5

Given the surrounding context of 2 Peter 2:20-22, we might come to 4 different conclusions on the interpretation of this verse. Given the rule of rational deduction, can we interpret 2 Peter 2:20-22 as follows at the bottom of this question? Let me put the context & verses in hand:

2 Peter‬ ‭2:17-22

17 These men are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm, for whom the utter depths of darkness have been reserved. 18 For by speaking high-sounding but empty words they are able to entice, with fleshly desires and with debauchery, people who have just escaped from those who reside in error. 19 Although these false teachers promise such people freedom, they themselves are enslaved to immorality. For whatever a person succumbs to, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if after they have escaped the filthy things of the world through the rich knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they again get entangled in them and succumb to them, their last state has become worse for them than their first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, having known it, to turn back from the holy commandment that had been delivered to them. 22 They are illustrations of this true proverb: “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and “A sow, after washing herself, wallows in the mire.”

Can we interpret 2 Peter 2:20-22 in the following 4 possibilities given the Greek, context, & rules of rational reduction?

Possible interpretation 1: False converts escape through “knowledge of Christ” but they do not possess saving knowledge. Then they abandon Christ.

Possible interpretation 2: False teachers who also “escape” for a time, yet they have “mere head knowledge” of Christ, then they abandoned God/way of righteousness.

Possible interpretation 3: True Believers who have truly escaped the pollution of the world through genuine knowledge that accompanies salvation, yet they return to their own vomit & perish.

Possible interpretation 4: True believers who have truly escaped the pollution of the world, yet despite their return to their own vomit, they are still saved; but have disgraced themselves & by which it is said of them: it would have been better for them to not know the way of righteousness than having known it.

I’m aware of the other question on this site regarding this verse, but I’m asking if we can do logical deduction here for the affirmation or denial of any of these interpretations.

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  • 2
    Noting Dottard's comment to you, that "it is a brave exegete that suggests a prophet of God with a special gift of the Spirit is not saved" I immediately thought of the prophet Balaam (Numbers chs.22-24). "God met with him" and put a message in his mouth, and "the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered his oracle." Yet Balaam used sorcery! Balaam is still spoken of in condemnatory terms in Rev.2:14-16 as a warning to Christians not to tolerate his kind of false teaching etc in their congregations. Interesting.
    – Anne
    Jan 24, 2022 at 12:39
  • 1
    @Anne I’ve yet to read that portion of Scripture. I’ve read large portions of the OT, but not all of it. Thanks for the note!
    – Cork88
    Jan 24, 2022 at 18:03
  • A properly structured question. Kudos.
    – Ruminator
    Aug 10, 2022 at 3:05

6 Answers 6

4

I'm only relieved that no answer has (yet) appeared proposing a fifth, or more ways to interpret that admittedly difficult passage! However, I would point out the significance of two words in the text that might clarify the matter.

  1. Knowledge (of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ). Knowledge of Jesus Christ in and of itself will save nobody. Just because a person has (even) extensive knowledge about this one, does not bring that person into the Kingdom of God, whose King is Christ. Even in Jesus' day, he warned theological experts of the danger they were in. He warned them, "Ye have neither heard [the Father's] voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you, for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not" (John 5:37-38) Then he commanded them, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (vss. 39-40 emphases mine).

  2. Righteousness (appearing to follow the way of it). This speaks of God's righteousness, and (again) it is perfectly possible to express agreement with God's righteousness as shown throughout scripture, yet to remain unrighteous oneself due to not having a heart for God's righteousness. Jesus said, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness [dikaiosune]; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).

In both cases, knowing about Jesus and knowing about God's righteousness changes nothing unless that is accompanied by a heart-felt turning to Christ, for life, and a heart-felt seeking after God's righteousness.

I would suggest that the verses in question speak of those who showed all outward signs of having conformed to the "pattern of healthful words" and of living according to God's righteous requirements, but that that turned out to have no foundation in a Spirit-renewed heart and a Spirit-renewed mind. Those people remained unregenerate in their sinful minds and in their lustful hearts. They did not have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). They "have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God... For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:2-10).

