This is a chat I had with a friend who started out asking about one of those Bible passages that bring a lot of fear to many Bible believers.
For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. 2 Peter 2:20-21
Mark: how did u come to the conclusion that it was the false teachers claims not Peters? when i read this verse…i just see it as being so direct. especially…For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. looks like they knew at one time and for some reason they turned back…lol
Jim: Well, how it came to me was how Peter jumped right into warning the people about them. I mean, he starts right out in chapter 2 with that mention. Them, they, etc. It took me a while to see it, but it was always there. Right in front of me. It’s not the YOU that he spoke so fondly of. But he quickly turned it into YOU need to watch out for THEM! THEY are among you. Just like they were in times past
Mark: had they known the way of righteousness?
Jim: What I see in it all is that Peter was warning the saints and insisting that they consider those who had been there … agreeing with the way of righteousness. Remember, these were false prophets among them. THEY had spoken of knowing the way.
Mark: what was their major trademark to watch out for?
Jim: THEY had declared that not only had they known the way, but that others should follow in their footsteps. Words. Just words. These are the WORDS that cause us to assume. We will assume that if they can tell us how to do it, then they must really know the way.
Just look at the whole of the warning when considering what it is to have “known” the way of righteousness. From the people’s perspective, just as it has been from ours in so many times, they heard and believed the WORDS, the empty words of those who were false. That’s why Peter started out with the REALITY of life and righteousness within those who are of God. Of course, when we view it according to the way the false prophets explain it, we come away thinking it is a legalistic formula Peter was giving them. But not at all. For he was describing the LIFE within those who are of God. And then he shows the falseness of the false men of words. We get so easily convinced that the false prophets were actually saints who fell… But in truth, they were those whose falseness finally showed up.
I have vivid memories of a few I had assumed were “brothers” simply because they were able to talk about the grace of God. But along the way, I began to get a picture that something else might be in play. These “brothers” were those who had “known the way of righteousness.” I knew a “grace” teacher who had a ministry to thousands. We used to talk quite a bit. He tried so hard to understand where I was coming from and how I wrote as I did. I kept trying to encourage him to preach a gospel that had something to do with his REAL life. He never did. I have to wonder if he was just a pretender. He had a lot of right words.
Mark: He had his concepts right.
Jim: Quite a few of them, that’s for sure. But things went downhill after a while, and we engaged in numerous long phone conversations. There were times that it seemed we were getting somewhere, but he really went into a tirade about hating God or no longer believing in him
Mark: What lessons do we draw from such a case?
Jim: Lessons? Well, perhaps it might just be a case of how one who could come up with a whole grace structure might not have any real understanding into grace itself
Mark: very precise and nice
Jim: It might serve to make it known to me how easy it is to make assumptions about someone’s spiritual condition by what he is able to write about it and how many “Christians” loved his stuff. For a while, it felt good to be regarded as these grace rebels. It’s just that I might agree with many of the statements that some “grace” people put out, while at the same time I sense an emptiness to it. It’s almost as if the phrases and verses have taken on a life of their own and yet have no real life. We say, It’s all of grace. It’s not I but Christ. I can do all things through Christ. Etc, etc. And it’s so easy to add your Amen because you assume they’re saying the same thing. I’m just so leery of those who merely TALK grace.
Mark: i hear u…is it possible to know this life and freedom and be beset by a sin. something really bad
Jim: Of course, it’s possible. I just think we try too hard to play into those possibilities. I’ve just learned to reserve any real judgment on it. I want to know if it is REALLY part of a person’s life more than just the preaching of it. I’m not looking for some “sign” or some specific outward manifestation. Instead, I’m looking for the life of the message to ring true in some real way. I came to realize that he always managed to keep his grace message sterile in relation to himself. He never really put himself out there. He told Christian rebels what they apparently wanted to hear.
Mark: are u saying that maturity isnt necessarily determined by ones ability to keep good or bad
Jim: How do you mean, to keep good or bad?
Mark: some ones virtue can be hollow
Jim: Yes, “virtue” is often hollow
Mark: and theres real virtue. the real stuff of life
Jim: And it seems all too often that many people’s “virtue” is designed to hide or cover over something else. Yes, there is real virtue! It is the life within us that cannot be hidden. And it is often misdiagnosed by those who scrutinize. I understand why Peter desired to stimulate those of God to excel in that life. The lie tries to get us coming and going. It will use grace as an excuse to NOT live this life that is within us, and then it will judge us because we don’t jump through some kind of hoop. A “grace” hoop, so to speak.
Jim: Yeah, the fleshly mind will reinterpret grace in such a way as to dare people to sin in order to “prove” God’s grace. It is reasoned by the fleshly mind that if God has forgiven us everything then he doesn’t care. But it’s just fleshly reasoning. And then we will want to “correct” the “error” by coming down hard on sin. Still, just fleshly reasoning. The reasoning of God is so far above all of it.
Mark: so there are two ways flesh responds to Gods grace
Jim: Yeah, at least!
Mark: one…yipeee i can chew all this candie. two…should we chew candie that grace should abound. ok thats where logic stops and miracle starts.
Jim: What we usually discover is that the very idea of the candy is an illusion.
Mark: Jim in some areas of my life i know this stuff is not satisfying but i still want more of it
Jim: I hear you, brother, for I often realize the same thing. It’s like, maybe this time it will satisfy. This time it will be different. This time I understand grace better. This time I know I don’t have to feel guilty. Rationalization.
Mark: you’ve just described it
Jim: How often have you felt cheated … and so you’re just going after your just desserts?
Jim: And yet by his grace he still does not condemn us! And it is by his goodness and mercy that we are brought to see his life in a new and living way!
Mark: oooh thats beautiful…he breaks through the brain log jam