They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us, 1 John 2:19.
What does John mean by “they were not of us”? The preceding verse characterizes these people as antichrists and verse 22 tells us, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.” The confession of Jesus Christ, and all that such confession entails, is the essence of the Gospel, it is the essence of Christianity.
John begins his letter with Jesus Christ and with our koinonia in the Father and the Son and with each other. There are those who abide in the Trinity and there are those who don’t; there are those whose source of life is the Trinity and there are those who choose to draw their life from elsewhere. To not be “of us” is to not be in the koinonia of Jesus Christ. We enter into fellowship with Christ through confessional belief (the heart believes, the mind and will assent, the mouth and life speak) in Him; denial of Jesus Christ is rejection of Biblical Christianity.
On the one hand this seems a simple proposition, but it is not simple; basic yes, simple no. It is not simple even to those who think it simple, and of course it is not simple to those who by subterfuge masquerading as progressive scholarship or enlightened thinking undermine the confession of Jesus Christ thus producing a Christless Christianity.
I have often been asked why men and women who don’t believe the Bible and don’t believe in the Biblical Jesus Christ go to seminaries that don’t believe these things either and then go into pastoral ministry; to echo C.S. Lewis’s thinking – at least a clearly articulated atheist has integrity whereas these other people willingly take the money of many faithful people who have no idea that their pastors do not believe in the Biblical Jesus Christ. Sad to say that many entire congregations by now no longer profess even superficial belief in our Lord Jesus Christ as a result of generations of insidious pastors, teachers, and seminaries – what must the angels think? (This language is mild compared to the Biblical commentary on such people).
However, the foregoing is fairly obvious to the disciple of Jesus Christ; what is not obvious is what happens in our own camp – we allow substitute Christs, substitute confessions, to become our center of gravity. We confess home-schooling, we confess the end-times, we confess politics, we confess a particular “take” on the Holy Spirit, we confess a certain perspective on the sacraments, we confess a strident view on creation, we confess a program of social justice, we confess a style of music, and on and on we go with things and people other than Jesus Christ being our central and primary confession and love. If people know we are Christians by our love one to another, they also know our central confession by what we say, what we talk about, and what we invest ourselves in – the question is, “What are we known for?” If the answer is anything other than Jesus Christ then perhaps we should pause and consider where we are.
Simplistic? No. Basic yes, simplistic no; for not only does the world compete for our affection but religion competes for our affection. The danger to the Pharisees was not the world, it was religion. The Pharisees as a group could not “see” Jesus because of their man-made religious paradigms, they had put such a hedge around the Law that the light of the Law could not get out and the light of the Gospel could not get in.
What do people think about? Do they think about their church more than Jesus? Do they think about their church’s culture, its heritage, its way of doing things more than Jesus? Do they identify with their church first and Jesus second or third? Do people seek new knowledge and understanding and illumination more than they seek Jesus Christ? Do we have an external relationship with the Bible rather than an internal relationship (that expresses itself externally) with Jesus Christ?
Whether it is the relationship of Israel with Yahweh or the Church with Jesus Christ, the Biblical refrain is that “You have left Me for others”. Seldom does this mean a straightforward repudiation of Yahweh and Christ, rather it means a pollution of the relationship by spiritual adultery, by syncretism, by legalism – we are not just talking just about evil polluting the relationship, we are also talking about good polluting the relationship. This is basic but it is not simple.
If you are reading and rereading 1 John then you see repetition and more repetition and still more repetition – why the repetition?
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love,” Revelation 2:4.