2 Peter 2:21

2 Peter 2:21  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The apostle confirms the awful end of the course he had just portrayed by the two concluding verses, one explanatory, and the other in the true proverb applied with its telling figures, too often exemplified.
“For it were better for them not to have known well the way of righteousness than knowing well to have turned back1 from the holy commandment delivered to them” (ver. 21).
The righteous tone of the warning is sustained with apostolic gravity to the close. Knowledge even of the most accurate sort, however desirable, is not the indispensable thing, but faith working by love and yielding our members in bondage to righteousness unto holiness. It is never affirmed or hinted that these false teachers were begotten of God; but they had professed His name who secures everything that is good to the partaker of a divine nature, to which they had ever been strangers. They had once abandoned the pollutions of the world through the moral effect of what they had received. For the light of Christianity has had not a little influence even on Jews and heathen and infidels; and this the false teachers had profited by as much or more. But when the crisis came personally, and they deliberately succumbed to known evil, their downfall was profound if not rapid.
Therefore it is that we know now that “it were better for them not to have known well the way of righteousness than knowing well to have turned back from the holy commandment delivered to them.” What can be clearer or more certain? The way of righteousness is Christ made known in the gospel; but the truth and the life accompany the way when it is taken by a living faith, and fruit of righteousness follows only through Jesus Christ to God's glory and praise. Here was nothing but the ground of fallen nature bringing forth thorns and briers, and therefore the end is all the worse for a beginning of outward culture and cleansing, and the end is to be burned as we read in Heb. 6:88But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:8). God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this also shall be reap. For he that sows to his own flesh shall reap corruption from the flesh; but he that sows to the Spirit shall reap from the Spirit life eternal. In this the false teachers had no more part or lot than Simon Magus in the early days. Their ruin was all the more aggravated by the morning cloud of seeming promise or the early dew of good words perhaps blessed to others, without effect in themselves. The attempt of some to attribute to them a passing from death into life is disproved by scripture which never goes so far, but stops short of salvation by grace. The holy commandment delivered to them was not even mixed with faith in their souls; and from this they at length turned back, that they might do their own will and gratify their evil lusts.
We may see in Heb. 10:26-3026For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. (Hebrews 10:26‑30) more analogy with our chapter than in Heb. 6:4-84For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:4‑8). For in the latter case it was rather a return to Jewish ordinances after having professed the grace of the gospel. In the former it is a return to sins after being confessors of Christ's death, which means for us death to sin. This case is what we read of in the warning of Peter before us, only that he dwells on the aggravated guilt of false teachers, as the Epistle to the Hebrews does on the apostasy of professing Christians in yielding to sinful lusts. How fully and precisely scripture provides for every danger, and against all evil!