Soteriology 46, 2 Peter 2:20
January 29, 2017
Father, we’re grateful for this morning and this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Thank You Lord for the cool weather and we just ask for in this session and in the church service that follows the Holy Spirit would come and illuminate the Scriptures for us, particularly this morning as we continue to look at very difficult passages in Your Word that cause people a lot of anxiety related to their security, so I ask that You’ll help us in that. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.
Let’s take our Bibles and let’s go to 2 Peter, chapter 1, verses 10 and 11. As you all know during Sunday School hour we have been looking at the doctrine of eternal security, spending a lot of time on it because this is an area that causes a lot of confusion with Christians. A lot of Christians really don’t know if they’re Christians or not, even though they trusted in Christ they have these nagging doubts. So what we’ve been trying to communicate is the grace of God that saves you is the grace of God that keeps you. So if all that’s true salvation is not something that can be lost once you receive it as a gift.
So we’ve gone through the eternal security arguments and the reason this series is going longer than a typical series you hear or eternal security is because I’m actually trying to interact with the opposing arguments. There must be a reason this has been debated for centuries in the church; there must be verses that look like you can lose your salvation so those are the verses that we’re going over now. And here’s sort of the categories that we’ve been looking at and we spent a lot of time in the book of Hebrews, didn’t we do that? Amen! Because Hebrews has five passages that oh my gosh, if you don’t understand them right it looks very much like you can lose your salvation. And guess what? We finished the book of Hebrews, not the whole book, just the troubling passages.
Now I think the series will go by faster (I’ve been saying that for three months) but a lot of the heavy lifting is behind us so now we just have a few passages left to look at in the general letters so we’re going to look this morning at a couple in 2 Peter and then if we have time we’ll get into 1 John because 1 John, if you don’t understand the background of the book it’s like Hebrews, there’s passages in it that make it look like at first glance you can lose your salvation.
Notice, if you will, 2 Peter 1:10-11. Peter says, “Therefore, brethren,” so he’s obviously talking to Christians, right? “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;  for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” Now you look at that at first glance and it says “be diligent to make certain His calling and choosing you,” now that creates a problem, doesn’t it, because it looks like at first glance that if I’m not diligent in the Christian life maybe I can be uncertain about His calling and choosing of me. So the way this verse reads is it kind of opens the door in the minds of a lot of people if you aren’t diligent in the Christian life, and we obviously exhort people to be diligent in the Christian life, but what if they’re not? Then all of a sudden the door of uncertainty is opened to His calling and choosing of you. So how would we handle this passage? I have a few things to think about.
Number 1, diligence in the Christian life does not make the believer secure or more secure. So you can be as diligent as you want to be as a Christian, and we exhort that, but that has no bearing on whether you’re secure in Christ, in the Father’s hand or not because what put you in the Father’s hand is a gift, right? So if it’s a gift God’s not going to say to me okay, well when are you going to start making payments on your gift. If I have to make payments on my gift then it’s no longer a gift.
So then why be diligent in the Christian life? Diligence, going down to bullet point number 2, can though deepen inward assurance. In other words, the assurance that you already have, if you understand your promises, becomes deeper, it becomes more of a heartfelt conviction as you pursue diligence in the Christian life. So diligence in the Christian life doesn’t make me more secure or less secure but it can take the promises that God has already given you and I’ll share with you a couple of those in just a second, which you know are objectively true, and it can take those promises and actually really deepen them to the point where it becomes a very strong heartfelt conviction.
So I stand before you today, I have no doubt that I’m a Christian because of what God has promised me. I have no doubt that I’m going to heaven because of what God has promised me. But when I actually see the Lord use my life to expand His purposes on the earth the assurance that I have through those promises becomes deeper; it take a confidence that I have and intensifies it. And I think that is really what Peter is talking about here. “Be diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing of you,” it’s talking about assurances which you have which become deeper and deeper as you continue to walk with God.
