Theme: REMEMBER THE GOSPEL!
2nd Peter represents the Apostle Peter’s 2nd epistle. Written shortly after the first, the distinguishing mark of this letter is not only its focus on the gospel, but its efficient and effective presentation. In this respect, Peter does two things. First, he reminds us of what the (true) gospel teaches (1:1-15), then he provides us with those reasons we should not only remember what this gospel teaches, but also why it is important that we are growing strong in our commitment to its truths (1:16-3:18).
1. What Peter reminds us is the true/saving gospel message (1:1-15):
Through faith in the righteousness of Christ we GAIN a justified and glorified/exalted state (or “standing”) with God. Though we have GAINED a justified and glorified state through faith in Christ, we MUST MAINTAIN this state/standing through faithfulness. Such maintaining should not surprise us given the reason God justified/glorified us, as well as the commitment we made in order to gain that justification. Faithful maintaining looks like growing in those areas/attributes of obedience God commands in His Word. Failing to maintain will mean losing what we gained; faithfulness (on the other hand) will mean that our justified/glorified standing before God and w/Christ remains intact along with the salvation it promises. IOW: Faith + Faithfulness = Salvation NOT Faith + Nothing = Salvation (1:1-11). Peter thought it was incredibly important to remind believers about this aspect of the true/saving gospel message (i.e. that we must maintain what we have gained if we hope to be remain justified and be saved) (1:12-15).
2. Why Peter thought it was so important to not only remind believers of this gospel (of G&M) but see that they were growing strong in their commitment to its truths (1:16-3:18):
2.1. B/C the gospel (of G&M) is not the invention of men, but the message of both Christ (whom God Himself affirmed) and the OT Scriptures (1:16-21).
2.2. B/C false teachers wb in the Christian camp denying the gospel (of G&M) and leading many astray by appealing to feelings rather than the facts (i.e. sound doctrine) (2:1-2a).
2.3. B/C this heretical “gain but no maintain” group will condemn the true gospel (of G&M) and its followers (i.e. true Christians) as though they were on their way to Hell when in reality it wb the other way around (2:2b-19a).
2.4. B/C the additional tools of entrapment used by the (G & NO M) teachers means we have our work cut for us in reaching others w/the true gospel message (of G&M) (2:10-19).
2.5. B/C embracing the false gospel (of G & NO M) will render true Christians apostate (i.e. w/o Christ w/o the ability to return – 2Th 2:3).
Peter’s concern in this epistle is not for those who have embraced the false gospel (of G & NO M) from the beginning and as a result, were never truly justified/saved (i.e. they are false Christians), but rather those who have legitimately come into a saving covenant relationship w/Christ through their acceptance of/baptism into the true gospel (of G&M) and later wb duped into believing/embracing the gospel of the false teachers. (2:19) “They (i.e. the false teachers) promise them (i.e. those in saving relationship w/Christ. This is made clear by the fact that in verse 20, he refers to them as those who “have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”) freedom (i.e. freedom from obedience/submission to Christ’s Mastery/Lordship, to the obligation of maintaining what they gained – 2:1; E.G. “The biblical picture of the saving experience is masterful in its clarity and simplicity. A single, one-time appropriation of God’s gift results in a miraculous inward transformation that can never be reversed. Since this is true, we miss the point to insist that faith must necessarily continue [or for that matter any form of obedience]. Of course, our faith in Christ [or obedience to Christ] should continue. But the claim that it absolutely must, or necessarily does, has no support at all in the Bible. It is sufficient to observe that the Bible predicates salvation on an act of faith, not on the continuity of faith [or obedience]. Just as surely as regeneration occurs at a point in time for each individual, so surely does saving faith. Through justification we acquire the very righteousness of God, which is credited to us on the basis of faith alone (Ro 3:21, 22). Through regeneration we acquire the very life of God, which is imparted to us likewise on the basis of faith alone. Therefore, in a moment of time we obtain both perfect acceptance before the bar of God’s justice as well as full membership in His family. And all of this is absolutely free and permanent. ‘For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable [Ro 11:29].’” – Zane C. Hodges, [Absolutely Free]), but they are (b/c of their “no maintain” doctrine of faithful obedience as optional) slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes (lit. becomes the master of) a person, to that he is enslaved (Rom 6:16)”. (2:20) “For if after they (i.e. true Christians) have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (i.e. thru faith in the saving gospel of G&M – see 1:2-3; i.e. thru their agreement to submit to Christ as LBS. BTW: The combination of “Lord and Savior” is only used by Peter in this 2nd epistle and Jude in his epistle dealing w/same issue – Anti-LBS/G&NO M gospel), they are again entangled in them (i.e. they go back to sinful/disobedient living; to the “the defilements of the world”) and are overcome” = The result of cognitive dissonance (i.e. the stress caused by beliefs that are inconsistent w/behavior or facts). Their “unstable” lifestyle (2:14) of disobedient/sinful living mixed w/a gospel which does not allow for it, eventually takes its toll. They crumble under the pressure and need to remove such tension.
