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THE ANSWER TO EXISTENTIALISM

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, November 14, 2004
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"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" (I John 2:19).


Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre were the two philosophers who popularized existentialism. Their philosophy underlies most people's thinking today, though they probably don't realize it. Dr. R. C. Sproul said, "We encounter the influence of existentialism virtually every day of our lives and in virtually every sphere of our culture…we are living under its influence every day" (Dr. R. C. Sproul, Lifeviews, Fleming H. Revell, 1986, p. 49).

The basic theme of Camus and Sartre's existentialism emphasizes "man's fundamental loneliness in a godless world" (Dr. John Blanchard, Does God Believe in Atheists?, Evangelical Press, 2000, p. 138).

Is R. C. Sproul right when he says we live "under the influence" of this philosophy "every day"? Yes, I think so. That's why the theme of loneliness has such a deep appeal, especially to young people. Without realizing where the philosophy came from, or who said it, you still feel it - "man's fundamental loneliness in a godless world." That phrase has a ring of truth to it. Every young person has felt it - "man's fundamental loneliness in a godless world."

And you can feel lonely in a crowded room. You can be at a rave, or in a crowded mall, and still feel lonely. One teenager told me, "I'm so lonely I don't know what to do." A few weeks later he committed suicide. And most young people are literally tormented by feelings of loneliness today. It's a product of the existentialism that has permeated "every sphere of our culture."

Loneliness is the problem, but what is the antidote? What is the cure? The cure is to know Jesus Christ personally - and to be part of the family of God in the local church. We are giving the answer to the horror of existentialism when we say, "Why be lonely? Come home - to church! Why be lost? Come home - to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!" We are answering Camus, and Sartre, and existentialism in general when we say that! We are answering the aching, lonely, isolated meaninglessness of the modern world when we say that! Shout it! Whisper it! Tell it far and wide! Why be lonely? Come home - to church! Why be lost? Come home - to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

But there are some who want one without the other. They want the friendship of the local church without conversion to Jesus Christ. But in the end it won't work. They must go together. An old song said,

Love and marriage, love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage.
This I tell you, brother,
You can't have one without the other.

And that's the way it is with Christianity - friendship in the church and conversion to Christ also go together like a horse and carriage. "This I tell you, brother, you can't have one without the other!"

Here's what happens if you try to have fellowship without conversion. Ultimately the fellowship will be broken. Sooner or later it just won't work. That's what our text is talking about.

"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" (I John 2:19).

Dr. W. A. Criswell said, "Some had departed from the churches…Their departure was actually to demonstrate that saving faith, and hence, real fellowship was absent" (The Criswell Study Bible, note on I 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" (I John 2:19).

Let us think about this text more deeply.

I. First, what they did.

Dr. Criswell said, "Some had departed from the churches." They doubtlessly had come in to the churches because they enjoyed the fellowship. The early churches were a place of deep friendship in the coldness and heartlessness of the Roman world. People loved the warmth and fellowship they found in the church,

"Praising God, and having favour with all the people"
    (Acts 2:47).

But they soon found out that the Christian life was not all "a bed of roses." Some of them left when they found that out. The Apostle Paul said,

"Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me" (II Timothy 4:10-11).

Demas, Crescens and Titus left when the going got tough.

Does that happen today? Sure it does. People come to church for a while. They enjoy the friendships they make in the church. It all seems fun. But then something else comes up. I heard about one person who went to Las Vegas on Sunday morning. I heard about it some time ago. That person liked coming to church, but Las Vegas sounded even better. Others find that parties beckon them during Christmas and New Year's. They are lured to the world's parties and festivities - and so they leave the church. "They went out from us, but they were not of us" (I John 2:19).

II. Second, why they did it.

Our text says, "they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us" (I John 2:9). Commenting on I John 2:19, Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

The way you can tell a true child of God is that eventually a man will show his true colors and leave the assembly of God if he is not a child of God. He will withdraw from the Christians, the body of believers, and he will go right back into the world…There are many who make professions of being Christians, but they are not really Christians (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, vol. V, p. 777).

I will give without comment the words of Albert Barnes, in his classical commentary from the nineteenth century:

For if they had been of us. If they had been sincere and true Christians. They would no doubt have continued with us. The words 'no doubt' are supplied by our translators, but the affirmation is equally strong without them: 'they would have remained with us.' This affirms, without any ambiguity or qualification, that if they had been true Christians they would have remained in the church; that is, they would not have apostatized. There could not be a more positive affirmation than that which is implied here, that those who are true Christians will continue to be such; or that the saints will not fall away from grace. John affirms it of these persons, that if they had been true Christians they would never have departed from the church. He makes the declaration so general that it may be regarded as a universal truth, that if any are truly 'of us,' that is, if they are true Christians, they will continue in the church, or will never fall away. The statement is so made also as to teach that if any do fall away from the church, the fact is full proof that they never had any religion, for if they had had they would have remained steadfast in the church (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint of the 1884-85 edition, note on I John 2:19).

Jesus said,

"They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13).

III. Third, how to remedy it.

"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" (I John 2:19).

Matthew Henry said,

They were not inwardly such as we are; But they were not of us; they had not from the heart obeyed the form of sound doctrine delivered to them; they were not of our union with Christ the head (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson, 1996 reprint, volume 6, p. 863).

They were not joined to Christ. They were not "of us." Dr. McGee said of this verse,

John makes a very solemn and serious statement here, and he makes this statement to us today. The Lord Jesus said to a very religious man, Nicodemus, that he must be born again. He said to him… "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). John says here, "They went out from us, but they were not of us." They looked as if they were true children of God, but they actually were not (J. Vernon McGee., ibid.).

You must be born again to be "of us," as Dr. McGee indicated. You must be joined to Christ. This happens when you are born again. Jesus said,

"Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).

The remedy for apostasy is the new birth! This happens when you acknowledge your sins and come to Christ. When you come to Him, He will receive you and wash your sins away with His Blood. You can count on it, because He said,

"Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).

When you come to Christ, and are joined to Him, you receive the new birth. Your sins are canceled out, and you become a child of God. Only when you are born again do you truly become a living member of the local church. Existentialism is canceled out when you come to Christ and are born again. "Man's fundamental loneliness in a godless world" is remedied and cured when you encounter the risen Christ, and become a living part of the local church as a result. Jesus said,

"Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).

Why be lost? Come home - to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

Charles Spurgeon gave a sermon titled "Life Proved by Love." It was based on I John 3:14,

"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (I John 3:14).

Charles Spurgeon said,

Until you are born again, you will never understand the meaning of God's grace. You must get a new life, pass from death unto life, or you cannot know these things… "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." So, brethren, if we can say that we love God's people, as God's people, because they are God's people, that is a mark that we have passed from death unto life (C. H. Spurgeon, "Life Proved by Love," The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1976 reprint, volume XLIV, pp. 80-81).

When we have passed from death to life by conversion, we will love the brethren in the local church!

I dare to close this sermon by changing that bit of an old song into even worse doggerel.

Fellowship and conversion, fellowship and conversion,
Go together said Charles Spurgeon;
This I tell you, brother,
You can't have one without the other!

If you value the friendships you have made in this church, make sure you experience conversion. It is essential that you be converted. That is the "glue" that holds the fellowship of the local church together!


(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 3:1-7.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Ye Must Be Born Again" (by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE ANSWER TO EXISTENTIALISM

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"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" (I John 2:19).

I.   What they did, Acts 2:47; II Timothy 4:10-11.

II.  Why they did it, Luke 8:13.

III. How to remedy it, John 3:3, 7; 6:37; I John 3:14.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."