Note the link between knowledge and righteousness in those texts? This is foundational in understanding what Peter was warning about. It is underscored by the apostle John in the book of the Revelation which he was given to write. In chapter 19 he shows how the righteousness of the saints is formed within them, to show them the path of faith they must walk, which amounts to total conformity with all God's righteous judgments. Consider this verse, speaking of the Bride of Christ, his Church: "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness [dikaioma] of saints (Rev.19:8). Here is the explanation:

"Here all the saints of God, old testament and new testament, stand in risen glory, united in one spirit, in a revealed mystery... The grammatical form of this word [dikaioma] in the Greek being in the plural, the clause should read, 'The fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints', Chapter 19:8. In this form, the Greek word occurs in one other place in the Book of the Revelation, namely, Chapter 15:4, 'Thy judgments are made manifest', whereas the word 'judgments' is exactly the same as 'righteousnesses', Chapter 19:8. So that the righteousnesses of saints agree with the judgments of God, and the judgments of God concur with the righteousnesses of saints, the English words 'judgments' and 'righteousnesses' being interchangeable, since both translate the same Greek word in the like grammatical form." (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, page 511, John Metcalfe)

The author then goes on to show how Ezekiel 36:26-27 applies to all old and new testament saints who are to make up the Bride of Christ, clothed in fine, white linen, which represents this righteousness.

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." This is the work of God, and not man: God wrought it in them, in no way did they work it for him; everything was of his doing: 'And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen', Revelation 19:8." (Ibid page 512, Author's emphasis)

You call for "rational deduction" of the verses in question but exegesis can invoke more than that. (I leave to one side that what might appear rational thinking to one person might be quite irrational to another.) Other related texts sometimes need to be brought in, plus pointing out subtle points in Greek words (as I have done here.) My argument is that "The Lord knows those who are his" (2 Timothy 2:19) and "The Lord knows the thoughts of man" (Psalm 94:11). Supreme knowledge of what is in a professed believer's mind and heart is for God to know, and for us to leave well alone as we trust in his righteous judgment. As has been shown, the righteous apparel of the saints is total conformity with God's righteous judgments, with no desire or even thought to establish our own - the very fault of those condemned as hypocrites in Romans chapter 10. We can be perplexed and fooled as to who Peter meant in that text, but God never is.

Therefore, my answer to your question is that there are two interpretations that apply, No. 1 and No. 2.

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  • 1
    Up-voted +1. Except that the righteousness of God is unto all and upon all them that believe. It is not "formed within them, to show them the path of faith they must walk, which amounts to total conformity with all God's righteous judgments." You have, in my view, just described the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The justified receive the Holy Spirit, who is life within them (the life of Christ).
    – Nigel J
    Jan 30, 2022 at 15:44
  • @Nigel Had I given a more fulsome quote from p512 that impression should not have been given. "The righteousness of saints therefore is the formation within them, so as to determine the pathway of faith before them - in spirit, soul, heart, mind and body - of a total conformity with all God's judgments. The judgments of God, these are the judgments of the saints; or, the righteousnesses of God." God does it all, to all who believe.
    – Anne
    Jan 30, 2022 at 16:45
  • 1
    The formation of a conformity : I agree. That is the indwelling Spirit and a sanctifying influence. The formation of a rule within them by which they decide what to do : is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (In my own view.)
    – Nigel J
    Jan 30, 2022 at 16:50
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+25

While the primary subject of 2 Peter 2:20-22 are the false teachers and the false prophets, the intended audience of the message does not encompass them. The entire chapter of 2 Peter 2 prescribes a single consequence to these false figures, encapsulated by the idioms in verse 22 “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud”. These idioms underscore the enduring nature of their inherent traits, implying that changing their ways is a formidable challenge.

As a result, they may truly believe themselves as devout believers, but in God's sight they are not. They may have once possessed the knowledge of God but twisted the truth to serve their own desires. The consequence, Peter commented as "It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it" (2 Peter 2:21a NIV).

This comment sounds very familiar to Jesus' comment to Judas Iscariot: "But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." (Mark 14:21b NIV)

The intended audience of the message are the church members. Peter was giving a warning the danger ahead of them to receive the teachings of these false teachers and false prophets. For God did not spare angels when they sinned (2 Peter 2:4), neither would these false figures and those believe in them.

Finally in response to the question asked, none of the four interpretations concur to my understanding as mentioned above.

1

It is very possible that #3 and #4 are proper interpretive possibilities, #2 is also possible due to the former context about false teachers. #1 is highly unlikely since it seems to suggest a category of people that are not within the passage itself, namely false converts.

