Read: 1 John 2:18-23
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (1 John 2:19-20)
The circumstance behind John’s letter-writing is evident in this section of his letter. There has been division in the church. Some people have left the church. John calls them “anti-Christs,” people who are against Christ, including among them “whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ” (v22). They are liars (v22).
In the worldwide church today, including all so-called Christian denominations, some people like this stick around rather than leave. You can talk Church History and Church governance until you’re blue in the face but I’ll never understand why Bishop Spong hasn’t been excommunicated long since. (He’s not in my denomination, thanks be to God.)
But some people do break off, and start splinter pseudo-churches. We know they are not true Christians because their teaching of Jesus is faulty and does not match with what the New Testament says; with what the apostles (like John) taught and still teach us through their written words today. They start churches like the LDS, whose founder decided to set up his own church rather than join one of several Bible-believing Christian churches in his local neighbourhood. Mormon does not equal Christian. How do I know this? Because their teachings on Jesus are not the same as those of the Scriptures.
I’ve been thinking about this passage for almost a week now. It keeps being quoted in podcasts I’m listening to, a similar topic was discussed in our Sunday sermon, and it is also popping into my mind at odd times.
At first, I was thinking about people who’ve left the church as schismatics. But 2:19 also applies to those many Christians describe as having “fallen away” from the church. 2:19 says that people who may have appeared to be Christians in the past reveal themselves as non-Christians (they’re not even “nominal Christians”) when they leave the church.
Jesus predicted that there would be people like this in his Parable of the Sower and the Soils, and in his Parable of the Weeds.
This truth explains what happened to me in my late teens and early 20s. I’d grown up attending church but, in hindsight, I realise I wasn’t really in the church because I didn’t understand or accept the grace-aspect of the gospel. So I left the church, my actions fitting my reality.
Thanks be to the Holy One, he did anoint me with his Spirit and enable me to know the truth of Jesus Christ, on Ash Wednesday 2001. Now I shall remain where I now belong.
I belong to the Church because God’s Spirit enables me to know the truth about Christ.
LORD God Almighty, Holy One,
You alone are Sovereign over all things and over all people. You have put the Church under the sovereign headship of your Son, Jesus Christ. May you be glorified in Christ and in his Church.
LORD, protect your church from those people who do not really belong to us; those who grow up among us like weeds, not wheat. Make your body discerning so that we may be kept apart from those who would teach false doctrine; those who will one day go out from us. Keep us safe from their lies; keep our eyes true on Christ.
Yet LORD I also ask for you mercy and grace to be upon those wanderers who have left your church. May you call them to your Son, open their eyes to see him truly, remove the lies they have believed from their minds and make them true, faithful, knowledgeable Christians. Anoint them with your Holy Spirit, Holy One, so they may finally be justified by your grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus.