1 John 2:7
Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
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1 John


1 John 2:7-8.

The simplest words may carry the deepest thoughts. Perhaps angels and little children speak very much alike. This letter, like all of John’s writing, is pellucid in speech, profound in thought, clear and deep, like the abysses of mid-ocean. His terms are such as a child can understand; his sentences short and inartificial: he does not reason, he declares; he has neither argument nor rhetoric, but he teaches us the deepest truths, and shows us that we get nearer the centre by insight than by logic.

Now the words that I have taken for my text are very characteristic of this Apostle’s manner. He has a great, wide-reaching truth to proclaim, and he puts it in the simplest, most inartificial manner, laying side by side two artless sentences, and stimulates us by the juxtaposition, leading us to feel after, and so to make our own, the large lessons that are in them. Let me, then, try to bring these out.

I. And the first one that strikes me is--’the word’ is ‘a commandment.’

Now, by ‘the word’ here the Apostle obviously means, since he speaks about it as that which these Asiatic Christians ‘heard from the beginning,’ the initial truth which was presented for their acceptance in the story of the life and death of Jesus Christ. That was ‘the word’ and, says he, just because it was a history it is a commandment; just because it was the Revelation of God it is a law. God never tells us anything merely that we may be wise. The purpose of all divine speech, whether in His great works in nature, or in the voices of our own consciences, or in the syllables that we have to piece together from out of the complicated noises of the world’s history, or in this book, or in the Incarnate Word, where all the wandering syllables are gathered together into one word--the purpose of all that God says to men is primarily that they may know, but in order that, knowing, they may do; and still more that they may be. And so, inasmuch as every piece of religious knowledge has in it the capacity of directing conduct, all God’s word is a commandment.

And, if that is true in regard to other revelations and manifestations that he has made of Himself, it is especially true in regard to the summing-up of all in the Incarnate Word, and in His words, and in the words that tell us of His life and of His death. So whatever truths there may be, and there are many, which, of course, have only the remotest, if any, bearing upon life and conduct, every bit of Christian truth has a direct grip upon a man’s life, and brings with it a stringent obligation.

Now, the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ, ‘the Word which ye heard from the beginning,’ which, I suppose, would roughly correspond with what is told us in our four Gospels; the word which these Asiatic Christians heard at first, the good news that was brought to them in the midst of their gropings and peradventures, commanded, in the first place, absolute trust, the submission of the will as well as the assent of the understanding. But also it commanded imitation, for Jesus Christ was revealed to them, as He is revealed to us, as being the Incarnate realisation of the ideal of humanity; and what He is, the knowledge that He is that, binds us to try to be in our turn.

And more than that, brethren, the Cross of Christ is a commandment. For we miserably mutilate it, and sinfully as well as foolishly limit its application and its power, if we recognise it only--I was going to say mainly--as being the ground of our hope and of what we call our salvation, and do not recognise it as being the obligatory example of our lives, which we are bound to translate into our daily practice. Jesus Christ Himself has told us that in many a fashion, never more touchingly and wondrously than when in response to the request of a handful of Greeks to see Him, He answered with the word which not only declared what was obligatory upon Him, but what was obligatory upon us all, and for the want of which all the great endowments of the Greek mind at last rotted down into sensuousness, when He said, ‘Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit’ and then went on to say, ‘he that loveth his life shall lose it.’

So, then, brethren, ‘the word which ye heard at the beginning,’ the story of Christ, His life and His death, is a stringent commandment. Now, this is one of the blessings of Christianity, that all which was hard and hopeless, ministering to despair sometimes, as well as stirring to fierce effort at others, in the conception of law or duty as it stands outside us, is changed into the tender word, ‘if ye love Me, keep My commandments.’ If any man serve Me, let him ... ‘follow Me.’ It is a law; it is ‘the law of liberty.’ So you have not done all that is needful when you have accepted the teaching of Christ in the Scriptures and the teaching of the Scriptures concerning Christ. Nor have you done all that is needful when clasping Him, and clinging simply to His Cross, you recognise in it the means and the pledge of your acceptance with God, and the ground and anchor of all your hope. There is something more to be done. The Gospel is a commandment, and commandments require not only assent, not only trust, but practical obedience. The ‘old commandment’ is the ‘word which ye heard from the beginning.’

