7 Brothers, it is no new commandment I write unto you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you have heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, this is true in Him and in you, because the darkness has passed away and the true light now shines.1 John 2:7-8
Given the discussion in 1 John 1:6-10 on the believer’s relationship to sin, it’s unsurprising that the next question to be answered, particularly for believing Jews, would be in regards to their relationship to the commandments. Believers in Christ are not “let off” from commandment keeping. Rather, it is only by Christ that we can be true commandment keepers (Cf. 1 Jn. 2:3).
Christ gave a new commandment, in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” The light which has shined into the darkness (Cf. Jn 1:5) is the converting light of the Gospel. This light is the birthright and experience of every true saint. When we’re converted by the heralded Gospel, we can truly say, “This is nothing new, but now everything is new.” The scales have come off, the day has dawned, the clear light is shining.
The commandment is the same as ever: love God, and love your neighbor. But there is new light shining, illuminating new glories in the old commandment. John isn’t giving a new command, but an old one which they had heard from the beginning. The phrase “the beginning” here is the same construction as in 1 Jn. 1:1, but here it is in reference to the beginning of their hearing of the Gospel which had been from the capital “B”Beginning.
The newness however, is that of a newly discerned glory. It’s as if under the OT the saints held a diamond, but in the dim light could only vaguely perceive the beauty of what they held. As soon as the rays of Gospel light caught in the prism, a new glory was revealed. This wasn’t a novel idea, nor did it just appear out of thin air. The newness is not that of recency, for it is from the beginning; it is a newness of quality.
The newly unveiled glory is that by dwelling in Christ, and thus being invited into the loving fellowship of the godhead, we’re not only receivers of this marvelous love (1 Jn. 3:1), we’re also empowered to actually love God in return and love the brethren. This is true “in Him”, because Jesus was indeed the Christ and thus enjoyed this perfect love, and now by Christ we might enjoy the assurance that God receives our love to Him (for He first loved us, 1 Jn. 4:19), and we are able to love and be beloved by our fellow saints. This is the glory which has come forth from the old commandment. All the enmity with God and our brother is settled in the substitutionary atonement of Christ on our behalf.
This is true in Christ, and it is true in us. It is only true in us, however, because we are in Christ. Thus, as John proceeds, he will show that union with Christ’s love makes enmity with one’s fellow saint an impossibility. As one ancient Christian commented: “The commandment is true in him because he loved us so much that he died for us, and it will be true in us also if we love one another.”1
1 Hilary of Arles. James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude. Compiled by Gerald Lewis. Bray. Downers Grove (Ill.): InterVarsity, 2000. Pg. 180
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- 1 John 4:17-21 | Bold Sons & Fearful Slaves
- 1 John 4:11-16 | The Offensive Love of God
- 1 John 4:7-10 | God is Love
- 1 John 4:4-6 | Overcoming Swarms of Devils
- 1 John 4:1-3 | Stranger Danger
- 1 John 3:23-24 | The Nail in Timidity’s Coffin
- 1 John 3:19-22 | God is Greater than Our Hearts
- 1 John 3:13-18 | The World Hates You
- 1 John 3:10-12 | Children of God, Children of the Devil