1st John 2:18-22.
Today we will look at the fact that true believers do in fact continue in the faith that was once delivered.
1st John 2:18-22
v. 18. “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come (future tense), even now (present tense) there are many antichrist; whereby we (plural) know that it is he last time. v. 19 They (plural) went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. v. 20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. v. 21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
v. 22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.”
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
Here is our opening question: Once saved, always saved? Does the Baptist church really believe that you can be saved and then go into whatever you want for twenty or thirty years and still go to heaven? Does the Baptist church really believe that a person can be saved at Vacation Bible School and then live like the devil for twenty years, but because they were saved in Vacation Bible School they will still go to heaven? Does the Baptist Church believe “once saved, always saved?” Do Baptists believe this understanding from the Word of God? Do they believe that Jesus is the Christ, stop believing, and then still go to Heaven? We are going to deal with this exact issue today.
The Apostle John addresses this exact issue in 1st John 2: 19. The reason he is able to address it so authoritatively is that John spent three years with the Lord Jesus Christ and was instructed by Jesus Christ. I am going to show you today the teaching from the Lord Jesus Christ that led John to the conclusion he writes in 1st John 2:19.
Some people struggle with the idea of “once saved, always saved,” and the reason they struggle with it is that we as Baptists do not emphasize enough that not everyone who professes Jesus is born again. If we were to profess enough that everyone who professes is not in fact born again, people would have less difficulty understanding once saved, always saved. But often times, we’re guilty of putting emphasis on only one area versus the whole counsel of the Word of God. Look at verse 19, and notice what he writes:
vs. 19 “They (plural) went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” I want to draw your attention to the word “they”; it refers to the word “antichrist” from verse 18. In other words we could say “Many antichrists went out from us…”
- Jesus came in the flesh
-anyone who says Jesus Christ was only a spirit
-anyone who says Jesus Christ is not the Only Begotten Son
- Jesus Christ was or is the Messiah
- Jesus Christ is fully Divine
-Jesus Christ is Incarnate God
-Jesus Christ is a Prophet, Priest, and King
-Jesus Christ is the only Savior, Lord, or King of the Universe
John says that there was a group of people who went out from the body and became antichrist in their attitude, doctrine, beliefs, behavior and choices. These people were initially thought to be part of the church. They went to AWANA, were saved in Vacation Bible School, served in a ministry, were an usher, or taught a Sunday School class and seemed to be one of us. We believed they were a brother or a sister in Christ. And then they departed from this community of faith. We got word back that they were now teaching that which is contrary to the Word of God, had stopped going to church, or they are part of a fringe group with bazaar behaviors. John is describing this group: initially, we thought they were part of the church, but when they went out we heard some things that caused us to doubt. The “us” refers to everyone that is in this New Covenant of believers, the Church. We distinguish the New Covenant from the Old Covenant in the Old Testament and this is the New Covenant in Christ.
Here’s the reality: Everyone on the planet fits into two categories. You are either part of the body of Christ, or you are not part of the body of Christ. There is not a third group. You are either born again in Christ, or you are not. You cannot be neutral. There is no option to say “I’m not for Christ, and I’m not against Him.” No one gets that option. You are either a sheep or a goat. You are either a follower of Christ, or you are not. You are either saved or you are lost. There is no in between. It is kind of like either you are pregnant or you are not. There is not an in between or neutral ground.
We live in a community in which people deny absolutes. Let me show you an absolute truth from the Word of God in verse 22. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” This does not refer to a particular people group. This is any people group, period of time, or continent. Anyone on the planet who denies that Jesus is the Christ is not telling the truth. And when you do not tell the truth you are in fact a liar. There are people who resist the idea of an absolute truth. They resent the fact that we impose absolute truth on them. In fact, I would submit to you that if you had a large group of people together, there someone would say, “Pastor I do not agree with you on that absolute. In fact, Pastor, you need to be a little bit more relative. I’m not sure that you are being fair. I’m not sure that you are accounting for the heathen in Australia or the remote group of people in Africa. It seems to me that you are making a blanket statement. It sounds like you want me to believe that all people everywhere need to repent and believe the Gospel.” It is kind of like Act 17 and the whole message there. You see, some people do not believe that truth is absolute. They deny it. Perhaps you fit in that category.
