Saturday, 21 March 2020
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. 1 John 2:7
Without understanding what John is getting at in verses 2:7 and 2:8, one might think he is confused. He will speak of writing no new commandment and then of writing a new commandment. There is no confusion though. His words of writing “no new commandment” are a way of referring to a doctrine which has been set since the inception of the New Covenant. The new commandment he will write about will be referring to the fact that this is a part of the New Covenant, which has superseded the Old. With this understanding, He begins with, “Brethren.”
There is a variance in manuscripts here. Some say, “Brethren,” while others say, “Beloved.” “Beloved” would fit better with the previous context concerning “the love of God,” but either way, He next says, “I write no new commandment to you.”
The word “new” is one which defines freshness, not age. For example, it would speak of the “New Covenant” as opposed to the “Old Covenant.” The age of a covenant isn’t what matters, but whether it is applicable still or not. John is saying that he is not writing something new to the ears, but something that has already been established. That is seen in the words, “but an old commandment.”
In this, Vincent’s Word Studies notes that in the New Testament there are four words used to describe “old” or “elder.” He further provides details on each. For brevity, the word used by John here is palaios. He defines it as –
“Παλαιός carries the sense of worn out by time, injury, sorrow, or other causes. Thus the old garment (Matthew 9:16) is παλαιόν. So the old wine-skins (Matthew 9:17). The old men of a living generation compared with the young of the same generation are παλαιοί. In παλαιός the simple conception of time dominates. In ἀρχαῖος there is often a suggestion of a character answering to the remote age. The commandment is here called old because it belonged to the first stage of the Christian church. Believers had had it from the beginning of their Christian faith.”
This is what John was referring to in the verse 2:5, where he said, “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.” This is the same thing that they had always heard and been instructed in. It is, therefore, certainly pointing to the commandment of love. That was given by Christ in John 13 –
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35
By the time of John’s writing, this commandment was certainly known to all. Thus, John now calls it an “old commandment.” This is the same thought that Paul speaks of in several ways, including in Ephesians 5:1, 2 –
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
It is this commandment that John now says, “which you have had from the beginning.” From the beginning of the New Covenant, Christ had set forth this commandment, and it then extended forth to all who heard the word. John is repeating that word to ensure it continued to be remembered by those who do believe, and to be passed on to those who will believe. As John notes, “The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.”
The repetition of the thought in these final words is a way of emphasizing what has been conveyed. In essence, “Everything that I am relaying to you is something which has already been put forth. You have heard it from the beginning, and nothing has changed since you heard it.”
Life application: John is saying that he is adding nothing to what was handed down to him from the Lord. Thus, he was not adding in some arbitrary standards of his own.
Jesus told his disciples that the mark of a Christian, and the way which they will be known as true disciples, is by their genuine love for one another. This is a commandment, and it signifies a love which is demonstrable and visible. Whether we like the fellow Christian we are dealing with or not, we are to love him in a way which identifies him as brother in the Lord.
John could pen these words with conviction as he was present with the Lord when he heard Him speak this new commandment. It was his duty as an apostle to pass these words on to his hearers and it is our continued duty – even to this day – to receive them and apply them to our own lives, lest we be found false disciples.
Lord Jesus, you have commanded us to have love for our fellow believers. But you know that can be very hard. They are so… they do such… they act like… But maybe we are that way to them! And so, Lord, change us if needed. Mold us into the loving vessels You have commanded us to be. Change us as individuals so that we will be pleasing disciples in Your eyes. To Your glory we pray. Amen.