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Read Introduction to 1 John


“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.”
but they were not of us;
The religious fakers (antichrists of verse 18) that left the true assembly were never genuine believers. The word “but” is strong contrast. The issue is “us” versus “them.” Genuine Christians cannot tolerate false teachers in their midst.  
for if they had been of us,
The word “of” speaks of identity and origin. Although the antichrists formally identified with the church, they never genuinely coupled with Christ. 
they would have continued with us;
If they had been genuine, they would have continued with the authentic assembly of believers. Perseverance is an indication of genuineness
The idea of “continued” is perseverance. Continuity is an indication of reality. The disassociation of the antichrists with genuine believers proved their fabrication. 
The word “with” speaks of mutual, personal fellowship
Continuance is proof of conversion. 
Continuance is proof of conversion. Time will tell if a profession proves true. It is difficult to see with a person’s heart. Sometimes we say when a person makes a decision for Christ, “They made a profession of faith. They professed salvation.” We will wait to see if their profession is real or not. The gospel does not take with some people. They do not come to grips with the reality of Christ and His grace. 
Defection from truth is evidence of what one truly believes. Behavior confirms belief. Departure from truth unmasks assumptions about truth. Those who genuinely believe in the authenticity of Christ remain loyal to it. They do not break away. 
To go on is proof that you have come in. Continuance makes it abundantly clear that you are the genuine thing. It is clear that those who drift away from authentic Christianity never came to own the truth of the gospel in the first place. 
Mt 13:38-39, 38The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 “The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.”