In Texas, a professor was teaching a philosophy class and they were discussing whether or not people believe in absolute truth. And the professor said, you know what, this is how I am going to grade. If you are 50 years or older, you get an A. If you are between 40 and 50 you get a B. If you are in the 30’s you get a C. If you are 20, you get a D. If you are older than that or younger than this, you fail the course. The students responded “That’s not fair.” What does that statement imply? It implies they have a standard. There is something called fair. People do not have a problem with absolute truths. They have a problem with specific absolute truths. They like the absolute truth as long as it is their absolute truth. For example, the absolute truth that there is not absolute truth is in fact an absolute. They are attacking the absolute truth that Jesus is the Christ. Once you get beyond that point in your life, you might get saved. Jesus does have a right to establish an absolute truth that He is in fact the Christ, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. Once you are willing to acknowledge that truth, you are on the track to getting saved. You are on the track to being regenerated. You are on the track of submitting to Jesus Christ. Why am I so bold about preaching Jesus Christ? The reason our mission in the 21st century is proclaiming Jesus Christ is that John said you are lying if you deny that Jesus is the Christ, and in Revelation he says you are going to hell if you are a liar. He says all liars have their place in the lake of fire. They will participate in the second death. So if we as a church want people to avoid the lake of fire, then we need to proclaim the absolute truth that Jesus is the Christ. We need to proclaim it passionately, boldly, and with our whole life, because we need to remember and recognize that anyone, any people group anywhere in the world that says that Jesus is not the Christ, is lying. And God will punish them that lie for all of eternity in eternal separation in a lake of fire, a place called hell. He says in verse in verse number 19, “they went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued.” If someone we knew relocated to Washington and departed from the faith it would shock us. We thought he was part of us. He served among us for a long time with us and then we find out that he’s gone away and is teaching that there is more than one way to salvation. He’s teaching something that is antichrist. Imagine someone we’ve known for years and years and yet he moves into a covenant, or a community of Buddhists, it’d be shocking to us. We would begin to wonder what is going on with him. That is what John is dealing with here. He’s saying we thought that they were part of us, but when they left, they stopped and abandoned the faith. They are no longer following Christ.
So now, do we conclude that they were never saved, or do we conclude that they lost their salvation? Free Will Baptists would say that they lost their salvation. What does the Bible say? The Bible says that people who follow Christ do continue in the faith and that continuing in the faith is the assurance of salvation. Those that do not continue in the faith should not be falsely assured that they have eternal life. Where did John get this idea from? Turn back to the Gospel of John and let me show you what he used as his basis. Let me show you the truth that he used. I want to know. I want some assurance. Sometimes Satan bothers me and makes me struggle in my mind.
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed” (truly, genuinely).
So when John saw people leaving the church and moving to Ephesus, Philippi, Macedonia, and Turkey, and word got back that thee people were teaching that which was antichrist, John did not say “oh, they lost their salvation.” (They were teaching that Jesus did not come in the flesh, He is not coming again, or that He was not part of the Godhead and He is not God.) He says, they were never followers of Christ. And the reason he says this was that disciples follow Christ. Where did he get that from? Turn to chapter 10. This is the verse that we use to conclude once saved, always saved.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. “
Do you know what voice that is? That is the voice of the Prophet; the Prophet Jesus Christ speaking to you. So when was the last time you heard Jesus Christ speak to you personally and individually? When you are reading your Bible and you get a real sense that God spoke to you through a verse, a confirmation, something personal or individual, that is how you can know you are a sheep. The reason you can know you are a sheep is that He said “My sheep hear My voice.” Sheep are characterized by being able to recognize the voice of the shepherd. If you haven’t heard from Jesus lately, if He doesn’t speak to you through the Word of God, if He doesn’t speak to you through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, if He doesn’t speak to you through preaching, if He doesn’t speak to you through a godly song, if there isn’t a sense in your life that God is speaking t you, don’t think for a second that you are a sheep! Notice what He says next.
“And I know them, and they follow me.”
Sheep are characterized by following the shepherd. That is what sheep do, they follow the shepherd. Sheep do not abandon the shepherd and go another way. Notice verse 28.
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish; neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
You can’t even pluck yourself out of His hand. When He put you in the hand, you are in the hand. So John concludes that they were never in the hand. If they were in the hand, they would have continued to follow Christ. If someone leaves this community of believers and walks away from Christ as their Prophet, Priest and King, they are either backslidden or unregenerate. They are either backslidden or they are lost. Those are the only two categories if they are walking away.
The more that they manifest antichrist behaviors and beliefs, the greater the chance is that they were never born again. This is exactly why John says they were never of us. He knew what they were teaching or what their behavior was. He just says that their behavior was antichrist in its faith and practice—what they said or the way they acted. And he looked at that and said that Christians do not act that way or believe that kind of stuff. That is antichrist behavior. His conclusion wasn’t that they were saved and lost their salvation. His conclusion was that they were never part of us from the very beginning. They might have looked liked it, acted like it and talked like it.
Do all of us as Christians have periods in our lives of being backslidden? Sure we do. Do you know what? When you are backslidden, you still hear His voice. Notice again what He said, “My sheep hear my voice.” When you are backslidden, you know you are backslidden. It bothers you. You’re miserable. Why? He is speaking to you. John’s conclusion is that this group of people was in this community of faith, and when they went out, there was no evidence that the Spirit was speaking to them. There was no evidence that they were concerned. There was no evidence of repentance.
What does it mean to continue? We are talking about following, worshipping, striving, repenting, confessing, acknowledging, being forgiven. It is up and down, in and out, and working hard. Not for salvation, but working hard in following. Obviously we don’t save ourselves or keep ourselves saved. Rather, that is an act of God. But we are commanded to follow Him. So this continuing does not keep us saved. It is God who keeps us saved.
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
So your assurance that God has performed a work in you is that you want to be with God’s people, and when you are not with God’s people and you are not hearing His voice, it bothers you.
