Pastor David B. Curtis

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The Old New Commandment

(1 John 2:7-11)

Delivered 6/30/19

We are continuing our study of the Epistle of 1 John. I understand this book as John writing to enable believers to appreciate and deepen their fellowship with Yahweh. Joy is a by-product of fellowship with Christ. The more you fellowship the greater your joy.

The section we began last week (2:3-11) contains three claims to intimate knowledge of God, expressed by the three Greek participles, "whoever says" at the beginning of verses 4, 6, and 9. Each of these participles reflects, directly or indirectly, what the author believed the secessionists falsely claimed, and is followed either by a direct rebuttal or by a counterstatement. We looked at two of these "Whoever says" statements last week.

Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 1 John 2:4 ESV

The behavior of the secessionists is depicted as ongoing disobedience to God's commands. We see here that knowing God and keeping His commandments are inextricably linked. John states that keeping His commandments is one way that we know that we know Him.

This verse has caused much debate causing questions like: do we obey the ten commandments? Do we obey the Pentateuch, Genesis to Deuteronomy? Do we obey the Levitical Laws, and the rituals and ceremonies of the Old Covenant? What commandments are we to keep? Notice what Yeshua said:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18 ESV

What does Yeshua mean by "the Law"? The use of the terms "the Law" and "the Prophets" indicates that what the Lord is speaking of in these verses is the whole of the Tanakh. If you trace these terms through your Bible, you will find that wherever this expression is used it includes the entire Tanakh.

What is an "iota or dot"? The word "iota" in form was like an apostrophe, not even a letter, not much bigger than a dot. The "dot" is the little projecting part at the foot of a letter, the little line at each side of the foot of, for example, the letter "t." The message is clear. Not even the smallest part of the Law will be abolished until heaven and earth passes away.

The phrase "untill heaven and earth pass away" refers to the duration of the Tanakh's authority. So, Yeshua is saying that not a single item of the Law - the Tanakh - will ever be changed until heaven and earth pass away. Is that what Yeshua said? So let me ask you, If heaven and earth has not passed away, When is the last time you offered up a burnt offering? Let's say that you wanted to, and you had the animal for the sacrifice; where would you find a priest? Let me ask you, "How many of you have ever observed the feasts?" To not keep these feasts is to sin. This is either binding on us or what? Heaven and earth have passed away.

How many of you did some work yesterday? You're in sin and should be put to death, or this doesn't apply to us because heaven and earth passed away. If we understand heaven and earth in that passage to be physical, then the Law is still in affect, and we are all in big trouble. If we understand heaven and earth as figurative, then it is possible that they have passed along with the Law. The passing away of heaven and earth is another way to speak of the end of the Old Covenant. A person who is familiar with the phraseology of the Tanakh, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a New Earth and New Heavens.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Matthew 24:35 ESV

Believers, we are to live by the words of Yeshua, which will never pass away. Yeshua consummated the New Covenant at His Second Coming in AD 70. The old is passed away, and we live in the New Covenant age. So, the commandments that John talks about are the commands of Christ.

Last week we also looked at the second "whoever says" participle in:

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:6 ESV

We said last week that this abiding language comes from John 15 where Yeshua tells those who are clean, believers, to abide in Him. It is something that believers are commanded to do, which means it is something different from salvation.

We saw last week that "abides in Him" means exactly the same thing as being in fellowship with Him (1:4), walking in His light (1:7), keeping His commandments 2:3, "knowing Him" in 2:4, being "in Him" 2:5. They are all one and the same experience. Almost all agree that these terms are all synonymous. But most will say they are synonymous for salvation. But I would say that having fellowship with Him, knowing Him, and abiding in Him, it's all the same, they are all synonyms for having a close, intimate relationship with Him.

In 2:3-6 John spoke of obedience to the commandments in general as the way we test ourselves to see if we are in fellowship with Him. Then, in 2:7-11, John goes on to apply this test of obedience more specifically to the area of love. If Yeshua's life and especially His death epitomized love, then those who claim to abide in Him are obligated to live in love.

In verses 7 and 8 John addresses his readers directly and writes about the new commandment. These verses are transitional, moving the readers from the general requirement of obedience to God's commands (2:3-6) to the specific obligation to love fellow believers (2:9-11).

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. 1 John 2:7 ESV

Here John writes, "Beloved I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment." And then in the very next verse he writes, "At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you," The fact that John begins to talk about love and hate in verses 9-11 suggests that the commandment in view in verses 7 and 8 is the love commandment from John 13:34. Notice what John writes in:

And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 2 John 1:5 ESV

The language is very much like verse 7 of our text, but here the commandment is quoted. So, we know that the commandment of 1 John 2:7-8, which in some sense is new and old, is the commandment of love which Yeshua gave to His disciples, namely, "Love one another as I have loved you."