This in turn leads to changing their gospel to one more accommodating (i.e. one where maintaining thru obedience is not necessary). This is what Peter is referring to by the word “overcome”. It means to fall away, to be apostate from the true gospel thru the embracing of a false one – which is the inevitable result of all who do not commit themselves to growing in the understanding of the true gospel’s message and those areas of obedience mentioned in (1:5-7). Hence why Peter ends the letter w/(3:17-18). Hence why (also) Peter ends verse 20 by stating that, “the last state has become worse for them than the first” = A reference to the loss of justification is unmistakably on Peter’s mind since it impossible to speak of the degradation of a person’s spiritual state (i.e. it “has become worse”) and that not be affected. His words however communicate more than that since their “first” state (i.e. their original unsaved/unbelieving/non-covenant state) is viewed as being better than their final standing (i.e. their “last state” before God). These individuals (b/c of their actions in trading the true gospel for what is false) have gone from condemned (w/hope) as an unbeliever to justified as a Christian to condemned (w/no hope) as an apostate. IOW: They have not only lost their justification before God but possess no chance of ever being restored to repentance and returning back to a justified state/saving relationship w/Christ. This is reinforced by Peter’s words in verses (2:21-22) “For it would have been better for them (i.e. those going apostate thru their embrace of the false gospel of G & NO M) never to have known the way of righteousness (i.e. the true gospel of G&M) than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them (i.e. the command to “be holy” – 1Pe 1:16, which is just another way of saying “be careful to obey all of God’s Law” – Num 15:40 w/Deu 5:32-33 w/32:51). What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’” = Under the OC, pigs and dogs were considered unclean animals. Jesus uses this truth to metaphorically represent those who were not only outside the Kingdom of God but also not selected to receive its life-giving truths. They are the spiritually unclean and unworthy (Mat 7:6, 15:26). The apostles Paul and John use the term “dog” in similar fashion (Phi 3:2; Rev 22:15). This no doubt is how Peter is using the terms (here). As such, he is indicating both the loss of these individuals justified (or clean – 1Co 6:9) state/standing before God and their unworthiness to receive it back. The fact that they have indeed lost their former justified state sb especially apparent given their prior history as those who “have known the way of righteousness” or as a clean pig (“the sow, after washing herself”). Hardly could such things be said about those who never were Christians/true Christians (as some contend) since by such knowledge, they have (again) “escaped the defilements of the world” (20). As has already been demonstrated, Peter uses the word “knowledge” in this epistle as a reference to those who have legitimately put faith in Christ (see 1:2-3, 8 = As before, notice that such knowledge involves God’s calling and includes spiritual standing, power for godly living and eternal promises.). Those who were never Christians (or fake Christians) could also not be referred to as a “dog” or “sow” who “returns” to their former sinful practice/lifestyle (i.e. the Bible views salvation as the only way a person truly ever leaves such things behind. Everyone else is considered enslaved to sin and serving the devil as their Master – 2Pe 2:19 w/Jo 8:34; Eph 2:1-3; 2Ti 2:26; 1Jo 5:18). These individuals therefore are (again) former believers/true Christians – not simply those who heard or had head knowledge yet never committed themselves to Christ. These are (once