Now what if I’m in disobedience? Well, it doesn’t affect my assurance but God can’t take His objectively true promises and deep them in my heart the way He wants to. So diligence doesn’t make you saved as a Christian. First of all, it doesn’t get you saved or else that would be salvation by works. And it doesn’t keep you saved either, and this is what people do, they frontload the gospel. In other words, they put a bunch of works on the front end to get the gospel; that’s called frontloading. Or what a lot of people like to do is they backload the gospel, they put a lot of works on the back end telling you what you have to keep doing to keep salvation. And both of those ideas here at Sugar Land Bible Church we reject. Well, if that’s true then why does a Christian be diligent? Because God takes our diligence as we’re living under his power, He takes our convictions which are expressed in His promises and intensifies them, broadens them, deepens them. So diligence can deepen inward assurance.
Now notice this expression, “abundant entrance into the kingdom.” Did you catch that? Verse 11 which comes after verse 10, do you all agree with that? Okay, just wanted to make sure you’re awake there. Verse 11 says, “for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be” not just supplied to you but what? “abundantly supplied to you.” So this passage is not simply talking about entrance into His kingdom, which would be good enough. It’s talking about entering His kingdom fully rewarded. That’s where diligence matters. Diligence doesn’t determine whether you’re going to get into the kingdom or not; what diligence determines is the rewards, the position of authority that God wants to give to us once we arrive.
And I’ve got a few verses there on the screen, there under bullet point number 3, most of these we’ve already gone over, but those three verses, 1 Corinthians 3:15, 2 John 8 and Revelation 3:11, all three of them teach the possibility that a Christian can enter the kingdom and have their fire insurance paid up but they’re not fully rewarded. As a matter of fact, let me just read some of these verses to you. 1 Corinthians 3:15 you probably already know which specifically says, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be” what? “saved, yet so as through fire.” So it’s talking about at the judgment of rewards, which occurs in heaven after the rapture, our works are put through a fire and those things that we did as Christians out of really selfish, fleshly motives and means are consumed in the fire. And whatever remains after the fire finishes is part of our reward; the things we do under the Spirit’s power are the gold, silver and costly stones which don’t get consumed by the fire.
But you look at this verse here and it says, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” So very clearly it talks about a guy that’s in heaven and yet he can smell the smoke on his garments because he entered the kingdom, entered heaven but he wasn’t, as Peter says here, abundantly supplied. Do you see that?
Over in 2 John 8, if time permits we’ll be trying to give you the background of 1 John but very quickly, 2 John 8 says, “Watch yourselves that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” So that’s where diligence in the Christian life matters, to receive or not receive a full reward. That’s the context of 2 Peter 1:10. [2 Peter 1:10, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;”] And one more just for good measure, Revelation 3:11, Jesus here is speaking to the church at Philadelphia (not the one in Pennsylvania by the way), “’I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will” what? “take your crown,” so you can enter heaven without a crown.
So this is why diligence in the Christian life is significant because it determines rewards, it determines degrees of authority, but what it does not determine is whether you’re getting into heaven in the first place. Do you see that? And if you don’t understand the context of this passage it looks at first glance like man, I’d better keep working in the Christian life or maybe I’m not a Christian, and people use this verse that way and that’s not what it’s saying at all.
Your ultimate assurance, and I’m starting to begin to think that this may be the most important doctrine today, that the evangelical church is confused on because when you go around and talk to people a very small percentage of Christians that I talk to, not in this church but just out and abroad, really have 100% certainty that they’re going to heaven. I have 100% certainty that I’m going to heaven. You say well, you must be really living a great spiritual life—not necessarily, I have ups and downs like you do but I’m not looking at myself. If I was looking at myself I would think I’m saved one day and another day I would think I’m not saved. But the more I stop looking at myself, which is a depressing subject, and start looking at Jesus and what He’s promised that’s where my assurance comes from. And that is your right as a child of God. God has given you those promises. One of them is in John 5:24, where Jesus says, “Truly, truly,” that’s Amen, amen, in other words it is so twice, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has” that’s present tense, “eternal life,” so the promise is not gee, one of these days I’ll die and have eternal life; the promises is you have it now. He who “believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” “…passed out of” is in the perfect tense which basically means a one-time action in the past with ongoing results.
