Sunday, March 25, 2012

Eternal Security, Security of the Believer, OSAS, and 2 Peter 2:20-21

20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  21For 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 Peter 2:20-21 
 From the above,  the reasoning is that those who’ve "escaped the pollutions of the world" only to become "entangled" again are those who were once Christians but have since lost their salvation; and as the verse says, it seems that it would’ve 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,” which they apparently did.  But unbeknownst to many, the key to properly understanding these verses hinges on identifying who the "they" are in v. 20.  Let's have a closer look. 

20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 
 To begin, note that Peter didn’t say that “we” were in trouble of becoming entangled again; he said “they” were.  This implies a contrast.  Observe how the chapter begins:

1But there were false prophets also among the people [holy men; 1:21], even as there shall be false teachers among you [the church; 1:1], who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 
Again we see a contrast between false brethren and the people of God.  The verses that follow go into greater detail as to who they are, what they teach, and what will become of them (2-19).  These are extremely wicked people who are purposely seeking to corrupt the body of believers.  They bring in damnable heresies and preach a false gospel (1).  They speak evil of the truth (2) and will seek to take advantage of God’s people for their own personal gain (3, 14).  They despise authority and are arrogant (self-willed; 10).  They’re called “natural brute beasts” (12), spots and blemishes (13), and are seen as “having eyes full of adultery” (14).  They are wells without water (17)[1] and seek to corrupt God’s people through the lusts of the flesh (18).  In v. 19, they’re called "the servants of corruption," etc.; and so these are extremely wicked people: wolves in sheep’s clothing.  But not only are they well-defined and elaborately described, they’re also contrasted with God’s people.  Peter said there’d be false teachers “among the people” and “among you” (1).  He said they’d pursue their own lusts as they dined “with you” (13).  Specifically, they’re contrasted with Noah and Lot (5-9) as are the ungodly angels (4) from the godly (11).  And so the context of the passage is one of contrast.  So while it’s written to Christians, it’s not about them, although it is for their learning.  Again, the passage is one of contrast and not Christian entanglement and seducement back into worldly pleasures.  So who are the “they” spoken of in v. 20?  Specifically, they’re “the servants of corruption” found in v. 19, which is but another name for the false prophets and teachers spoken of beginning in v. 1, so they’re one in the same.       

20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  
The assumption here is that having the knowledge of salvation is the same as having obtained salvation.  Salvation requires a decision, but until that decision is made, there is none.  This verse only says they’ve escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the gospel; it doesn’t say they’ve escaped the pollutions of the world through salvation.

If a prisoner escapes from jail, his escape is only temporary because the authorities will soon be after him.  The reason for this is because he’s still a criminal, even though he’s escaped.  If he weren’t a criminal, they wouldn’t be chasing after him.  Eventually he’ll be caught and returned to prison, except this time he’ll be worse off than before because now the authorities will lengthen his sentence, so at best his escape was only temporary and this is exactly what’s being said about these false prophets and teachers.  They’ve only temporarily escaped the pollutions of this world through the hearing of the gospel.  But having failed to repent of their sins, their old sin nature eventually catches up with them – entangling and overcoming them again.  They weren’t able to permanently escape because they didn’t allow themselves to be transformed by the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5); and so their “escape” was only temporary.  And not only that, they’ll be worse off than before because they’ve furthered hardened their hearts to the hearing of the gospel.   
It therefore goes without saying that the only way to permanently escape the clutches of sin and death is to repent of our sins.  We need some sort of transformation to occur so that once we escape we’re no longer considered fugitives, which only occurs through salvation (2 Cor. 5:17).  But since those in v. 20 were “captured” again, it proves they were never saved.  For as Hebrews 2:3 says, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so [a] great salvation”?

21For 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. 
In the Bible, “the way” is often a reference to a road; but knowing where the road is and actually getting on it are two different things.  Similarly, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  Jesus said that he was “the way” (Jn. 14:6).  And since these people have rejected The Way, they aren’t Christians, nor were they ever.[2]  Furthermore, to repent means “to turn.”  It means to turn and start walking in the opposite direction from whence you came.  But instead of turning from their wicked ways, these people decided to turn from “the holy commandment.”  And what is that holy commandment? 