II. The old Christ is perpetually new.

The Apostle goes on, in the last words of my text, to say, ‘Which thing’ {viz., this combination of the old and the new} ‘is true in Him and in you.’ ‘True in Him’--that is to say, Christ, the old Christ that was declared to these Asiatic Christians as they were groping amidst the illusions of their heathenism, is perpetually becoming new as new circumstances emerge, and new duties are called for, and new days come with new burdens, hopes, possibilities, or dangers. The perpetual newness of the old Christ is what is taught here.

Suppose one of these men in Ephesus heard for the first time the story that away in Judea there had lived the manifestation of God in the flesh, and that He, in His wonderful love, had died for men, that they might be saved from the grip of their sins. And suppose that man barely able to see, had yet seen that much, and clutched at it. He was a Christian, but the Christ that he discerned when he first discerned Him through the mists, and the Christ that he had in his life and in his heart, after, say, twenty years of Christian living, are very different. The old Christ remained, but the old Christ was becoming new day by day, according to the new necessities and positions. And that is what will be our experience if we have any real Christianity in us. The old Christ that we trusted at first was able to do for us all that we asked Him to do, but we did not ask Him at first for half enough, and we did not learn at first a tithe of what was in Him. Suppose, for instance, some great ship comes alongside a raft with ship-wrecked sailors upon it, and in the darkness of the night transfers them to the security of its deck. They know how safe they are, they know what has saved them, but what do they know compared with what they will know before the voyage ends of all the reservoirs of power and stores of supplies that are in her? Christ comes to us in the darkness, and delivers us. We know Him for our Deliverer from the first moment, if we truly have grasped Him. But it will take summering and wintering with Him, through many a long day and year, before we can ever have a partially adequate apprehension of all

that lies in Him.

And what will teach us the depths of Christ, and how does He become new to us? Well, by trusting Him, by following Him, and by the ministry of life. Some of us, I have no doubt, can look back upon past days when sorrow fell upon us, blighting and all but crushing; and then things that we had read a thousand times in the Bible, and thought we had believed, blazed up into a new meaning, and we felt as if we had never understood anything about them before. The Christ that is with us in the darkness, and whom we find able to turn even it, if not into light, at least into a solemn twilight not unvisited by hopes, that Christ is more to us than the Christ that we first of all learnt so little to know. And life’s new circumstances, its emerging duties, are like the strokes of the spade which clears away the soil, and discloses the treasure in all its extent which we purchased when we bought that field. We buy the treasure at once, but it takes a long time to count it. The old Christ is perpetually the new Christ.

So, brethren, Christian progress consists not in getting away from the original facts, the elements of the Gospel, but it consists in penetrating more deeply into these, and feeling more of their power and their grasp. All Euclid is in the definitions and axioms and postulates at the beginning. All our books are the letters of the alphabet. And progress consists, not in advancing beyond, but in sinking into, that initial truth, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.’

I might say a word here as to another phase of this perpetual newness of the old Christ--viz., in His adaptation to deal with all the complications and perplexities and problems of each successive age. It has taken the Church a long, long time to find out and to formulate, rightly or wrongly, what it has discovered in Jesus. The conclusions to be drawn from the simple Gospel truth, the presuppositions on which it rests, require all the efforts of all the Church through all the ages, and transcend them all. And I venture to say, though it may sound like unsupported dogma, that for this generation’s questionings, social, moral, and political, the answer is to be found in Him. He, and He only, will interpret each generation to itself, and will meet its clamant needs. There is none other for the world to-day but the old Christ with the new aspect which the new conditions require.

Did it ever strike you how remarkable it is, and, as it seems to me, of how great worth as an argument for the truth of Christianity it is, that Jesus Christ comes to this, as to every generation, with the air of belonging to it? Think of the difference between the aspect which a Plato or a Socrates presents to the world to-day, and the aspect which that Lord presents. You do not need to strip anything off Him. He committed Himself to no statements which the progress of thought or knowledge has exploded. He stands before the world to-day fitting its needs as closely as He did those of the men of His own generation. The old Christ is the new Christ.

