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.2 Peter 2:20(NASB)
In this passage, Peter is raising a concern that those, who for a time escaped the pollution and defilement of the world when they heard about the Lord Jesus, end up in a far worse state when they return to the world's entanglements. This verse has caused many Christians to think their salvation is lost if they become discouraged, walk away from their faith for a time, or become engage in worldly carnality. It is, therefore, increasingly important to read every verse in context and identify who is being referenced in a passage and to whom the Word is addressed
This letter is written to Christians who have the same precious faith as Peter, and this verse is exposing the dangers of false teachers and the devastation they can cause to those that are ignorant of God's Word. Peter is warning his readers of the increasing numbers of apostate teachers who distort the Person and work of Christ. He is also encouraging them to have a closer walk with God and an ever deepening understanding of their faith.
Peter insists that knowledge of the Lord and paying heed to Scripture are two important elements in identifying a false teacher and discerning their destructive lies. In his earlier letter, he assured his readers that God's mighty power will protect all who have come to saving faith in Christ and will guard their hearts against such lies. Paul also reassures us, in Philippians, that when God starts a good work in the life of a Christian, He promises to bring it to completion.
These final verses of chapter 2 are not talking about losing one's salvation. There is no question that the salvation of a truly born again individual can be lost. However, Peter is expressing his concern for unbelievers who are brought to a superficial knowledge of Christ without being saved by faith in Him. Such people quickly become entangled back into the world through the influence of false teachers who twist the truth for their own evil ends with no concern for the eternal destiny of those they teach.
False teachers play havoc in the lives of their listeners - both the saved and the unsaved - because they deny God's Word and discredit His truth. They deceive their listeners with sugar-coated lies and challenge the authority of Christ and His appointed apostles. But those who allow their ears to be tickled without ever coming to the knowledge of the truth, by faith, are in serious spiritual danger, "and their last state becomes worse that at the beginning."
The infiltration of apostate teachers and heretics in the early Church was a serious problem just as it is today, because those teaching a false gospel can only promise their followers a false freedom, a false christ, and a false salvation, because they are slaves to their own greed and corruption, for whatever gets the better of a man makes him its servant.
Peter is explaining to his listeners that when the unsaved are captivated by the enticing lies of a false teacher and presented with a distorted view of the gospel, they are given a taste of the good news of Christ without being brought to a saving faith in Him. They may be enamoured by the deceptive promises of a sugar-coated gospel, a counterfeit saviour, and a promise of heaven, but they are never justified. They are never born again into newness of life which sadly results their spiritual state becoming far worse than at first.
Let us be aware of the deceitful practices of false teachers and the devastating influence they can have on the lives of saved and unsaved alike. Let us seek to guard our hearts with an ever-deepening knowledge of the truth, maintain a closer walk with God, and live and work for His praise and glory.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the many warnings we are given in Your Word about the dangers of false teachers and the devastation they can cause in the lives of those who become entangled with them. I pray for those who are attracted to a counterfeit gospel or embroiled in the false message of apostate teachers without coming to a knowledge of the truth. Thank You that by grace through faith I am saved, and my soul is guarded by Christ - through faith. Help those who are being fooled, through false teaching, into corrupt practices and sinful unbelief, through a lack of understanding and open their eyes to the truth of the glorious gospel of grace. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.