So you are not passing gradually from death unto life, it’s already happened. It’s not a matter of you’re going to get eternal life, you have it right now on the authority of God’s promises. The only condition is that you believe in Him, place your confidence for your eternity and the safe keeping of your soul in Him. And if you’ve done that then the promises of God are you have eternal life and you have passed out of death unto life. So that’s where your ultimate assurance comes from.
John 6:47 Jesus again says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me has” a 99% chance of eternal life. It doesn’t say that does it, “he who believes in me has eternal life.” And a lot of people kind of look at this subject of the assurance of salvation like they look at the weather report, there’s going to be a 30 percent chance of rain. If you ask people “are you saved?” and they say well, I’m pretty sure. And if you’re saying to yourself I’m kind of sure, I’m pretty sure, then you’re living beneath your privileges; you’re living beneath the promises God has given you. And then you say to yourself, well I don’t deserve this. Well welcome to the club, that’s the whole point, you receive this as a gift. And that’s why you know it’s yours because it’s not based on what you did prior to salvation or after salvation.
So 2 Peter 1:10-11 is not dealing with these types of promises; it’s talking about a deepening conviction, a further conviction and diligence in the Christian life so that you can be fully rewarded, not partially rewarded, but fully rewarded once you enter.
One of my theological heroes is Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer who probably understood these issues better than any man that’s ever lived, in my opinion, other than the apostles. He was just a uniquely gifted man and he writes this: he says, “There is a normal Christian experience. There are new and blessed emotions and desires.” Have you experienced those as a Christian? I’ve experienced things like that. When I was going through high school I don’t even know how I graduated frankly, because I majored in basketball. I really, to be honest with you I don’t even remember reading a book in high school; that’s pretty scary, huh? And yet I passed, and I just didn’t like to read. Well then I got saved and all of a sudden I had this appetite for reading the Bible or Christian books and it’s like where in the world did this come from. My mom was like who are you and what have you done with my son kind of thing. But that’s a new desire that God put in me.
So we have these experiences where we change and things like that; those are part of the Christian life. He says, “old things have passed away, behold all things become new,” but look at what he says here, “but all such experiences are” what? “ secondary evidences, as to the fact of salvation, in that they grow out of that positive repose of faith which is the primary evidence.” How do you know you’re saved? The primary evidence. What’s the primary evidence? The objective truths of God’s Word. Now as you walk with God what you discover is you start getting secondary evidences, but the problem is when you base your assurance on secondary evidences your assurance will be there one day and other days it will not be there. So I remember when I received Christ, that night was like an emotional euphoria. And then the next couple of days start to pass and you wonder what happened to the euphoria. You haven’t learned as a new Christian your resources in Christ, you discover the sin nature is alive and well… Amen! You haven’t had enough doctrine yet to understand that it’s been disabled but not annihilated. And if you don’t understand the assurance of salvation what you start thinking is well, I must not be saved today. And so that’s how a lot of people are, saved today, I’m not saved today, like picking the petals off the flower, she loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not.
And this is where people are confused because they’re taking secondary evidences which God can give and they’re making that their primary evidence. The reality of the situation is you don’t fly your life as a Christian on secondary evidences. You fly it on the basis of objective reality which is promised in God’s Word. That’s why learning your promises that God has made you is so significant for the new Christian.
We have several pilots, Jim is a pilot, and Charlie is a pilot, Rick Miller I think is a pilot and that means if I’ve got to fly anywhere I’ve got three people to help me. But a pilot does not fly a plane based on how they feel. In fact, I’ve talked to several pilots and they will tell you that we feel all kinds of things when we’re flying. One pilot told me it feels sometimes like the plane is upside down. If you’re in a storm or at night or something like that. What gives the plane direction is the what? The compass which doesn’t lie to you. Numbers don’t lie (other than your bathroom scale, that satanic device that lies to you constantly). Other than that numbers are a reality, right? So a pilot is not flying based on how he feels or how she feels; you look at the compass and you’re going to have emotional ups in the Christian life and you’re going to have emotional downs in the Christian life and it really doesn’t matter as blessed as these secondary experiences are God cannot lie, He’s made you a promise. See that?