Yet, there are some interpretive challenges one would find immediately with respect to interpreting 2 Peter 2:20 specifically. When Peter says: "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,...." 2 Questions immediately arise:

1.) What type of knowledge is Peter talking about? Knowledge of the truth? (1 Timothy 2:4?) or people who profess to know God but by their deeds they deny Him? (Titus 1:15-16?)

2.) To what extent have they escaped the pollution of the world? Did they have a mere outward reform by which they appeared godly? (2 Timothy 3:5?) Or did they actually escape the pollutions of the world like Peter tells believers?

Look at what Peter describes of true believers:

"Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."

Back to 2 Peter 2:20-22 again: It would appear that the answer is right within the previous chapter!! Peter says to believers:

"that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."

So does that seal the deal? It depends. If the Holy Spirit inspired both to mean that believers escape the corruption of the world and some believers fall back into their own lusts and damn themselves. If that is the case, then #3 is the correct interpretation.

However there is some contextual clues throughout Peter's Epistles that we should wrestle with before concluding that 2 Peter 2:20-22 is a sure statement of damnation of true believers. We must wrestle with certain texts because Peter HAS spoken of other realities that believers are a part of.

Then we will return to 2 Peter 2:20-22 for trying to make sense of #4 as a possibility for the readers consideration. Most people today seem to have animosity towards the idea of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, mostly due to various reasons ranging from antinomianism to the warnings in Scripture itself.

Peter also mentioned this reality of salvation in ALL true believers lives:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

A few things to note: 1.) Believers are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. This would entail more than just the believers strength of will to persevere in faith, yet the true believer still has to hold on to Christ by faith. If we diminish the power of God in this aspect, then of course we would think believers can and will apostatize. 2.) The believers hope is said to have "...an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" If believers can and do fall away totally and finally from grace, then what is Peter talking about here? Peter doesn't say: our hope will not fade away (then follow certain conditions) nor does Peter give any particular threatening's within this passage. So does such a strong set of hopeful words by Peter invalidate God's power to keep us through to the end? That depends on how you interpret the Word of God. Some people say God will keep us so far as we keep the faith, others will say that God cannot keep us and that it's only up to us. Yet 1 Peter 1:5 shows the keeping power of God.

There are particular warnings in Peters epistle that we should address now:

"You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked" (2 Peter 3:17)

Peter uses the Greek word "sterigmos" (στηριγμός)

Which means: "a fixing, settling; a state of firmness, fixedness; met. firmness of belief, settle frame of mind."

Peter warns that believers can fall from their own steadfastness, being led away from the error of the wicked, yet he does not mention them losing their own faith or salvation here. Could they lose their firmness of belief per the definition? Certainly, but would that entail losing convictions or their own faith in Christ? On this point I am not certain.

Paul makes mention of those who "shipwreck their faith" (1 Timothy 1:19)

Are those who reject faith and a good conscience believers? Only the Lord knows, it's very possible that 1 Timothy 1:19 is an indication of believers being totally and finally lost to the fires of Hell. However, what do we make of our Lord's Words in the Gospels??

If Jesus said that He will lose nothing of all that the Father has given Him for eternal life and will raise them up at the last day, then those who suffer shipwreck were never really believers (John 6:37-40). Furthermore, what do we make of our Lord's words on eternal life, and His sheep never perishing? Is eternal life cheapened because God saves weak sinners? (John 10:27-30)

God is able to keep through His own name those He gave to Christ (John 17:1-26)

We must also remember despite Peter's warnings about falling from our own steadfastness and about Paul's warnings, we read Jude's perspective:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, 25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.

If God can keep you from stumbling, He can keep you from falling from your own steadfastness of faith, so that you can meet the condition of continuing in faith (Col 1:23)!

Hebrews 6:4-6 has been met with much controversy over the centuries. Has anyone taken time to consider Hebrews 6:7-9? Especially that of V.9?

"But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner." (Hebrews 6:9)

That fact that the Author of Hebrews says they are speaking "in this manner" means they are forming a particular argument, which was addressed in Hebrews 6:4-8. They are confident that they will not fall away, but will do "things that accompany salvation". So if that is true with the Hebrew Christians of the first century, what more with other weak sinners whom God came to save? It wouldn't matter what century, God will finish the work of redemption in His people (Phil 1:6). Hebrews 6:4-8 applies to us today as a sober warning, yet Hebrews 6:9 also applies to us. We should take heart the warnings of Scripture and be ready to persevere unto the end. If we as true Christians start to bear "thorns" and "briers", God will chasten us to make us partakers of sanctification/holiness (Hebrews 12:3-11). God will work in us all (Heb 13:20-21).

