The Old And New Commandments
THE OLD AND NEW COMMANDMENT
1 John 2:7-11
Like many today, when John wrote this letter to these followers of Christ, there were a lot of people who claimed to be “in fellowship” with God.
- One of those groups of people were the Gnostics (Libertines, Antinomians, Docetists, Monastics, Denialists, the Cerenthians, Ascetics, Ebionites, and the Essenes).
- These people all claimed to have special insights into the mysteries of the spiritual realm…in fact, the term “Gnostic” comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means “to know.”
- And even though all these different sects of Gnostics had different ideas and philosophies, they all claimed to have fellowship with God.
- And their claims were confusing those who were followers of Christ, just as they do today.
So, John writes this letter to dispute their claims of fellowship; to clear up the confusion; and to tell us who really does have fellowship with God.
- In chapter 1:6 some of the Gnostics were saying that even though they walked in darkness they still had fellowship with God…and John says, “No you don’t!”
- In God there is no darkness and you cannot walk in darkness…you cannot live a life of sin and have fellowship with God.
Some other Gnostics, the Ascetics and Monastics, said that they were in fellowship with God because “they had no sin”; 1:8, 10.
- And John points out the error of that kind of thinking when he says, “If you say have no sin you deceive yourself and the truth is not in you…and not only that, if you say you have no sin you make God a liar and His word is not in you.”
- And, if you make God a liar there is no fellowship.
Then the Libertine Gnostics and the Antinomians said in chapter 2:4 that “You don’t have to keep God’s commandments to have fellowship with God…God doesn’t care about commandment keeping.”
- But John says, “Any one who does not keep God’s commandments is a liar and therefore, there is no fellowship with God.
Now, we come to the passage that was read; chapter 2: 7-11 and in these verses John is going to dispute another claim of fellowship by the Gnostics.
- So let’s look at this…and as we do let’s each one ask ourselves if we have fellowship with God…and if not what do we need to do to restore that fellowship.
- Let’s look at this starting in verse 7.
Now, John has just said that if you have fellowship with Him, you are going to keep His commandments.”
Vs. 7: Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you,
- This is kind of confusing; John says that he is not writing a “new” commandment…but an “old” commandment…but then on the other hand he is writing a “new” commandment…what is he talking about?
Notice the words “new”…in the Greek that is the word “Kainos” and that speaks of something “new in time…and new in kind.”
- So John is saying, “I am not giving you a brand new…something you never heard before commandment…I am giving you an old commandment which you have heard from the beginning.”
- But now even though it is “old”…even though you have heard this before…John says, “I am writing a new…new in time and new in kind…commandment.”
What is he talking about?
Well, first of all look at the commandment in verse 10:”The one who loves his brother…”
- That is the command…we are to “love our brother.”
- But what is “old and new” about that?
Well, look with me at John 13: 34.
- Jesus is speaking here to His disciples and He says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
- Here is the “new” commandment that John said was “old.”
Now, what makes this commandment so “new.” Let me show you.
- Look at Lev. 19: 18: ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.
- Notice how they were to “love their neighbor?”
- They were to “love their neighbor as they loved themselves.”
- This was the standard for the Law of Moses… it was based on self… and it was an inadequate standard for Christianity.
Go back now and look at the standard that Jesus sets forth in John 13:34.
- How are we to “love one another?” (As He loved us.) I am afraid that I sometimes leave this part out of it! “As He loved us”…that is a lot of love!
- Loving your neighbor in Lev. 19:18 is based on a “self” love…it was “self-centered, exploitive” but the new standard of love commanded by Christ is based on how He loves us.
The word for “love” is “agape” in the Greek and there is no “self” in it.
- Agape love is sacrificial. Just as Jesus put Himself on the altar for us, we are to do the same for each other.
- Agape love seeks the highest good of another person; regardless of what it costs you; and whether he deserves it or not; appreciates it or not; or accepts it or not. (That is how Christ loved us.)
The old love found in Lev. 19:18 was incomplete and faulty while the love found in John 13:34 is complete and perfect.
- This is why Jesus calls this a “new commandment.”
But John now says that he is writing an “old commandment which you have had from the beginning.”
- John is writing this 60-65 years after Christ gave this “new” commandment.
- So, the new commandment is old.
In fact, John says that they have had it from the “beginning”: from the beginning of what?
- The beginning of Christianity…they have had this from the time Christianity was born and they have heard it.
- So by the time John writes this, the “new” commandment that Jesus gave is old.
- But, in verse 8 it is still “new”…it is “new” compared to what the Law of Moses gave.
- And here we are 2000 years later and this commandment is still “new.”
- We are to “love each other just as Christ loves us.”
So let’s look at what John says again: Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you,
- Jesus not only ordered “love”, He lived it! It was manifested in Him.
- And it was also found in these Christians; Acts 4:32ff.
Jesus was and is the standard of love…and it is to be our standard also.
- Loving each other like Jesus loves us is our home base…
Now, look at the next part of the verse. John says, “…because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
- Where ever this “love”…the standard of love that loves like Jesus”…wherever that standard of love is being practiced the “darkness will pass away”…the selfish love will recede…and “true light (or the sacrificial love that Jesus manifested) will shine forth.”
- As one advances the other retreats.
- These brethren have been loving the way they are supposed to!
But what were the Gnostics doing? Well, look at vs. 9.
These brethren really needed to understand this and so do we. John says, The one who says he is in the light…
- It is not your talk that counts, it is your walk.
Vs. 9: The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.
- See the “until now?” The one who says he is in the light…who says he has fellowship with God and yet hates his brother…he has never been in the light!
- He has been in the darkness and still is!
- The man who hates is not a saved man.
- You cannot be “born again” on the platform of hatred!
Now verse 10: The one who loves (present indicative) his brother abides(present indicative) in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
- The one who “loves his brother just as the Lord loves us”…that one is in fellowship with God.
And do you see that phrase “there is no cause for stumbling in him?”
- If I love as I should…if I do what Jesus wants me to do…say the things that Jesus wants me to say…and be what Jesus wants me to be…
- If I am “walking in the light”…His principles guiding me…I will not stumble and I will not cause others to stumble either.
Vs. 11: But the one who 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.
- Now, based off of what John says in verses 10 and 11, what was it the Gnostics said they could do and still have fellowship with God? (Hate each other).
Now, why would a Gnostic hate his brother?
- We could go into that. But the most important question is, why would anyone who is a follower of Christ hate his brother?
- Suggestions: Skin Color; political preference; differences in personality; social standing.
- Jealousy is always a big factor in hatred (knowledge, success, wealth, influence (the reason some hated Jesus).
- Done wrong or a perceived wrong?
The Gnostics had two different categories of people: the Psukoi or soul people and the Pneumatoi or spirit people.
- They called themselves this because they claimed to have been illuminated…they claimed esoteric knowledge…some things were revealed to them that wasn’t revealed to others…they were visionaries…they had a special knowledge.
- And they were proud of their knowledge…in fact, they were so proud of their knowledge that they put themselves over and above others.
- As Paul says in the Corinthian letter…”their knowledge had puffed them up.”
But then there was another category of people…this was the Sarkoi…the flesh people…people without this special illumination…this special knowledge…
- The ignorant…the stupid.
- Anyone who would reject Gnostic illumination is a clod.
- Therefore, in their stupidity the Sarkoi would be hard to love.
- So the Gnostics didn’t.
- They hated others…and they often hated each other…because “I know so much…and I know this…and that guy over there just thinks he knows…”
- And so the jealousy…and the arrogance…caused these Gnostics to hate each other…and yet they claimed they had fellowship with God.
- And the problem was…they had influenced some of these Christians to perhaps believe the same thing…
- And John says, “IF you don’t love your brother…just as Christ loves you…there is no fellowship with God.”
So, how is our fellowship with God?
- Do you or I have a brother or sister in Christ that we hate…or don’t love like we should?
- I have heard some of my brothers and sisters in Christ say, ”I just can’t stand so and so…”
- Like Christ, toward each of us, we may not like what they do sometime…but again, like Christ, we must love them.
We are not going to love as perfectly as He loved.
- We each will have occasions of selfishness.
- But we get credit for our direction of walk.
Let’s show the world that we are all disciples of Christ by loving each other the way our Lord loves us.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023