So I’m not bashing secondary experiences, I’ve had my own secondary experiences. If I told you some of my secondary experiences you probably wouldn’t even want me to be the pastor of this church, some of the things that have happened to me, which I believe are wrought in God, but they’re just that, they’re experiences that never negate what God has promised. Are you guys with me on that?
And can I be so bold as to say this: this is one of the deficiencies and I say this gently because I teach, when I was teaching at the College of Biblical Studies I had many, many students, in fact, the majority came from what we would call charismatic or Pentecostal backgrounds, where the emphasis is experience. And I started to wonder well why is experience and the latest vision, the latest euphoria, whatever it is, I started to wonder why this is so significant to them. And I’m not necessarily against those things per se, as long as they’re in conformity to the Word of God, and it was J. Dwight Pentecost who said something that I remember back in seminary that really helped me. He said in most, not all, in most Pentecostal charismatic environments they do not teach the assurance of salvation. That’s a doctrine that for whatever reason they don’t have, so if you don’t have that what do you have to have to prove you’re a Christian? Perpetual experiences.
So a lot of this hunger for experiences with God, which again I’m not necessarily against, are used many times as substitutes for the primary evidence of the assurance of salvation. So it’s always the next prophecy, the next vision, the next this, the next that, God speak to me, God do this. And people are living for whatever experience they think God is giving them, they’re becoming emotionally excited and then it dissipates and they want another one, because they need these things to prove that they’re Christians. And my attitude toward those things is I look at those things as just icing on the cake; that’s all they are. You have the cake already through the primary evidence which is the objective truth of God’s Word. So that’s why this statement here by Chafer where he’s talking about secondary evidence versus primary evidence, you know, to me it’s such a big deal to understand as a Christian.
So does 2 Peter 1:10-11 teach that you can lose your salvation? No it does not, it’s talking about a conviction that deepens and it’s talking about rewards. It’s not dealing in context with the issue of whether a person is saved or not.
Let’s go from the frying pan into the fire. Take a look at 2 Peter 2:20-22; this is a difficult one, they’re all difficult. But Peter, in the same book, says, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.  It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,’” and we had this dog growing up… well maybe I shouldn’t go into that, I don’t know what it was with this dog, it was my childhood dog so there’s pictures of me as a newborn with this big dog, it was a boxer, and he would just throw up and start licking his vomit, and I don’t know how this dog did it, it was always he did this right when we were getting ready for a family meal; it’s like he timed it. That’s more information than what you’re looking for probably. Anyway, that’s what I always think of when I see this, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”’
So you’ve got this pig, you wash the pig and then you enter the pig in the county fair, the pig wins first prize, and then you get the pig off the truck on the way home from the country fair, it’s got the big blue ribbon around the pig and what’s the first thing the pig does? Goes right back into the mud. And so this is the kind of imagery that Peter is using here.
Now you look at this at first glance and my gosh, doesn’t it look like you can lose your salvation, because it talks about “they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” and then they “again get entangled” and then they’re “overcome,” and this has to be a loss of salvation people say because “the last state” is “worse … than the first.” So they were saved and lost salvation. And Peter says, “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness,” at all, “than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment” so people that are like this it would be better for them if they’d never heard the gospel because the more light you have the greater your what? Accountability, to whom much is given much is expected.
And then these images that he uses here, about a dog returning to its vomit, a pig returning to the mud or the mire, and so that at first glance pretty much looks like you can lose your salvation. But like with all of these passages that are troubling I’m giving you an interpretation of them that harmonizes with the crystal clear ones that we’ve already gone over, which indicate you can never lose your salvation. That’s what I’m doing with every problem passage we’ve looked at. So let’s see if we can try our hand here at 2 Peter 2:20-22.
