Chapter 2:7-11 (ESV) - 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. 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. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 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.
Question to consider: How did Jesus turn the old commandment to love our neighbor into something new?
Throughout 1 John, there are references back to his gospel account, and in the last verse from yesterday’s lesson and the first verse from today, we see similar language to Jesus’ command at the last supper, “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.” (John 13:34-35)
As John points out today, this new commandment should seem familiar to his readers, for it is rooted in the second table of the Law, “love your neighbor as yourself.” From the very beginning, God has wanted us to love Him and be good to those around us, and all of the commandments given to Moses reflect this. So what is “new” about this command from Jesus? Jesus injected Himself into the command. Our level of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ should be that of Christ who sacrificed Himself for us.
To put an exclamation point on this, John emphasized that whoever loves his brothers and sisters in Christ (the church), abides in the light. John’s statement that the “darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” is reminiscent of Isaiah 53:11, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see the light and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” I put “the light” in italics because those words are not in all texts, but they are in the copy found among the Dead Sea scrolls which is the oldest copy of Isaiah we have (dated a hundred years before Christ was born).
Regardless of whether you include those words, Isaiah conveyed the message that after the suffering servant was “pierced for our transgressions,” He would see how His work would make many to be counted righteous before God and consider all of His suffering to be worth it! John recognized that “the true light was already shining” because the gospel was spreading throughout the world, and people were turning to Christ.
John was present at Pentecost and was a witness to the early church as described by Luke, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47)
By the time John wrote this message, enough time had passed for him to see professing Christians express hatred for the church. His response to this was, “Nope. You are lying to yourself if you think you can love Christ but not the church for which He suffered and died.”
Dear Lord, thank You for loving the church and giving Yourself up for her. We ask that You help us to shine the light of the gospel to those around us and demonstrate our love for You by how we love and serve the church. For those who have left the church because of a bad experience, please renew their love for other believers and help them find a church that loves one another and preaches sound doctrine. Amen.