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1 John 2:19

1 John 2:18 Dear children, it is the last hour; and just as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we recognize that it is the last hour.


19 They went out from us, but they were never of us;

for if they had been of us, they would have remained/abided with us;

but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.



Our text this morning continues our study of John’s first general Epistle.


Now remember, up to this point in the Epistle, John has turned to refute the teachings of the false teachers who are troubling his flock with both their doctrine and their living.


However, last week, beginning with verse 18, John turned to consider the false teachers themselves. That is, John turns to expose the spiritual heart and dark agenda that define/direct these men.


Notice then the story thus far: in verse 18 John identified the world’s false teachers with the Antichrist who is to come at the end of the age (he calls them by the same name- many antichrists). In other words, John alerts us that the same spiritual principles and the same dark agenda that define the Antichrist are behind these false teachers as well. As such, they are neither harmless nor benign. Instead, like the Antichrist (but on a smaller, more limited scale) they oppose God, reject His gospel, and actively promote a surrogate salvation that inevitably leads men to misery and doom.


In our text this morning John continues his exposure of and warning against these men.



Verse 19

Notice at one, John turns to address the fact that the false teachers who are troubling the church were once a part of the church. In other words, they have heard the Gospel; they have seen God’s life changing power at work in others; and they have tasted of the blessings that God pours out on His people. However, true to their description (anti-christs), they have rejected Christ, departed God’s people, and set out to actively oppose/replace the Gospel FN#1. Importance: notice the problem that John is addressing here: notice the picture of the false teachers that begins to emerge: even though these false teachers have left the church they are nonetheless seeking to capitalize on a would-be affiliation with the Church. How? First, they are actively trying to draw others out of the church as well. Second, having once been a part of the Church, these false teachers know the lingo of the Church. As such, they are able to frame their deception in a distortion of the Church’s own terms and categories. Third, to both church and world, these false teachers claim to have the real truth behind what the Apostles are trying to proclaim. However, they claim to have this truth in its full, developed, and spiritually correct form (no more myths, no more ties to the ever changing material world, just pure spiritual enlightenment).  Simply put, even though these false teachers have rejected the Gospel and broken with the Church, they claim to offer the same thing and the same truth as the Church, just in a more developed and advanced form. As such, they assert that they, not the Apostles, are the true spiritual guides for men.



Next, notice how John responds to the false teachers’ claims: John says that even though these teachers went out from us, they were never of us. That is, even though these false teachers attended and associated with the church, they were never part of the body of Christ. In other words, they were never believers, they never received Christ as savior, and thus they were never actual members of God’s people. Instead, they simply played along, learned the lingo, checked out what it was all about, without ever embracing/believing the Gospel FN#2. Notice then the point: John counters the claims made by the false teachers by underscoring the fact that far from being advanced guardians of spiritual truth or the next stage in the spiritual development of what the Church offers, these teachers have never had a share in the life or renewal that God provides. Instead, they are and ever have been adherents of the world’s darkness, deception, and futile speculation. As such, they are utterly unfit to speak of heavenly thing or to lead men to a God they have never met FN#3.



Next, notice John turns to give the reason/basis of his assessment of these teachers: John says that had they been a part of the body of Christ, they would have remained/abided with us FN#4. Importance: notice at once that the Gospel and the true nature of grace serve as the very basis of John’s assessment. How? Notice John does not say that the false teachers lost/forfeited their salvation because they left. Instead, John says that that these teachers left because they never had salvation to begin with. In fact, John says had they had salvation they would have remained. In other words, because the grace that saves you is an abiding presence in you that changes you and irrevocably seals you as God’s child, abiding with God is not how you earn or maintain your salvation. Instead, abiding with God is the result of that salvation truly at work in your life FN#5. As such, the false teachers’ blatant departure from, rejection of, and opposition to Christ betray their deeper spiritual condition. Notice then the point: once again John underscores the fact that these would be spiritual guides are in fact spiritually dead. That is, they do not have nor have they ever had a part in the salvation and life that God provides. Therefore, they stand in no position to speak for God nor do they offer any guidance to God.



