It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire."2 Peter 2:22(NASB)
Both saved and unsaved people use this well-known saying from Proverbs, to show concern for a friend or acquaintance who has returned to an unsavoury relationship or has gone back into some unwholesome activity: "It has happened to them according to the true proverb, 'a dog returns to its own vomit, and 'a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.'"
This is an excellent description of a foolish, undisciplined person who repeats mistakes of the past without learning a lesson. But like every passage in Scripture, it must be read and understood in its correct context - and the context of this verse is the devastation which can be caused by apostate teachers - particularly its effect on the unsaved.
Peter is warning his readers to beware of false teachers who infiltrate churches and the tragic effect they have on those with little or no understanding of Scripture or the gospel message. He describes the calamitous impact of their deceptive teachings on those who are deceived by their lies and enticed back into worldly pursuits and all sorts of sin.
Peter's concern is for those who have little or no knowledge of Scripture, but become the innocent target of unscrupulous false teachers. His exhortation to believers is to become familiar with the Word of God, the truths it contains, the instructions it gives, and the unchanging gospel of Christ. He urges us to be discerning so we recognise when Scripture is being corrupted and warn others of its insidious effect.
2 Peter 2:22 is the final verse in a section that describes the devastation that occurs in the life of an unbeliever who escapes the pollution of the world when they come to an intellectual knowledge of the Lord Jesus through an apostate teacher, but are not brought to saving faith in Him because they are taught a counterfeit Christ and a fake gospel.
The travesty of such a scenario is that having come to a superficial knowledge of Jesus, they have no foundational truth and become discouraged with a teaching that cannot fulfil any spiritual needs and entangles them back into the world.
Sadly, the latter end of such people is worse with at the beginning and Peter concludes his warning with this well-known verse: "It has happened to them according to the true proverb, 'a dog returns to its own vomit,' and 'a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.'"
Men and women who are taught a false way of salvation, cannot mix truth with faith and be saved. Such people remain spiritually dead in their sin with an unchanged fallen nature which is at enmity with God. Although they heard about Jesus as a Person, they did not trust in Him as their Saviour. Sadly, they remain in their folly and return to their former ways.
This verse does not teach that a believer can lose their salvation as the context clearly shows. Those who are truly born again, by faith in the Person and work of Jesus, are changed people. They are spiritually born again, placed into God's family, are part of a new creation, and receive a new Christ-like nature.
Although there may be times in their lives when they fall into sin, God has promised that if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He has also promised to finish the good work of salvation He started in ALL His children, and has given each one the in-dwelling Holy Spirit as a guarantee that He will fulfil His promise.
There may well be times when a Christian becomes a prodigal and is foolishly drawn back to the world, for a season, acting like a dog returning to its vomit - but unlike the unsaved, Christians are eternally justified by faith in Christ, positionally sanctified in Him, and as Paul writes, "he whom He justified, these He also glorified."
Our salvation does not depend on what we do, but on what Christ has already done for us. However, we must never become complacent in our Christian life and should heed the many warnings throughout Scripture to beware of false teachers, to study to show ourselves approved, to trust in the Lord and obey His Word, and do only those things that honour His holy name.
Heavenly Father, how good it is to receive the warnings about false teachers and the destruction they can do to those who are not properly schooled in the Scriptures or are new to the faith. Give me a discerning heart and the desire to learn Your Word and apply its truth in my life. Protect young believers and those that are enquiring about the Lord Jesus, from the destructive elements of apostates who tickle the ears of those that are unschooled in Scripture. I also pray for those who have become prodigals and have been tempted to return to the world. I ask that, in Your grace, You would rescue them and bring them back into true Christian fellowship. In Jesus' name, AMEN.