1 John 2:7-11
Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning…
I. BROTHERLY LOVE IS AN OLD COMMANDMENT (ver. 7) This verse is often represented as though it referred to what the apostle had before said, and not to that which he was about to utter. To me it seems clear that he speaks by anticipation. He adopts a manner of writing which suggests the introduction of a new topic — "Brethren, I write (or am about to write) no new commandment." Besides, brotherly love is a subject of which such a declaration might with great propriety be made. In making it the apostle imitates the example of his beloved Master, when, in His memorable Sermon on the Mount, He warned His hearers against supposing He was introducing any new doctrine (Matthew 5:17). Brotherly love was no novelty. It arose of necessity out of the relation in which men stood to God and to one another. He was their Creator and they were brethren. Brotherly love was the doctrine of the Old Testament as well as of the New. It need not be added how powerfully these views are enforced when men are regarded as the subjects of grace. They become thus doubly the children of God and brethren one of another.
II. YET THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH IT IS A NEW COMMANDMENT (ver. 8). The apostle delights to imitate his Master. He does so not only in his own conduct, but in his very manner of teaching. Of this there is an interesting example in the subject now before us. Of it Jesus said (John 13:34, 35). It is after this model John says of brotherly love, "A new commandment I write unto you." How is this saying to be understood? In one sense it was an old commandment, and in another it was new. It was old, necessarily arising out of the relation of men to one another, and required by the oldest revelation of the Divine will. But it was also new, as it was republished under the Christian economy. It should be more intense than it ever had been. It was hereafter to be formed on the model of Christ's love. It should be wider in extent as it should be deeper in feeling. Hitherto the Jew confined his regards to his own nation. But in future all such national and sectarian distinctions were to be done away. It should be as high in its motives and aspirations as it was deep in feeling and wide in extent. Both would bring it into fellowship with heaven. Thus it should become the badge of the Christian economy. Judaism had been distinguished by its formal ceremonies, but Christianity would be distinguished by its generous and enlarged catholicity. Taking hold of a few hearts it would bind them together as one man. Thus united, they would operate on the mass of society around them.
III. SUCH LOVE IS A REALITY, AND IS EXEMPLIFIED IN CHRIST AND IN THEM THAT ARE HIS (ver. 8) As for Christ, His whole life was one burning flame of holy love. And be it observed, all this is summed up by the apostle as an argument for brotherly love in us (Philippians 2:4-11). If we have the mind of Christ it is clear what that must be. A similar account may be given of His early disciples. Like their Master, they denied themselves that they might benefit others. How incredible the hardships they endured! This was the spirit that pervaded the early Church. No other could have sustained it in those days. It was full of the tenderest sympathy, the most ardent love, and the severest self-denial.
IV. IT OUGHT TO BE SO, CONSIDERING THE LIGHT WE ENJOY (ver. 8).
1. "The darkness is past."(1) The darkness of Judaism. It served its purpose.
(2) The darkness of heathenism. The address of the prophet has been made to us (Isaiah 60:1, 2).
(3) The darkness of unaided and perverted human reason (1 Corinthians 1:21).
2. "The true light now shineth."(1) The light of the Word shineth, "a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path."(2) The light of the spirit shineth (2 Corinthians 3:18).
(3) The light of ordinances now shineth, so that, as of old, of many places it may be said (Matthew 4:16).
(4) The light of Christ shineth (John 12:36). These are our privileges. What then must be our responsibilities?
V. THE APOSTLE'S ENFORCEMENT OF BROTHERLY LOVE BY A STRONG DENUNCIATION OF ITS VIOLATION AND A HIGH COMMENDATION OF ITS EXCELLENCE.
(James Morgan, D. D.)
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.