Continuing or not continuing provides visible evidence of conversion or a false profession. In the last part of verse 19 it says “they were not all of us.” John describes a group of people who left the church and when they went out they did not continue in the faith once delivered either in faith or in practice. Notice very closely, the New Testament does not separate faith and practice. Saving faith is always accompanied by right practice, and right practice is a result of saving faith.
There are no saved Muslims out there. You do not having a saving faith and then a practice that is antichrist. There are no saved Hindus. There are no saved Buddhists. There are no saved idolaters, Mormons, or Jehovah Witnesses. Someone could be temporarily deceived, perhaps, but you cannot be a fully converted follower of Satan while holding to a “back up” profession of Christ. It is not an insurance policy; if this first thing doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to my Vacation Bible School profession of faith. Christians follow Christ. Christians are characterized by following Christ. When you are not following Christ, it bothers you. Why?
1st John 2:20
“But ye (Christians) have an unction from the Holy One.“
If you are a Christian, you have an unction. What is an unction? It’s right between your middle toe and your big toe. Do you want to check? Where does the unction come from? It comes from the Holy One. The Holy One is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ said He was going away and He was going to give us Someone: the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, the Holy Ghost. If you are a Christian, you have the Spirit of Truth residing inside you. It’s not by your toe. It’s in all of you - the Spirit of Truth. An unction is a gifting, an anointing; it’s a consecration.
For example, let’s take our children, who grow up all their lives in AWANA. They have heard from birth that Jesus is the Christ. They have memorized Bible verses that show them Jesus is the Christ, and they understand all of this to be truth. Then they go off into a college class in a secular university, and they get off the track a little bit. You know what I’m talking about. The Holy Spirit inside them will prompt them on a regular basis
“That’s not truth. That’s not true. That’s heresy. That’s falsehood.” That is what the Holy Spirit inside them will do. Because they are not their own and have been bought with a price, the Holy Spirit will keep them. He who has begun a good work, will keep on performing that good work in them. And we should expect to see that young person come out of that fringe group and get back into church. We should see and will expect to see that. That is our assurance that they are in fact followers of Jesus Christ. And John concluded that for whatever period of time that they were gone and for whatever they were teaching or practicing that they were not part of us. He did not say they were backslidden. He said they were never part of us. So how do I receive this special unction. The Bible tells us.
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel (the Good News) of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.”
We now suffer no condemnation because of what Christ did. Those who have believed were sealed with the Holy Spirit because of the promise. So each and every believer at the moment of salvation receives an unction, a gifting, an anointing, a consecration from God. This is the Spirit of Truth that keeps you out of heresy. You know all things. He’s not referring to every thing. He’s referring to the ability to recognize heresy. He’s referring to the ability to recognize the spirit of the antichrist. He’s referring to the things which cause us to get off track. He’s saying I gave you a Holy Spirit to help you recognize these kinds of things.
Have you ever met a converted Catholic that can tell you all about salvation by faith in Christ and will tell you everything that is wrong with the Catholic Church? He will tell you that he does not believe in the pope because the pope is a man just like him. He only believes in the Bible and not the manmade stuff. They will call it just the way they see it. Where does that knowledge come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit that is inside them.
So do you know for sure that the Holy Spirit is inside you? Would you be able to recognize falsehood? Would you be able to recognize it to keep you out of trouble? Would you be able to leave this church, relocate to another country or state, and find a good, Bible believing church? Do you know what a good, Bible believing church looks like? Do you know what you should look for so you could continue following Christ? Is Jesus Christ your Prophet, Priest, and King? Does He speak to you?
God manifests His grace in their departure. There are a few reasons. Their departure is a God-ordained departure. One reason the false prophets and the antichrists need to get out of the church is that a little leaven leaveneth the whole loaf. So if they have a false teaching, they need to depart with that false teaching. There’s another reason: when they depart and stop following the faith and practice of the Christian faith, we can change how we pray for them. We can change how we relate to them. We now can begin to see them as unconverted. We will pray for them to be converted. We will pray for them to change. We will pray for them to come to Jesus. We will evangelize them. We will no longer think of them as saved and lost their salvation or backslidden. Their departure alerts us to the fact that perhaps they were never one of us. Now we don’t know for sure because none of us know the heart, but this passage gives that person the alertness to know that they are not part of it.
I will conclude with this point. If you say I’m a believer and stop following Christ and it doesn’t bother you, and if you could walk out from the church and not miss it for anything, do not be assured of your salvation. You cannot hold to a profession of faith from Vacation Bible School and go become a Buddhist. You cannot hold to a profession of faith in AWANA and then go into the Muslim religion. You cannot serve Muhammad all your life and then somehow think in the back of your mind “I’m still good to go.” You cannot do that. That is the spirit of antichrist. If you depart from this place and don’t link up with another fellowship, it should bother and concern you. You are expected in the Word of God to stay in the church. It does not have to be this church, but it should be an evangelical, Bible believing church. You shouldn’t be able to flake away for months and years at a time. It should bother you. It should be concerning you. If it is not concerning you, don’t conclude that you are still part of us. Conclude for yourself just the opposite, and I believe if you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit will bring this exact verse to your remembrance and get your heart right. If you are not a Christian, it should concern you.