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. John 13:34 ESV

So Yeshua says it's a new command and so does John in verse 8 so how does John say it is old in verse 7? Many years later when the author reminded his community of this command it was no longer new, but familiar and hence old, committed to them since the beginning.

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. 1 John 2:7 ESV

"Beloved"—John often calls his readers by affectionate terms. This term was used by the Father to refer to Yeshua at His baptism and transfiguration. It is a common designation of the saved in John's letters (cf. 1 John 3:2,21; 4:1,7,11; and 3 John 1,2,5,11.

If you have the KJV or Young's Literal they have "brother" following the Textus Receptus. "Beloved" is supported by the uncial Greek manuscripts (, A, B, C, P, and the Vulgate, Peshitta, Coptic, and Armenian versions [see Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary On the Greek New Testament, p. 708].

"I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment"the command to love one another was nothing new; Yahweh taught the Israelites this in:

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18 ESV

You could sum up the Old Covenant Law in two commands: 1. Love God; and 2. Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10).

"But an old commandment that you had from the beginning"—what beginning is he talking about? This is an imperfect active indicative, which refers to the hearer's first encounter with the Gospel message. So "the beginning" in view is the beginning of their Christian life when they first The Word. This is confirmed in 2:24:

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 1 John 2:24 ESV

John is not imposing some novel obligation upon his readers, but only recalling them to what they have known from the very beginning of their Christian walk.

"The old commandment is the word that you have heard"—I think that John stresses that this is an old commandment because the Docetists, the false teachers were parading their new knowledge as a NEW revelation. They claimed to have some "new" truths. John counters them by saying that we don't need new truth, but rather the old truth that we learned early in our Christian experience.

John's message and emphasis is one that has been "from the beginning" and does not represent a doctrinal innovation, as the teaching of the opponents does. This commandment is old in comparison to the innovative teaching of the opponents who have not remained in the apostolic teaching, but have "gone on ahead" (2 John 9), becoming "progressives" in a bad sense.

John was teaching them what Jude called "the faith that was once delivered to the saints":

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 1:3 ESV

"The faith that was once for all delivered to the saints"—the original text puts it, "Once for all delivered to the saint's faith." "Once for all" is the Greek word hapax, which refers to something done for all time with lasting results, never needing repetition. The Christian faith, the Gospel in its entirety, in its completeness was in the past one time entrusted to the saints. There's no new faith, and this is why there's no new revelation. The Christian faith was deposited through the apostles and those who worked with them in the first century.

To anyone or any school of thought or any group that teaches there is something missing in our understanding of Christianity, Scripture says they are wrong. The faith that saves, the Gospel of Yeshua, was delivered in it's entirety "once." This destroys forever the view that there is any such thing as a latter day revelation or that God will add any additional revelation to what He has already revealed in the Bible.

Many have tried to come along since that time and make a claim that the original church missed something. The Judaizers and Gnostics made that claim. The Catholic Church has made that claim over the centuries and continues to make it today. Mormons make that claim; JW's make that claim; Christian Science makes that claim; many others have made that claim. But Scripture says that all we need to understand came through Yeshua and His apostles once for all. You need to be careful of anyone who comes along and says, 'I've something new to tell you that is not found in the Scripture.

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. 1 John 2:8 ESV

How can the author say, "I am not writing you a new command" (2:7), and then immediately afterwards say, "At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing you?" The clue to resolving this apparent contradiction is found in John 13:34, where Yeshua says:

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. John 13:34 ESV

As I said earlier the command to love is not new. What, then, is so different about our Lord's command here that He can call it "new?" The new part is "Just as I have loved you"—the sacrificial work of Yeshua on the cross of Calvary is the "new" standard for the Christian's love for fellow-believers. They had seen His love for them during His entire earthly ministry, and most recently in His washing of their feet; but they would only understand its depth through the Cross.

So, the "new command" of Yeshua was the "old command" for the author and his readers, and it was something his readers had heard long ago, when they first received the Gospel.

"Which is true in him and in you"—literally translated, the text would read: "which [thing] is true in Him and in you." The "thing" here must refer to the old/new command. So here, then, the author not only says that the old/new command is "true in Him" (referring to Yeshua) but also that it is true "in you" (referring to the readers).

The new commandment "is true" this is the Greek word alethes. The sense of althes demanded in this context is something like "truly expressed, revealed." Never has that love been so clearly manifest so as to be seen in its perfection as in Yeshua. So that's the point of the statement, "Which is true in Him." In other words, there is a level of understanding of the perfection of that love, which was never able to be understood by anybody until it was personified in Yeshua. Never has the world seen this perfect love until Yeshua showed it.