At the top of the screen, top bullet point, I don’t believe that these verses teach a loss of salvation. I think what they’re talking about is new believers becoming entangled again by the corruption of unbelieving false teachers. So you’re dealing with new believers and then all of a sudden into your life comes a false teacher who begins to… and in many cases these false teachers are not saved, I’ll show you in just a minute why I don’t think these false teachers are saved at all, but they begin to put onto the new believers all kind of strange doctrines and if you go to a Billy Graham crusade, a Greg Laurie harvest crusade, a Luis Palau evangelistic crusade the most interesting thing to me about those crusades is not so much the crusade it’s the spiritual warfare that’s going on in the parking lot on the way out of the crusade because what you’ll see as you go out in the parking lot is the kingdom of the cults will be out there, whether it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, whatever cult you want to come up with they’re right there in the parking lot disseminating their literature.
And does not their literature have Bible verses in it? Now how is someone that just got regenerated at a crusade by faith alone in Christ, how are they going to weave their way through that literature. They don’t know the difference. And so they grab the literature unsuspecting and they start to consume it because they don’t have any discernment yet any more than a child crawling around on a carpet has any discernment, anything that the child sees they’ll just put in their mouth; that’s what newborns and children that are just learning to crawl, that’s what they do. Now as they mature they start to discern, I can’t put everything in my mouth, this is good for me, this is bad for me. But that comes with maturity. So it’s the same with the new Christian, they don’t know any difference, so they start to consume all this false doctrine unsuspectingly and before they know it they’re right back in a works based system. They themselves are saved but they’re trying to achieve holiness through manmade power.
And so the false teachers are coming in, they’re unbelievers, and they’re preying on these unsuspecting new believers that have just escaped damnation. And this is to the detriment of the new believers, not justification but progressive sanctification. That’s why Peter closes the book the way he does in 2 Peter 3:17-18, which you don’t have to turn there because I’m going to go over that in just a minute, but it’s a very strong exhortation to continue to grow. And he’s acknowledging with that exhortation is there are things that you can do as a Christian that will short-circuit your growth. [2 Peter 3:17, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,  but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”]
So the way to understand 2 Peter 2:20-22 is you’ve got two groups of people here. You’ve got first of all unbelieving false teachers, who are probably not regenerated the way they’re described, and then the second thing that you have are believers, baby Christians, who have now become victimized by false teachers. [2 Peter 2:20, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.  It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.’”
So why would I think that these folks here, first of all, group A, why would I think you’ve got unbelieving false teachers in the mix. Well, you go back to verse 1 he calls them false prophets. If you go to verse 9, same chapter, he says “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under” what? “punishment for the day of judgment,” so that is talking about how these false teachers are being kept for the day of judgment. That is a description of an unbeliever, not a believer. Verse 12 indicates… “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed,” so he’s talking about how they’re going to be destroyed. Verse 14, they’re called accursed children. Verse 17 they’re called mists with no water. [2 Peter 2:14, “having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children.” Peter 2:17, “These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.]
I mean, it’s like at the amusement park, it’s really hot outside and they have those things where you can stand in line, after they charge you $2.50 for a glass of water you can stand in line and get refreshed, it’s mist that comes down, but it quickly dissipates on a hot day because your position in the line moves and the refreshment that you had was but for a moment. And that’s how these false teachers are described here; they can offer a little bit of refreshment but nothing that really satisfies the soul. Verse 17 says they are reserved for black darkness. And verse 19 says they promise freedom but have nothing to offer but slavery so they talk a good game but the end result is they enslave. [2 Peter 2:17, “These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.” Verse 19, “promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”]
So group A is unbelieving false teachers targeting new Christians. Group B, the victims, I believe are brand new Christians because it says in verse 20 “they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” They just escaped it; they heard the gospel, they came out, they sensed the power of the Spirit, they began to perhaps grow under the power of the Spirit before they were cut in on by unbelieving false teachers. [2 Peter 2:20, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”]
Now look at chapter 1 just for a minute. 2 Peter 1:1-4, and I want you to compare the audience of verses 1-4 to the audience of chapter 2, verses 20-22 and I want to show you it’s the exact same audience. There’s very little doubt that the audience in verses 1-4 is saved, and so since they’re described the exact same way as the audience in verses 20-22 both groups are the same group, new Christians. So he says in 2 Peter 1:1-4, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours,” does it sound like they’re saved, “by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:” So you have a faith, it’s the same as my faith, Peter says.
