The New Old Commandment
“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. 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 2:7-8
Check out last week’s sermon here.
It should not be a scandalous thought to have John tell us that the work of Jesus in a life produces actual change. In other words, people who are changed by the work of Jesus should not live lives that are opposed to Christ. Having a new Lord (almighty God) means rejecting the old lord (self).
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” – 1 John 2:9
It should also not be an oddity to see that the commands given us are not new but rooted in the very identity of our timeless God. The greatest needs for man have not evolved. Since Adam our great need has always been a fixed relationship with God (Romans 5:12).
God is Love
Many, from a misplaced understanding of God, view Him full of wrath in the Old Testament while tender and kind in the New Testament. Both assumptions are false. God has always been exceedingly loving and wrathful against sin. Only a humanistic view of God would box Him up and measure God’s actions as we do other flawed humans. If you read of God and respond, “That’s just not loving TO ME.” you likely have placed your wisdom above the God of the universe and become His judge—a deadly place to live.
“The LORD passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty,” – Exodus 34:6–7
“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.” – Micah 7:18
God’s Old Command to Love
Because God is, He is by definition the most desirable and truly worthy object of our affection. The call then to be like God, loving Him and the things that He loves, makes perfect sense. It would be foolish to think that God, whose nature is love, would not command love of those who are His. God in the Old Testament Law and Prophets proclaims time and again that we should love Him and love others.
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” – Deuteronomy 6:5–7
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart…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…You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself,” – Leviticus 19:17–18, 34
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
God’s New, Old Command to Love
Jesus’ command was foundational from the beginning (as John would say). He is speaking His command of old from its expression in the Law.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30–31
The Newness of Christ
Jesus was not saying a new commandment. The commandment to love God and man was foundational to God’s people. However, Jesus embodied something totally new and foretold from of old. Jesus was ushering in something the prophets looked for.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” – Jeremiah 31:31–34
God proclaimed through Jeremiah a coming day where the requirement to love God would be written on the hearts of His people. There would be a future peace between God and man based on a new covenant promise God would enact. God would initiate a restoration by causing His law (summed up in the command to love God and people) to be written on hearts. Moreso, God would forgive His people’s sins out of kindness.
Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s covenant promise to Jeremiah.
“[Jesus said]…for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” – Matthew 26:28
“[Jesus] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” – Hebrews 9:11–15
The New, Old Commandment
“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
The commandment to us through John is very old and founded in who God is. Yet, in Jesus the command is terrifically new and filled with hope. In Jesus, the commandment is in Christians. In Jesus the darkness of sin is being obliterated. Through Jesus the light of God is shining in the hearts of His people—a people who have been forgiven of all their sins.