Calvary Road Baptist Church


Second Peter 2.20-22


James 4.17 reads, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Thus, when you know what God demands of you, and you do not do what God demands of you, you have committed a sin. It can be a sin of omission, whereby you do not do what you should have done, or a sin of commission, whereby you do that which you should not have done. In either case, it is a sin that God’s holy nature demands punishment for.

To be sure, there are individuals who are profoundly ignorant of God’s laws, and do not consciously know they are guilty of violations. However, such people are still guilty in the sight of God, having sinned by violating the dictates of their own God-given consciences, Romans 2.15.

It is because all have sinned, and because all are guilty in God’s sight, that the gospel, which is the only means by which sinners can be saved from their sins, must be preached in obedience to Christ’s command to every creature. Jesus is the only savior of sinful men’s souls. No man comes to the Father but by Him. That is why we must preach Christ to every man, to everyone woman, and to every child.

It must be acknowledged that God’s punishment of every sinner is not the same. Though every sinner will die and be judged, the severity of the punishment meted out at the Great White Throne judgment will not be the same for everyone who is condemned. Some will be punished much more harshly than others will, though the punishment of everyone who is damned will be shockingly severe.

Read what Jesus said, in Matthew 11.22: “But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.” Speaking to the people who lived in Chorazin and Bethsaida, Jesus warned them that their punishment on the Day of Judgment would be more severe than those who lived in the notorious cities Tyre and Sidon.

Why was this pronouncement issued? Because, according to Matthew 11.21, had the people of Tyre and Sidon seen the miracles Jesus did in those two stubborn and unrepentant cities, they would have responded with heartfelt repentance. However, the point that I seek to make is that the severity of one’s eternal punishment at the hand of God will be greater for those unrepentant who were exposed to the greater light of truth.

Now look to Matthew 11.23-24:


23     And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

24     But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.


See? The Lord Jesus Christ makes the same case again, this time using the city of Capernaum and the undeniably wicked city of Sodom. It will be more tolerable for Sodom, which is to say that a more severe punishment will be meted out to Capernaum. Why? Though the inhabitants of neither city repented, Capernaum was exposed to the great light of truth, and is thus more guilty and deserving of more harsh punishment.

My friends, this principle of different degrees of punishment corresponding to different exposure to the light of truth are practiced in every family. Two children do wrong. One is aged fifteen and the other is aged five. Which is guiltier, deserving a more harsh chastisement? The answer is too obvious to need explanation.

The well-established principle, which was used by the Lord Jesus Christ to warn the unrepentant, and which is employed by responsible parents in rearing their children, is that greater exposure to the truth results in greater culpability for the guilty.

As more is expected from a fifteen year old than a five year old, so the demands upon those exposed to Christ’s ministry are greater than those not exposed to Christ’s ministry, and the punishment for failing to repent will be correspondingly more severe. With what we have been considering up to this point, turn to our text for this evening, Second Peter 2.20-22:


20     For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

21     For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

22     But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.


Notice three things about those who are exposed to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, who hear how to be saved and who know to be saved, but who is not saved:




Verse 20:  For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.”


It must first be established that the Apostle Peter is referring only to the unsaved in these three verses, and not Christians who are backsliding. We can be certain Peter is dealing only with the lost by recognizing two things:

First, the pronouns used throughout these three verses “they,” “they,” and “them,” are clearly identified in verse 22 as being likened to dogs and the sow, two unclean animals that the Apostle would never use to illustrate a truth related to a blood bought and blood washed saint.

Then, there is Peter’s explanation of those he is referring to as being entangled in the pollutions of the world and overcome by the pollutions of the world. In First John 5.14, the believer is described by the Apostle John as one who categorically overcomes the world: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” It is unthinkable to me that these two apostles would be so far apart in their understanding of the victorious Christian life as to think that Peter believes Christians can be completely overcome by the pollution of the world, while John believes Christians cannot be so overcome.

Let me declare that I wholeheartedly endorse the belief that this passage addresses issues related to the behavior and conduct of unsaved people, not Christians, not even Christians who are backsliding.

This understood, what is Peter referring to here in verse 20? In his own way, he is dealing with the same type of situation the Lord Jesus Christ dealt with in His parable of the sower, in Matthew 13. Please turn there and read with me:


3      And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4      And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5      Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6      And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7      And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8      But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.


Our Lord interprets this parable beginning in verse 18:


18     Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

19     When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

20     But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21     Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

22     He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

23     But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.


Peter is not dealing with as broad a company of hearers as our Lord did when He taught this parable. Peter limits his comments to that kind of hearer represented by the third of our Lord’s examples. The care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the choking the Word, that precludes fruitfulness, what our Lord spoke of in His parable, corresponds to that sinner Peter speaks of who hears the Word of God preached, whose act is cleaned up a bit by what he hears, and by the forsaking of some sins for a while.

After a while, however, because he is not saved from his sins, he slides back into the world enough to be entangled by it once again, to again be polluted, leaving him and those like him worse off after their exposure to the gospel than they were before they ever heard the truth.

