Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Saturday, December 31, 2005

1 John 2:19 Commentary (Zane Hodges)

There has been much confusion concerning 1 John! In a recent comment on Jonathan Moorhead's blog, he brought up John 2:19 as a prooftext for his position. I wish to let Zane Hodges explain this verse, as he does so concisely and ties up the ends.

1 John 2:18-19

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 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.

Excerpt from “The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love” (pages 108-110) / Zane Hodges – Grace Evangelical Society (Website)

Begin Hodges:
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The special deceptiveness of the “many antichrists” was that they had once been part of the same fellowship to which the apostles themselves belonged: they went out from us. No other meaning than this one is really suitable in this context. The us which is repeated four times in this verse obviously is in contrast to the “you” of the following verse, which is emphatic in Greek. Here we meet for the first time the “we” – “you” – “us” contrast which we also meet in a similar context in 4:4-6.

It completely distorts the text to treat the us of verse 19 as though it meant simply “us Christians.” The antichrists had most definitely not left the church or churches to whom John writes, for if they had they would no longer been a problem! On the contrary, the apostle is clearly concerned about the exposure his readers have had, or will have, to these men. One of the claims they must have had, which gave them a false aura of authority, was that they originated in the same sphere where the apostles themselves operated, in all probability a reference to the Jerusalem church.

It is remarkable how similar this sounds to the situation we meet in Acts 15 where the church struggles with legalists. There we are told that “certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren”(Acts 15:1). In their letter to the Christians on the Gentile mission fields, the apostles and elders of Jerusalem wrote, “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law’ – to whom we gave no such commandment” (Acts 15:24;italics added). The words went out from us in Acts involve exactly the same Greek expression as here: they went out from us. This striking parallel with Acts has been generally ignored by the commentary literature dealing with 1 John 2:19, perhaps due at least in part to the widespread view that the Apostle John is not the author of this epistle.

But given apostolic authorship the Acts parallel, we may hypothesize that the bearers of this error had once been in the Jerusalem fellowship. The revisionists, or antichrists, therefore, had a prestigious point of origin, but the apostle disclaims them here as emphatically as the leaders of the Jerusalem church had disclaimed the legalists of Acts 15. Indeed, the very fact of their departure from the apostolic fellowship was an indication that they did not really “belong” to it in the first place. If they had, why would they have left?

The apostles’ argument here clearly implies a schism of some kind between the antichrists and the apostolic circle. No doubt this had to do with the doctrine taught by them (see discussion under verse 22). It is likely that John thinks of these men as individuals who concealed their true views for some time. Though outwardly in apparent agreement with apostolic doctrine, they were in fact not of us in the sense that this outward harmony was a façade. When the break came and they went out, they were then flying their true colors, and John sees this break as having as its purpose that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. Had they really been in harmony with apostolic perspectives (i.e., if they had been of us), there would have been no reason for the schism (i.e., they would have continued with us).

The question may be asked whether John thought of these men as unsaved. He may very have thought of them that way. Even Paul in Galatians 2:4 spoke of the fact that, in the Jerusalem church, there were “false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage).” It should not surprise us if, given the dynamic movement that early Christianity was in Israel, there should be legalistic zealots and fanatics who came into the church with their own agendas while only pretending to believe in Christ. It seems Paul realized that this had in fact happened.

So John might well have thought that these revisionists had only professed a belief which they did not really have. But this is far from certain. In his second epistle he states: “whoever transgresses and does abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 John 9). This statement, which certainly sounds like apostasy from a doctrine once held follows very shortly after a reference to “deceivers” who can be called antichrists (2 John 7). So we must leave open the possibility that John may have viewed the antichrists as dangerous apostates from the Christian faith who now denied the truth they had once believed.

Of course, if they had once believed it, they had eternal salvation even as Paul reminds us, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2:13). The Greek verb translated “we are faithless” is apistoumen and may mean either “to disbelieve” or “to be unfaithful” and probably covers both ideas, since 2 Timothy 2:11-13 is a poetic, proverbial type of saying. Even the blasphemers Hymanaeus and Alexander, who “concerning the faith, had suffered shipwreck,” were subjected to discipline so that “they may learn [Greek = be child trained] not to blaspheme” (1 Tim 1:20). It is likely enough that this Hymanaeus was the same as the Hymanaeus mentioned in 2 Timothy and charged with teaching “that the resurrection is already past” (2 Tim 2:17-18). The early church wrestled with genuine converts who went doctrinally astray just as the modern church does, and any view of the New Testament that denies this reality is conspicuous for its lack of realism.