He says,  “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;  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.” So they have the promises of God, they have the new nature, they have the Holy Spirit inside of them, he says God has given you everything you need to mature. Verse 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” what? look at this word, “escaped” sound familiar, “the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
So 2 Peter 1:4 he says to his believing audience you’ve just escaped. What did he say in 2 Peter 2:20, “For if, after they have escaped” same group. He goes on in 2 Peter 2:20 and he says you “have escaped the defilements of the world…” what does he say in 2 Peter 1:1-4, the very last clause at the end of verse 4, “they have escaped the corruption that is” what? “in the world by lust.” So the group at the beginning of the book has escaped the defilements of the world; the group in chapter 2 has “escaped the defilements of the world,” it must be the same group.
“…they have escaped the defilements of the world by” a self-help course? No, they haven’t, by what, “by the knowledge” 2 Peter 2:20, “of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” [2 Peter 2:20, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”] So only through a knowledge of Christ and His gospel have they escaped the defilements of the world. Now that’s exactly what Peter said to the group at the beginning of the book. Right? 2 Peter 1:1, “Simon Peter, a bondservant…. by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the” what? “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;” He goes on he says,  “pertaining to life and godliness, through the true” what? “knowledge of Him [who called us by His own glory and excellence].” So group A, you’ve escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of Christian, chapter 1, everybody acknowledges that these people are Christians.
That’s exactly how the group is described in verses 20-22 of chapter 2, the emphasis on escaped, world, and only through a knowledge of Jesus Christ..” So there’s almost… let me put it this way, there’s NO doubt in my mind that the folks that are addressed at the end of chapter 2 are saved. And this is important because the Reformed teaching comes along and says these were just professors but not true possessors. To argue that you have to interpret chapter 1 one way and chapter 2 a different way. So you’re dealing with Christians newly saved, in other words, and yet what happened to them? They heard the gospel and they began to experience victory, they escaped the defilements of the world but just like a dog returning to its own vomit they got entangled again in what… who threw the roadblock into their lives? It was these unsaved false teachers that are described in chapter 2, those that are marked for destruction.
Well if all of this is true then how in the world I interpret verse 21, “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, [than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.]” I mean certainly it’s better to be a saved carnal Christian than an unsaved person. Right? It’s a misunderstanding about this point, “the way of righteousness.” People see “the way of righteousness” and they think that’s the initial gospel people heard. As you know in this class, from this class, there are three tenses of salvation: justification, the past tense of salvation, that’s where I’m saved initially from sin’s penalty at the point of personal faith in Christ. And then the Lord moves me into progressive sanctification, which is the present tense of my salvation, not where I’m becoming more justified. Justification has already been accomplished. I’m gradually learning to live, based on the Holy Spirit’s power, and I have to be in an environment where I’m learning God’s promises, where I am being gradually delivered from sin’s power. And then glorification is the future tense of my salvation and what do I have to do to become glorified? I just have to die or get raptured.
So you’ll notice that justification is the past tense of salvation, freedom from sin’s penalty at the point of faith. Sanctification is the present tense of salvation where we’re being gradually delivered from sin’s power, not where I’m sinless but if I’m making progress in this area I’m sinning less. And glorification is the future tense of my salvation and all I have to do there is die or be raptured, when I’m out of this body and I’ll be delivered from sin’s very presence.
So what you discover in the Bible is the word “saved” is used in the past tense, the present tense, and in the future tense. So when people ask you, are you saved? The right answer is I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved. And they’ll probably look at you like you’re some kind of spiritual giant saying something like that because most people don’t think in these terms yet they are biblical.
Justification is a done deal at the point of faith; glorification is a done deal at the point of death or the rapture. The middle tense is more complicated; that requires a greater volition on the part of the believer. They have to be, first of all, in an environment where they’re correctly instructed and they have to begin to yield to the Spirit moment by moment under His power. And you start to engage in what we would call the walk of faith. That middle tense of salvation is really what determines, not whether you’re going to get into heaven but your state of reward or authority once you’re in heaven. And in fact, most people don’t know this, the Bible says a lot more about the middle tense of salvation than it does the first tense of salvation. Most of the Bible is written not to unsaved people, some of the Bible is, I would argue most of the Gospel of John is, but most of the Bible is written to very real Christians who are struggling in their faith and it’s written to help people to grow in their faith.