III. Lastly, in the Christian life the old commandment is perpetually new.

‘Which thing is true ... in you.’ That is to say, ‘the commandment which ye received at the beginning,’ when ye received Christ as Saviour, has in itself a power of adapting itself to all new conditions as they may emerge, and will be felt increasingly to grow stringent, and increasingly to demand more entire conformity, and increasingly to sweep its circle round the whole of human life. For this is the result of all obedience, that the conception of duty becomes more clear and more stringent. ‘If any man will do His will’ the reward shall be that he will see more and more the altitude of that will, the length and breadth and depth and height of the possible conformity of the human spirit to the will of God. And so as we advance in obedience we shall see unreached advances before us, and each new step of progress will declare more fully how much still remains to be accomplished. In us the ‘old commandment’ will become ever new.

And not only so, but perpetually with the increasing sweep and stringency of the obligation will be felt an increasing sense of our failure to fulfil it. Character is built up, for good or for evil, by slow degrees. Conscience is quickened by being listened to, and stifled by being neglected. A little speck of mud on a vestal virgin’s robe, or on a swan’s plumage, will be conspicuous, while a splash twenty times the size will pass unnoticed on the rags of some travel-stained wayfarer. The purer we become, the more we shall know ourselves to be impure.

Thus, my brother, there opens out before us an endless course in which all the blessedness that belongs to the entertaining and preservation of ancient convictions, lifelong friends, and familiar truths, and all the antithetical blessedness that belongs to the joy of seeing, rising upon our horizon as some new planet with lustrous light, will be united in our experience. We shall at once be conservative and progressive; holding by the old Christ and the old commandment, and finding that both have in them endless novelty. The trunk is old; every summer brings fresh leaves. And at last we may hope to come to the new Jerusalem, and drink the new wine of the Kingdom, and yet find that the old love remains, and that the new Christ, whose presence makes the new heavens and the new earth, is ‘the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,’ the old Christ whom, amid the shadows of earth, we tried to love and copy.

1 John 2:7-8. I write no new commandment — Ministers must avoid all suspicion and affectation of novelty in their doctrine. But an old commandment — Concerning holiness of life, and loving one another. Which ye had from the beginning — Which was given to your fathers at the first forming of your commonwealth, Leviticus 19:18. The old commandment is the word — The doctrine of the gospel also; which ye have heard from the beginning — Which was delivered at the first publication thereof, and has been insisted upon ever since, Matthew 5:43; John 15:12. Again, a new commandment I write unto you — Namely, with regard to your loving one another; a commandment which is true in him and in you — It was exemplified in him, and is now fulfilled by you, in such a manner as it never was before. “The new commandment,” says Macknight, “of which the apostle speaks, is that contained in 1 John 2:6. That Christ’s disciples ought to walk even as he walked; and in particular that, as Christ laid down his life for his people, they ought to lay down their lives for one another, chap. 1 John 3:16. Thus, to walk as Christ walked, St. John, with great propriety, termed a new commandment, because, notwithstanding the precept to love one another was strongly enjoined in the law of Moses, consequently was not a new commandment, the precept to love one another as Christ loved us, was certainly a new commandment, and so is termed by Christ himself, (John 13:34,) and is thus explained and inculcated 1 John 3:16 : He laid down his life for us, therefore we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Which thing is true — This translation is exact; for the word αληθες, being in the neuter gender, cannot agree with εντολη, commandment, which is feminine; we must

“therefore supply πραγμ, (action or thing,) or some such general word, expressive of the subject of the command. By saying that the thing enjoined in the new commandment was true, concerning the persons to whom the apostle wrote, he perhaps meant that some of them had already hazarded their lives in assisting their brethren.” Because the darkness is past, &c. — The apostle not only means the darkness of heathenism, but that of the Mosaic dispensation, together with the corrupt doctrines and practices of the Jews under that dispensation; and particularly the impious notion that they were commanded in the law to hate the Gentiles, Matthew 5:43. This darkness was gradually passing away by means of the shining of the light which was true; that is, by the publication of Christ’s doctrine and example in the gospel. The Mosaic law, with its obscure types, was likewise ready to vanish, in consequence of the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish nation; which events were soon to take place.