As far as 2 Peter 2:20-22 goes, it's likely given the contextual clues that interpretation #4 would make the most sense if spoken of by true believers, because Peter never says they return to their own vomit permanently, nor does he deny what he said elsewhere in his epistles. Furthermore, Peter never says that such people lost their salvation, but rather that "...it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it..." Such believers would have defiled themselves, not perished eternally, such would indeed be a disgrace.

This is merely a horrifying statement of disgrace rather than a denial of the work of Christ to bring "many sons to glory" (Heb 2:10) and all those whom God justified, He glorified! (Romans 8:30).

#3 can only make sense if God's plan in redemption is unorganized and if the New Covenant wasn't designed to make God's people remain in Christ: Jeremiah 32:40.

Appendage: If #3, #2 or #1 is correct over #4, then so be it. Yet I am not convinced there is biblical warrant for it.

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  • There is no changing a determined mind, even in the face of compelling Bible facts.
    – Dottard
    Sep 5, 2023 at 10:11
  • @Dottard "55. The Greek words rendered "never" are ou me, each word meaning "not". In Koine Greek, the double negative is emphatic and could be rendered "absolutely not" or "never"." quoted from "Eldon Woodcock, PhD. Hell, an exhaustive look at a burning issue" pg 183. This is in reference to Jesus' words in John 10:28. Jesus gives the emphasis on the security of those who are redeemed by Him.
    – Cork88
    Oct 27, 2023 at 17:26
1

Preliminary note: "saving knowledge" while common in some Christian circles, is not a Biblical term so I will avoid it. Suffice to say here that the only "knowledge" that Peter discusses is what is commonly (but unbiblically) called "saving knowledge as per 2 Peter 1:2-8 -

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

False teachers come in two types:

  1. Those that were truly converted and turned away, rejecting the grace of God (see appendix below)
  2. Those that were never converted but only made some kind of pretense Matt 7:21-23.

Thus, I would posit that the OP's interpretation 1, 2 &3 are consistent with Bible teaching.

The distinction in many circumstances is almost beside the point - Peter's comments still apply - a person who has escaped the corruption of the world can subsequently lose their salvation and their final condition is worse than before.

Jesus told a parable with the same point recorded in Matt 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-45 about a man who cleaned up his life and removed evil influences, etc. However, he fell back into his old ways wand was seven time worst off than before, "And the final plight of that man is worse than the first.”

APPENDIX - Other examples of saved people who turned away/fell from Grace.

