1 John 2:7, “Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.”
The Apostle starts out with the familial Brethren, which in some translations reads the endearing, Beloved. In either case he is writing with that same fatherly sense that he is well-known for. He continues to endear himself to the reader before diving into the more serious aspect of his discourse. He is reminding them, in that specific word, just how much he does love and care for, as it was reserved for those closest to his heart. There is a lot packed into this one sentence that continues the thoughts of the previous verses.
John is also laying the foundation, or the ground-work for what is to come next in that one word that denotes a love for those he is writing too. So he goes on to clarify; he is NOT writing some new commandment that the readers don’t already know. They SHOULD know, that what he is and will continue to speak about is nothing new at all. In fact, he goes on to reiterate that what he will share with them is something they have heard from and been taught from the very beginning! There will be and should be no surprises.
You may wonder why John has such a habit of almost repeating or reinforcing what he has written with what he is about to write, but we need to remember that there was a sect of the religious population called the Gnostics that the Apostles were all trying to contend with concerning the Gnostic teaching. The Gnostics were always so proud of their claims that their teachings were always new and insightful. Gnostics believed that the material world, that which can be felt, seen etc., is inherently evil and the way to true salvation is to look inward to your inner spirit to find the “spark” of salvation, so to speak. It gets a lot more in-depth as we see its transformations into modern times, but in essence denied the sacrifice of Christ Jesus as a true means to salvation.
The Apostle John is therefore reiterating that what the readers have learned and that what he plans on continuing to teach them is NOT new, but something that have learned over time from the beginnings of their teachings in Christ.
This brings me to some personal thoughts about the way many of us who are called into the ministry, teach. It doesn’t matter what title you as a teacher hold either, but the Holy Spirit’s inspiration is usually very noticeable in the fact that we are constantly reminding those we teach, that it isn’t new what we are teaching, but we expound again and again, building upon the original foundation. I learned years ago, and of all places the technical school that I went too, to learn a trade, that repetition is the best form of teacher and so it is when it comes to Bible study and learning! The student becomes more confident and more assured of what they are learning when there is a foundation laid and we are reminded of that foundation as we lay new “bricks of knowledge.”
In this day and age, as it probably was during John’s lifetime, there is a danger of getting away from what we learned in the beginning, getting away from what might be considered the basics and without that foundation, there is a danger that we lose sight of what is true and truth. All we have to do today, is watch the news, to look around us, and see how church leaders and congregations are adopting “new” ideas and abandoning what was once KNOWN to be truth! People have discarded the Living Word of God, the Bible as the absolute truth to inject what they have seen by going inward and seeking the “truths” from their inner spirit-guides! The battle of the Gnostics has not abated and is still going on today, but today, many of them still CLAIM to be Christians!!! It is no wonder those blinded by the world and the enemy, look at those who claim to be Christians and only see hypocrites. I know I touched on it in the last lesson, but not every one who claims to be a Christian is a true disciple of Christ Jesus! Sad, but oh so true.
This is one of the main reasons many of the Apostles and especially John repeat over and over some of the same concepts, so that the readers know and are reminded of the foundation on which they are being taught.
And then the Apostle seems to contradict himself:
1 John 2:8, “Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.”
Even though this commandment of loving others is not new, in at least one sense it is. Jesus said this in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” You see, Jesus whole teaching was that the Law was meant to teach, but the Pharisees and the other religious leaders had so twisted it as to make everyone believe they had to obey every single line of that Law. If anything the Law was teaching us that within ourselves there was absolutely NO way in which to fulfil it. Jesus was telling His disciples that we couldn’t obey and fulfill it, but He could and that is what was new!
In and of ourselves, even though we were taught it from the beginning, we couldn’t love like we were supposed to, commanded to do! But that is the very reason Jesus came; to show us how through Him, who DID fulfill the Law, we could obtain that same ability. John is making it clear that even though the “Law” of love isn’t new, but from the very beginning, in the sense of Christ Jesus, it IS new!
As a side note; if you ever get to believing that the Scriptures contradict themselves as so many who have no spiritual discernment claim, remember that in every case it has to be the way WE, individually are looking at those Scriptures. With a little prayer and seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit Who WILL open our spiritual eyes, all will be made clear to us!
This was written by John also, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” – John 8:12. The Apostle John is again reminding us of this fact of which he wrote just a bit earlier in his life.
The newness of the commandment is in truth found in Christ Jesus Who IS the Light! The darkness is already diminishing because the Light has come into the world! Whenever men receive this truth and are able through the Gift of Christ Jesus, love as the Father commanded us too, then the light is also shining in us. This part of John’s writing isn’t just stating a fact, “the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” It is also very prophetic, for in truth because of Christ Jesus, the light is already shining and because this is the newness of the old commandment, the light will continue to shine brightly into the future!!! How AMAZING is that?!
The Light of Christ’s love is passed down from the True Vine to the branches, which then produces the fruit of love for others to see, witness and partake of! The old commandment that we should love one another has become reality in action because through Christ Jesus Who fulfilled the Law, we can now ALL demonstrate the reality of God’s true love!!! What an awesome thought!
One last thought; notice that the Bible, written by Holy Spirit inspired men of God, always spoke of love as a verb, an action, something that is to be done either towards God Himself and towards one another. Only when we have the Light of Life, Christ Jesus residing in our hearts can we and do we recognize this vast difference between the world’s definition of love and God’s!