Does 1 John 2:19 affirm that those who leave the faith were never in it?

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EdwardsianBot

Puritan Board Freshman
According to the WCF 17.1, those who are in the faith "neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace". I understand this to mean that believers can somewhat fall during their life, but not at the end of it, and I know Peter and David can serve as examples of believers who "temporarily" fell.

However, my confusion comes from the fact that 1 John 2:19 states: "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 it might become plain that they all are not of us." Taken at face value, this would appear to contradict at least the WCF (I don't think the "leaving" that 1 John 2:19 is describing applies to what Peter and David did, so it doesn't appear to contradict Scripture itself)

So is 1 John 2:19 affirming that those who apostatize were never in the faith to begin with? If so, does this contradict WCF 17.1?
Or is it possible that John was describing that specific situation with the false teachers in the church? (I think R.C. mentions that possibility in his teaching series "Eternal Security")
 

Jonathan95

Puritan Board Sophomore
WCF 17.1

They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

So what this tells me is that those who God calls to be his people, to whom he gives the Spirit that they may be sanctified, cannot be condemned to an eternity in Hell because they belong to God.

1 John 2:19

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

This tells me that those who are apostates have proven to not have been God's elect. For if they were, they never would have become apostates due to the fact that those who are elect fully belong to God and "shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved" as it says in the confession.

So I see no contradiction.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I think you might express the question thus: "Do Reformed folk believe in apostasy?"

Yes, there is a category for apostasy in Reformed theology. Apostasy is a category of human experience. It is something that happens in connection with a man's faith. It is observable from the standpoint of the self, the brethren, the church, and even God. But it is not necessarily observed in each case in exactly the same way. Invariably, God has a totalizing regard for every discrete fact and occasion in time and space.

Apostasy from the human standpoint is the matter of leaving that faith one either regarded in himself as real and substantial; or regarded in another brother as real and substantial irrespective of whether the apostate himself was ever sincere or not. If a man knows in himself his insincerity from the start, he can hardy apostatize in a full sense; though in a formal, outward sense he does, and that is the position the onlooker has when looking at him.

Apostasy from the church's standpoint is a question of judicial regard. It is a matter of church discipline, a legal expression of how it regards an individual (and sometimes another church body) as being either in or out of the kingdom of God; or a faithful representative of the kingdom or not. In the nature of the case, the church's verdict is semi-eschatological. It may reflect an ultimate (divine) regard for the person or entity; or it may simply be a temporary verdict subject to change.

Apostasy from God's standpoint necessarily considers his omniscience and his electing decree. God knows from the day a man makes his first profession, both the true depth of his commitment and object of his faith, as well as the outcome of it. He has even undertaken to ensure the outcome of the faith of his elect, "He who began a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ Jesus," Php.1:6.

John in I.2:19 offers his readers a momentary consideration of apostasy from God's perspective. If Christ is sure to prevent any that have been given him from failing to be raised on the last day, to "lose none," Jn.6:39, etc.; then how should the Christian regard those who apostatize? This evidence of lack of perseverance in a man cannot reveal a divine failure of purpose or strength or wisdom, or any such thing in the matter of preserving that soul for whom Christ died. Instead, it reveals the deficiency of quality in the faith itself or in the actual object of that faith, which was evidently not Christ in his saving office.

The closest any believers could come in this life to realizing the eschatological reality of their former brethren is by seeing the departure of those who were once with them, and noting the church's official verdict as to its judgment placing those who belong outside, outside.

The hope embedded in the church's discipline is to see its "ultimate" excommunication power reversed by its recognition of repentance on the part of the disciplined. Because, the church's verdict is provisional. Its estimate could be ratified in heaven at last; but God does have a perfect view of matters, and he has it at every moment. He knows whether the apostasy that men can only view as "the way things are right now" will be the way things will conclude.

Those whose faith is saving (a thing a man knows of himself in part by his own perseverance to the end, Mt.10:22) were given such faith, Eph.2:8-9; Php.1:29, as part of the salvation to which God appointed them. They look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith, and not to a false object, a counterfeit savior. As men like David and Peter did, it is possible that this one or that might stumble nigh to ruin. Praise God, he will not let them go, whom he knew before the world began.
 

EdwardsianBot

Puritan Board Freshman
Is the difficulty arising from those who apostatize and then come back to the faith?

Yes, I think I'm confused about those who leave the faith, but then come back.
If I leave the church, then according to John I was never saved. But if I come back later in life, wouldn't it be possible that I was just a fallen Christian instead according to WCF 17.1?
 

EdwardsianBot

Puritan Board Freshman
I think you might express the question thus: "Do Reformed folk believe in apostasy?"

Yes, there is a category for apostasy in Reformed theology. Apostasy is a category of human experience. It is something that happens in connection with a man's faith. It is observable from the standpoint of the self, the brethren, the church, and even God. But it is not necessarily observed in each case in exactly the same way. Invariably, God has a totalizing regard for every discrete fact and occasion in time and space.

Apostasy from the human standpoint is the matter of leaving that faith one either regarded in himself as real and substantial; or regarded in another brother as real and substantial irrespective of whether the apostate himself was ever sincere or not. If a man knows in himself his insincerity from the start, he can hardy apostatize in a full sense; though in a formal, outward sense he does, and that is the position the onlooker has when looking at him.