saved) individuals who have done the unthinkable; who have rejected the gospel obligation of maintaining their covenant relationship thru faithful obedience and accepted (instead) the lie that salvation/justification can be realized w/o it. And as a result, are (now) eternally sealed as those doomed to Hell. This fact also becomes apparent when one considers that Peter’s statement about things being “better” for those who “never” knew, makes no sense unless this is true. Why would it be better to have never been a Christian if the penalty included w/a person’s falling away from the true gospel allowed them to return? If that were the case – and therefore all that Peter is communicating is loss of justification but w/the possibility of restoration/recovery, then it cannot be said that knowing Christ before was a detriment or is in some way a penalty to the person who has gone astray. Rather, Peter’s statement implies just the opposite (and subsequently something permanent). The reason it would have been “better for them never to have known” (i.e. to become true Christians) and then do what they did (in embracing the false gospel), is b/c for them all such promises and hope are lost forever. They are no longer eligible since this constitutes apostasy (Heb 6:4-8, 10:27-30, 12:15-17). Understood from the perspective of marriage, this means that our union w/Christ follows the laws of divorce and remarriage established by God in the OT (Deu 24:1-4; Jer 3:1-8). IOW: I am taking marrying a different Jesus when I embrace/take vows in re: to a different/false gospel since its vows are not something the real Jesus will accept – He only accepts LBS. As such, I have divorced myself from the real Jesus and remarried another/fake Jesus (i.e. the evangelical Jesus). Understood from the perspective of sin, such actions constitute the unpardonable sin (Mat 12:22-32; Num 15:30-31 w/Deu 29:19-20).
2.6. B/C difficult times w/these kinds of people (i.e. those embracing the false gospel) was predicted by the prophets, Jesus and the other apostles.
(3:1-3) = Who Peter is (of course) referring to when he speaks of “scoffers” are the false teachers and those who embrace their message. Their presence w/in so-called Christianity as well as their mocking (or “scoffing”) of true Christians/gospel will be noticeable in “the last days” – which refers to more than the time immediately before Christ’s return. It instead, is a term w/reference to the entirety of history from the point of Christ’s first advent until the time of His second advent (1Pe 1:20 w/1-5; Heb 1:2; Act 2:17; Joh 11:24, 12:48 w/5:26-29). According to Jesus (i.e. “the Lord and Savior”) the “holy prophets” and “apostles”, this entire period wb characterized by increasing/progressive apostasy, such that by the end, true Christianity/Christians or churches will become so rare as to be almost extinct (Luk 18:8; 1Pe 4:1-7, 12-18 = This represents Peter’s first “reminder”; Rom 11:16-22; 2Ti 3:1-14, 4:1-4; Jud 1:14-19; 2Th 1:3-10; Rev 2-3, 20:7-10 w/11-15). The point not to miss is that such difficult times were predicted long beforehand and therefore should not cause us to be alarmed or confused (1Th 3:1-4). As such, this becomes an (ironic) secondary source for determining whether or not we stand in the place of orthodoxy: the less accepted our gospel is, the more likely it is the true one. As before, though the NC possesses better promises (Heb 8:6), that does not include less difficulty, false teachers or apostasy. IOW: the promises are soteriological not ecclesiological. Instead, the pictures of redemptive history under the OC are intended to be “predictions” of what redemptive history will look like under the NC (Consider again 2Pe 2:1 – “false prophets arose among the people just as there wb false teachers among you”; Luk 6:26; 1Co 10:1-11).