In an earlier post, I provided one argument for affirming that the book of Hebrews views a complete overlap of ecclesiology and soteriology in the new covenant. That is, the warning passages in no way pose a threat to the credo-Baptist position that all members of the new covenant are regenerate, even though the old covenant included both remnant and rebel.
Does 2 Peter Teach the New Covenant Community Includes Rebels?
In parallel to the issues raised in Heb 10:28–29, 2 Pet 1:9 declares:
For whoever lacks these qualities [i.e., faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love] is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”
This outward “cleansing” parallels the “sanctification” mentioned in Heb 10:29. Peter then continues in 2 Pet 2:1, 20–21 with these words:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. . . . 20 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. 21 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 parallels with the Hebrews text are obvious. Here we have some who were once set apart from the world’s defilements and who appeared to be a part of the church. However, their later rebellion, lack of fruit, and departure has heaped up even greater judgment on them than if they had never identified themselves with the covenant community (cf. Rom 2:2–5). Were they truly part of the new covenant?
Once a Pig, Still a Pig
Two texts in 2 Peter would suggest not.
- 2 Pet 1:10 states that one’s calling and election are confirmed only when one practices the aforementioned qualities. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” That is, as was the case in Heb 3:12–14, perseverance is the clarifying marker that one is indeed in covenant relationship with God in Christ.
- In 2 Pet 2:22, the apostle writes about those who apostatize: “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.’” Unlike the readers of Hebrews whom the writer was convinced were true covenant members (Heb 6:9), having gained new identity in Christ, Peter’s conviction about those who had fallen away was that they never really saw their identities changed. They were dogs and pigs before, and they remain so still.
The statement in 2 Pet 2:22 parallels the teaching of 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” Or as Paul said, in the context of his discussion about a church’s participation in the Lord’s new covenant supper (1 Cor 11:25), the divisions in the church are necessary “in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Cor 11:19). The mention of Judas’ betrayal in this very context (1 Cor 11:23) stresses what genuine covenant relationship with Jesus actually means.