By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER TWO (Lesson LVIII) 06/10/21

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

Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996) points out that the words “they went out from us” are not found in the original Greek text. The verbatim text reads: “Out of-us they-out-came.” The Greek verb exerchomai means to leave, depart, forsake. John was not disappointed to see them go, but he did worry if other congregations would accept them. John prayed that their departure would serve a divine purpose, that is, to show they were never part of the body of the Anointed One.[1]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1928-1995) says that the added words, “but they went out, so we could see how they were,” point to a divine purpose behind their departure. “But” (all) leads to a sharp contrast between their indefinite continuance and their actual withdrawal. The Greek verb exerchomai (“they went out”) verifies their leaving. The Greek verb phaneroō helps illustrate that God used their departure to lay bare the true nature of these departing heretics. It was decisive proof “that they all are not of us.”[2]

Simon J. Kistemaker (1930-2017) points out that John uses the plural pronoun “us” five times in this verse. He believes that John does this so that the readers will have no doubts that while those who left were in the congregation, they were not of a substantial part of the assembly. He and the leaders stood firm on the premise that Jesus was the Anointed One and the Son of God. The heretics who left were okay with Jesus being the Anointed One, but they against Him being the Son of God. It is crucial that unless Jesus is the Son of God, He cannot be the Anointed One.[3] [4]

Zane C. Hodges (1932-2008) sees the phrase “They did not belong to us” as a paraphrase of an expression more literally rendered, “they were none of us.” The writer’s point was that these men did not share the spirit and perspective of the apostolic circle, for if they had, their secession from the group would not have occurred. Heresy in the Christian church unmasks disharmony with its attitude and articles of faith. That is whether it rises on the part of the regenerated members or the unregenerate people in it. A person in touch with God will submit to Biblical instruction.[5] [6]

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) sees an incidental but significant influence upon two great Christian doctrines here in verse nineteen: the “perseverance of the saints” and the “nature of the visible church.” It implies that perseverance is the ultimate test of genuine participation in unity with the Anointed One. Those who persevere will have an eternity to live.[7] Furthermore, light now illuminates the distinction between the visible and invisible church.[8] The visible church meets on Sunday morning, and the invisible church goes to work on Monday morning.

The world looks at the visible church by its name on the door or sign. But they hear the invisible church in their workplace, social gatherings, and other venues. Their stereotype understanding often brings confusion between what they’ve heard about who we are and what they see in how we act and speak. It caused some in John’s Christian community to leave because they could no longer identify with the visible church. But as the invisible church, they could say and believe as they pleased. That’s why it is so critical that the visible and invisible churches be the same.

Michael Eaton (1942-2017) believes that these heretics were no mystery to the Apostle John. He knew all along that they were not born-again Christians when they started attending the services. Perhaps, he was hoping they would come to Jesus and have Him change their lives and attitudes. It is no wonder then that John told everybody, “They were never in union with us in the first place.” In fact, John may have already heard that they were trying to win members of the congregation over to their side. But since they failed to do so, they decided to leave and find more fertile pasture for their doctrine. And John was glad to see them go. That’s also why verse twenty is so relevant in this disaster by the Christ-haters.[9]

2:20a But you have the gifts that the Holy One gave you by His Spirit, so all of you know the truth.


John now references the idea that God is not only for us but with us. David felt that sense of divine presence when he wrote that not only does ADONAI prepare a meal for him while he is in the company of his enemies, but He treats him as a guest with the greeting of anointing his head with oil.[10] Not only that, but because His children love right and hate wrong,[11] God chose them and poured out the oil of joy on them as special ones in His family.[12] Furthermore, to give them the strength to stand for what is right and battle against what is wrong, the Holy One anointed them with the refined oil of inspiration.[13]

