1 John 2:19 New American Standard Bible
19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that [a]it would be evident that they all are not of us.
John uses the words they and us to make a distinction. John speaks of they referring to those who have left the fellowship and have abandoned the truth. John uses us to refer to those who are part of the body of Christ and are God’s chosen people.
Important truth to understand is that not everyone who claims to be a Christian or attend a church is part of the kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to persevere and endure until the end (Matt 24:13, Jude 20-25). A true follower of Christ will hold fast to the truth of God’s word and will build their lives upon God’s word. A person who is not a true disciple of Jesus will abandon the truth with trial and tribulation comes.
When John speaks of those who went out from us, he refers to those who have become false teachers. When their false teaching was not embraced by the true church, they abandoned the church. John says they were not really of us. In life sometimes we see believers abandoned the faith. Some will claim once saved always saved, when we examine this, we see that this indeed is false. The course of a person’s life truly reveals if they are born again.
Those who claim to follow Christ can enter into apostasy. They can choose to abandon faith in Jesus Christ. We are indeed saved and kept by the grace of God. But a person’s life truly reveals if that person is born again. It is not a question of whether or not a person can lose their salvation because salvation is a gift and therefore it can’t be taken way or earned. Jesus even told us that no one can snatch us from the Father’s hand (John 10:28-30). What it is a question of is if a person was even saved to begin with.
Sadly, in America we have cheapened the gospel and the call to follow Jesus because we have equated success in ministry by the size of our buildings and congregations. Sadly, the American capitalistic mindset has invaded the church and therefore we desire to build our church just as you would a business. We believe through entertaining the masses and appealing to the eyes and ears that we will draw a large following and our kingdom on this earth and influence of our name will increase. But when we examine this against the model Jesus left and the words He spoke, we find that we have come to believe a lie and have tried to build the kingdom not on the principles of God’s word.
When the gospel is preached and proclaimed without compromised, those who will be saved will respond. It is a work fully of the Holy Spirit. It is not an emotional response in a moment for it is only the Spirit of God who can draw, grant repentance, and open the eyes of those who are lost. When we simply follow the model left in the book of Acts, we will build a church that is strong, effective, influential, and used greatly for God on this earth.
We will produce true disciples who are committed to Christ and when trial, false teaching, and tribulation come, they will not abandon Christ, but will hold firmly to their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Building their lives on the word of God. Can people attend a church or call themselves a Christian and not be saved? The answer is yes. For the true believer in Christ shall endure till the end and will hold fast to the truth no matter what the cost.