So, the new commandment is revealed in Christ and in Christians in this sense: Yeshua's obedience to His Father demonstrated it first, and Christians' obedience to God is demonstrating it now.

It is the fact that believers and Christ share together the same life that makes it possible for us to love another who may be difficult, disagreeable, or hard to live with. It is because the love of God is shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit, who is given unto us. That is the only way it can be done.

"Because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining"many see this as eschatological. Commenting on this Colin Kruse says,

"In 1 John the expression 'darkness' is found seven times (skotia 6×, and its synonym skotos 1×), and the various contexts in which it is found indicate that it stands for either sinful behaviour (1:5; 2:11) or the realm in which sinful behaviour predominates (1:6; 2:8, 9, 11). The darkness which the author here says is passing away is the realm in which sinful behaviour predominates, or what he later describes as 'the world and its sinful desires' (2:17). The darkness is passing away because the true light has begun to shine. The true light here is best understood to refer to Jesus Christ Himself. In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus Christ is the true light coming into the world which the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:4-9; cf. 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46), and there can be little doubt that 'the true light that is already shining' in 1 John 2:8 is a reference to Jesus Christ also, even though the explicit identification is not made.

When the author says the darkness is 'passing', he uses the verb parag. This is found a total of ten times in the NT, seven times (in the active voice) in the Gospels, where it always refers to someone passing by a person or a place (Matt 9:9, 27; 20:30; Mark 1:16; 2:14; 15:21; John 9:1), and three times elsewhere (once in the active voice and twice in the passive voice), where it refers to something passing away, that is, coming to an end. The first of these (intransitive, active voice) is in 1 Cor. 7:31, where it is 'the 'form of the world' that is said to be coming to an end, which in context means that the time has grown short and the end of the present evil age is drawing near. The second (transitive, passive voice) is here in 1 John 2:8, where it is 'the darkness' that is coming to an end, and the third (transitive, passive voice) is in 1 John 2:17, where it is 'the world and its desires' that will come to an end.

Using present tense verbs in 2:8, the author depicts both the passing away of the darkness and the shining of the true light as ongoing events. These concurrent ongoing events form the context in which the new/old command is finding its true expression in the readers."

So, he sees the darkness that is passing away to be the realm in which sinful behavior predominates. Which would be the Old Covenant age. This is very similar to what Paul said in:

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:10-12 ESV

"The night is far gone; and the day is at hand"—in the Second Temple period the Jews distinguish between two types of olam: olam hazeh (this world) and Olam Haba ("the world to come"). The "olam hazeh" or "this world" is characterized by darkness, wickedness, sin, and death. It is called "night." The "Olam Haba," or "the world to come," as it was called by the rabbis, was known as a time of joy, peace, light, eternity; it is known as "day."

He equates their salvation with the "day," which is referring to the New Covenant; the Old Covenant was night, and it was about to pass away. The rabbis connected the olam haba and the resurrection. The night is the time when they were sleeping. The day is when they are raised. What was passing away was the Old Covenant Age:

who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 2 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV

The Old Covenant Age, which was a ministry of death was coming to an end. That age would end at the return of Christ. This happened in AD 70.

who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, Galatians 1:4 ESV

The Old Covenant Age was an evil age, and age of darkness, and age of night. It was passing away in their time and completely passed away in AD 70.

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 1 John 2:9 ESV

This is the third and last of John's "Whoever says" statements. To say you are in the light while having an ongoing hatred (indicated by the use of the present tense of the verb "to hate" of fellow believers shows they are "still in the darkness."

The dictionary tells us that hate is "a feeling of extreme hostility or extreme dislike of another." I'm sure that we all know the feeling, this dislike, this aversion to someone, a sense of extreme hostility toward another. It can be expressed in two different ways. It can be active, in that we indulge in malicious talk or injurious actions toward another. But hate can also be expressed passively and still be hate. It can be expressed by indifference, by coldness, by isolation, by exclusion, unconcern for another. Someone has said that indifference is the cruelest form of hate.

Hatred of other Christians is a sure sign that one is not abiding in Christ. Obviously, genuine Christians have hated other Christians. If the Bible taught that feelings of hatred were a sure sign of an unsaved condition, then virtually no one in the whole church would be saved!

Commentators make comments here like, "In short, Loving one another is an essential mark of a true Christian." And, "Such an attitude of hostility, indifference or unconcern toward another is a mark of an unregenerate life." And "To be 'in the darkness' is to be unregenerated."

It is naïve to claim, as these expositors do, that the one who is hating must be an unbeliever. Notice that John says, "hates his brother." John regarded the "hater" and the "one hated" as brothers.