Later on, the prophet Isaiah would declare that the LORD God would put His Spirit in us. He has appointed us to share the good news of salvation to those in sin’s prison and comfort the hearts of those who feel downtrodden because they became captives of their sinful tendencies by telling them they can be free.[14] This message was claimed by Jesus when He went to Nazareth, and because we are in union with Him, that same anointing is ours. It was the message that the Apostle Peter preached to the household of the Roman centurion, Cornelius.[15]

The Apostle Paul would declare the same gift and blessing of the Spirit to the Corinthians by telling them that God is the one who makes all of us strong in the Anointed One. God is also the one who chose us to do His work here on earth. He put his mark on us to show that we are His. Yes, the Holy One put His Spirit in our hearts as the first payment that guarantees all His promises.[16] Furthermore, He marked us as qualified to preach His message by putting His Spirit in our hearts, not only as a means of inspiration and anointing but also as a guarantee that all His promises would be ours as well.

We can also express these gifts through worship. Even King David called out and told God, and I will praise You with a harp. I will honor Your truth. I will sing praises to You with different kinds of harps, O Holy One of Israel.[17] Just as Jesus told the Samaritan woman one day, all of God’s children would worship Him in spirit according to the truth.[18] How often do we lament someone who lives in ignorance because they don’t know God? But then we rejoice when the light of truth finally reaches their heart, and they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. King Solomon recognized this even in his day.[19] So, it is not out of the question that John wrote this, remembering what the Lord Jesus said to the Jews who refused to believe in Him.[20] And now, the Holy Spirit took up this same role of teacher and comforter[21] as a direct result of the promise Jesus made to His disciples.[22]

The Apostle Paul also gave assurances that those who have the indwelling Spirit will be able to make the right decisions about all the things that conform them in their Christian walk with Him. But anyone who does not have the Spirit dwelling within will be unable to make proper decisions about what it means to be a Christian in this world.[23] The writer of Hebrews echoes the words of Jeremiah about this new agreement God was making with those accepting His Son as the Messiah.[24] So, John was not speaking irrationally here, but trying his best to get his readers to understand the revelation had already gone out that God wanted people to have about Him, His Son, and His Spirit.

It is easier to love someone we see than a person we cannot see. If we cannot do the easier task, we’ll be unable to do what’s more challenging. Just professing that we love God does not mean that we possess love for Him. Professing love without having love shows that we have not understood or experienced God’s love. It is possible to claim to love God and not manifest that love toward fellow believers. Such pseudo-spirituality falls short of genuine fellowship with God. Love for fellow Christians is not optional but obligatory in God’s economy. The practice of love originates in God, so we are out of harmony with God if we are at odds with others. When we profess love for God, we also vow to love as He loves. We test our love for God by our love for one another. It does not matter what we claim; if we do not love other believers, the Apostle John says we are liars![25] 

[1] Burdick, Donald W., The Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 41-42

[2] Hiebert, D. Edmond, 1 John, Bibliotheca Sacra, op. cit., p.p. 81-82

[3] See John 1:1ff

[4] Kistemaker, Simon, James and I-III John, op. it., p. 276

[5] 1 John 4:6

[6] Hodges, Zane C., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Vol. 2, op. cit., pp. 891-892

[7] Matthew 24:13; cf. Hebrews 3:14

[8] Boice, James Montgomery, The Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 69-70

[9] Eaton, Michael, 1, 2, 3, John, op. cit., p. 76

[10] Psalm 23:5

[11] Cf. Hebrews 1:9

[12] Psalm 45:7

[13] Ibid. 92:10

[14] Isaiah 61:1

[15] Acts of the Apostles 10:38

[16] 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

[17] Psalm 71:22

[18] John 4:24

[19] Proverbs 28:5

[20] John 8;32

[21] Ibid. 14:26

[22] Ibid. 16:13

[23] See 1 Corinthians 2:14-15

[24] Jeremiah 31:30-33

[25] Courtesy of Dr. Grant C. Richison, Interim President of Campus Crusade Canada, Verse-by-Verse Commentary

About drbob76

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