It has got to be one of the scariest verses in all of Scripture. Thus, one that is worth wrestling with and one that needs to be cataloged within the filter of holy discernment. Because, according to the Spirit, despite the fact that it might look like a duck, swim like a duck, and quack like a duck, it ain’t necessarily a duck.
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.”
(2Peter 2:20-22 ESV)
Saved or not saved? That is the question.
Too much context within Scripture for me not to hook my anchor on the solid rock that once a person is redeemed and regenerated they are forever a child of God and secure in their salvation. I believe that those God begins a good work in, He will complete that work in (Php. 1:6). I believe that those the Father gives to the Son the Son will never cast out, nor should the Son lose anything of all that has been given Him. I believe that the will of the Father is that whoever believes in the Son will have eternal life, and the Son will raise each one up on the last day (Jn. 6:37-40).
So, if that’s the truth to which my anchor’s fixed, how do I make sense of those who have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and yet are again entangled in them and overcome?
We know that there are many religions which produce “good people.” Many tenets, beliefs, and isms that provoke outward reform and moral behavior. To think that someone could know about Jesus, could be enticed by Jesus, and even try and live like Jesus without actually believing in Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior of all creation, perhaps isn’t that big a stretch. That they could be drawn to Sermon on the Mount types of teaching without confessing and repenting of their sinful hearts before the Servant on the cross is a possibility. And so, in that sense, men and women could in fact be outwardly righteous before others, could have a form of godliness, yet be destitute of the grace of God in their lives. They may have heard enough to escape, but not be prepared to believe enough to be rescued.
So when they are again entangled in the defilements of the world it’s not that they have been un-saved or dis-regenerated, but it’s an indication that they had never been born again. They had never stopped being a dog so it’s natural they’d return to their own vomit. Were never converted from being a sow and so, after washing themselves, returned eventually to what they do naturally, wallow in the mire.
How could they have heard enough to change their lives but not to redeem their souls? Through the false teachers among them (2Pet. 2:1). Enough gospel to clean up, but not enough to fess up. Enough gospel to tithe to the preacher, not enough gospel to die to the Savior. “Waterless springs” appealing to parched souls, “enticing by sensual passions of the flesh,” resulting in moral people never converted by God’s power (2Pet. 2:17-19).
Thus, a scary verse not because my salvation could be short-lived, but because another’s might be superficial. And while I’m not responsible, nor able to determine whether someone is really saved, in caring for others who call themselves a brother or sister, I can be discerning. At least aware that one who seems again entangled in the defilements of the world may not need a call to stop backsliding but might actually need an introduction to the One in whom they need to start believing. That they might benefit more from hearing again the gospel than from being given a pass because “none of us are perfect.”
Hmm. Something to chew on.
By His grace. For His glory.