So when people look at this expression “the way of righteousness” they automatically assume it’s talking about what? Justification. And I would say to you simply this, that that expression, “the way of righteousness” is not talking about justification, it’s talking about sanctification. And what you have to understand is at the Bema Seat you are evaluated by your progress in this area, as will I be evaluated. And if you’ve already made a decision you’re not going to cooperate with God in that, “to whom much is given much is” what? “required,” it would actually be better for you if you didn’t know anything about sanctification if you’re not serious about it. See that?
Luke 12:48, “…From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”]
When he makes this statement “For it would be better for them not to know the way of righteousness” it’s not talking about justification, it’s talking about the principles of spiritual growth. Now, “For it would be better for them having not known it to turn away from the holy commandment handed to them,” people look at the word “holy commandment” and they think it’s what? The gospel; “holy commandment” here is not talking about the gospel because Peter wrote another book, didn’t he, called 1 Peter. Do you guys agree with me on that? All right, just making sure you’re awake; maybe you guys need to increase the size of your coffee cups, like mine.
And if you go back to 1 Peter, the prequel in the two volume set, Peter tells you what the “holy commandment” is. 1 Peter 1:13-16, he says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,” obviously he’s talking to saved people,  “but like the Holy One who called you, be” what? “holy” doesn’t that sound like a holy commandment, that he referenced in 2 Peter? “…be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;  because it is written,” this is a commandment, it comes from the Old Testament, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
So when Peter talks about people who have turned away from the holy commandment people read into that the gospel. And yet if you just let the Bible interpret itself, and that’s how you start with interpretation, you let the own writer interpret his own words rather than rushing off to some other book of the Bible. So look in the immediate context, if that doesn’t help you then look in the book itself, if that doesn’t help you then go to everything this particular writer said or wrote.
So I’ve expanded the range a little bit and if you just go back to 1 Peter 1:13-16 he tells you what the holy commandment is. It has nothing to do with receiving Christ and being justified by faith alone. It’s talking about growing as a Christian and it’s a command because Peter is writing to what kind of audience? A Jewish audience, Jewish Hebrew Christian audience because Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, Peter is the apostle to the Jews. Galatians 2:7-8,and they would know this commandment; they would know the Old Testament and they would understand the premium that their God places on holiness in daily life. [Galatians 2:7-8, “But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised  (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles),”]
And they would know this commandment. They would know the Old Testament and they would understand the premium that their God places on holiness in daily life. So this whole statement that Peter is making here, “it would be better for them not to know the way of righteousness” which is the principle of growth. [1 Peter 2:21, “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.”] And he makes a statement here about “the holy commandment,” it’s not the initial gospel that you heard, what it is is the commandment to grow as a Christian.
So what is happening here is these people are stumbling, not in the first tense of salvation, not in the third tense of salvation, but in the what? The middle tense of salvation. And he makes this statement, “their last state has become worse than the first.” [2 Peter 2:20, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”]
And people look at that and say that’s someone that lost their salvation and went to hell. NO! Their last state in their current spiritual growth is worse than where they started. Now why would he say that? Because these people had already escaped (didn’t they) the defilements of the world. So they heard the gospel, they started to grow and all of a sudden, as the devil does, he sent all these decoys and distractions and he began to trip them up with false teaching and it short-circuited their growth in Christ. And because it short-circuited their growth in Christ their last state has become worse than their first, the first being how they started to grow when they got saved. That’s the first state, not unsaved, how they started to grow when they were saved. Their last state now is worse than how they started. Do you follow me on this?
So he’s not making a statement here of insecurity, the whole context is dealing with their development as Christians. This is all middle tense salvation stuff that he’s giving and the confusion is people want to read into this first tense salvation, which has already been settled. This is all middle tense salvation stuff and consequently he gives a couple of examples of what they’re now like. Because you escaped the defilements of the world by hearing the gospel and yet you went back into the flesh you’re like a dog returning to its own vomit. You’re like “‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire, or the mud. [2 Peter 2:22, “It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.’”]
