WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson LVII) 06/09/21

2:19 These enemies were in our group, but they left us. They were not ours. If they had been part of our fellowship, they would have stayed with us. But they left. It clearly shows that they not in harmony with us.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) says that it is evident that those who had the name “disciple” following our Lord Jesus’ ascension bore that name regarding their relationship to the Anointed One who followed Him when He was on earth. The word naturally suggests and implies that those professing Christians, who at last proved false, did, before they went out, seem to belong to the society of the faithful saints or those endued with persevering grace and holiness. They appeared to be part of the congregation and accepted based on their lifestyle.[1] In other words, they attended worship, sang, prayed, and performed all the outward motions expected of a believer but inwardly were rebels and traitors to the Apostolic doctrines concerning Jesus the Anointed One.

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) has an appealing thought concerning the Apostle John’s warning concerning false teachers. He says John had a further reason for exposing these apostates. Our blessed Lord foretold that before the destruction of Jerusalem, “there would arise false Messiahs, and false prophets, who, if it were possible, would deceive the very elect.”[2]Furthermore, the pervasiveness of those persons was a “sign that the destruction of the Jewish portion of the Church is at hand.” The Apostle John refers to this in his message to the little children about the last hour being near. But not to fear, those who defected to the world were not part of the actual body of the Anointed One from the start.[3]

In his commentary on verse nineteen, Adam Clarke (1762-1832) gives us the impression that those heretics who were part of the Christian assembly left to go out independently because of their heretical teaching. Furthermore, they left because such heretics never feel comfortable in the congregation of true believers. Says Clarke, John points out that we did not expel them from the community, nor did we send them out. They separated from us on their own. None of them were as inspired as the apostles were, though they pretended to have very sound teaching, their separating from us manifested that the Spirit of God was not their teacher, as He was to the Apostles. These false teachers probably drew many sincere souls away with them, and John suggests that not all were part of us. Some were; others were not.[4]

Charles Finney (1792-1875) focuses on what John says here in verse nineteen about those who left the assembly and went out to spread false doctrines. It was John’s purpose to speak out against those who fell away from the truth and show that they were never true Christians. In other words, they were followers, but not disciples of the Anointed One. He asks us to observe the force of the expressions, “They were not of us.” Why does he say so? John assigns the reason for this assertion: “for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us, but left to manifest that they were never part of us.” I do not say, says Finney, however, that this passage unquestionably teaches this. But it’s undeniable that this is its most natural construction.[5]

Arno C. Gäbelien (1861-1945) notes that the Apostle John’s warned that anti-Christianity was increasing on all sides till the Antichrist, the man of sin, would be revealed, reinforcing the concept of “anti-Christianity” being a movement. But every undertaking has a leader. Antichrist is not a vicious lawbreaker, an out-and-out immoral person. An antichrist rejects Christ, does not allow His claims of Messiahship, denying that He is the Son of God. It is of great significance that John speaks of the antichrists in his day as having gone out from among the professing body of Christians. They were not true believers but only professed adherents; they left the flock and went away into heresy so that we could find out who they were.[6]

William E. Shepard (1862-1930) tells us not to be offended if we see magnificent cedars fall over, stars drop from heaven; namely, liberal professors die and decay. But do not fear; God’s elect will not fail. Some of the elect may fail, but it is hard to believe that a genuinely sanctified believer would backslide. Some think so, but they do not speak for all of us.[7] John felt compelled to send out this warning because he knew that a time of significant drifting away was coming. The real test, says Shepard, is if anyone is willing to openly profess their faith in the Anointed One if it means they may go down by the strike of a swift sword?[8]

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) points out that when it came to the anti-Christian teachers going around in the Apostle John’s day, John makes it known that they went out from the assembly of believers because they were never in harmony with them. Had they been in unity with us, says John, they would have remained with us; but to show that they are not all of us. Numerous passages provide evidence that the most dangerous enemies and opponents of the early Christian congregations were those of men who went along at first but then turned away from sound doctrine to false teaching. What was worse, they attempted to lead others out with them into error.