2:3-11 What knowledge of Christ can that be, which sees not that he is most worthy of our entire obedience? And a disobedient life shows there is neither religion nor honesty in the professor. The love of God is perfected in him that keeps his commandments. God's grace in him attains its true mark, and produces its sovereign effect as far as may be in this world, and this is man's regeneration; though never absolutely perfect here. Yet this observing Christ's commands, has holiness and excellency which, if universal, would make the earth resemble heaven itself. The command to love one another had been in force from the beginning of the world; but it might be called a new command as given to Christians. It was new in them, as their situation was new in respect of its motives, rules, and obligations. And those who walk in hatred and enmity to believers, remain in a dark state. Christian love teaches us to value our brother's soul, and to dread every thing hurtful to his purity and peace. Where spiritual darkness dwells, in mind, the judgment, and the conscience will be darkened, and will mistake the way to heavenly life. These things demand serious self-examination; and earnest prayer, that God would show us what we are, and whither we are going.Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you - That is, what I am now enjoining is not new. It is the same doctrine which you have always heard. There has been much difference of opinion as to what is referred to by the word "commandment," whether it is the injunction in the previous verse to live as Christ lived, or whether it is what he refers to in the following verses, the duty of brotherly love. Perhaps neither of these is exactly the idea of the apostle, but he may mean in this verse to put in a general disclaimer against the charge that what he enjoined was new. In respect to all that he taught, the views of truth which he held the duties which he enjoined, the course of life which he would prescribe as proper for a Christian to live, he meant to say that it was not at all new; it was nothing which he had originated himself, but it was in fact the same system of doctrines which they had always received since they became Christians. He might have been induced to say this because he apprehended that some of those whom he had in his eye, and whose doctrines he meant to oppose, might say that this was all new; that it was not the nature of religion as it had been commonly understood, and as it was laid down by the Saviour. In a somewhat different sense, indeed, he admits 1 John 2:8 that there was a "new" commandment which it was proper to enjoin - for he did not forget that the Saviour himself called that "new;" and though that commandment had also been all along inculcated under the gospel, yet there was a sense in which it was proper to call that new, for it had been so called by the Saviour. But in respect to all the doctrines which he maintained, and in respect to all the duties which he enjoined, he said that they were not new in the sense that he had originated them, or that they had not been enjoined from the beginning.

Perhaps, also, the apostle here may have some allusion to false teachers who were in fact scattering new doctrines among the people, things before unheard of, and attractive by their novelty; and he may mean to say that he made no pretensions to any such novelty, but was content to repeat the old and familiar truths which they had always received. Thus, if he was charged with breaching new opinions, he denies it fully; if they were advancing new opinions, and were even "making capital" out of them, he says that he attempted no such thing, but was content with the old and established opinions which they had always received.

But an old commandment - Old, in the sense that it has always been inculcated; that religion has always enjoined it.

Which ye had from the beginning - Which you have always received ever since you heard anything about the gospel. It was preached, when the gospel was first preached; it has always been promulgated when that has been promulgated; it is what you first heard when you were made acquainted with the gospel. Compare the notes at 1 John 1:1.

The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning - Is the "doctrine;" or is what was enjoined. John is often in the habit of putting a truth in a new form or aspect in order to make it emphatic, and to prevent the possibility of misapprehension. See John 1:1-2. The sense here is: "All that I am saying to yea is in fact an old commandment, or one which you have always had. There is nothing new in what I am enjoining on you."

7. Brethren—The oldest manuscripts and versions read instead, "Beloved," appropriate to the subject here, love.

no new commandment—namely, love, the main principle of walking as Christ walked (1Jo 2:6), and that commandment, of which one exemplification is presently given, 1Jo 2:9, 10, the love of brethren.

ye had from the beginning—from the time that ye first heard the Gospel word preached.

This commandment must be that which he insists on, 1Jo 2:9-11, and which in different respects he calleth both old and new. Not new, he says, in opposition to their Gnostic seducers, to intimate he was not about to entertain them with vain novelties, as they did; all whose peculiar doctrines were no other than innovations upon true Christianity: but old, viz. a part of original Christianity, as it came pure first from our Lord Christ himself; the commandment, or word, which they had, or had heard, from the beginning. This phrase, from the beginning, being here put in conjunction with some act of theirs, ye had, or have heard, as also 2Jo 2:5,6, shows it to intend a much later term of commencement than 1Jo 1:1. Though also, considering them as Jews, whom he here writes to, it might run up as high as the law given by Moses; or, even as men, to the creation, and the first impression of the law of nature (whereof this was a very noble part) upon the heart of man.

