“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” (1Jo 2:19). Proponents of “Once Saved Always Saved” (OSAS) use this verse as a proof-text that people leaving their local church never were truly saved to begin with, otherwise they would have stayed. But in context, it isn’t about churchgoers at all but false teachers: “even now are there many antichrists” (2:18), “them that seduce you” (2:26), “ye need not that any man teach you” (2:27), “let no man deceive you” (3:7), “many false prophets are gone out into the world” (4:1).
When John said “They went out from us,” he meant the main church in Jerusalem, “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment” (Act 15:24). False teachers went out from the Jerusalem church, deceiving people into being circumcised with the intent of keeping the non-moral actions of the law, particularly abstinence from certain meats and observing certain days.
At first, Peter objected when told by the Lord to eat with Gentiles, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (Act 10:14). But he quickly submitted, then concluded that acceptance before God doesn’t consist of meats but fearing Him and working righteousness, “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Act 10:35). And this is what John meant by, “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (2:29), “he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (3:7). Since Christ Himself was righteous, even though He ate with Gentiles many times, then everyone doing or working righteousness is also righteous regardless of what they eat or don’t eat.
Therefore, “They went out from us” were false teachers from the Jerusalem church commanding circumcision and the actions of the law that pertain to it. This had nothing to do with churchgoers leaving their local church. In fact, with so called “churches” today, as it was with synagogues in Christ’s day, the real issue isn’t with those leaving but with those staying!
The parents of a man born blind wouldn’t confess Christ because they didn’t want to be put out of the synagogue, “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (Jhn 9:22). And it was the same with many of the rulers of the synagogue, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue” (Jhn 12:42). It wasn’t those leaving or those being made to leave, but those staying that perished.
Not at all giving the devil any credit but simply being realistic—he is far more deceptive and subtle than we ever thought. He is a master at turning things around. He convinces the seeing that they’re blind but can see by listening to him, “then your eyes shall be opened” (Gen 3:5). Then once they’re blind, he convinces them they can now see, “And the eyes of them both were opened” (Gen 3:7). And as he did with synagogues, he has done with churches. Pastors are men of God, making their flocks lie down in green pastures and leading them beside still waters. They’re highly educated and with our best interest at heart, not wanting us to fall into error by trying to understand the Bible for ourselves. Therefore, we should trust these warm and caring men. It seems safe to stay and dangerous to leave. But it’s all been turned around.
I left church over two years ago because I trembled at God’s word, “but to this man will I look,even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa 66:2). I feared what Jesus Christ taught about God and about Himself, not what Trinitarian pastors taught. And how I was treated through it all convinced me even more of having made the right decision, “But the fruit of the Spirit [breath] is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance” (Gal 5:22-23), “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men” (2Ti 2:24). Their lack of gentleness indicated they didn’t have God’s breath and weren’t serving the Lord. I came to learn that the real issue isn’t with those that go out but with those that stay.