I received the following question:

Regarding 2 Peter 2. Would this be talking about turning away from believing that Jesus is the son of God, or not following commands you know are right?

You are referring to the chapter condemning wicked men among the believers. The question seems to be, are these people who once believed in Christ, but then turned away? Quoting some of it below:

1. But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

These false teachers “bring in” destructive heresies, and even deny the Lord Who bought them. They thus “bring on themselves swift destruction.” Note that even though the Lord bought them, does not mean that they believed. He died for all, but not all believe. Instead, it says they deny Him, to their own destruction. This does not sound like believers.

2. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.

Their ways are “destructive.” The truth is blasphemed because of them. Again, this sounds like unbelievers posing as believers.

3. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

Again, Peter attached destruction to these men…three times in three verses. Destruction is not the fate of those who believe.

4. For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;

Peter compares these men to the angels who sinned by marrying human women before the flood. These have been imprisoned in chains of darkness ever since. This does not sound like a comparison you would make with a believer.

5. and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;

He compares them to those who perished in Noah’s flood, again the ungodly.

6. and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;

Again Peter compares them to ungodly men who were destroyed. Are you getting the feeling that the ones he is talking about are to be destroyed?

7. and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8. (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—

He contrasts them with righteous Lot, who was tested in his righteous soul every day as he saw the lawless deeds of the wicked men who surrounded him. Of course, this was a foolish way to test himself, and he should not have been there. But the point again is contrasting a man of faith, even a weak and waffling one like Lot, with the unbelievers of Sodom. If Peter was talking about misguided or off-track believers here, he could have used Lot as an example of them. Instead, he uses Lot as a contrast with them. I think this shows he is speaking of unbelievers.

9. then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,

Again, these men Peter is talking about are called unjust, and are said to be awaiting punishment at the day of judgment. From what he has said already, I would strongly suspect that that punishment will be destruction.

10. and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,

He starts listing the wicked actions of these men.

11. whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.

They dare to speak evil of those the Lord has given dignity. Even angels are not brave enough to do what these wicked men do!

12. But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption,

He compares them to natural brute beasts who are made to be caught and destroyed. Then, he says they will utterly perish. Again, these are terms with which you would not describe a believer.

13. and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,

While these people are again spoken of as being among the believers, they are deceivers and blemishes upon their gatherings. These would be harsh words to use of any believer, even a misguided or unfaithful one.

14. having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.

These people are thoroughly sinful and filled with sin. This does not sound like how you would describe someone who has a new creation inside of him after believing in Christ.

15. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

They have gone the way of Balaam. Balaam was a prophet of the Lord, but he went astray because he loved the wages that would come from being unrighteous. This reminds us of the reason Demas went astray from Paul. Yet what else he has said about these men does not seem to fit a straying believer. The next verse helps us see why he uses Balaam here.

16. but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.

Balaam is called a prophet here. In Greek (not Hebrew) that word is so specific to a true prophet, that you have to say “pseudo-prophet” whenever you do not mean a true prophet. Yet Peter does not say that Balaam was a false prophet. So he was a true one. Yet he fell into madness because of his love for wealth, fame, and power. The example, then, is that even a true prophet can go this way if he focuses on the wages of unrighteousness. The ones Peter is talking about have gone astray in the way Balaam went astray. Yet from what else he has said of them, comparing them to Sodom, the wicked angels, those who perished in the flood…we would then say they went the way of Balaam without ever truly belonging to the Lord in the first place, as Balaam did.

17. These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

These promise to carry living water, but in fact have none of it within them, like a well that is dry. Again, this sounds like one who acts like he is a believer, but never was and never did. He looks to some like he has life, but in fact it is an empty promise.

18. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.

They are not good men or believers being tempted away from what is right. Instead, they are the wicked men who lure unwise believers away from the right ways of the Lord.

19. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.

They themselves are slaves to what they promote, and seek to pull believers away into slavery after them.

20. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.

These escaped through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the pollutions of the world. So they were shown the truth and understood it. Yet they did not take the way of escape, and did not desire the freedom the Lord gives. Instead, they turned right back to their own ways, and became entangled in them and overcome. In other words, these are those who saw the truth about the Lord Jesus, and thus overcame the deceptions of the world that keep men from understanding the truth about him. Yet, like Satan himself, having seen the Lord truthfully for what he is, they chose to hate and reject him. Thus, they end up far worse off than if they had never seen the truth about Him at all.

21. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.

It is better never to understand the way of salvation, than to understand it and knowingly reject it. These are like the man out of whom the demon was cast, only to later be possessed with the old demon along with seven new ones who are worse than the first.

22. 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.”

The gospel for these men is just like causing a dog to vomit. He foolishly returns to what made him sick in the first place. They are also like washing a sow. She returns to her wallowing in the mire. The gospel must actually get on the inside of a person and change who he is. If it does not, it does the person no good. If you are still a dog, you still act like a dog. If you are still a pig, you still act like a pig. Only being changed into a man do you have the power to act any differently. But these have seen the right way, and yet not taken it. Thus, still being dogs or pigs, they go right back to acting like them. Thus, they are not believers, but unbelievers.

So to answer your question, “would this be turning away from believing that Jesus is the son of God or not following commands you know are right?” These are people who see the truth, yet reject it. They then act like they are believers, but the fact that their hearts were never truly changed ultimately will come out in their godless actions. The churches are filled with people like these. I have certainly run into them, even in “Bible-believing churches.”