He’s not talking about what they were like before they were saved; obviously what they were like before they were saved is now eternally different than what they’re like after they’re saved. That’s not the discussion point at all, it’s their growth. And this is how God looks at us when we retreat and we go backwards. What happens is our growth in Christ has been short-circuited. That’s what the whole point of this is about.
And that’s why he concludes this letter the way he does. How does he conclude the letter? You all betted make sure you’re Christians? He doesn’t say that, he’s assuming they are Christians. He says, “you therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard that you are not…” now when he says “beloved” is he talking about believers or unbelievers? Believers. “you therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard that you are not carried away by the” what? “error of unprincipled men” that would be the false teachers that he’s described, the unbelieving false teachers that have come in and taught them some wrong things, “and fall from your own steadfastness,” their steadfastness is not their security in Christ, it’s their growth in Christ.
How do I know that? Because he says what? “but.” What’s the next word? “grow,” that’s not get saved, if you’re an unbeliever here you need to get saved, that’s not what he’s talking about at all, if you’re a believer here you need to keep working to keep saved, he’s not dealing with that subject even though everybody reads that into this. He’s talking about middle tense of salvation, their growth. “…but grow in the” what? “grace” in other words, the grace of God that saved me is the same grace that’s going to what? help me to grow. How do I grow as a Christian? I don’t do it through will power and white knuckling it. If you want a description of someone trying to do that read Romans 7. [Romans 7:15, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”] Paul, as a new Christian, was trying to do that and he was frustrated out of his mind because he says the very thing I want to do I don’t do and what I’m not supposed to do I end up doing and he says what a wretched man am I.
And in Romans 7 he doesn’t mention the Holy Spirit (to my knowledge) a single time, because he’s trying to do it through human power. But fortunately Paul didn’t stay a Romans 7 man, he became a Romans 8 man where he mentions the Holy Spirit over and over and over again. He graduated from Romans 7 into Romans 8 when he began to access the Spirit of God that brought him to faith. The same spirit that convicted him by grace is the same spirit that wanted to help Paul grow. It’s just Paul didn’t understand that and most Christians today, because they’re not in a good environment that’s teaching these things, they don’t understand that either.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish ? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” That’s what the Holy Spirit is saying to the body of Christ today, “Are you so foolish?” You got into this deal by the grace of God through the power of God and now you’re trying to work out your own walk with God through your own power rather than God’s power. So he says, “But grow in the grace and” what? “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You can’t apply what you don’t know. The more you understand these basic principles of the spiritual life the more you have a reservoir through which to apply them as you walk through daily life. But if your knowledge of the Bible is a John 3:16 level (and I love John 3:16, I could teach a ten month series on John 3:16 and don’t tempt me to do that, I might end up doing that at some point). I think I already did, it’s been so long I can’t remember. [John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”]
But if you have a John 3:16 knowledge of the Bible in the struggles of life the only thing you’re going to have in your reservoir is John 3:16, which is good but it’s very miniscule compared to what God has for us as New Testament saints. So “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [2 Peter 3:18, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”]
Look at this, “to Him be the glory,” well why does God get the glory? Because it’s through His power that I got justified and it’s through His power that I’m growing. I’m not doing this through my own efforts, although it does require volition and cooperation on my part. So at the end of the day who gets the credit? I don’t get any credit. And this is why the doctrine of grace is so difficult for people because we want a little credit, don’t we? I mean, I did a little bit, didn’t I. I mean, my father-in-law did buy lunch but I threw in the tip, doesn’t that count for anything? And God has set up the whole thing where no one votes but Him. Nobody struts into heaven proud as a peacock because it’s through his resources you were justified, first tense, it’s through his resources you grew, middle tense, and all you did to get third tense is die which doesn’t require a lot of talent other than eat too many Big Macs and clog your arteries.
So that’s why this whole be on your guard, the whole tenure as you move away from this, don’t fall from your steadfastness, your growth, but “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So hopefully I’ve helped you with 1 Peter 1:10-11, 2 Peter 2:20-22. These are not loss of salvation verses.