The return of the dog…


(2 PETER 2:22)

Doug was a zealous personal evangelist, to say the least. It wasn’t easy to find college students interested in holding open-air meetings on the Providence Mall, even though they were “preparing for the ministry.” But Doug was always raring to go. With a Bible in one hand and a fistful of tracts in the other, he would set out to convert metropolitan Providence at the drop of a hat.

After one semester Doug dropped out of school. I assumed that he had returned to his home in another state. But then, months later, I encountered him once more on the Providence Mall. He was not there to preach this time, he was there to pick up girls. It was obvious that he had been doing some serious drinking and his language left much to be desired. Between puffs on an eight inch cigar he said that he was no longer a Christian,” that he considered Christ irrelevant to modem society. And that, since life was short and ended at the grave, he intended to “live life to the hilt,” while he could.

Was Doug a saved person who lost his salvation? I learned later that his parents had sent him to a Christian College in the hopes that he would be influenced to trust Christ and be saved. They did not consider him a believer. At home he skipped church, avoided believers, chose the worst of companions, drank excessively, and fornicated.

Once at school he sought to “dive” in by using the evangelical language that he had learned from childhood and engaging in “Christian activities.” But an unsaved person can distribute tracts, quote Scripture, defend a doctrinal position, and mouth orthodox clichés. Thousands do daily.

Notice that the dog in Peter’s illustration never ceased to be a dog. He was a dog when he wandered away from his vomit and he was still a dog when he returned. The sow was washed but never became a sheep. A bath didn’t change her inner nature, only her outward appearance. Morality is not Christianity and reformation is not salvation! Every year millions of people profess Christian faith and their lifestyles change dramatically. Some are truly saved, but many are merely “washed.” The dog returns to his vomit because it is his nature to do so. The sow may be bathed a thousand times but the hog-wallow remains her natural habitat. Doug passed for a believer for one semester. Some pass for believers for a lifetime, but their natures have never been changed.

Surely, there are many believers whose conduct is indistinguishable from that of the unsaved … the Corinthians come to mind, but that is not what the circumcision Apostle Peter is talking about in his second letter to Jews of the Diaspora. He is talking about people whom he called “false teachers” (2 Peter 2: 1). That they are unsaved is clear from their description in the chapter, especially the references to them as “unrighteous” (unsaved), “irrational beasts by nature,” (lit.), and “waterless fountains” (v. 17), which could never be said of believers as we have the Holy Spirit who never leaves us and is our guarantee of Heaven.

The passage says that they deny the Lord (gr. Despot) who bought them (v. 1), and some think this proves that they had once been saved. But the word “bought” is the word “paid for” in the Greek, and not the intensified form of the verb that would mean “purchased them out of the market place.” Christ died for all, but not all will be saved because not all accept His paying the price for them. Peter compares their case to the “Angels who sinned,” to the “ancient world” of Noah’s day, and to the “cities of Sodom and Gomorra,” none of whom had salvation and then lost it.

They are said to have forsaken the right way and gone astray (v. 15), but not said ever to have embraced the right way. They temporarily escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Christ as the sow temporarily escaped the muck of the wallow, but the sow remained a sow despite her bath and these remained unsaved despite their moral reforms.

The dog left his vomit temporarily to pursue other interests but never became a sheep, though he may have spent some time in a pasture. Wolves wear sheep’s clothing in Scripture in order to fool the sheep, but a wolf is not a sheep nor a sheep a wolf. They have radically differing natures!

Salvation that cannot keep one safe from any possibility of future condemnation would not be salvation at all! It would merely be probation. It would be a fresh start, a clean page, a second chance, but it would not be salvation. No one has ever been saved and then lost, because salvation cannot be lost! “He that hears my words and trusts in Him that sent me, has everlasting life, and does not come into condemnation, but is passed from death to life” (John 5:24).


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