Friday, 14 February 2020
But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:22
The chapter now finishes with Peter going back to the Old Testament to cite a taste of wisdom from the book of Proverbs to establish the truth of what he has been saying. He is still speaking of those who had known the way of righteousness and turned from it. As he says, “But it has happened to them according to the true proverb.” In other words, just as the wisdom of the proverb proclaims, so man follows the pattern set down in it.
From there, Peter cites Proverbs 26:11, saying –
“As a dog returns to his own vomit,
So a fool repeats his folly.”
Peter next speaks of “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” This second example may be from an ancient story about a pig that went to a public bath with people of high status. Later when coming out of the bath, he saw a stinky drain and went and rolled in it. The moral of both of these is that just as a perverse person hears the message of the gospel, maybe even taking it to heart and half-heartedly participating in it, there is no acceptance of it. When he sees what he at first left behind, even though it is disgusting and far less acceptable, he returns to it.
The words of Peter here in no way speak of a person who was saved and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Rather, they speak of a person who follows his unchanged degenerate nature. Albert Barnes gives a long, but insightful, commentary on this –
“This passage is often quoted to prove ‘the possibility of falling from grace, and from a very high degree of it too.’ But it is one of the last passages in the Bible that should be adduced to prove that doctrine. The true point of this passage is to show that the persons referred to never ‘were changed;’ that whatever external reformation might have occurred, their nature remained the same; and that when they apostatized from their outward profession, they merely acted out their nature, and showed that in fact there had been ‘no’ real change. This passage will prove – what there are abundant facts to confirm – that persons may reform externally, and then return again to their former corrupt habits; it can never be made to prove that one true Christian will fall away and perish. It will also prove that we should rely on no mere external reformation, no outward cleansing, as certain evidence of piety. Thousands who have been externally reformed have ultimately shown that they had no religion, and there is nothing in mere outward reformation that can suit us for heaven. God looks upon the heart; and it is only the religion that has its seat there, that can secure our final salvation.”
It is interesting that Peter takes the two unclean animals, and he places them side by side in a single verse, just as he heard Jesus do many years before –
“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Matthew 7:6
Peter carefully contemplated the words of Jesus and used what he had learned to instruct us in sound theology using examples similar to those Jesus had chosen.
Life application: Dogs often eat excitedly and too quickly. Their system can’t handle the load, and so they vomit up what they’ve eaten. However, this doesn’t deter them from going back and reengaging their meal.
Pigs can be bathed, showered with perfume, painted with lipstick, and given a soft pillow to lie on, but a pig is still a pig. If it looks to the left and sees a hole of mud, it will immediately head for it. There is no sense in either of these beasts as to what is clean or unclean – they are merely unreasoning animals.
Peter says the same is true of false teachers. Other animals participate in equally disgusting habits, but by using these two animals in particular, he is showing an additional level of uncleanliness in them. Dogs and pigs are both considered unclean animals under the Law of Moses. By using them as examples, he is implying that false prophets are unclean in their very nature and have no redeeming qualities at all.
When evaluating spiritual leaders, don’t look at the soft coat or the fancy perfumed persona. Rather, look at the whole person and evaluate them based on their adherence to God’s word.
Lord, please keep us from the false appearances of wayward teachers. May we not be deceived by those who are outwardly showy, but who are inwardly unreasoning and unclean animals bent on the consumption of filth. Also, please direct us to leaders who speak the truth in righteousness and who exalt You with their lives, both in public and in private. Amen.