Three Reasons Why the Faithful Must Pursue the Apostates (2 Peter 2.20-22)
The possibility for Christians to forsake their beliefs and reject their calling has always existed. After all, why would Jesus encourage the brethren in Smyrna to “be faithful unto death” (Rev. 2.10) unless there was the possibility (and in their case, a strong temptation) of doing so?
The problem many Christians have is a lack of real concern and earnestness in our pursuit of our apostate brethren. We shrug our shoulders and shake our heads when we think about and discuss our wayward spiritual family members, but do we really do anything about it?
2 Peter 2.20-22 gives three reasons why we MUST pursue our fallen-away brethren with love and passion and zeal for the LORD. If you, reader, are currently unfaithful to the LORD here’s why we’re coming in love and persistence to bring you back to Him.
1. We Know What Knowing Christ is Worth
If we believe what the scriptures teach about knowing Christ, we will act accordingly and pursue our fallen-away brethren. In this passage alone (2 Peter 2) notice what is said about the knowledge of Christ. In v.20 it is the means by which one has “escaped the defilements of the world”. In v.21 it is described as “the way of righteousness” and “the holy commandment delivered to them”.
Knowing Christ is the ONLY way you can be free from sin and its eternal consequence in Hell! Paul would write in Phil. 3.8a: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Earlier in 2 Peter 1.3, Peter describes that God’s divine power “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who has called us to his own glory and excellence” (emphasis mine).
If we believe that knowing Christ is worth all we could give in exchange and more, then we will act accordingly towards our brethren who have decided knowing and following Christ is not worth their time, their choices, and their allegiance. Knowing and following Christ is everything, and to forsake Him is to forsake everything!
2. Rebellion is Worse than Ignorance
In 2 Peter 2.20-21 the Holy Spirit minces no words concerning those who have left the LORD:
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.”
The result of rejecting Jesus Christ, whether by an unbeliever or a Christian, is the same: eternity in Hell. However, how much worse is it for one to “have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6.4-5) to then reject God’s mercy and grace in favor for the sin they “barely escaping” (2 Peter 2.18)??? Hebrews 6.6 describes this type of person as “crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt.”
Our apostate brethren in Christ are once again gathered around the cross of Christ, jeering and mocking and consenting to His death. The difference this time is that they know exactly what they are doing. If the faithful don’t use every means possible to open the eyes of those who are crucifying our Lord again, how can we say we have a problem with their choices???
3. From God’s Perspective, Apostasy is Nauseating
Forsaking the way of Christ and going back into the world is disgusting to God. Why else would HE (not we) describe it in terms of dogs eating their own vomit and pigs returning to their filth?
“What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’” (2 Peter 2.22)
Those of you who have had children know they do things as infants/toddlers that are vile and disgusting because they don’t know what they are doing. Why do we parents stop them from consuming or playing in whatever substance or fluid that has escaped them? It’s because we love them, and we don’t want to see them get sick! We can’t stand to watch them defile themselves, and so we take swift action to cleanse and disinfect and make pure again.
For the sake of your brothers and sisters who have fallen away from Christ, don’t turn your face away from what they’ve decided to immerse themselves in. See what they are doing from God’s perspective. Let it make you nauseous and want to retch to the point where you are willing to do something about it. For those of you who are currently living lives outside of Christ I beg you to listen to our pleas and stop doing that which sickens God and your brethren.
All of this is motivated and rooted in love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Christian that truly loves their brethren cannot bear to sit idly as their spiritual family members defile and destroy themselves. To those of you who have become unfaithful to the LORD and have made it this far, please understand that God loves you and wants you to become clean and pure once again. Your robes of white that have been dragged back into the filth of sin can be made pure again. We are not perfect ourselves, but we have not given up our faith in the One who saves by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1.18)