1 John 2:7–11
Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
This sounds a bit clumsy in English. Is John writing a new commandment or not?
Both. The word translated as again (πάλιν “pah-lin”) carries a sense of “on the other hand.” John is writing an old command, but there’s a newness to it.
John explains the apparent contradiction by noting that the context is what has changed. The old command is effectively new because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
So, what is this old command now made new? Love.
And this isn’t about gooey sentimentality either. The word translated as loves (ἀγαπῶν aga-pone) means sacrificial love—putting another’s well-being above one’s own. Love your brother. Love your neighbor. Even love your enemy.
And, yes, Jesus was talking about this from the beginning.
Okay, but how is this related to light and darkness?
Acts of love are acts of light because they don’t need to be hidden, while hatred lives in the dark.
In fact, people tend to show off their acts of love. This opposite error is also condemned by Jesus.
So, the lesson gets more complex. Acts of love aren’t normally committed in the dark, but neither should they be spotlighted to our credit. The point of the love is the love.
This traces back to the single unifying point that everything traces back to—God’s glory. The purpose of X is God’s glory, no matter what X is. Charity is for God’s glory. Evangelism is for God’s glory. Even Jesus’s death on the cross was for God’s glory.
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, — John 17:1
Our acts of love are not to glorify ourselves; they are to glorify God.
We obey this new-old commandment for His glory, not ours.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.