2 Peter 2:17-20

2 Peter 2:17‑20  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 11
The indignant invective of the apostle is not even yet exhausted. So various are the forms of hypocritical unrighteousness, he would have the faithful fully informed and on their guard.
“These are springs without water, 1and mists,2 driven by storm, to whom the gloom of darkness is reserved.3 For uttering overswellings of vanity, they allure in lusts of the flesh, by dissolutenesses, those that are 4 just 5 escaping 6 from them that walk in error, promising them liberty while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a man is worsted, by him is he also held in bondage. For if after having escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but again entangled and worsted thereby, the last for them is become worse than the first” (vers. 17-20).
It is no longer contrast with angels or comparison with Balaam, but the gravest picture of spiritual worthlessness with the seal of everlasting darkness affixed before judgment consigns to it. It is the privilege of every Christian, not only to be begotten of God but to have the Spirit of His Son given to be in him a spring of water springing up into life eternal. Yea the Lord adds elsewhere, He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water; and that this great gift should not pass away like Jewish favors, but abide forever. And surely the Christian teacher has yet more, not only the δωρεὰ to enjoy but his special χάρισμα to make it known, and appreciated, and applied. But these teachers of Christendom, certainly not of Christ, “are springs without water” (they never had any), and “mists driven by storm,” instead of luminaries directed by the Holy Spirit; they express nature empty and fallen, and under gusts of feeling if not the enemy's power. And the end is not death only but divine wrath forever, in character with the darkness they loved because their deeds were evil.
For what are the utterances of those that figure for mischief on the ecclesiastical stage? “Overswellings of vanity” by which to “allure in desires and lusts of flesh by dissolutenesses those just escaping from them that walk in error.” Take three plain examples of false teaching which directly tend to lower the standard of holiness and make provision for flesh's lusts. 1. Sin is not the transgression of the law (as in the A. V. of 1 John 3:44Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4)), but lawlessness which rejects all subjection to God, and applies to Gentile who knew not the law as Well as to the Jew who did, and to the wicked that heard but obeyed not the gospel. How much evil in Christendom is not touched by the Decalogue! 2. What license for evil ways is not covered by “so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” in Gal. 5:1717For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galatians 5:17)? Its real meaning is the wholly different force, “that ye should not do the things that ye would” or desire. The error becomes the religion, or at least practice, of despair which is as far from Christian holiness as can be. 3. There is too the dogmatic error in the misreading of Rom. 7:66But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:6), where the too confiding public were taught that the law was dead, instead of the believers' death to it, so that they should serve in newness of spirit, and not oldness of letter which alas! has ever been the bane of mere profession. It was sad that good men were blinded to what their spiritual instinct must have revolted from; but who can tell the enormous influence of such a threefold cord for misrepresenting God's word, especially in the hands of unscrupulous false teachers who gloat in misrenderings which thus consecrate their wicked life and labors?
Love, lowliness, purity are essentials of the new nature, and hence so characterize the Christian that, when failure in any of these respects occurs, the weak are stumbled, and the strong are grieved for the Lord's sake. But when haughty vaporings as in ver. 18 takes the place of truth as it is in Jesus, one need not wonder that underneath they allure in flesh's lusts by wantonnesses those just escaping with the skin of their teeth from them that walk in error. For the young are peculiarly open to danger from these seducing ways in those they trust for precept and example. The promise of liberty has a fair sound to their ears. But the apostle points his finger to the fatal spot, which is not now nor ever that of God's children: they are veritable bondmen of corruption. No swellings can hide or excuse the evil, or disguise effectually to the simplest saint the enemy at work. “For by whom one is worsted, by him also is he held in bondage.”
The very babe in Christ only just escaping is sensitive to vileness and turns away, where old ones are dulled and deadened by theories which apologize for error or evil. Nor is any plea more insidious or successful than unity, precious where Christ is its center; but where it is not really His, it is the gilded bait of the soul-destroyer. “For if, having escaped the pollutions of the world through true knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but again thereby entangled, they are worsted, the last for them is become worse than the first” (ver. 20). How graphic and energetic and solemn is the apostle's picture of the soul's ruin! And this after God's work in the cross of Christ, this gift of the Spirit sent forth from heaven, and His full revelation to man. Yet the cross had already shown man's enmity and guilt and ruin, with Satan's power over him; but, thank God, it has also shown man in Christ perfect for God, for sinners to save, for saints to keep, guide and bless, that Satan be wholly defeated.
But nowhere is the divine value of the cross more ignored than where it is made an external idol, the rival of the crescent that rules the night, or of the sun that rules the day. In all these sin is not seen to be already dealt with to faith for God's glory; but man profits by unbelief to make a tariff for it in a way suited to circumstances and his own will for Satan's pleasure.