This Week's Focus Passage

2 Peter 2:20 ‘The last state is become worse with them than the first.’

The greater context of this declaration, without stretching it to include his entire second chapter, by the apostle Peter in his second epistle may be considered as taking in verses 20-22, which are as follows:


For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first. For it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them. It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire.


Peter’s reference, in the last verse, is to the book of Proverbs. In Proverbs 26:11, we read these words of Solomon, that is, according to the preface of 25:1, These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out. It is not, however, cited word for word by Peter. The Proverb of 26:11 makes this point:

As a dog that returneth to his vomit, So is a fool that repeateth his folly. Of course, the main drift of the proverb has not been changed. The designation of this behavior as folly may be relevant, and yet not necessary for Peter to employ since the context is demonstrating that the action is indeed folly.


In John Gill’s commentary on the whole Bible, he refers to those in question here, as apostates. That may be disputed depending upon what our definition, or idea, is of just what is involved in apostasy. If this meets the definition, ‘the abandonment of what one has professed or believed,’ this is what escaped and then entangled again seem to import. But if, according to the definition of the individual as an apostate, he is ‘one who has forsaken his faith,’ there may be room for variation. These spoken of have escaped through knowledge; escape from the defilements of the world. We may presume that these folk have left their sinful lifestyles, and have done so through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May we not then say that they are those that have received the knowledge of the Lord and Savior intellectually, at least? They have been informed that there are defilements from which they would do well to escape. And the reference to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior seems to indicate that He has been set before them as one who is able to cleanse them in some manner from this defilement, or save them from the punishment due unto them for their sins. That is to say, that if they don’t wish to perish forever, to go to hell, they may take this name upon themselves, and all will be well.


Many there are who have yielded to this sort of ‘gospel’ call. The call has often been to ‘raise your hand,’ ‘come down the aisle,’ ‘come to the front,’ if you don’t want to go to hell. What we are speaking of has, for two centuries, been that known as the ‘Invitation System.’ It was begun, as most understand, by a man named Charles Grandison Finney. He inaugurated a precursor to the altar call, inviting men and women who had become concerned about their souls to come take a seat in the front of the auditorium, or church building, or tent, or even of course if the chairs were set outdoors in a gathering place. He called this seat ‘The anxious bench.’  In so many cases, it becomes apparent that they really didn’t want to escape the defilements of the world, they only wanted to escape eternal punishment. Their wills have been constrained by commands to ‘come,’ but their hearts are unchanged.


“All this reasoning proceeds on the assumption that coming to the front is tantamount to, if not identical with, coming to Christ, and it is only where such a confusion of thought exists that a text like ‘Follow me’ can be quoted as a proof of the rightness of the practice.” Charles Spurgeon whose ministry was contemporary with a ‘blossoming’ of this ‘evangelistic’ method, made these remarks. He wrote in 1882, “Sometimes we are inclined to think that a very great portion of modern revivalism has been more a curse than a blessing, because it has led thousands to a kind of peace before they have known their misery; restoring the prodigal to the Father’s house and never making him say, ‘Father, I have sinned.’ How can he be healed who is not sick? or he be satisfied with the bread of life who is not hungry? The old-fashioned sense of sin is despised, and consequently a religion is run up before the foundations are dug out. Everything in this age is shallow. Deep-sea fishing is almost an extinct business so far as men’s souls are concerned. The consequence is that men leap into religion, and then leap out again. Unhumbled they came to the church, unhumbled they remain in it, and unhumbled they go from it.” This is the awful spiritually deadly ‘virus’ that may follow upon these practices. Iain Murray wrote of this matter in a large pamphlet, ‘The Invitation System,’ “Because the invitation system itself precludes the possibility of discrimination between individuals during a public service, the sincere outward response of those who are still unconverted is calculated to lead to further unbelief and hardness of heart when they find that no real change has taken place in their lives….They feel that a cruel trick has been played upon their experiences by the ministers and friends of Christianity in thus thrusting them, in the hour of their confusion, into false positions….They are conscious that they were thoroughly in earnest in their religious anxieties and resolves at the time, and that they felt strange and profound exercises. Yet bitter and mortifying experience has taught them that their new birth and experimental religion at least was a delusion. How natural to conclude that those of all others are delusions also? They say, “The only difference between myself and these earnest Christians is that they have not as yet detected the cheat as I have.”

But what harm can it do? Much every way! A relatively large percentage of persons—‘turning back to their vomit’ are counted ‘backsliders,’ when the truth is they were never regenerated—now having become hardened and more resistant than ever to the gospel. We must invite men to come to Christ; not down an aisle.


David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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