The problem: Am I next?
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 it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19–ESV)
There is a big difficulty for the Christian community John is encouraging. The false teachers, the antichrists as John calls them, had once been members of the church. Perhaps some of those who had not left were drawn to those who had separated. Maybe they at least wished to make excuses for them. The easily could have been friends, family, fellow-worshipers and potentially even fellow-sufferers. These departures left holes in the community, raw spots, discomforts.
Some of the faithful probably found themselves a bit shell-shocked, down on themselves or at least facing a church morale problem. Who would be next? Those with the propensity to doubt themselves may have even wondered if they would be next.
To this morale problem, to the uncertain contingent of that community, John gave a thing that was both hope and help. He essentially said, “Clarity comes from continuance.”
Clarity comes from continuance
Let us go back to a scene between Jesus and the disciples. It took place during the last supper.
20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:20-22–ESV)
At this point, Jesus and the 12 were reclining around a table late in Jesus’ ministry. As they sat around eating what would prove to be Jesus’ last meal an awkward subject was raised: the betrayal. Look at the content of verse 22. The disciples do not doubt the words of Jesus but become saddened by it. They do not flip into denial mode like Peter was prone to do but get filled with self-doubt. It was as if they figured they might accidentally betray him.