Of course, they could not remain members under such circumstances, so the congregation’s leaders excommunicated them, says Kretzmann; they had to leave. However, in most cases, they probably went of their accord. In any event, their becoming manifest as enemies of the Lord by leaving the congregation made the great contrast between them and the true Christians apparent. Mark: Also, in our days, there are a great many antichrists, false believers, false teachers in the very midst of Christendom, within the ranks of those that profess to be members of the Christian Church.  And in many places, the outward organization of the Church fell victim to these anti-Christian forces are at work practically without hindrance, as just at present the exponents of social Christianity. Says Kretzmann, we must expose such antichrists using the Word of God and keep ourselves strictly uncontaminated with their vile activity.[9]

Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) points out that these false teachers claimed to belong to the Christian congregation. John does not say they were excommunicated; they left on their own. Neither did they organize themselves independently in competition or opposition to the Church. John’s repeated warnings show that they constitute a present danger to the congregations and, therefore, understand themselves as legitimate congregation members. And one of the main problems was that they adhered to the orthodox faith on many points. So, John’s statement that they “do not belong to us” stipulates that neither he nor the congregation ordained them and sent them out to preach and teach their version of the Gospel.[10]

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) notes that the Apostle John in his two shorter Epistles does not indicate that these heretical dissidents thought of themselves as outside the congregation. Nevertheless, John is not as subtle and states plainly, “These people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them.”[11] But John is not afraid to name names. He explains, “I wrote a letter to the church. But Diotrephes wants to be the leader and put himself first. He will have nothing to do with us. So, if I come, I will show what he is doing by the bad things he is saying about us. Not only that, but he also will not take the Christian brothers into his home. He keeps others from doing it also. When they do, he puts them out of the congregation.[12] Although John was trying to restore these wayward brethren to the truth with humbleness and compassion, it didn’t prove easy.[13]

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) joins Wilder in exposing these people with their antichrist spirit. He says that they employ the name Christian and use religion to spread everything they think is wrong with the Christian Church. In fact, they oppose the Anointed One by assuming the appearance of the anointed ones. In doing so, they attack the faith of believers by undermining the truth with their corrupt version of the truth. They are not afraid to use force and oppression to promote their understanding of peace and harmony. While claiming to be for law and order in society, they encouraged conflicts with their ambiguous theology.[14]

In reading this, I think back to religious cults such as Jim Jones and the “Peoples Temple,” the “Unification Church” under Sun Myung Moon, the “Branch Davidians” founded by David Koresh; and “Heaven’s Gate” led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles. All of these, except the Unification Church, ended in tragedy and death for its leader and members. The Unification Church has evolved into dozens of social entities associated with interfaith,[15] educational,[16] music,[17] political,[18] businesses,[19] arts and sciences,[20] and United Nations associations.[21]


[1] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Vol. 3, Concerning Qualifications, Part 2, pp. 222-223

[2] Matthew 24:24

[3] Simeon, Charles: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 405

[4] Clarke, Adam: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 374

[5] Finney, Charles: Systematic Theology (1878 Edition), Lecture 49, p. 696-697

[6] Gäbelein, Arno C. The Annotated Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.

[7] Shepard is not doubt speaking of the Arminians who taught that believers could backslide into sin. John Wesley accepted this doctrine but rejected the Arminian view that it was permanent.

[8] Shepard, Thomas: The Works of: Vol. II, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 190

[9] Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary, First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[10] Bultmann, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 36-37

[11] 1 John 4:5

[12] 3 John 1:9-10

[13] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., Vol. XII, pp. 244-245

[14] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., Vol. XII, p. 244

[15] American Conference on Religious Movements

[16] International Educational Foundation

[17] New York City Symphony

[18] Christian Heritage Foundation

[19] Master Marine, shipbuilding and fishing company in Alabama

[20] George H. W. Bush Presidential Library – July/August 2006: Church & State | People & Events

[21] United Nations Economic and Social Council

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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