These claims to "know Him" (2:4), to "abide in Him" (2:6), and now to "be in the light" (2:9). All of these claims the author takes to be claims to intimacy with God, even the last, because, as 1:7 indicates, God is "in the light."

Again Yeshua spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 ESV

Notice that Yeshua didn't say, He who believes in Me will not walk in darkness. He said "whoever follows Me" will not walk in darkness. To follow Him is to be His disciple, to abide in Him.

Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 1 John 2:10 ESV

God Himself is described as "light" (1:5). We mentioned in the discussion of 1:5 that this involves the moral realm and constitutes a description of God's character as pure and completely sinless.

To abide in the light means to live with your life exposed and open to God's Word. You allow the Word to shine into the dark recesses of your mind, exposing and rooting out what is evil. John says that loving your brother is inseparable from abiding in the light. The life of Christ was one of self-sacrificing love; therefore, the proof of imitating Him is exhibited in love. Love is that which seeks the highest good in the one loved.

"In him there is no cause for stumbling"— "stumbling" is the Greek word skandalon, which is translated as the thing which causes stumbling in this verse. In the New Testament skandalon is found 15 times, always with the meaning of causing some sort of harm to a person. It could refer to something that constitutes a temptation to sin or an enticement to apostasy or false belief (cf. Rom 9:33; 1 Pet 2:8; Rev 2:14), and that fits the context here. The cause of "stumbling" is hatred in the heart. Hatred causes the hater to stumble in his or her walk with God.

Yeshua answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. John 11:9 ESV

To walk in the day is to walk in the light ,which is to love your brother.

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. 1 John 2:11 ESV

This repeats and expands what was said in 2:9. There is a present active participle [hates] followed by a present active indicative [walks].

Colin Kruse writes, "As noted above (see commentary on 2:8), in 1 John the expression 'darkness' stands for either sinful behaviour (1:5; 2:11) or the realm in which sinful behaviour predominates (1:6; 2:8, 9, 11). Here in 2:11 the word 'darkness' is used with both of these meanings."

The hater's sin affects him in three ways. It places him "in the darkness," outside of God's fellowship so he is not abiding in Christ. It leads to activity in which he is in great spiritual danger, and in which there is the possibility of a fall, the stumbling of verse 10. It also results in mental confusion:

So Yeshua said to them, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. John 12:35 ESV

The Christian who hates his brother loses his sense of spiritual direction in life—partially or totally. No course of life is more dangerous for a Christian than one that includes hatred toward another believer.

One commentator writes, "The plain meaning of verse 11 is that if you live for yourself with no regard for others, no self-sacrifice or willingness to be inconvenienced to meet others' needs, then you are not saved." The text doesn't say or imply this. Aren't we saved by faith? Does our lack of love remove our faith and our salvation? Verse 11 says, "whoever hates his brother is in the darkness." John sees the "hater" and the "one hated" as brothers. Hatred of other Christians is a sure sign that one is not abiding in Christ.

The Bible rates love at the pinnacle of virtues. Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, states:

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV

Hopefully, you see the importance of love. Before we quit this morning let's make sure we're on the same page as to what love is. We must define "love" biblically, not culturally. Our culture uses the word "love" to mean just about everything except what the Bible means by it. Culturally, if you mention the word "love," people think of a warm feeling toward someone. This is not Biblical love.

What Is Biblical Love?

Greek is a language which is rich in synonyms; its words often have shades of meaning, which English does not possess. In Greek there are four different words for love. There is the noun storge. This word speaks of the love of family. It is used of the love of a parent for a child and a child for a parent.

There is the noun eros. That word is used to describe erotic love, sensual love, what you feel when you "fall in love," a passionate attraction toward the opposite sex. That kind of love is not even mentioned in the Word of God.

And then there is phileo, which means: "affection, friendship, a feeling of tender affection toward someone else." It is used to describe a man's closest and nearest and truest friends.

The word John uses in our text is agapao. This Greek word was rarely used in Greek literature prior to the New Testament. In the New Testament, the word agape took on a special meaning; it was used by the New Testament writers to designate a volitional love (as opposed to a purely emotional love), a self-sacrificial love, a love naturally expressed by divinity, but not so easily by humanity. It seems as though the early Christian church took this word out of its obsoleteness and made it a characteristic word for love. Love is not a feeling, but an action. God loved and He gave His Son.

The command to "love one another" appears at least a dozen times in the New Testament: John 13:34; 15:9, 12, 17; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; and 2 John 5.

To live a life of loving others is to live in fellowship with Yahweh, it is to abide in Him and walk like He walked. If you hate a fellow Christian you are not walking as Christ walked and are in danger of discipline.

Continue the Series

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