Proverbs 14:14 ESV
The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
The contrast today is similar to, but not precisely the same as, a theme we’ve encountered often in Proverbs, as recently as verse 11 of this very chapter: the eventual reward of the wicked and of the righteous. Today, the contrast is between the good man and the backslider- the second, of course, fills the place of the wicked- as they are both promised that they will reap the fruits of their lives. This should leave us with some questions. Who is the backslider? Is his always present, or is it only for his future? Another more question, this time regarding the second half of the verse, should obtrude on us: given that Christ in His incarnation became the only perfectly good man, was He, is He, and will He be filled with the fruits of His good way?
First, then, who is the backslider? The proverb doesn’t really elaborate, outside of the implicit contrast and negative connotation, so we have to rely on the analogy of Scripture and the plain meaning of the word for our answer. A backslider (and the word rendered thus in our translations) is one who turns back from a course he has embarked upon- a righteous course, in this case, to fit the antithetic parallelism of the verse, the general connotation of the word, and the verse’s obvious parallelism to other parts of Proverbs-, who turns his back on an endeavor after his hands have been already upon the plow. And yes, here I am drawing a connection to Luke 9:62, where Christ says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Here we find the core applicability of this Proverb: the man who, having been called of God, looks upon His call and turns away. He is the backslider, albeit other, more mundane backsliders should still beware of this proverb’s pronouncements.
Yet, how is this man any different from any other who does not turn to Christ? He is not elect, else the call would have drawn him in ineluctably. How does this man truly differ, as he was never truly of God’s people, was at most among them without being like them, a child of God? In some sense, not at all; all men know His right and reject it (Romans 1:20); in a sense, the moment an unregenerate man does a deed not perfectly evil, he takes a step towards God, then spits upon Him by sinning once more, for man without God desires not to do any other. On the other hand, though, God does distinguish some men from others in this capacity. Jesus tells us in the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-9,18-23) of men who receive the Word of God with joy, who treasure it for a little, and fall away; He tells us also in another parable of an unruly manager who did not heed his master’s coming, of whom He says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:41-48). Clearly some, who hear the Gospel and give it a passing infatuation, are addressed more by the title of ‘backslider’ than others, in the same way every man is, by Christ’s definition, a murderer (in his heart; Matt. 5:21-26), but we generally reserve the title for those who go through with the physical act of murder.
The second question, now that the first is answered, can be answered with the classic phrase ‘already and not yet’. The first half of this answer is the effects sin- and turning away from God- have upon man here on earth. Sin is unnatural and vile treachery towards God; therefore, man, as His image, is harmed even by His own sin. The second half is the ultimate destination of those sinners whom God does not elect to salvation, whom He allows to cast themselves headlong into damnation, whom He will, in His perfect justice, cast into the lake of fire when He comes again in glory, to judge the quick (the living) and the dead. Save He grant them the mercy of faith in Him, this is the fruit of the backslider’s evil way.
The third question has, I think, the most obvious, but also the most glorious answer, one which is easy to start and impossible to complete. The good fruit of Christ’s perfection is, as befits that perfection, infinite. His work on earth and His intercession for us at the throne of God as our high priest (Heb. 4:14-16) are bearing and will bear eternal fruit, to His pleasure and glory, for they bear the fruit of the souls of men, of His people, of men who are by His blood saved from eternal damnation and who eternally sing His praises. Furthermore, He is the hero of history, of the greatest story, which God tells to Himself and to His people, who are of that story. The good fruit of His righteousness is without end; He is the Good Man, from Whom all good things come (James 1:17), for He is God, to Whom all glory be given.
To God be the glory, great things He has done!
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life-gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son
And give Him the glory, great things He has done!
Great things He has taught us, great things He has done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son,
But purer and higher and greater will be
Our joy and our wonder, when Jesus we see.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.