Thursday, 13 February 2020
For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 2 Peter 2:21
Peter is referring to those who “have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” of the previous verse. Here, he says of them, “For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness.” This is connected to the words of verse 2 where Peter calls the path of right pursuit of Christ “the way of truth.” Here, that path it is called “the way of righteousness.”
It is certain that if one believes that salvation can be lost, this will be interpreted as meaning the individual was a true believer at one point. Likewise, if a person believes that salvation cannot be lost, it will be argued in the opposite way. From there, logical arguments are made to defend the position. Cambridge ties Peter’s words in with actual belief –
“The ‘way of righteousness’ is like the ‘way of truth’ in 2 Peter 2:2, a comprehensive description of the religion of Christ as a whole, regarded here in its bearing on life, as there in its relation to belief.”
However, there is no reason to tie this knowledge in with belief. One can know that Jesus died on a cross, and that Christians believe it was for the sins of man, and yet he can fail to believe that himself. Head knowledge does not necessarily equate to heart knowledge. With this understanding, Peter then says, “than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.”
Such a person, with full head knowledge, can say, “I just cannot accept this premise.” From there, he fails to believe, and he turns from the knowledge he possesses. This is true with people trained in seminaries. Countless masses have been provided all the theology they need to believe the message of Christ, and yet they fail to do so.
Many of them become the finest scholars in biblical languages and even write detailed commentaries on the Bible. And yet, they do not believe the Bible is inspired by God. Nor do they accept that Jesus died for their sins. In this group are those who even comment on whether salvation can be lost or not, as if they believed in one doctrine or another.
Tying the two ideas – the way of righteousness and the state of belief – is a common sentiment of those who accept that Peter’s words are speaking of true believers, and that salvation can thus be lost. But following the progression of the life of Judas – a person who knew both the way of truth and the way of righteousness – one can see the flawed thinking presented in such a stand. First, Judas had all the knowledge he needed to accept Christ’s ministry (the way of truth and that of righteousness), and yet he did not believe –
“‘The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.” John 6:63, 64
Secondly, Jesus then says the same type of thing that Peter says in this verse –
“The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Matthew 26:24
Peter says it would have been better for them to not have known the way of righteousness, and Jesus says it would be good for that man if he had not been born. The ideas are comparable in intent.
Thirdly, Peter acknowledges that Judas had a part in the ministry, even though he did not believe (as noted by Jesus in John 6) –
“…for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.” Acts 1:17
Finally, using a living parable, Jesus shows that in his unbelief, Judas was also not cleansed (implying “saved” in the typology presented) –
“Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean.’” John 13:10, 11
Therefore, there is no reason to assume that “knowledge” in this verse equates to “belief.” Taking this in light of the other verses and concepts which speak of eternal salvation, it is clear that those who use this verse as a justification for loss of salvation have improperly used both their logic and Scripture in the process of doing so.
Life application: Peter, speaking of the false prophets, may have been thinking of those who received the Law at Mount Sinai, but who later turned from it at the cost of their lives. They had been delivered from Egypt, taken through the Red Sea, brought safely to Mount Sinai, and received the Ten Commandments as the Lord spoke to them from the awesome display – thundering, lightning, thick clouds, and the trumpet blast. However, after all of this, they turned their hearts away from the Lord and back to Egypt. They rebelled against Moses and began an open insurrection.
In the end, those who rebelled were destroyed and the people were held accountable – their bodies perished in the wilderness. Likewise, the people who have heard and simply not believed may see the gospel as a tool of opportunity to manipulate others. Just because someone preaches the gospel, this is no indication that he really believes it.
The world is full of people who have learned to use Christianity to increase their wealth and position. This is why it is so very important to always fix our eyes on Jesus. When we trust the message of a mere man and follow him, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Churches crumble and close around men who appeared godly but who are bent on serving their own appetites. Families have been destroyed by pastors who have manipulated women in the congregation. Life investments have been handed over to ungodly preachers who have taken the money and left the donors disillusioned and penniless.
All of this temporary gaining of wealth, position, sex, or power will lead only to their destruction. What they feel they have gained will be taken from them, and they will perish in their wickedness. It would have been better for them to have never known the truth or the way of righteousness.
Lord Jesus, You have shown us the way which is right and have given us the truth of Your word. Give us wisdom to follow You and not be led astray by manipulative and self-seeking people. Keep us from such people and provide us with godly leaders who have only Your gospel as their chief aim and purpose. Amen.