“But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.'”
This verse clenches the idea that these latter verses deal with non-Christian false teachers. God never calls His people “dogs” or “sows” anywhere in the Bible. Nonbelievers are called dogs, sows, goats, donkeys, foxes, and wolves throughout Scripture. The latter are unclean animals. God calls His own people sheep, lambs, and oxen. God forbids a donkey and an ox to plow together because one is clean and the other an unclean animal. God never mixes the two.
But it has happened to them according to the true proverb:
Both dogs and pigs in the first century were unclean animals and creatures to be avoided. People did not have dogs for pets.
Verse 22 explains how a person can become thoroughly acquainted with Christ’s person and work and still not accept His message. This verse explains why false teachers are lost.
‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’
Peter quotes this phrase from Proverbs 26:11. After a dog vomits the harmful substances from his stomach to control what is noxious in his body, he will attempt to introduce the spew into his system again. False teachers try to reform their values, but because they never fundamentally changed from those terminal values, they return to their erroneous beliefs.
Watching a dog eat his vomit is a gross site. Most of us who have had dogs have watched this spectacle. The vomit here is an untrue religious belief. The dog reverts to type. He never was anything but a dog. His dog nature determined his eating habits. Dogs eat vomit. False teachers believe in fallacious doctrine. They are true to type.
The “dog” represents the erroneous teachings of an unbeliever. For a dog to behave any differently than a dog, you would have to give the dog a different nature. He needs something other than a dog nature. False teachers need something different than their innate nature to come to the truth; they need a new birth.
and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’
False prophets are never what they seem to be and always return to their true nature. We can clean a pig, but the pig will return to his hovel. False teachers will always revert to fallacious beliefs. The pigsty is the natural habitat of the pig. False teaching is the natural habitat of the false teacher.
The “sow,” an unclean animal, represents false teachers. He can superficially clean himself, but he will revert to his apostasy. He always goes back to his false beliefs. A religious person can clean up their outside but cannot regenerate themselves. They try to reform their overt behavior but never come to a place of personal regeneration. Without regeneration, they always revert to unbelief.
Peter mentions a return for both the dog and the sow. When a religionist returns to his religion without embracing Christ personally, he acts like a dog or sow – he always reverts to type. If you want the sow to act differently than a sow, you have to give him a nature different from a sow’s nature. In that case, he would no longer be a sow.
People are naturally born with a propensity to hate Christ and love religion. They are born selfish; they want our own way. Then they become renegades by choice. They revolt against God’s truth. That is why it is useless to wash a sow unless something intervenes to change their hearts (2 Pe 1:4). The longer they revolt against God, the more difficult it is to change. They cannot change unless God changes them. Otherwise, everything in them will rebel against God.
Both the dog and the sow “return” to their former state. They revert to type.
A straying true believer will return to his Savior. Note what Peter said in his first epistle,
1 Peter 2:25, “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
A true sheep returns to his Shepherd. There is a big difference between a reformed false teacher and a true Christian who strays. There is all the difference between a washed sow and a dirty sheep! One returns to his mire and the other to his Shepherd.
Unregenerate people dwelling among genuine Christians will revert to type.
Unbelieving people who associate with genuine Christians remain dogs and pigs in their nature. It is love’s labor’s loss to clean someone whose nature and desire is to reject Jesus as their Savior. Since Christ never transformed certain church attendees, then dealing with them as genuine Christians is futile.
Because of their initial participation in church and association with Christians, many people gave the appearance of spiritual birth, but there was no essential change in their nature. They were washed on the outside and appeared different because they attended church and even participated in ministry, but there was no fundamental change in nature; they were never born again in the first place. They carried the appearance of being a Christian. There is all the difference between a dirty sheep and a washed sow.
Some give the appearance of genuine Christianity precisely because they associate themselves with evangelicals. However, those who apostatize demonstrate that they were never genuine Christians. Remaining in the faith is evidence of actual spirit birth (1 Jn 2:18-19). Apostates fall away from their non-saving understanding and experience with Christ. There is a vast difference between unregenerate church attendees and those with genuine faith in Christ. Sometimes they are difficult to recognize because of their church affiliation, but they are nevertheless lost. The false teachers of Second Peter 2 sucked unregenerate people into the assembly of believers, but they were never genuinely born again. They returned to what they were by nature–unbelievers. God never likens regenerated sheep to unclean swine or dogs.
Many ministries are in the business of washing sows and amusing goats instead of presenting an unvarnished gospel that results in genuine conversion. These ministries also leave true sheep famished for spiritual food. In these situations, sheep cannot find green grass or water for their soul. False teachers trod down the grass and polluted the water with distortions of God’s Word. All they find is the “vomit” of false teaching.