2 Peter 2:20-22 -- What Does this Mean?

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Ed Vasicek's picture
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2 Peter 2:20-22 -- What Does this Mean?
This is a truly regenerate person who loses his salvation
8%
This is an unregenerate person within the believing community who shows his true colors
83%
This is a truly regenerate person who is still saved
8%
The Scriptures intentionally leave it open-ended
0%
Other
0%
A combination of more than one of the above
0%
Total votes: 12
Ed Vasicek's picture
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What do you think?

Here is the verse:

Quote:
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: "The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire."

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I voted "an unregenerate person"

I voted "an unregenerate person within the believing community who shows his true colors" because:

  • The contrast between "you" and "they" / "them"
  • Seems obvious that the "they" are lost - eg. "utterly perish in their own corruption" ... "reserved the blackness of darkness forever"
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Jim Peet wrote: I voted "an

Jim Peet wrote:
I voted "an unregenerate person within the believing community who shows his true colors" because:

  • The contrast between "you" and "they" / "them"
  • Seems obvious that the "they" are lost - eg. "utterly perish in their own corruption" ... "reserved the blackness of darkness forever"

I don't understand how you could think that. "after they have escaped the defilements of the world" Until they are saved, they have escaped nothing. Is that not true ? Does the Bible not say there is either cold or hot and no luke warm ?

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Both views have merit

My doctrinal convictions lead me to the view that these are unregenerate people (similar to Jim's view), but I can see how Marty would conclude otherwise.

What is weird about this section is that:

1. On the one hand, the person mentioned here in the text has evidenced repentance and embraced knowledge (epignosko, the idea of full, not superficial knowledge) of Jesus Christ

2. Yet, on the other hand, his real nature has never been changed. He is still, at heart, a dog or a sow.

Those two ideas seem difficult to harmonize.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Ed Vasicek wrote:
On the one hand, the person mentioned here in the text has evidenced repentance and embraced knowledge (epignosko, the idea of full, not superficial knowledge) of Jesus Christ;

Ed, you are right. The people mentioned was obviously saved, being born of the Spirit by the word of God. They knew "the way of righteousness":

"For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them" (2 Pet.2:21).

This way of righteousness is by the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ:

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death...That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Ro.8:2,4).

At one time these people "walked" after the spirit.

Quote:
Yet, on the other hand, his real nature has never been changed. He is still, at heart, a dog or a sow.;

Their nature did change. They were born of God. However, after being saved and knowing the "way of righteousness" they turned away from the "holy commandment". The Greek word translated "commandment" means "of the whole body of moral precepts of Christianity 2 Pet. ii. 21" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

These Christians are described as "those who are just escaping from those who live in error" (v.18) and as having escaped the pollutions of the world (v.20). However,some false teachers had "promised them liberty" (v.19) and allured them through the lusts of their flesh into believing a false teaching in regard to "morals".

This false teaching is probably the same thing that Paul refers to at Romans 3:8--that the Christians were falsely accused of teaching "Let us do evil that good may come." This was a false teaching that said that the more we sin then the more that grace will abound, and was based on a false interpretation of the words at Romans 6:1-"shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?"

So the people who had escaped moral pollution by the knowledge of the gospel as well as the moral teachings that urge the Christian to keep himself "holy" had been deceived into believing that they should continue to sin so that grace would abound even more. They returned to their old way of life (v.22). They are worse off now and it would have been better if they had never even heard the moral commandments at first because now they have no excuse for their behavior.

In His grace,
Jerry

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Contextual reading

Ed Vasicek wrote:
My doctrinal convictions lead me to the view that these are unregenerate people (similar to Jim's view), but I can see how Marty would conclude otherwise.

What is weird about this section is that:

1. On the one hand, the person mentioned here in the text has evidenced repentance and embraced knowledge (epignosko, the idea of full, not superficial knowledge) of Jesus Christ

2. Yet, on the other hand, his real nature has never been changed. He is still, at heart, a dog or a sow.

Those two ideas seem difficult to harmonize.

The difficulty is really for Baptists more than any other group. I don't think it's an insurmountable difficulty, even for Baptists, but they have more trouble because of their tendency to think of the church in ideal terms, as the regenerate community. Presbyterians, for example, are quite used to the idea of a "mixed" community in which one can be a partaker in many senses, but ultimately not personally united to Christ. The context is definitely in favor of such a view. It is imperative that 2 Peter 2 be read as a contiguous discourse. I'll do a brief exposition of the chapter.