Apostasy from the church's standpoint is a question of judicial regard. It is a matter of church discipline, a legal expression of how it regards an individual (and sometimes another church body) as being either in or out of the kingdom of God; or a faithful representative of the kingdom or not. In the nature of the case, the church's verdict is semi-eschatological. It may reflect an ultimate (divine) regard for the person or entity; or it may simply be a temporary verdict subject to change.

Apostasy from God's standpoint necessarily considers his omniscience and his electing decree. God knows from the day a man makes his first profession, both the true depth of his commitment and object of his faith, as well as the outcome of it. He has even undertaken to ensure the outcome of the faith of his elect, "He who began a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ Jesus," Php.1:6.

John in I.2:19 offers his readers a momentary consideration of apostasy from God's perspective. If Christ is sure to prevent any that have been given him from failing to be raised on the last day, to "lose none," Jn.6:39, etc.; then how should the Christian regard those who apostatize? This evidence of lack of perseverance in a man cannot reveal a divine failure of purpose or strength or wisdom, or any such thing in the matter of preserving that soul for whom Christ died. Instead, it reveals the deficiency of quality in the faith itself or in the actual object of that faith, which was evidently not Christ in his saving office.

The closest any believers could come in this life to realizing the eschatological reality of their former brethren is by seeing the departure of those who were once with them, and noting the church's official verdict as to its judgment placing those who belong outside, outside.

The hope embedded in the church's discipline is to see its "ultimate" excommunication power reversed by its recognition of repentance on the part of the disciplined. Because, the church's verdict is provisional. Its estimate could be ratified in heaven at last; but God does have a perfect view of matters, and he has it at every moment. He knows whether the apostasy that men can only view as "the way things are right now" will be the way things will conclude.

Those whose faith is saving (a thing a man knows of himself in part by his own perseverance to the end, Mt.10:22) were given such faith, Eph.2:8-9; Php.1:29, as part of the salvation to which God appointed them. They look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith, and not to a false object, a counterfeit savior. As men like David and Peter did, it is possible that this one or that might stumble nigh to ruin. Praise God, he will not let them go, whom he knew before the world began.

Thanks for this response. I understand this piece of Scripture more now when taking God's perspective into view.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
Similarly related to this, I also struggle with 1 John 3:7-10 (and also Matthew 7:15-20) in which we are told we can identify the righteous by those who practice righteousness. For these particular individuals referred to in 1 John 2:19, they likely would have appeared to be performing righteous deeds. I then feel torn between the pressure of using qualifications to determine who is righteous vs knowing many may appear righteous and yet prove unregenerate...
 

Jonathan95

Puritan Board Sophomore
I then feel torn between the pressure of using qualifications to determine who is righteous vs knowing many may appear righteous and yet prove unregenerate...

I hear you. This is why it's so important to make sure we understand right doctrine. If someone who was a Christian for 20 years suddenly apostatizes, they will give a reasoning for it that shows that they never fully grasped a certain doctrine i.e. Hell, predestination, rolls of men and women, abortion, racial relations, etc..

They might have been "good" Christian folk but they never saw how the Bible was righteous in teaching what it does because they ended up leaving due to disagreeing with the Bible, which makes them unrighteous.

If a person gives to the poor, it is only righteous when done for the glory of God in understanding that he has freely given to us and therefore we freely give. Whereas, giving to the poor just because it seems to be a good thing and makes you feel good is missing the mark.

There's some nuance in these things but the bottom line is for our minds to confirm to Scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit. We should continually check ourselves and hold each other accountable to that end.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
I agree with Jonathan to an extent. A lot of the famous apostasy happening today shows that people really did not get any answers to many questions. Obviously, someone can conform to the most orthodox creed out there and still leave the faith, however. Training children and answering questions and doubts is highly important.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Isn't it obvious that righteous practice is no infallible sign of justified estate?

If it was the case, then having done an evil deed, a long series of orderly, grave, and even benevolent behaviors would (indeed!) prove the man's innocence. After all, one must be "known by his fruit," correct?

Therefore, certain Scriptures adduced as though teaching works/fruit do demonstrate invariably (to fallible men!) the nature of their source, must instead teach something very different by way of sanctification.

The polemic of 1Jn.3:7-10 is directed against antinomianism. Therefore, no treatment of John's terms in the passage can afford to leave out his primary purpose; and bearing in mind his primary purpose helps us identify his own qualifiers and reminders, designed to avoid grossly misrepresenting his meaning.

Similar things may be said about the Savior's words in Mt.7. The Lord is teaching in the whole SotM the absolute (and unattainable!) qualifications of ordinary citizenry in his kingdom. Again and again, those who are confronted with so lofty standards are (or ought to be) abased by their lack of any right to be found within those borders, under the King's recognition and protection.

Those who are welcomed have evidently not themselves attained to a performance of righteousness that exceeds the scribes' and Pharisees'. They have come to Jesus to acknowledge him as Christ, to admit they may not stay near him if not for his grace toward them, and to thank him for the fruit he (the Vinedresser) brings forth from them. For if he be not pleased to so care for them, they will certainly be pruned and cast into the fire.
 
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