“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 they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”
This verse speaks to the issue of the antichrists of verse 18. They formally connected to the church but were never a part of the genuine body of Christ.
The “they” refers to the antichrists of verse eighteen. These antichrists were not apparent to the church when they originally resided among the assembly of believers.
went out from us,
Note the “from us,” “of us,” “with us” and “of us” phrases. There is a striking play on phrases in this verse. There is a clear contrast between genuine and false professions of faith.
The antichrists at one point identified themselves formally with the church but they left the assembly of believers associated with John. They did not share the same spiritual life so they departed the fellowship. They left because they held to a divergent view of the person and work of Christ. They were not genuine believers.
Note that the antichrists left of their own will. The church did not expel or excommunicate them. They left because they were of fundamental different belief than the church. They did not believe in the deity and finished work of Christ on the cross.
The phonies went out physically because they were fakers doctrinally. They eventually gravitated to their own crowd and to their own beliefs.
Fakers eventually gravitate to their fundamental beliefs.
False teachers spring from within the formal church. Deceit coming from within the church is more dangerous that deceit coming from without. There is a level of trust among people you know.
It is difficult to distinguish the wheat from the tares at times because the tares grow among the wheat. A counterfeit dollar bill is more difficult to detect than a three-dollar bill.
Most cults and sects come from within the church. Jesus and the apostles predicted this. These people hide and obscure what they truly believe.
Some go out from the assembly of believers because they were not of us in the first place. Their departure from genuine Bible believing Christians demonstrated the unreality of their faith. Their withdrawal proved that they were not genuine. They were physically within the circle of genuine believers but they were not true believers.
Ac 20: 28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”