2 Pet 2: 1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves.

First, note that the authors is comparing the current situation with the OT situation (there were false prophets, just as there will be false teachers). Read the OT on false prophets and tell me if you think they were "saved." The "among you" points to the fact that these people arise from within the covenant community. The central point to remember is that OT Israel was, in its entirety, a "redeemed" nation. God was the God of every Israelite, even though not every Israelite was truly and inwardly savingly united with Christ. I'm going to eschew more technical discussion of "Master" (δεσποτην) and "bought" (αγορασαντα), since there is a staggering amount of information available on these topics. Briefly, though, if you wanted to choose a word for God far removed from personal union, δεσποτης would be a good pick. In fact, check out Jude 1:4-5 for a clear use of δεσποτης with a temporal salvation. Also, αγοραζω can refer to many kinds of deliverance or redemption, and it is not possible to know which without an examination of the context. It is not a word that necessarily indicates eternal salvation, just as even the word "save" (σωζω) in the NT often means many other things. Based on the way the verse begins, I'd say it's pretty clear that eternal and final salvation is not in view. But, there are more indicators in the same direction.

v. 3 has two points of interest. First, they have "a condemnation from long ago," which should bring to mind John 3:18 and perhaps Romans 9:22. Even more importantly, "their destruction does not sleep." The word "destruction" (απωλεια), when used for people, usually refers to eternal perdition. Check Matthew 7:13, Philippians 1:28, and Revelation 17:8. The phrase υιος τησ απωλειας is used for Judas in John 17:12 and for the "man of lawlessness" (antichrist?) in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Most significantly, Peter uses the same word in the next chapter, 2 Peter 3:7, to refer to the final destruction of the ungodly at the Second Advent.

Moving on, we have a series of comparisons with biblical events. The judgment of the false teachers is compared to the angels who fell (v. 4), the people who disbelieved Noah (v. 5), and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 6). If anyone is inclined to think that these false teachers are just very bad Christians, they are contrasted with Lot, who was righteous compared to them (vv. 7-8).

Skipping some, in v. 14 they are called "accursed" (καταρας). The other three instances where this is used of people seem to me to point toward reprobation. Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 6:8.

In v. 15, they are compared to Balaam, who is everywhere used as an example as an enemy of God's people.

v. 17, the "gloom of darkness" uses a word (ζοφος) also found in Jude 1:6, describing the imprisonment of fallen angels.

v. 19, they are "slaves of corruption," which I admit could conceivably be used of a regenerate person fallen into grievous sin. However,

v. 20, "their last state is worse than their first." The "first" must refer to before they "escaped the defilements of the world." How could any saved person possibly be in a worse state than an unsaved person? On the other hand, it is a common theme throughout the Bible that those who respond to greater opportunity with rebellion will be judged more harshly.

v. 22 confirms that the false teacher is acting in accordance with his nature. He is a "dog" and a "sow" and so it was inevitable that these actions would eventually surface.

Now, against the entire context of the chapter (epistle really), some might argue a contrary position based on the language of v. 20. Leaving aside "the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," which is capable of several meanings, I have to ask, what did they escape? They (temporarily) escaped "the defilements of the world." That's really not saying a whole lot. It is perfectly biblical to assert that, because of their association with the people of God and their outward inclusion in the church, many people temporarily live lives unscarred by many of the sins of the world. For example, any child raised in a good Christian home and under the sound of the gospel and good Bible teaching is far better off (at least temporarily) than a child growing up in a God-rejecting community.

The language of v. 20 is not meant to confuse us. It should not do so if we read it in context. Like many other passages of Scripture, it is warning against the dangers posed by people who are externally a part of the covenant people of God but are not truly united to Christ. Like the warnings in Hebrews, these are meaningful to us because of their strong language, not in spite of it.

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Charlie, you wrote exactly

Charlie, you wrote exactly what I was going to say, essentially, that portion needs to be taken in context of the larger passage. And when so many negative adjectives and comparisons to people and angels which were bad are compared, I think that needs to help interpret this passage. (especially the word Ed mentioned, epignosko.)