Here is the entirety of 2 Peter 2. You have to read the whole thing in order to get the “punch line” at the very end. Go for it, then I have some comments below.
2 Peter 2:1-22 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2) And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. (3) And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (4) For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; (5) if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (6) if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; (7) and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (8) (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); (9) then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, (10) and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, (11) whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. (12) But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, (13) suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. (14) They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! (15) Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, (16) but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. (17) These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. (18) For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. (19) They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (20) For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. (21) For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (22) What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.
While there certainly are some difficult parts in this passage, I just want to focus on two predominant themes. These relate to the question regarding whether an abuser will ever repent and change. Here are the two points drawn from this passage:
- There are people who have come to a “knowledge” of Christ, even showing initial fruits of repentance, who return to the world and are marked out by God for eternal destruction. In other words, they are reprobate. The doors of grace are closed to them.
- These people can be known. At least the kind that Peter is talking about here. He identifies them. They are false prophets. But not just any false prophet. They are people who once professed Christ. Then, like a dog returning to its vomit, they returned to their corruption. They begin to renounce Christ by teaching heresy, denying Christ and trying to persuade others to follow them.
I suggest to you that many Christians who are abuse survivors can tell you stories about how their “Christian” spouse did this very thing. Like a pig who has been washed, he jumped back into the muck and filth of the world.
This is completely in agreement then with what we see in Hebrews 6:4-8 when we talk about people for whom repentance is now impossible.
And I want to suggest one final point which I realize will be highly controversial with many Christians. I don’t write about these kinds of topics just to stir things up and get attention. Believe me, after 37 years as a pastor, the last thing I want is attention! Anyway, here is the point: I believe that the Lord does not require us to pray for such people. I think they are the kind that John had in mind when he wrote: 1 John 5:16 “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.”
I don’t presume to have the last word on these things and I am certainly open for everyone’s comments. But please consider – do you see Peter praying for the salvation of the people he is speaking about in 2 Peter 2 (above)? Of course not. What if…..just what if….we are doing a real disservice to the work of Christ, to the world, to our churches, by failing to teach and warn that it is quite possible for a person to cross a point of no return? Does not the Bible very often caution us to not look back at Sodom, to press with violence into the kingdom of Christ, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and so on? Hebrews is filled with warnings like this. But our pulpits do not seem to be.
We need to be reminded that ships do not drift into safe harbor. And neither will we. Abusers sitting in our churches need to be warned clearly and plainly that if they persist in what they are doing, they will surely become the very people 2 Peter 2 is talking about. Dogs to the vomit. Pigs to the muck. We need to turn up the heat so these kind of wicked ones leave. Sin is way too comfortable in our churches. And victims of abuse are paying the price for it.