  • The “wilderness generation” of Israelites that God called out of Egypt perished in the desert because, despite being called, turned their backs on God and refused to trust in God by believing the majority spy report.
  • At the end of the wilderness wandering, Joshua begged the people to choose to serve God, Josh 24:15, 22. See also Deut 30:19, Judg 5:8, Job 34:4, 33, 21, Ps 119:173, Prov 1:29, 3:31, Isa 7:15, 16, 56:4, 65:12, 66:3, Jer 8:3.
  • King Saul who was a statesman and prophet called by God (1 Sam 10:11, 12, 19:24), yet was ultimately lost when he consulted demons for advice and then committed suicide.
  • Ps 69:28 contains a plea for David’s enemies to be blotted out of the book of life!
  • Eze 18:21-28 also teaches that the wicked can reform and be saved, and the righteous can apostatize and be lost. Both situations are incompatible with Calvinism’s view of salvation and humanity.
  • Rom 11:17-21 discusses the warning that people who had been grafted into the “olive tree” of the Christian community could be broken off if they were unfaithful.
  • 1 Cor 9:27 Paul says he disciplines his body to keep it under control so that after preaching to others he does not become a castaway/disqualified. That is, Paul believed that it was possible that he could lose his way and become lost.
  • 1 Cor 10:12 also contains a stern warning from Paul, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”
  • Galatians 5:4: "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace"
  • Gal 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
  • 1 Tim 6:10, For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
  • Heb 2:1-3, We must pay closer attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every transgression and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
  • Similarly, Heb 6:4-6 also teaches that some “who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit…” can fall away.
  • Heb 10:26: If we(!) deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left
  • Heb 10:29: How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them and who has insulted the Spirit of grace. This verse clearly shows that it is possible to be sanctified and subsequently lost.
  • Heb 10:35: Therefore, do not throw away your confidence which has a great reward.
  • Heb 10:36: You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God you will receive what he has promised.
  • Heb 13:9, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace …”
  • 2 Peter 1:10, “make your calling and election sure”. This clearly allows for the possibility of losing one’s election.
  • 2 Peter 2:21, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”
  • 2 Peter 3:17 contains a very stern and sobering warning to be on guard that we do not fall from our secure position. Verse 14 contains a similar warning.
  • Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins contains two classes of people called “wise” and “foolish”. All were invited to the wedding; All were virgins symbolizing purity, see Rev 14:5; All had lamps, ie, lights symbolizing Christ as the light of the world, John 1:4, 9, 8:12, 9:5, Matt 5:14-16; All, at least initially had oil - but this is the crux of the parable - five virgins had enough oil and five did not have enough because they complained that their lamps were going out. In the NT oil represents the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38, 2 Cor 1:21, 22, 1 John 2:20). Thus, Jesus teaches that some who are called and have been given the Holy Spirit (see also Heb 6:4-6) can still be excluded from the Kingdom of God.
  • Jesus’ parable of the vine (John 15:1-8) says two interesting things: (a) that branches (connected to the vine of Jesus) that do not bear fruit are cut off (v2); and (b) the bearing of fruit is to prove that we are Jesus’ disciples.
  • Jesus’ parable of the sower, or perhaps the parable of the soils (Matt 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15) contains several classes of people (soils) who start out well in the Christian life but lose their way. The conclusion is also significant: “by their constancy bear fruit”. (Luke 8:15)
  • Jesus’ parable of the banquet (Luke 14:16-24) contains a very good example of people rejecting the call (or “election”) of God as well as God having to ask some people more than once and begging them to the wedding banquet. Jesus’ conclusion is, again, significant, “not one of those men who have been invited shall taste of my banquet.” In the parallel passage of Matt 22:1-14, Jesus concludes by saying, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
7
  • While I still disagree with your position, I will mention I read all of what you wrote. Saul was anointed with the Holy Spirit but never saved. I don’t believe any of the Scriptures you provided warrant believers losing their souls. For example: Hebrews 10:26-31 is about damnation of “The Lord’s People” if they sin deliberately, yet 1 John makes it clear that nobody born of God practices sin. 2nd, you quoted Hebrews 6:4-6, but failed to mention v.9. The author of Hebrews is giving a real warning, but he is using a form of argumentation to make a point. (Space forbids me to comment more)
    – Cork88
    Jan 24, 2022 at 7:01
  • 1
    @Cork88 - it is a "brave" exegete that suggests a prophet of God with a special gift of the Spirit is not saved. You also appear to agree that the Lord's people can deliberately sin - sop does that mean they can be lost if persistent?
    – Dottard
    Jan 24, 2022 at 7:15
  • The primary principal with respect to exegesis that I took note of myself is that I can err with respect to interpretation. So you may be right in the end, that’s possible. What I would insist is that there seems to be a Paradox(not contradiction) between Hebrews 10:26-31 & this verse: “No one who has been born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin continually, because he has been born of God.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭- So I am not suggesting that Hebrews 10:26-31 isn’t for believers, it is! See: (Hebrews 3:1)
    – Cork88
    Jan 24, 2022 at 7:33
  • Pardon me, to answer you, yes. I believe if a believer persists in sin, then eternal condemnation will result(Hebrews 10:26-31), yet I believe Jesus keeps those whom He granted eternal life to(John 17:2) & those that posses eternal life will be kept (John 17:1-26).
    – Cork88
    Jan 24, 2022 at 7:47
  • @Cork88 - is that having a bet each way? Is that once saved always saved?
    – Dottard
    Jan 24, 2022 at 8:06
0

Difficulties in interpretation can be clarified by the context of the passage, the context of similar passages, and sometimes in context with extra-Biblical sources.

Notice the similarity between 2 Peter 2 and Jude which are believed to have been written about the same time.

2 Peter 2:13-15, 18, 19

13 ... They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way o Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness . . . 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.

Jude 4, 11, 12, 16

4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ . . . 11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves . . . 16 These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

It's highly likely that Peter and Jude are describing the same heretics using different words.