Whether or not they were ever saved, it is at least clear that the antichrists of whom John speaks had long since ceased to be a true part of the apostolic fellowship. Their departure from it was not only to be expected, but was also a powerful indictment of their former pretense to being a part of it.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow!

I had never considered this verse this way.

Seems to me that you can make many verses say what you want them to say when you rip them out of their context and use them merely as a proof-text!

Zane Hodges sure gave me some perspective on this verse that I had never considered before, like the comparison to Acts 15.

I am now convinced that this is just not saying what most Reformed people imply that it says.

Keep up the good work! I am learning so much from your blog and your interaction with other people's blogs.

Happy New Year

December 31, 2005 1:25 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

You have dealt with this verse very well. As I said before, I do hope that one day you may be able to provide an exhaustive study on the epistles of John as you are doing with James. That would be really helpful.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

December 31, 2005 1:48 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Antonio excellent commentary as always. I pray God will bless you and yours in all ways in the coming year. ;-)

December 31, 2005 4:41 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Thanks for that perspective.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

December 31, 2005 6:25 PM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Hi Antonio!

I like this post. I have read nothing of Zane Hodges' so far (but just recieved something yesterday that I am going to read, just to see what all the fuss is about). Wait - my husband has the Bible Knowledge Commentary and we have looked at Hebrews in that book at one time, which I believe was covered by him. It is sort of perplexing to me why people treat him with such disdain. (Is he considered a real trouble maker or something?) His writing doesn't seem bizarre to me. It doesn't shock me! It doesn't make me furrow my eyebrow the way the introduction to "the Gospel According to Jesus" did. (the reference to 'another gospel' there really got me and the bad remarks about L.S. Chafer).

I love this verse from your post! We can use this to comfort one another when struggling with our deficiencies.
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2:13).

Keep up the good work! I am glad you are in the blogosphere.

January 01, 2006 6:43 PM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

I said:
It doesn't make me furrow my eyebrow the way the introduction to "the Gospel According to Jesus" did.

Just to be clear, though, I haven't read that book, either. I think I need to.

January 01, 2006 7:18 PM  
Blogger Shawn L said...

Rose,

We don't frown... ;-( We smile because the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. ;-)))

Actually the issue is pretty simple on why people don't like some of his beliefs :

1) Repentence is not part of the gospel message/presentation.

2) Christian Apostacy is possible for someone to do this

3) Sanctification is only an optional experience for believers.

In general these things bug me and others as I don't believe they are biblical, but other things I have read from him are helpful...especially in the Bible Knowledge commentary recently.

It's pretty big issue to be disagreeing on the gospel itself, so that is why Antonio is so passionate about it.

Lately I only have time to spend sweet communion with the Lord and encourage the believers (at home and blogging).

January 01, 2006 7:38 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Shawn,

I take issue with your number 3. You do not understand the Free Grace position on sanctification.

you write:
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3) Sanctification is only an optional experience for believers.
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It is NOT optional! It is REQUIRED! My contention is thought that it is not the NECESSARY result of either God's regeneration of us or our faith. If one fails to continue along in required sanctification, he will be liable to God's temporal wrath, child-training, and displeasure. God will hold him accountable for that which is required of him.

Antonio

January 01, 2006 7:58 PM  
Blogger Shawn L said...

Antonio,

Okay I'll revise.


3) Sanctification isn't always necessarily a part of the effect of regenerated person.

January 01, 2006 8:22 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

It seems odd that J.C. Ryle thought that sanctification is an inevitable result of salvation and yet thought it necessary to write a lot of papers explaining the necessity of holiness for the believer.

January 02, 2006 4:34 AM  
Blogger Shawn L said...

Matthew,

Sanctification is not robotical dispite how quickly I write stuff up. God uses the means of grace in our life to help us keep step with the Spirit.

That's the downside of studying/debating theology is that it seems to take out the sweet communion with the Lord that is critical for our sanctification and people write short statements that may not include all of the scriptures.

January 02, 2006 5:59 AM  

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