The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Evidence from Paul that backsliders can be restored


I posted this in another thread, but I thought it might be helpful to people browsing the forums for it to get its own thread:

One verse that contradicts the idea that backsliding Christians can’t be restored is Galatians 6:1.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

It would be strange to think Paul was instructing Christians only on treatment of unbelievers here. If anything, the language suggests this admonition is about only sinning Christians; how could someone who never was Christian be restored?

See also 2 Cor 2:5-8. Paul talks about a sinner being punished by the majority of the church, and how the sinner should now be forgiven. Paul had said in 1 Cor 5 that it’s the church’s job to judge Christians, not unbelievers. The obvious conclusion then is that in 2 Cor 2 Paul was talking about a Christian who had fallen into sin.


Central orthodoxy (under the guidance of mostly-universalist teachers at the time), agreed with that, too, during the controversy over whether those who recanted Christ during the persecutions could be restored. Those who insisted that they could not, were deemed heretical. If I recall correctly, the basic concept was that no one anywhere could backslide more than Peter did, who went so far as to curse himself in denying Jesus, and who Jesus even put on par with Satan over Peter’s rebellions! – but Jesus sought him out and restored him to fellowship.


Hi Jason. I hardly ever see you here any more. What’s new?


There are plenty of verses that indicate a backslider can be restored like James 3.2 “In many things we all stumble.” Stumbling is backsliding, but it is out of the normal mode of behavior yet it is temporary because that is the nature of a stumble.


I perceive that this very question is asked on behalf of those who doubt their salvation. Because of the false dichotomy (off/on binary, actually) created by the Church you end up with a lot of confusion. Mixed that up with some hard to understand Bible verses sprinkle on some fear and you have this very question, asked by thousands others, millions of others who are unsure of their present standing with God. Now, even if this isn’t a concern of yours, it is no doubt one of the top concerns people ask. You can see it all over the internet in the form of this question. Trying to find out if one can climb back out of the pit they fall back into, or maybe they are concerned for the future “What if I fall away?”

The premise is flawed entirely. You are not saved until you are saved, period. Until that time, you are working closer to it at the present moment, or working away from it at the present moment. Moment to moment, we backslide and move forward. Sometimes you hear 2 steps forward, one step backwards. We might even take 20 step backwards until we learn a specific life lesson. Maybe we keep trying to climb the wrong staircase, so we fall all the way to bottom and say “Hey, what is that over there? A different staircase!” and low, that might be the truth in that specific life lesson.

Life is hard, but religion makes it even harder! Even more so, these moments of doubt, of fear… They are but moments of emotional instability. They pass. They always do. But, sometimes they last a long time, perhaps long enough to have one question this false dichotomy in the first place.

One thing is sure: No one, absolutely no one is beyond the care and love of God. But all these words mean nothing to someone going through this. I have found this out… That no matter the assurance people offer on their opinion of a matter, or the proof they display; wherever the possibility for doubt to exist, it will and will destroy the peace you have. This something each person must work out on their own, else the OCD reassurance keeps the question going and going and going… Maybe this text will provide me the assurance I need… or maybe this one will… maybe the pastor can tell me something that will calm my fears… and the reassurance we seek never, ever, ends… That is, until we decide to stop seeking assurance and become comfortable with the feeling of fear, until that too, vanishes.


Well said Gabe…


Gabe, this may surprise you, but I’ve become confident in my salvation as well as all of creation’s. I still would like to figure out what the Bible’s writers meant when they penned words that sound contradictory to universalism. And it never hurts to find new ‘proofs’ of UR in the Bible.


Qaz, understood. But I also understand that others read these boards and if others can be helped by addressing the root of the issue, then I am happy. In other words, whether or not you personally struggle with this, others do. Hence, my post about it. You will find this is a massive fear that many Christian’s have. I remember reading several ‘study’ bibles that all dedicated a section to this ‘fear’, trying to assure the readers that they are ‘fine’ by offering proof texts. This may help these people for a moment, but ultimately they will keep doubting until they get the root of it.


Gabe wrote:

Thanks Gabe :smiley:


I read James tonight and noticed that in addition to the verse Steve mentioned, James closed his epistle basically saying backsliders can be brought back!