Here is the part that fools most people, including genuinely saved people who observe these types of people. It may very well be that the outward conduct of the gospel rejecter never degrades to the base level once seen in his life. He may have transitioned from an outwardly profane and vulgar sort of fellow into a seemingly genteel type of guy, who now seems spiritual and refined. However, the world has hold of him once again, only in a different and less obvious way, without his sins ever being forgiven.

How is this to be explained?




Verse 21:  “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.”


In this verse Peter admits to his readers what they do not need interpreted to them. These people already know what I spoke of in my introductory remarks. They have already heard the Apostle Peter, and others, relate the warnings to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. They grasp the principle that lies beneath the surface for most observers, that the heinousness of your sin of rejecting the Savior outweighs any advantage you may think you have gained by civility or religiosity.

However, to discharge my duty as a pastor, some details need to be clarified. First, Peter admits that for those of you who are not saved, and who will not be saved, it really would have been better for you to have never heard the gospel. You understand that since none of us knows who will and who will not be saved, and because we are commanded, we are obligated to preach the gospel to everyone, including you, even though it guarantees that your hellfire will be so much hotter than if you had never heard that Jesus saves.

“The way of righteousness” is a phrase that describes the Christian life, or as early Christians in the book of Acts termed it, “the way.” Therefore, you know about “the way,” and you have been exposed to “the way.” However, you will finally turn away, and really pay for it in eternity.

“The holy commandment” delivered to you is the gospel. The reason Peter refers to the gospel as “the holy commandment” is because that is exactly what it is. The gospel is holy, and not ordinary or common. As well, it is a commandment, and not an invitation or a plea. Sinners, including you, are not invited to Christ. You are commanded, and God communicates to you that He is demanding, that you submit to Him by coming to His Son.

So, you can see that by hearing the gospel and rejecting it you are continuing your rebellion against God, you are rejecting the offer of His precious Son, not to mention trampling underfoot His precious blood that was shed on Calvary’s cross. Is it not easy to understand, therefore, why it must be worse off for you than for some desert Muslim in the Sahara who never heard the gospel message?




Verse 22:  “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”


This proverb illustrates Peter’s warning by means of two unclean animals. In other words, those of you who end up unconverted in the end are likened to the behavior of two predictable unclean animals:

First, there is the dog. A dog is a dog is a dog. No matter how much they insinuate themselves into your lives, a dog is a dog is a dog. That said, what will dogs eat? They will eat anything. Thankfully, Peter limits his illustration to the predictable pattern of dogs eating what they have previously vomited. A dog will as surely eat his own vomit as anything he will do, because he is a dog. This is his nature. Clean up Fifi as much as you want. Disinfect her, delouse her, de-flea her, de-worm her, and keep her inside and away from the garbage. She will still eat her vomit when she gets half a chance.

Next, there is the sow. Ugly, fat, contemptible, and always ready to wallow in the mire. They say pigs are smart, and perhaps they are smart. Nevertheless, no matter how intelligent they happen to be, and no matter how cleaned up your pig is, she will spring at any opportunity to flop over in the mire and wallow to her heart’s content. Why will Little Miss Piggy do that? It is in her nature. It is something she not only has a tendency to do; it is something she will certainly do . . . every time she is given opportunity.

So, what is Peter’s point with these illustrations? It is better for you not to hear the gospel than for you to hear the gospel without being born again, without getting a new heart, without getting your sins forgiven, without getting a new nature through the new birth. Therefore, Christians who expose their friends to the gospel better be serious about it, and lost people who come to church even one time had better be saved, because as bad as Hell was going to be for them, it will now be so much worse.


This is a startling truth for so many people to deal with. It is as startling to Christians as it is to the unsaved, since typically neither Christians nor the unsaved consider the downside of hearing the gospel only once and rejecting it.

Christian? Have you ever thought about the downside of raising kids in a Christian home that never come to Christ? Have you ever thought of the downside of being a Christian who is married to someone who never comes to Christ? Do you kids know what you have done to your parents by coming to Christ?

On one hand, and this is the upside, you have given your children, or your spouse, or your parents, an invaluable opportunity. They have the priceless advantage of actually watching someone live the Christian life, hear of answers to prayer, and observe a Christian close up rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.

Even if your loved one was not around before your conversion, he or she has the unique perspective of seeing the outworking in your life of Christ’s life, through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. Those who knew you prior to your conversion can see the difference between you before Christ and the new you after Christ. However, there is an awful price for this unique privilege. There is a terrible curse awaiting those who hear the truth and reject it, who have been commanded via the gospel but ignored it, and who have been pointed to Christ but dismiss Him.

It were better that they had never heard. It were better that they had never seen. That is why Peter wrote, “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” Though every lost person is born dead in trespasses and sins, and is certainly bound for eternal damnation without Christ, he makes it so much worse for himself who hears and does not obey, who sees and does not follow after, who is commanded and does not repent of his sins by coming to Jesus Christ.

That being the case, do you still begrudge my clumsy attempts to persuade you to come to Christ? Do you still hold my aggressiveness against me? Are you still offended when you think my attempts to talk to you, and the things I say in my sermons, are too obvious? In Hell, you will wish I had been more persuasive.

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