OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
When one obeys the gospel of Christ, he begins a walk with God down the path of righteousness. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). This walk ought to always involve forward motion. The faithful child of God should never be going backward. Some, however, go backward despite the command to go on unto perfection (Heb. 6:1).
There are Bible examples of those who went backward in their walk with God. The children of Israel were delivered by the mighty hand of God from the evil Pharaoh. Their steps in the wilderness were taking them to a land that flowed with milk and honey, the Promised Land. They stopped at Mount Sinai for a period of time to receive the Law of God. It was here that they stepped backward. Their backward direction is recorded for us in Exodus 32:1-6.
And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These by thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
A backward step might be too mild for the actions of the Israelites on this occasion. They took a giant leap back toward Egypt and the gods thereof. Had not God informed Moses of their actions, he may have come down the mountain to an empty plain. Israel may have marched right back to the tyranny of Pharaoh.
In the book of Acts, we have an example of a convert to Christianity who went backward. Philip was preaching in the city of Samaria and came in contact with a man “called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria” (Acts 8:9). This man was convicted by the preaching of Philip and obeyed the gospel of Christ. “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:13).
This man did well until the apostles came from Jerusalem to bestow the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon these new disciples. The ability the apostles had to lay hands on others so they might receive the Holy Ghost intrigued Simon. “And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay my hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:18-19). Simon’s desire and his offer of money were a step in the wrong direction. In times past, he displayed himself as “some great one” (Acts 8:9). He loved to hear the people proclaim of him: “This man is the great power of God” (Acts 8:10). The power of the apostles tempted him. He yearned for it. His longing took him in a backward direction instead of a positive one (Acts 8:20-23).
One other example of some who went backward is the members of the churches of Galatia. Paul had converted these individuals on his first missionary journey. In the epistle to the Galatians, Paul notes their eagerness to move forward when they initially obeyed the gospel. He said: “Ye did run well…” (Gal. 5:7). Judaizing teachers, however, had entered into their ranks. Their labors turned some of these Christians back to Judaism. In chapter three, verse one, Paul asks: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” Their steps backward literally caused the apostle Paul to marvel. “I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:7). His appeal to them in the Galatian letter is: “Don’t go backward!”
Yes, it is possible to go backward instead of forward in your Christian walk. Most of the time that backward slide is not as dramatic as the examples we have set before you. It is just a step or a half-step backward at a time. We do not study God’s Word as we ought. We cease to pray on a regular basis. We miss Sunday nights, then Wednesday night Bible class. We don’t show up for scheduled works of the church. We let the things of this world keep us away from our Christian obligations. We rationalize and justify and make excuses for our steps backward. Sometime we have removed ourselves farther than we think we have. When we set our binoculars down, we can see the great distance between now and where we used to be.
The Hebrew writer penned an epistle to a group of Christians who were beginning to go backwards. Many times he exhorts them to go forward and not backward. “Therefore we ought to give the most earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Heb. 2:1). The American Standard Version is interesting here. It translates the last portion of this verse with these words: “…lest haply we drift away from them.” The picture is that of a boat that was not properly tied to the dock. The movement of the water slowly drags the boat away from the shore to open, dangerous territory of the open seas. This is what happens to some of God’s children. Slowly they drift from their commitment to God and from the teachings of His Word. Dear brethren, let’s not drift away. Let’s do as the inspired penman admonishes us to do in Hebrews 6:1. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…”