For the unsaved, it’s to repent (Acts 17:30).  Matthew 22:36-40 sums up the entire law by saying that we’re to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  In similar fashion, the 10th Commandment says that we’re not to covet, which addresses our desires and motivation for what we do or not do.[3]  In both cases, no man can do either without a changed heart – a changed heart that comes from repentance.  So for the unsaved, the holy commandment is to repent of their sins.  But these false prophets and teachers have chosen to reject the gospel – preferring instead to return to their life of sin.  Matthew speaks of them: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  

22But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire [mud]. 
The import of v. 22 can’t be understated as it forever provides the context of which 2 Peter 2, and vv. 20-21 in particular, are to be interpreted.  To begin, note that Proverbs 26:11 is only partially quoted.  This isn’t a mistake.  Peter is just referencing the Old Testament enough to let his readers know where he’s taking is queue.  Hence, the lesson of Proverbs 26:11 is more important than an exact quote.  But what does it teach?       

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. 
A fool says in his heart that there is no God; so by definition, a fool is someone who rejects the gospel.[4]  But as a fool returns to his folly, so too does a dog to his vomit.[5]  And since they’ve left only to return to the same place from whence they came, this implies NO CHANGE!  And this is exactly what’s happening with these false prophets and teachers.  They’ve temporarily escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Christ, but in having failed to repent, they’ve returned to the exact same place from which they came – only in a worse condition than before because they’ve hardened their hearts, yet again, to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But to emphasize his point, Peter provides yet another example.  In this case, he’s comparing their fallen state to that of a pig returning to wallow in the mud.  The lesson here is the same as it was regarding the fool and the dog, except this time it would appeal more to a Jewish audience because the Jews regarded pigs as unclean animals, and so this example would be speaking to the false prophets and teachers that came out of Judaism (Tit. 1:10).  But if these verses were about Christians losing their salvation, would God be likening them to fools having returned to their folly, or as dogs having returned to their vomit, or as pigs having returned to the mud?  I don’t think so.  Symbolically, man is an unclean animal (pig).  But when he repents, he becomes a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Flesh can’t change itself; it doesn’t have the power within itself to do so (Jer. 13:23).  The best that can be done with a pig is to clean him up.  But until he repents of his sin, he’s just a pretty pig.  And given the opportunity, he’ll return to the mud because that’s what’s in his nature to do.  Selah.     

Thus it should be clear.  These proverbs are about false prophets and false teachers who never repented because there was never a change in their nature!  This has nothing to do with Christians losing their salvation, but it has everything to do with false prophets and teachers who’ve heard the gospel and rejected it.  And so the contrast here, as it’s been throughout the chapter, is that salvation provides for a new nature and not a pretty pig.  Selah.     

*   *   *   *   *

Summing, God foreknew that we’d have the tendency to read 2 Peter. 2:20-21 as an example of a Christian losing their salvation, and so he provided us with enough examples and contextual evidence to properly interpret the passage.  As demonstrated, the context of the chapter is one of contrast between the saints and false brethren.  It’s a contrast between God’s people and those who claim to be God’s people, but are not.  Had this been about compromising Christians, there would have been examples to this effect, but there are none – quite the opposite, in fact.  If it were, then Lot could have been offered as a good example.  His life in Sodom corrupted not only his morals, but those of his family as well.  His failure to be “in the world but not of it” led to the loss of his wife and incest with his two daughters (Gen. 19).  But despite this, God declared him to be a godly, just, and righteous man (7-9) – a man held in contrast to these false prophets and teachers.  And so the context of this passage is not one about a Christian’s life of compromise, but of contrast between the saint and sinner and of God’s ability to preserve the righteous during times of judgment. 

And finally, 2 Peter 2 provides us with a definition of what it means to be an apostate.  These are people who hear the truth, perceive the truth, may even preach the truth, but ultimately reject it (esp. 19-22).  It also demonstrates that man, in and of himself, doesn’t have the authority, power, or ability, to alter his nature.  Only God can do that.  So if man can’t save himself, then what makes us think he can “unsave” himself?  Selah.      

[1] Note: a well without water is useless.  It’s nothing more than a dressed-up hole in the ground: empty and dry – just like these false prophets and teachers who look good on the outside but with nothing of any use on the inside (i.e. no water: no Holy Spirit, no life).  Selah.
[2] Christianity is also called “the way” (Acts 24:14). 
[3] Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21
[4] Ps. 14:1, 53:1
[5] Note that the –eth ending of “returneth” implies continued or repetitive action – meaning that they do this on a repeated basis.  