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you,.... Some understand this of faith, which this apostle calls a commandment, 1 John 3:23; but it rather intends the commandment of love, especially to the brethren, of which the apostle says the same things as here in his second epistle, 1 John 2:5; and this sense agrees both with what goes before and follows after, and is a considerable branch of the commandments of Christ to be kept, and of walking as he walked; and the word "brethren", prefixed to this account, may direct to, and strengthen this sense, though the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions read, "beloved"; and so the Alexandrian copy, and others: and this commandment is said to be not a new one,

but an old commandment, which ye had from the beginning; it being in its original a part of the eternal law of truth, founded upon the unalterable nature and eternal will of God, who is love itself, and requires it in all his creatures; being what was written on Adam's heart in a state of innocence, and a branch of the divine image stamped upon him; and is what was delivered in the law of Moses, for love to God and men is the sum and substance of that; and was taught by Christ and his apostles from the beginning of the Gospel dispensation; and was what these saints had been acquainted with, and influentially instructed in from their first conversion, being taught of God in regeneration to love one another; so that this was no novel doctrine, no upstart notion, no new law, but of the greatest and most venerable antiquity, and therefore to be regarded in the most respectful manner.

The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning; or this ancient law of love is contained in, and enforced by that word or doctrine which was delivered from the beginning of time; and which these saints had heard of, concerning the seed of the woman's bruising the serpent's head, which includes the work of redemption and salvation by Christ, atonement by his sacrifice, forgiveness of sin through his blood, and justification by his righteousness, than which nothing can more powerfully engage to love God, and Christ, and one another; and which is also strongly encouraged by the word of God and Gospel of Christ, which they had heard, and had a spiritual and saving knowledge of, from the time they were effectually called by the grace of God: the phrase, "from the beginning", is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and others, and in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions; it is omitted in both clauses of the text in the latter.

{6} Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.

(6) The apostle expounding the commandment of charity towards one another, tells first that when he urges holiness, he brings no new idea of life (as they use to do who devise traditions one after another) but reminds them of that same law which God gave in the beginning, that is, by Moses, at the time that God began to make laws for his people.

1 John 2:7. ἀγαπητοί] Such a form of address does not necessarily indicate the commencement of a new section, but is also used when the subject of the discourse is intended to be brought home to the hearers or readers; this is the case here.

οὐκ ἐντολὴν καινὴν γράφω ὑμῖν] certainly does not mean: “I do not write to you of a new commandment;” neither, however: “I write (set) before you” (Baumgarten-Crusius); for γράφειν has not this signification; it simply means: to write; when connected with an object, as here, it is = to communicate or announce anything by writing; comp. chap. 1 John 1:4. The subject of his writing the apostle calls an ἐντολή; it is arbitrary to take the word here in a different meaning from that which it always has; thus Rickli: “the whole revelation of divine truth as it has been brought to us in Jesus Christ”[102] (similarly Flacius, Calovius, etc.); and Ebrard: “the announcement, that God is light, chap. 1 John 1:5;” ἘΝΤΟΛΉ means “commandment;” this idea must not be confounded with any other. Most of the commentators (Augustin, Bede, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Luther, Calvin, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette-Brückner, Neander, Sander, Erdmann, Myrberg, Ewald, etc.) understand by it, according to 1 John 2:9-11, the commandment of brotherly love; others, on the other hand (Socinus, Episcopius, Calovius, Schott, Lücke, Fritzsche, Frommann, etc.), according to 1 John 2:6, the commandment of following Christ. These two views seem to be opposed to one another, but they really are so only if we assume that John here wants to emphasize a single special commandment—in distinction from other commandments. This supposition, however, is erroneous; the command to keep the commandments (or the word) of God after the example of Christ, or to walk in the light, is no other than the command to love one’s brother. From chap. 1 John 1:5 on, John is speaking not of different commandments, but of the one general commandment of the Christian life which results from the truth that God is light. It is to this commandment that reference is made when John, in order to bring it home to his readers, says: ΟὐΚ ἘΝΤΟΛῊΝ ΚΑΙΝῊΝ ΓΡΆΦΩ ὙΜῖΝ, so that by ἘΝΤΟΛΉ he does not indicate a commandment which he then for the first time is about to mention, but the commandment which he has already spoken of in what precedes (only not merely in 1 John 2:6), but defines more particularly in what follows, namely, in regard to its concrete import.[103] Of this commandment John says, that it is not an ἐντολὴ καινή;[104] in what sense he means this, the following words state: ἈΛΛʼ ἘΝΤΟΛῊΝ ΠΑΛΑΙΆΝ, ἫΝ ΕἼΧΕΤΕ ἈΠʼ ἈΡΧῆς; it is not new, but old, inasmuch as his readers did not first receive it through this writing, but already had it, and indeed ἈΠʼ ἈΡΧῆς, i.e. from the very beginning of their Christian life; comp. chap. 1 John 3:11; 2 John 1:5-6; and, for the expression ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, 1 John 2:24 (Calvin, Beza, Socinus, Episcopius, Piscator, Hornejus, Lange, Rickli, Lücke, de Wette-Brückner, Sander, Neander, Besser, Düsterdieck, Erdmann, Myrberg, Ewald, Braune, etc.). The imperfect ΕἼΧΕΤΕ, instead of which we should expect the present, either refers back to the time before John had come to his readers, or is to be explained: “which ye hitherto already had.” The latter is the more probable. Some commentators weaken this interpretation, which is demanded by the context, and hold that John calls the commandment (namely, “the commandment of love”) an old one, because it was already given by Moses; thus Flacius, Clarius, etc.; the Greek commentators even go beyond that, and refer it at once to this, that it was written from the very beginning in the heart of man;[105] the latter Baumgarten-Crusius maintains, and says: “here, therefore, the ethics of Christianity are represented as the eternal law of reason,” in which he explains ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς “from the beginning of the history of man,” and regards “ye as men” as the subject of εἴχετε.