Then in Revelation 2:2-6, we read the following description of the Church at Ephesus:

2 "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

The Church at Pergamum includes a similar description:

Revelation 2:14, 15

14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

So, who were the Nicolaitans and what did they teach?

The following description of the Nicolaitans was written by Ireneus, who was the bishop of Lugdunum, the present city of Lyons, France. The following quote comes from his book, Against Heresies, written in about 180 A.D.

The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practise adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Wherefore the Word has also spoken of them thus: But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. – Ireneus (ca. 130 - ca. 202 AD), Against Heresies, Book I, Chapter 26, Doctrines of Cerinthus, the Ebionites, and Nicolaitanes

Thus, when one compares these descriptions, one notices that there were false teachers and false apostles that infiltrated the early church. These were never part of the kingdom, however, some of their followers seem to fall into a different category as ones being deceived ("those who barely escape").

Thus, the Bible provides better categories that capture the fact that some people are on the edge with their faith, a sort of indeterminate position, without making an absolute categorical rejection of them.

-1

The first three all are possible, whereas the last should be dismissed outright as a Kalvinist and Evangelicalist heresy, a dangerous and soul-damaging one for that matter, because it gives an absolutely false assuredness that whoever has received the grace of baptism and is living a virtuous life of a devote Christian will always continue so, so to say, automatically and is immune from fall and from eternal loss of salvation! It is a wrongheaded theology of a fatal conceit! But according to a sound Orthodox theology, salvation can be lost even for the most advanced Christians unless they continue in practice of life in faith, for nobody is saved automatically and nobody is immune from fall.

In fact, what is that “dog returns to its vomit”, but that man, having first abandoned sinful ways through grace of God in faith, later did not grow in this grace and therefore the old man, old sinful habits regained power over him again?! And if so, can such a defeated man inherit the Kingdom of Heaven which is only and exclusively for victors, the conquerors and overcomers (Revelation 3:5)?

The such defeated persons will not only lose their salvation, but their unsaved status will be even graver than that of non-Christians and ignorants for the one who knew the will of God and behaved not accordingly will be beaten more than the one who did not know (Luke 12:47) and “beaten” of course by his own suffering conscience both in this life and in the life to come.

20
  • Revelation 3:5 stands true, but compare it with this: “For whoever has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:4-5‬ - If all who are born of God overcome the world, and it’s by faith, then interpretation #4 cannot be ruled outright. Not only that, but 2 Peter 2:22 never says they remain in that “return to their own vomit”. Romans 8:13 shows a continuum of sinful disobedience, but all who are saved are disciplined by God.
    – Cork88
    Jan 24, 2022 at 3:18
  • 1
    @Cork88 It is a dangerous heresy to believe that a Christian on his way to salvation is immune from losing this salvation and eternally so. We remain free no matter what and this freedom can be always abused, even by great Christians: many a cave dweller hermit and miracle-worker who abandoned everything for Christ have fallen and lost their salvation, what to talk about us, ordinary Christians who have not even yet started to love Christ above the worldly pleasures! Jan 24, 2022 at 3:26
  • Have you not read John 6:37-40? John 10:27-30? John 17:1-26? & have you not read that even though the author of Hebrews was speaking in a particular manner, he was confident they would persevere? (Hebrews 6:9). What makes you think that God would only temporarily keep His people? “When I was with them I kept them safe and watched over them in your name that you have given me. Not one of them was lost except the one destined for destruction, so that the scripture could be fulfilled.” ‭‭John‬ ‭17:12‬ ‭What do you make of Jesus saying not one of them is lost? Judas was of the devil.
    – Cork88
    Jan 24, 2022 at 5:54
  • @Cork88 Will try to explain soon, later this day, but your doctrine is Calvinism and Jansenism, heresies one worse than other, dangerous ones inviting to ruinous passivity. Jan 24, 2022 at 6:05
  • I don’t mind you disagreeing with me on my perspective of Scripture. I never once mentioned Calvinism until now. I quoted Scripture. If you think that’s Calvinism, fine. I don’t care to call my Armenian brothers “Heretics” for example, because I used to be an “Armenian” in my Sotieriology/interpretation of salvation. Never heard of “Jansenism“. I wouldn’t charge Calvinism to be heresy. For I once thought it was, but I am convinced from Scripture that the 5 points are accurate. Romans 9 is clear as day, even from the Greek, that God hardens some & has mercy on others.
    – Cork88
    Jan 24, 2022 at 6:17

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