stress the responsibility to remain faithful after salvation. They believe grace can be resisted and salvation can be forfeited through unrepentant sin. Restoration is available if the backslider repents.

The Catholic doctrine accepts both unconditional and conditional elements. They make a distinction between mortal and venial sins. Mortal sins totally break one’s relationship with God and require absolution through confession and penance.

Venial sins weaken one’s relationship with God but do not remove sanctifying grace, so they can be forgiven simply through repentance and absolution.

Once saved always saved vs conditional security

“Once saved always saved” is the Calvinist, unconditional security view. It argues that salvation cannot be undone, even by subsequent sin, since it depends wholly on God’s grace and election, not human effort. Opponents argue this can lead to license to sin.

Conditional security is the Arminian view that remaining saved is conditional on continued faith, repentance, obedience, and avoiding mortal sins. If one fails in this, salvation may be lost, but can be restored through repentance and God’s grace. Opponents argue this undermines assurance.

Scholars point out biblical support for both views. Verses supporting unconditional security include John 10:28-29, Romans 8:38-39, Ephesians 1:13-14. Verses supporting conditional security include Hebrews 6:4-6, Ezekiel 18:24, Revelation 2:4-5.

There are also mediating positions. For example, many say one cannot lose salvation but can backslide temporarily. Others distinguish between notional and efficacious salvation – one had only notional salvation if apostasy shows it was never efficacious.

Most agree God’s grace and forgiveness is unending for the repentant. But views differ on whether it is possible to definitively turn away. The debate continues between Calvinist and Arminian scholars.

Practical Steps for Backsliders Seeking Forgiveness and Restoration

Confess sins specifically

When seeking forgiveness and restoration as a backslider, it is important to specifically confess your sins before God. Here are some practical steps:

  • Make a list of the sins you have committed that led you to backslide. Be as specific as possible, do not hold anything back from God.
  • Verbally confess each sin out loud to God. Name the sins specifically and ask for His forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
  • Confess your sins to a trusted friend or pastor who can provide accountability and support.
  • Make restitution where needed – apologize to those you have hurt or wronged.

The more detailed you are in confessing your sins, the more freedom and restoration you will experience. God already knows the sins you’ve committed, so come completely clean before Him. Holding back will only block His full forgiveness and healing.

Spend focused time renewing your relationship with God

Once you have confessed your sins, it is important to actively rebuild your intimacy with God. Here are some practical steps:

  • Commit to a daily quiet time of Bible reading, prayer and worship. Set aside at least 30-60 minutes each day.
  • Read through books of the Bible and highlight verses that speak to you. Psalms is a great place to start.
  • Join a small group Bible study for support and accountability.
  • Listen to praise and worship music daily to help renew your spirit.
  • Attend church regularly – don’t miss weekly services.
  • Schedule times of fasting to focus your heart on God.
  • Memorize inspirational Bible verses to meditate on.
  • Take a spiritual retreat to fully immerse yourself in time with God.

The key is scheduling consistent, uninterrupted time to reconnect spiritually. This may mean rearranging your daily schedule and cutting out unnecessary activities. Be ruthless in protecting this precious time with God. Your relationship with Him must be the priority.

As you do, you’ll experience His forgiveness, acceptance and begin to live in freedom again.


In summary, God is extremely gracious and quick to forgive repentant backsliders an unlimited number of times. However, willful and unrepentant sin can eventually lead to a hardness of heart that blocks out God’s mercy.

We encourage any backsliders reading this to take the first step and cry out to God asking Him to grant you repentance leading back to restored relationship with Him.

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