ἡ ἐντολὴ ἡ παλαιά ἐστιν ὁ λόγος ὃν ἠκούσατε] This addition serves for a more particular definition of the preceding; ἡ παλαιά is repeated in order to accentuate this idea more strongly. By εἴχετε it was only stated that the readers were in possession of the commandment; now the apostle defines it more particularly in this respect, that it is the word (not: “the chief substance of the word,” de Wette) which they had heard (comp. 1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:11; 1 John 4:3), which, therefore, was proclaimed unto them (comp. chap. 1 John 1:2-3), namely, by the apostolic preaching. The clause is therefore not to be taken, as Baumgarten-Crusius holds, as a correction of γράφω: “not by him was it first given; it is from the beginning of Christianity, the λόγος, ὃν ἠκούσατε, namely, from Christ;” for ἠκούσατε does not refer directly to γράφω (Bengel), but to εἴχετε.[106] On the addition ἈΠʼ ἈΡΧῆς (Rec.) after ἠκούσατε, which Ewald regards as genuine, see the critical notes.

[102] Ebrard wrongly maintains that ἐντολή is “a truth including directly in itself practical requirements.” Only the practical requirements contained in a truth can be—when regarded as a unity—called ἐντολή, but not the truth which contains them in itself. It is true the demand of faith in the message of salvation may be described as ἐντολή, but not the message of salvation itself; here, however, the context forbids us to take the expression in that sense (as Weiss), since neither in what precedes nor in what immediately follows is there a demand for faith expressed.

[103] This view is in accordance with that of Düsterdieck, who rightly remarks: “The solution of the problem lies in this, that the holy command to walk as Christ walked, fully and essentially resolves itself into the command of brotherly love;” it is also accepted by Braune. The objection of Brückner, that brotherly love is only a principal element, and not the complete fulfilment of following Christ, can only be regarded as valid if brotherly love is not viewed in its full, complete character; comp. John 13:34, and also the statement of the Apostle Paul: πλήρωμα νόμου ἡ ἀγάπη, Romans 13:10.—The instances adduced by Ebrard against the reference to brotherly love can only have any force if the commandment which prescribes this is distinguished, as a special one, from the command to walk in light.

[104] Certainly what John here says reminds us of the statement of Christ in John 13:34; nor can it be denied that John was here thinking of that, as well as in the passage 2 John 1:5; but from this it does not follow that οὐκ ἑντολ. καιν. γράφω ὑμῖν does not refer to what precedes, but only to what comes after (ver. 9).

