Having reminded these believers in Galatia of their relationship with God through Jesus Christ, Paul exhorts them to return to a position of grace, which they once believed in. The Jews had the Law and the Gentiles had their pagan deities, which enslaved them. Once they believed in Jesus Christ as Savior they were free from this slavery. Now they were being asked by the Judiazers to return to bondage, which apparently some had already done. Paul was amazed!
We call this return to bondage reversionism. Reversionism is the condition of a believer that is negative toward Bible doctrine and as a result has stopped growing spiritually. It is failure to follow God’s plan of executing the Christian Way of Life. The reversionist is a believer in perpetual carnality, out of fellowship with God and controlled by his sin nature. (If you are not advancing toward spiritual maturity as a Christian, you are retreating into reversionism).
The reversionist is said to be “an enemy of God,” “an enemy of the Cross,” “a child of the devil,” double-minded” and “unstable in all his ways.” He does not abide in the teaching of Christ, he deludes himself, he lacks faith, he faints in his mind, he is a prisoner to sin, he has come short of the grace of God, his soul is tortured and he is subject to divine discipline. The reversionist has left his first love, fallen away from his spiritual life and has become a lukewarm believer. We will delve into these various descriptions of the reversionist as we get further into our study. (James 4:4; Philippians 3:18-19; I John 3:10; James 1:8, 4:8; II John 9; James 1:22-24; Romans 7:23; Hebrews 12:3-15; II Peter 2:7-8; Revelation 2)
Some believers start their Christian lives very well, under sound, accurate doctrinal teaching from their pastor-teacher. Others wander off immediately after salvation, and remain in a state of carnality until they die. Then we have the reversionist that begins well but finishes poorly. We will study the various reasons this happens and see if there is a divine solution to reversionism.
How does the decline begin? When the rate of forgetting Bible doctrine exceeds the rate of learning, the believer is at risk of reversionism. To guard against this happening, the reverse must be practiced consistently; the rate of learning Bible doctrine must exceed the rate of forgetting.
When a believer abandons Bible doctrine, it is a short step into the arrogance complex of sins. These sins are self-justification, self-deception and self-absorption. Being no longer influenced by the doctrine in their souls, these believers become totally preoccupied with themselves. This, of course, is a huge distraction to any believer attempting to execute God’s plan. The arrogance complex leads the believer into all kinds of sin, especially mental attitude sins and eventuates in the early stages of reversionism.
First, in an attempt to justify his actions, the believer fails to take the responsibility for his own bad decisions. Remember that the ends never justify the means in the Christian Way of Life. Failure to take responsibility for your own actions leads to the next step, self-deception. Self-deception is exactly what it sounds like, a believer out of fellowship with God and controlled by his sin nature deceiving himself into believing that his actions are justified. This mental attitude leads this believer into the next step, self-absorption. Self-absorption is a total preoccupation with self. Unable to concentrate on anything other than “my problems,” the believer begins his slide downhill into a state of reversion.
As the slide continues, the reversionistic believer is distracted by the details of life and reacts to everyone and everything in a negative manner. Pleasure, people or profession are put before God, His Plan and His Word. The result is a series of bad decisions from a position of weakness. As the spiritual nature is starved (no application of Bible doctrine) and the sin nature is fed, this believer sinks deeper into the quagmire of reversionism. In a frantic search for happiness, which for the believer can be found only from the execution of the spiritual life, the reversionsist acts out whatever his particular trend of the sin nature happens to be. He may become legalistic, forcing his ideas of spirituality upon all in his periphery. Thought of by many as a “spiritual giant”, he is in fact the enemy of God. Carried to its fullest extent, legalism results in spirituality by works, Christian activism (trying to reform the devil’s world), tabooism or emotionalism, all of which are evil. The other trend of the sin nature is lascivious lawlessness, which when acted upon leads to all types of debauchery. Neither of these reversionistic trends leads a believer to the happiness which they are seeking; they are led instead into a life of self-induced misery.
