1 John 2:18-21
But They Were Not of Us
It hurts. Whenever some famous preacher or teacher falls away from the faith, either through hypocrisy or just plain apostasy (denying the faith they once professed), it hurts. I personally believe that one of the biggest problems with evangelicalism is that it is too centered on personalities: the best preacher out there, the best artist, the best writer. It’s like the church at Corinth: “I am of this preacher; I am of that musical artist; I am of the other writer.” But then that preacher, artist, or writer denies the faith they once proclaimed as has happened recently. And it hurts even more when someone we know and love walks away—not just from church—but from the faith as well, or at least it seems they have. They care not for the things of God anymore; the fellowship of the saints means nothing to them; they embrace the world’s view of things and pagan values and morals. We ask ourselves: “What happened?”
It’s not up to me to question one’s salvation—that’s the Lord’s business and not mine. However, we have seen people who “went out from us.” They didn’t go someplace else; they just fell away. And what do we make of those who deny the faith they once professed—or, as some have said, are “deconstructing” their faith for (I assume) a “better” one. It’s a legitimate question and apparently one that John’s readers were struggling with. And it can shake the faith of others: “Gee! I respected so-and-so. Now they’re denying the faith they taught me! So, what does this mean about the faith I learned from them? What does their departure from the faith mean for me?”
The apostle answers this question: “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.” John takes this topic up in his discussion of antichrists, not THE Antichrist who is yet to come and might even be alive today waiting to be revealed, but those who once professed the faith and now deny it—“apostates,” being the traditional word for them. Understand that we are not talking about sin which we all commit and for which we may seek forgiveness, but open denial of the Lord either by word or a lifestyle which indicates so. Well, though it hurts terribly, the believer may take comfort in his own salvation knowing that no one ultimately falls away whom God has saved. “They were not of us,” John tells us. And we have the Holy Spirit (an anointing) living within us crying “Abba, Father!” Their going out says nothing about the Christian faith or your faith. Cling to Christ—not personalities.