Advent 2020: 2 Peter 2:17-22

During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.

Friday, 18 December 2020 2 Peter 2:17-22

The Text

17. They are waterless springs, mists driven out by a windstorm, people for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved.

18. For they talk of empty boasts, enticing people who just barely escaped error with their lives with even more fleshly desire and debauchery.

19. They promised them freedom, but they themselves became slaves to corruption, for anyone who has been defeated has been enslaved.

20. For if, having fled the pollutions of the world by knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Messiah, they then become entangled, defeated again, then they have become at the last worse off than they were at the first. 

21. It would have been better had they not known the way of righteousness than know it and then turn away from the holy commandments passed on to them.

22. The truth of the proverb has happened to them: “A dog returns to his own vomit” and “a washed pig will roll in the mud.”       


Again we are given a short reading.

Two different but related things seem to be happening here. The first is condemnation for the false teachers and heretics who have slipped into the church and have continued to ‘entice’ others along the same path. It is a path that leads to slavery, even though ‘freedom’ is what has been promised.

Sound familiar? The cry of modernity is ‘freedom’ and ‘acceptance’, which is supposed to make people happy and lovely and joyful. Do people seem happier to you? Do people seem freer to you? Do people seem more accepted to you? No, because, it is all a lie. Sexual freedom is to be enslaved by the flesh whims. Material freedom is to be enslaved by greed. Of course, realize, neither Peter nor I am talking about political freedom or even religious freedom. We are speaking about the ethical restraints that are in place for a reason.

The second thing going on here is a little more shocking to me. It poses serious challenges to people who argue that people who are ‘saved’ are forever in that secure position. Peter does not agree. He says these people who entice others, they come after those who have just barely gotten out of it, to bring them back again into error. Peter says they are worse off than they were then they started. If we apply that to faith we find he may be saying that someone who is living a destructive life — finds the Lord and reforms — but then experiences recidivism and returns to their sinful ways — they are worse than they were before they were saved.

That might be exactly what he is saying.

The metaphors in verse 22 are hard to stomach, literally. The dog and his vomit is a sentiment from the book of Proverbs and the business about the pig is a popular idiom used in Greek literature and rabbinical writings. The use of dogs and pigs, something our Lord did often, is designed to make the audience groan, for these are two odious animals to the Hebrews and represent so much, and may even refer to gentiles who never were truly transformed.

Questions For Application

  1. The choice of windstorm might not be happenstance. Peter was at Pentecost. How can the Holy Spirit’s wind blow away false teaching?
  2. Our Bible does not think highly of boasting. What are you guilty of boasting about the most? How can you work on that?
  3. Verse 22 is rather disgusting. How does it make you feel?

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