The New Commandment
7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
This series like the following seemed to be a little confusing to me the first umpteen times through them. Once we start noticing the patterns though and other passages of Scripture that say the same thing it will hopefully become a little clearer to you as it did to me.
First we know that we’ve looked at the Reality of salvation stated in 1:5-2:2. We’ve looked at the first test of the Reality of salvation in 2:3-6 that revealed salvation brings obedience to God’s commands. As we continue through the “Reality of Salvation” tests you’ll notice they are either: doctrinal, moral or spiritual. As MacArthur has pointed out the verification of our salvation is not just by what we believe (although that is of utmost importance) but also how we behave. The moral tests or spiritual tests reveal this. The first test of obedience to the commands of God is important (vs 3-5) but the test of love is the supreme test as revealed other places in Scripture. (Deut 6:4-5, 1 Cor 13:13, Eph 3:17-4:16…just to name a few)
So starting from the beginning of this section we know that this is an old commandment to Love, first love God and then your neighbor (Lev 19:18, Deut 6:4-5, Matt 19:19) this is the word that they have heard. So why is it at the same time a new commandment? The Greek word used here is kainos-it is not new in time (Kairos), it is new in essence, new in quality and character. He explains “which is true in Him and in you”. So which is true in Him? He had already explained in the upper room what the new command was. Turn with me to John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So the newness of the commandment is true in Christ and it is manifest in those that are His disciples. We have the ability to love (even our enemies) like Christ loved us. We know that He is the true light that is shining because Galatians 1:4 says “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” He is the true light that is shining inaugurating that age and delivering us out of this present evil age…being born again gives us that same capacity to love.
John closes this section with a test of that love: do you love your brother? He equates light and darkness to eternal life or eternal death. If you love(not perfection but direction) like Jesus then you pass the test, if you don’t you are walking in darkness and have no idea where you are going.
So the new commandment to love is new in that we love like Jesus loved us. No greater love than this that a man would lay down his life for his friends. Jn 15:13 (see also 1Jn 3:16)