[105] In the scholia of Matthaei it is thus put: εἰ μὲν Ἰουδαίοις ταῦτα γράφει, εἰκότος, τὴν περὶ ἀγάπης ἐντολὴν οὐ καινὴν εἶναι φησί. πάλαι γὰρ αὐτὴν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν ἐπηγγείλατο. Εἰ δὲ οὐκ Ἰουδαῖοι ἦσαν, μήποτʼ οὖν ἐντολὴ παλαιάἐστὶν ἡ κατὰ τὰς φυσικὰς ἐννοίας φιλικὴ διάθεσις, πάντες γὰρ φύσει ἥμερα καὶ κοινωνικὰ ζῶα ὄντες ἀγαπῶσι τοὺς πλησίον.—Oecumenius and Theophylact combine the two together, holding that the Epistle was addressed to Jewish and Gentile Christians.

[106] Wolf assumes a peculiar antithesis between the two sentences: Ratio fortassis aliqua reddi possit, cur ἔχειν et ἀκούειν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς sibi invicem subjungantur. Prius enim ad illos spectaverit, qui ex Judaeis ad Christum conversi erant; illi enim jam ante praeceptum hoc de amore mutuo ex lege Mosis et prophetis cognitum habebant; posterius respiciet ex-Gentiles, qui idem inter prima evangelicae doctrinae praecepta acceperant; this amounts, partly, if not altogether, to what the Greek commentators adduce for explanation of the expression παλαιά. The arbitrariness of such an antithesis is self-evident.

1 John 2:7-11. A more particular statement of the nature and import of τηρεῖν τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ or of περιπατεῖν καθὼς ἐκεῖνος περιεπάτησε.

1 John 2:7-11. A New Meaning in an Old Commandment. “Beloved, it is no new commandment that I am writing to you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye heard. Again, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you—a thing which is true in Him and in yon, because the darkness is passing away and the light, the true light, is already shining. He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother is in the darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no stumbling-block in his way; but he that hateth his brother is in the darkness, and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not where he is going, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.”

St. John has lately discovered the supremacy of Love in the Christian revelation (see Introd. pp. 157 f.). His imperfect realisation of this has been the defect of his teaching hitherto, and he would now repair it: “It is not a new commandment that I am writing to you; it is part of the Gospel which I have been preaching to you all along. But I have never adequately understood it, and therefore it is new to your ears as it is to my heart.”

7. Brethren] The true reading is Beloved. This form of address is specially suitable to this section (1 John 2:7-11), in which the subject of love appears. In the second part of the Epistle, in which love is the main topic, this form of address becomes the prevailing one (1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:21, 1 John 4:1; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:11).

I write no new commandment] The order of the Greek is worth keeping: not a new commandment do I write. What commandment is meant? To imitate Christ (1 John 2:6)? Or, to practise brotherly love (1 John 2:9-11)? Practically it makes little matter which answer we give, for at bottom these are one and the same. They are different aspects of walking in the light. But a definite command of some kind is meant, not vaguely the whole Gospel: had he meant the latter, S. John would rather have said ‘the word’ or ‘the truth’. See on 1 John 2:11.

from the beginning] As already noticed on 1 John 1:1, the meaning of ‘beginning’ must always depend upon the context. Several interpretations have been suggested here, and all make good sense. (1) From the beginning of the human race: brotherly love is an original human instinct. Christian Ethics are here as old as humanity. (2) From the beginning of the Law: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Leviticus 19:18) was commanded by Moses. Christian Ethics are in this only a repetition of Judaism. (3) From the beginning of your life as Christians: this was one of the first things ye were taught. On the whole this seems best, especially as we have the aorist, which ye heard, not the perfect, as A. V., ye have heard (see on 1 John 2:18): comp. 1 John 2:24 and especially 1 John 3:11; 2 John 1:5-6. The second ‘from the beginning’ is not genuine.