Finally, notice the surprising sovereignty of God at work even amid the trouble and disruption caused by these false teachers. John says that they went out in order that it might be shown (that it might be made absolutely clear) that they all are not of us. In other words, their decisive break with the Church and fundamental rejection of her teachings expose the essential difference and utter incompatibility of these false teachers and the Gospel. Notice the result: God has made it crystal clear both to the believer and to the on looking world, that these two spiritual paths are fundamentally different and mutually exclusive (you cannot hold to one and embrace aspects of the other). Not only that, notice John says that the departure of these false teachers shows that they all are not of us. Importance: the adjective all is an Emphatic adjective FN#6. As such, it emphasizes that every last single one of those who departed are not of us. In other words, there are no exceptions. Instead, they all heard the Gospel; they all witnessed the life changing power and grace of God in others; and they all tasted of the blessings that God pours out on His people. As such, they all departed knowingly and in full rejection of Christ and His salvation. Notice then John’s point: notice then John’s warning to his flock: John says there is no room for sympathy, cooperation, or a softening of our rebuttal with regards to any one of these false teachers. In other words, John warns his readers (both then and now) not to confuse the likeability/success/piety of the messenger with the darkness of the message. Instead, what God has separated let no man attempt to join together.



Bottom line: John reminds me that there is no fellowship or compatibility between the Kingdom of Christ and the agenda of the Antichrist. Thus, any teaching, philosophy, or political platform that rejects Christ and seeks to supplant/replace His Gospel is to be rejected and refuted as the deadly danger it is.





1] Notice, verse 19 does not describe a momentary deception or period of spiritual doubt/wandering. Instead, it describes an abiding governing principle of darkness that cannot tolerate the Gospel as it truly is for very long. Rather, it rejects the Gospel and actively seeks to replace it (both in one’s own life as well as the lives of others). As such, it seems that the situation described by of Hebrews 6 applies here.

Hebrews 6:4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been shared in the Holy Spirit (i.e. seen His blessing and benefits), 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.

Importance: the depth of deception, hostility, and the overt rejection of God’s clear salvation/self-revelation signal a hardening of heart and a final divine giving over to their own desires (Rom 1:28). Notice then not once in this epistle does John ever call us to reach out to these false teachers or even pray for them. Instead, he only calls us to reject, avoid, and refute them.

That said, I think this is a situation that we only know retrospectively. In other words, this is a situation that we know only after there has been an overt rejection of the Gospel; only after we have tried to reach out; only after we have prayed in earnest for their repentance and return; only after the hardness and open hostility persist; and only after God has finally told us, “do not pray for them any longer and do not associate with them. Rather, reject and refute them” (c.f. Jer 7:16-17).



2] Importance: at once verse 19 reminds me that there is no falling from grace or loss of true salvation (Jn 6:39). Instead, those who departed were never God’s children to begin with. At the same time, verse 19 also reminds me that God never abandons His children to their own waywardness. Instead, God calls back, corrects, or calls home all who are His own (1 Cor 5:5).



3] John says they were never of us. Importance: remember John and the churches to which he is writing have a history with these folks (they were a part of these congregations. The church people know them). As such, in all likelihood, John is not peering into the secrets of men’s hearts nor has he come by his assessment of these teachers by some special/extraordinary revelation from God. Instead, in all likelihood, John has come by his understanding of these men retrospectively in the same manner as we do today. In other words, these were folks who were always sceptics and dissenters. They were constantly trying to gain leadership and control of the flock. They were folks that the church prayed for, worked with, and reached out to. However, when it became clear that they could not supplant the Apostles, they left the church and began to openly oppose the Gospel. Thus, John looking back sees a consistent pattern of unbelief. They were never of us.



4] Notice at once, throughout this Epistles the Greek word that John uses here for remain/abide (μένω) means more than just to spatially linger or hang around. Instead, it means to spiritually persist, to remain in kindred fellowship with God and His people, and to have God’s presence, grace, and fellowship as the chief active determinant in your life. Notice then, the way John has used this word “abide”(μένω) over and again with the same spiritually charged meaning:

1 John 2:14 you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

1 John 2:17 And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2:24 As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.



5] Another way to put this is: because God’s grace and salvation do not falter; because God never relinquishes/loses a single one of His children, abiding with God is not how you earn or maintain your salvation. Instead, abiding with God is the result of that salvation truly at work in your life. In theological terms we call this the “perseverance” of the saints. Thus, Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me shall come to me and I shall not lose one of them” Notice then this fact is born out in the very way John structures this portion of verse 19. Thus, being of us precedes and is the basis/condition of abiding with us.

However, please note, this does not mean that the believer will never wander, stumble, or for a season get caught up in the world. Instead, what it means is that God never abandons His children to their departure nor allows that departure to become absolute. Instead, the grace that changes you also draws, corrects, and upholds you. Thus, you abide with God because God first abides with you.



6] As an Emphatic Adjective, the sole grammatical contribution of the adjective “all” is to serve as a matter of stress not a matter of sense. In other words, “all” contributes nothing to the meaning of the sentence. Instead, it only serves to stress/underscore the meaning already expressed. Ho? In the Greek, the notion that John intends us to understand all the false teachers is already included in the plural subject of the verb (they are not of us). Thus, the adjective “all” is redundant and was added by John for emphasis.







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