1 John 2:7-11
Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning…
He had been telling them that they were to keep the commandments if they would know God. Now those people who boasted that they had discovered quite another road to the knowledge of God than this had an especial dislike to the Old Testament. So they would be sure to turn upon him and say, "The commandments! What commandments do you mean? Not those old commandments, surely, which were given to the Jews! You would not bring us back to the law, would you?" He faces them boldly. "I do mean those old commandments," he says; "I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. I mean, distinctly, that I look upon those old commandments, if they were faithfully kept, as a way to the knowledge of God." But how? He does not say for a moment that a person merely regarding the commandments as written on stone could keep them. But he says, "The old commandment is the Word which ye have heard from the beginning." Here is the secret of the whole matter. The commandments were a "word" proceeding from a living God; a "word" addressed to the hearts of human beings. As long as the commandments were looked at only as written and graven in stone they belonged to Israelites. When they were regarded as the words proceeding from the Word which was from the beginning it was intelligible how God had been speaking to other nations; how, though they had not the law, they did by nature the things contained in the law; how they showed the work of the law written in their hearts; how they, as well as the Jews, might seek by patient continuance in well-doing for glory, honour, and immortality. But was there nothing gained by this revelation of the Word in the flesh, by this gospel of His life? Was it not a good thing to be born under the New Testament instead of the Old? "Again," says St. John, "a new commandment I write unto you; which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." He is a teacher of progress much more truly than those who treated all the past as worthless or evil. He had brought forth a new commandment, not inconsistent with the old, scarcely an addition to it, rather the very essence of it, which yet it was unable to express. "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now." What was there new in this statement? There was nothing new in the commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." That was old; that St. Paul declares, that St. John declares, that our Lord declares, is implied in all the commandments. Men knew that they ought not to hate their neighbours; that is, men who dwelt near them, who belonged to their own tribe or nation; however often they might do it in spite of their knowledge. The code could not bid them to do more than this. We may say it boldly, no mere code can. But there must be a bond between man and man; there must be a power to make that bond effectual, or the law concerning neighbours will be most imperfectly heeded. The revelation of Christ explains the secret. When He came forth, when His light shone upon men, then it was seen that there is a common Brother of Men; of men, I say, not of Israelites merely. He is the Universal Brother. "Therefore," says John, "this thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is past and the true light now shineth." As if He had said, "Now we are come into a new and higher state; the state not only of neighbourhood but of brotherhood." Are we no more under an obligation? Nay, verily, we come under a new commandment, under a wider and deeper obligation. It is a sin; a sin which punishes itself. For to hate a brother is to walk in darkness. It is to hide ourselves from Him who is our great common brother. It is to live as if the Lord had not appeared. For us to hate our brother — to hate any man — is nothing less than to deny the man, the Son of Man; the common light of men. For us to love our brother is nothing less than to walk in the light of Christ's presence, nothing less than to be free from all occasion and danger of stumbling. "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him."
(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.