  1. Point to Note is 'they' are among us. From verse 1 it is clear False Prophets among holy men and False Teachers among you.

  2. thanks for the post

  3. Would this refer to those who love Jesus and have asked him into their lives and want to give their lives to him in all ways but battle such addictions like pornography in which they thought they have repented but have fallen into it again but still have faith that they can finally at last have true repentance and be delivered completely from this sin? To sum that up a person who fails, tries, fails, tries, fails, tries and succeeds. Also said person wants to sin because of sins desire or his desire for sin sins while during the act of said sin hates what he is doing at the time of sin (willingly sinning due to sins attributes but wishes to not sin at time of sinning) but feels he in future time will finally once and for all escape this addiction regardless of how many times he falls back into it and tries to escape it again? Let's say said person has been through all these things he finally does all he can to remove all these things which gives access to these addiction gateways l Ike for example his computer and strives to live for God and do all he can to live Gods word daily not because he has to but because he wants to..but because after all said person fears judgement and hates his addiction either when he willingly or unwillingly committs this sin often and has failed so many times to escape it but always strives to escape it permanently and finally does, he repents over and over because he loves Jesus and comes to a final repentence. Is this person saved?

    1. As this lesson and those on Hebrews Chapter 6 & 10 teach, a Christian cannot lose their salvation. Upon repentance, our SIN NATURE has been removed but Christians still commit ACTS of sin. How? Because our mind and bodies haven't been fully regenerated yet, as evidenced by our struggles with sin and our bodies continuing to age. So yes, you can repent and still be addicted to porn. This doesn't cost you your salvation, or it doesn't cost you your relationship with God, but it does hurt your fellowship and ability to be fruitful. When we're born again, we're as children who need to learn how to walk, hold a fork, read and write, etc. This is a process, and sometimes it is dirty and messy - just like overcoming our sinful acts and addictions. Remember, faith comes from God and not ourselves. So if you lack faith, ask - and respect the fact that freedom from our acts of sin often involves a process. Why? So that he can teach us things as we endure this process. Also keep in mind that us questioning our salvation only serves Satan's purposes. Hope this helps!

    2. Yes it helps, thank you for the quick reply. I have been studying these verses for some time and answers like this helps me stay strong in faith, I'm weak but the Bible says to build up one another and this is a way of doing so lol.

    3. I apologize for being here again as my doubts strike back but I remember in Numbers what it says about If you presumptuously sin your soul will be cut off from his people unless it's unintentional you may have sacrifice and willingly sinning which is presumptuous after knowing the truth there remains no more a sacrifice for sins... Obviously it applies to me and what I've done but it speaks of the consequences for deliberately sinning..I'm scared especially since I know Jesus is coming soon..

    4. The context is committing a sin worthy of the death penalty; it is not talking about loss of salvation. In other words, if I, as a Christian, go out and commit murder, then I will, or should, lose my natural life but it cannot cost me my salvation. Or again, I will lose some eternal rewards, but not my salvation.

      As per "there is no more sacrifice for sins," see my lesson on Hebrews 10

    5. It's the part that says there remains No MORE a sacrifice for sin but a fearful EXPECTATION of fiery judgement that confuses me.

    6. It's because you're assuming that the statement pertains to Christians. Read the lesson on Hebrews 10 linked above.

  4. I think there is a verse in Numbers 15:27 or so that adds to the idea of my fear as it speaks of presumptuously sinning or sin of the high hand where there was no sacrifice for those sins then and I felt like the latter part of Hebrews 10 which seems to hint or refer to the same thing in Numbers.

    1. You're mixing two different ideas and creating a (false) doctrine. Already I explained the difference between the SIN NATURE and an ACT of sin. All Christians commit acts of sin after salvation but they no longer have a sin nature because the nature has been removed. Our minds and bodies have not yet received this which is why we can sin and it not cost us our salvation. 1 Jn. tells us what to do if we sin after salvation. Also there is a "sin unto death." For example, if I as a Christian murder it will cost me my earthly life but not eternal salvation. I lose out on rewards, but not salvation.