Thursday, 2 April 2020
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 they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. 1 John 2:19
John just said, “even now many antichrists have come.” Now he says of them, “They went out from us.” The words can be viewed in one of two ways – 1) They were removed from us, or 2) They had their origin with us. The next clause will show that it is speaking of the latter. These people who came from within the church had failed to accept the truth of Christ.
As noted in the evaluation of the previous verse, an antichrist is someone “who denies that Jesus is the Christ” (as will be seen in verse 2:22). Therefore, they deny the Father/Son relationship. To deny the Son is to deny the Father who sent the Son. These people, who deny this necessary truth, “were not of us.” This shows that the words, “They went out from us,” refer to their origin within the church.
As is seen, just because someone teaches a heresy, it does not mean he is an “antichrist.” As John has defined who an antichrist is, we cannot change the meaning. In other words, the various denominations that once started as sound and proper may now have departed from the truth, but they still accept the deity of Christ and acknowledge the Father/Son relationship. Therefore, they cannot be considered as “antichrist.” They may not be of the church any longer, but their heresy is different than what John is referring to here.
However, a cult like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons do deny this relationship, and thus they can be considered under the umbrella of “antichrist.” John is dealing with the specific denial of Jesus being the Christ. These cults don’t overtly deny this, and in fact, they claim they believe it, but their definition of who “Jesus” is cannot be reconciled with the truth proclaimed in Scripture. Their “Christ” is a false Christ, their gospel is a false gospel, and their doctrines – which are tantamount to a denial – denial shows that they are antichrist.
John next says, “for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” One can simply insert someone like Joseph Smith of the Mormons (and his subsequent followers) into this. He started in the “church,” following various ideas that grew out of the Christian faith. But he later went out from the church, following his own delusions. John’s words say that if this heretic was truly one of the church, he would have continued with the church – meaning that which is based upon the truth of God in Christ.
John next says, “but they went out that they might be made manifest.” This is exactly what the Mormons did, it is what the Jehovah’s Witnesses did, and etc. They not only formed a new denomination, but they did so by cutting themselves off from all other denominations. They did this by proclaiming a “Christ” who is not of the Father, because He is not the begotten Son. In their false belief, they show “that none of them were of us.”
Here, the verb is a present participle. It should read, “that none of them are of us.” These offshoots of the church have openly manifested that they are heretical sects whose teachings cannot be reconciled with the truth of God in Christ. They, and their followers, have nothing to do with the true faith. Unless they turn from their false teachings, they will be condemned with the rest of the world when the world is judged.
These are but two of the numerous groups which deny this fundamental truth, meaning that Jesus is the Christ, and that “Christ” means begotten of the Father – He is fully God and fully Man. To deny this fundamental truth of God in Christ is a sign of antichrist.
Life application: John made a play on words when he wrote this in Greek, that we don’t clearly see in the translation. When he says they went out “from us,” it’s the term ex hemon. He again uses ex hemon when he said they would have continued “with us.” Then a third time he uses ex hemon when he says that none of them were “of us.” He is letting us know that although there are those who are with us physically, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re of the body of believers spiritually.
John notes that if they were true believers, they would “have continued” in the faithful walk of believers. However, as has happened throughout the ages, some people are simply twisted in their concept of God or are even complete disbelievers in any Creator. They may totally depart from any faith at all and simply lead their lives from a totally human perspective, or they may look around and see the power that spiritual leaders have over others and decide to “invent up” a new religious sect that will bring them the glory that only the Lord is due.
Joseph Smith’s apostasy led to tearing away many souls from sound religious doctrine – a pattern which unfortunately continues today. The list of such antichrists is long and scary because quite often they fuse their false doctrine with smidgens of sound doctrine. But as Paul says in Galatians 5:9, “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”
Once heretical doctrine is infused into instruction, it permeates and pollutes the entire doctrine. Be careful to evaluate the church you attend or are considering. What may appear as sound and honoring could very well be reason for dismissal from the presence of Christ. The best advice for us to follow is to never direct our attention to a charismatic leader, but rather “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…” Hebrews 12:2.
Lord Jesus, we pray for those who would consider following the strange and unsound doctrine of false teachers. Give them clarity of thinking that they may reject these heretics. Likewise, keep us secure as well, and let us not be drawn away by strange and unprofitable teachings Rather, help us to keep our eyes and thoughts on Jesus. Amen.