As the reversionist moves further away from God, his conscience becomes more and more seared, his norms and standards revert to human viewpoint and the scar tissue of the soul begins to build. Capacity for life is replaced with the temporary happiness of the World: money, power, social status and material possessions. What a person thought was going to bring them lasting happiness only brings delusion. Delusion leads to frustration, discouragement and even depression. (I Timothy 4:2)
Turning to emotion, which was never designed by God to control the soul, but as a response mechanism, the reversionist revolts. This emotional revolt, whether knowingly or in ignorance, rejects the authority of Bible doctrine, resulting in mental instability and mental imbalance. A life ruled by emotion can never please God or execute His plan for one’s life. A tool of Satan in order to counterfeit the work of God, emotion can control the soul even of the believer who has been learning doctrine. When emotion is allowed to take over, Divine Viewpoint Thinking and application of doctrine are impossible. The slide into reversionism continues as “your experience” (usually an emotional one) replaces the truth of God’s Word. (Romans 16:17-18)
Emotional revolt of the soul means that the believer has locked himself into negative volition. Negative volition, of course, rejects all doctrinal teaching and stops spiritual growth. The more time spent in this condition, the more likely the believer is to abandon everything that he has learned about God’s Word. Eventually he becomes apathetic toward Bible doctrine as Human Viewpoint Thinking replaces Divine Viewpoint Thinking. This apathy leads to a change in priorities as interest in God’s Word is exchanged for interest in the details of life. Having turned his back on God and His grace policies, the reversionist forgets his source of blessing, bringing upon himself cursing in many forms from this World System and divine discipline from his Heavenly Father. This believer lacks the power to recover (due to negative volition in his soul) and the Problem-Solving Devices (if ever learned), are useless information to him.
We see this revolt against God’s Word within the local church as the emotional issues of the day take priority over Bible doctrine. “We must love everyone”, “we must do our best to change the devil’s world”, “we must make our nation a Christian nation”, “we must spend time ‘praising’ God” are all issues that are packed with emotion. Bible doctrine is given a back seat or none at all. This negative volition is the springboard that launches the reversionist into the final stages of reversionism. (Philippians 3:17-19)
Controlled by the sin nature and Human Viewpoint Thinking, the soul of the believer in reversionism gradually darkens into a state of blackout. Deliberate rejection of the study or rejection of application of Bible doctrine on a consistent basis leads the reversionistic believer directly into evil. In this case, evil is not what most people think of as evil. Here, evil is succumbing to satanic doctrine, which has entered the soul through the vacuum created by negative volition over a prolonged period of time. The vacuum is an emptiness or a void in the mind that is going to be filled with something. For the believer it is going to be either Divine Viewpoint Thinking or Human Viewpoint Thinking.
In this stage of reversionism the believer is operating solely on human viewpoint to life and circumstances. For this reason he is easily influenced by demons and this World System. Since thinking has become totally distorted, the believer blames all his problems on God, on others or on circumstances, failing to take responsibility for his own bad decisions, bad choices and bad behavior. (Ephesians 5:11; 6:12)
From the blackout of the soul the reversionist begins to build scar tissue on the soul, becoming callous to everything that has to do with God and His Word. The build up of scar tissue is synonymous with the term “hardening of the heart”. Scar tissue prevents Bible doctrine from circulating in the soul, cutting off the ability to recall and use doctrinal information that has previously been stored there. The result of not being able to recall and use doctrine is lack of wisdom. “An unwise person is unstable in ALL his ways.” (John 12:40; Romans 2:5; II Corinthians 4:3-4)
This instability causes the reversionist to become divorced from reality. What he should love he hates and what he should value in life he rejects as worthless. Priorities are reversed, norms and standards are reversed and thinking is reversed in this stage of reversionism. At this point the believer can no longer be distinguished from the unbeliever. The believer has become “a hater and enemy of God, antichrist and a disciple of the devil.” (John 15:23; James 4:4; I John 2:18; 3:8-10)
Paul demonstrated to these Galatian believers that they had actually placed themselves back under a system of legalism that was “weak and beggarly.” One of the signs that they had slid into a state of reversionism was the observance of certain Jewish Sabbaths and feasts, sometimes observed on a day, for a month, or for a year.
Paul’s concern, as we will see, was that these believers would continue the slide into reversionism and eventually forget all that he had taught them and all they had believed. They were in the early stages of reversionism and Paul’s concern was that it would be difficult to recover, if they continued down this road.