7–11. Love of the Brethren

7–11. Walking in the light involves not only fellowship with God and with the brethren (1 John 1:5-7), consciousness and confession of sin (1 John 1:8-10), obedience by imitation of Christ (1 John 2:1-6), but also love of the brethren. In nothing did Christ more express the Father’s Nature and Will than by His love: therefore in obeying the Father by imitating Christ we also must love. “This whole Epistle which we have undertaken to expound to you, see whether it commendeth aught else than this one thing, charity. Nor need we fear lest by much speaking thereof it come to be hateful. For what is there to love, if charity come to be hateful?” (S. Augustine). Comp. 1 John 3:10, 1 John 4:7.

1 John 2:7. Ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, from the beginning) the time when you first heard the Gospel of Christ: 1 John 2:24, ch. 1 John 3:11.—ὁ λόγος, the word) 1 John 2:5.—ὃν ἠκούσατε, which ye heard) John did not deem it necessary to repeat this word, as already known. He frequently says, ye have heard, for they had heard, before even the apostles wrote.

Verses 7-28. -

(2) Negative side. What walking in the light excludes; the things and persons to be avoided - hatred of a brother, love of the world, antichrists. To this section verses 7, 8 form an introduction, as chapter 1 John 1:5, 7 to the positive side. Verse 7. - Beloved; ἀγαπητοί, not ὀδελφοί, is the true reading. Addresses of this kind commonly introduce a fresh division of the subject, main or subordinate. Thus ἀγαπητοί (1 John 4:1, 7); τεκνία (1 John 2:1); παιδία (1 John 2:18); ἀδελφοί (1 John 3:13). Sometimes, however, they introduce an earnest conclusion (1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:21; 1 John 5:21). In 1 John 4:11 ἀγαπητοί introduces a conclusion which serves as a fresh starting-point. Not a fresh commandment do I write to you, but an old commandment. Where it can be conveniently done, it is worth while distinguishing καινός, "fresh," as opposed to "worn out," "obsolete," from νέος, "new," as opposed to "old, aged." "New wine must be put into fresh skins" (Mark 2:22). Are two commandments meant - one to cultivate brotherly love, the other to walk as Christ walked? Or is there only one, which from different points of view may be regarded as either new or old? Commentators are divided; but the latter seems better. Then what is the commandment which is at once new and old? The whole gospel, or the command to love one another? John 13:34 and John 15:2 will incline us to the latter view. The command was old, for" Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18) was part of the Mosaic Law. But the standard was new: "Even as I loved you;" "Even as he also walked;" and the motive was new: because "God so loved us" (1 John 4:11). Brotherly love, enforced by such an example, and based on such a fact, was a new command as compared with the cold injunction of the Law. From the beginning may have either of two senses:

(1) from of old, i.e., long before the Gospel;

(2) from the beginning of your career as Christians. This new and yet old command sums up the practical side of the gospel which had been preached to them from the first. The second ἀπ ἀρχῆς it spurious. 1 John 2:7Brethren (ἀδελφοὶ)

The correct reading is ἀγαπηοί beloved. The first occurrence of this title, which is suggested by the previous words concerning the relation of love.

No new commandment (οὐκ ἐντολὴν καινὴν)

The Rev., properly, places these words first in the sentence as emphatic, the point of the verse lying in the antithesis between the new and the old. On new, see on Matthew 26:29.

Old (παλαιὰν)

Four words are used in the New Testament for old or elder. Of these γέρων and πρεσβύτερος refer merely to the age of men, or, the latter, to official position based primarily upon age. Hence the official term elder. Between the two others, ἀρχαῖος and παλαιός, the distinction is not sharply maintained. Ἁρχαῖος emphasizes the reaching back to a beginning (ἀρχή) Thus Satan is "that old (ἀρχαῖος) serpent," whose evil work was coeval with the beginning of time (Revelation 7:9; Revelation 20:2). The world before the flood is "the old (ἀρχαῖος) world" (2 Peter 2:5). Mnason was "an old (ἀρχαῖος) disciple;" not aged, but having been a disciple from the beginning (Acts 21:16). Sophocles, in "Trachiniae," 555, gives both words. "I had an old (παλαιὸν) gift," i.e., received long ago, "from the old (ἀρχαίου) Centaur." The Centaur is conceived as an old-world creature, belonging to a state of things which has passed away. It carries, therefore, the idea of old fashioned: peculiar to an obsolete state of things.

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.


The commandment of love. Compare John 13:34. This commandment is fulfilled in walking as Christ walked. Compare Ephesians 5:1, Ephesians 5:2.

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