No New Commandment
“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning” (1 John 2:7a).- 1 John 2:7–8
In our study of 1 John thus far we have seen that the apostle wrote this letter nearly two thousand years ago in order to deal with false teachers who were troubling his flock. This audience had successfully resisted the influence of these heretics to the point where the schismatics left the community (2:19), but their teachings did have consequences — many believers began to doubt their salvation.
First John 1:1–5 introduces three tests by which true believers can recognize false teaching and be assured of their salvation. Belief in the incarnation (vv. 1–2), love for God and other Christians (vv. 3–4), and personal holiness (v. 5) all exemplify authentic Christianity. The false teachers claimed to have a “higher” knowledge of the truth, but in denying these three tests they revealed their ignorance of who God is. Thus far, John has highlighted personal holiness, reminding us that to know God entails walking in the light of His commandments (1:6–7; 2:3–6). This does not mean sinlessnes; rather, it means that we endeavor to walk in the way Jesus walked, are honest when we sin, and are quick to flee to Jesus for cleansing whenever we disobey Him (1:8–10; 2:1–2). The true believer has been justified and is secure in his salvation, but he will continually evidence his justification by repenting when he offends the Lord.
In today’s passage, John speaks of a commandment that is both old and new, a commandment in which we must walk if we truly belong to Jesus (vv. 7–8). This commandment is the command to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord (vv. 9–11).
None in John’s audience should have been taken aback by this commandment since it was an old one, given to them from the beginning (v. 7). Loving one’s neighbor has been essential to faithfulness since the beginning of the old and new covenant eras (Lev. 19:18; John 13:34). At the same time, however, John tells us love is a new commandment true in Jesus and in us since the darkness is passing away (1 John 2:8). This is no contradiction; rather, it simply means that the teaching and life of Jesus continues to show us how to love in new ways — ways in which all true believers will walk.
The emphasis on love in 1 John is the love that we must have for other believers. However, while the needs of John’s audience required him to focus on love for other Christians, we would be mistaken if we thought that loving those outside of the church was not also important. Tomorrow we will focus on loving other believers. Today, think about a non-believer whom you have trouble loving and ask the Lord to help you love that person in thought, word, and deed.
Passages for Further Study