1 John 2:7–11 (NKJV)
7 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. 8 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. 9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 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.
By no means am I antinomian, meaning without law, specifically without the Law. I am however new covenant, believing Christ established the new covenant upon his own word, death, and resurrection (Matt 26:28, 2 For 3:6, Heb 8:13, Heb 9:15). I bring this up because John is writing about a commandment with some initial conflicting terminology. Is there a new commandment or not? This seems to be the question that most come away with when reading this section of scripture.
John again uses a term of relational endearment to cause the readers to pay attention. How much more do we listen when a friend or family member looks us in the eye and addresses us compared with a stranger in the parking lot saying, “Hey, you!” This familial term not only continues in the whole book but in its immediate context to show not only individual deception, but also leaders and corporate deception within the local church body.
John tells them that this is not a “new commandment” but the same thing he has been preaching which they embraced prior to this letter. So what is the old commandment that John had been preaching. We can’t see the true meaning till we go on in verse 8. Here is where John seems to cause confusion, because he says he is writing a new commandment. So which is it? Hold on a little while longer. Read the rest of this passage. We see some descriptors that give light upon this “new commandment.”
This “new commandment” is…
- True in Christ
- True in the audience of this letter
- Has been addressed because the darkness is passing away
- Has been addressed because the true light is already shining
So what is John saying??? This is enough to make you pull your hair out!!! Aargh!!! So here is a quick commercial so to speak. You won’t know the Word of God if you don’t read it. Please try to read through the Bible each year, besides your devotional or personal study endeavors. Second, our brains are limited in memory and recall, sometimes better, sometimes for the worse. Bible software programs for your cell phones, tablets, laptops or desktops ease this necessity to cross reference passages, topics, and verses with a few pushes of a button or key stroke. There are free and paid options. So consider it a spiritual investment for your growth and the edification of others…that is what I tell my wife…don’t tell her I said it though…
When we read verses 9-11, the introduction of the light motif can bring confusion to greater depths. Take a breath, it is not as confusing. Verses 9-11 are the working out, the display, the observation of the effects of the new commandment and the relationship with the True Light who is Christ. John has brought two passages he has written in his gospel to bear upon the audience to consider.
First, he brings up the new commandment. John 13:34–35 says, “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus speaking addresses a new commandment which is actually a fresh perspective of an existing commandment in Leviticus 19:18. It goes beyond loving your neighbor, to loving one another as Christ loved his disciples. This love would be evident to those who aren’t even in the church.
This old commandment is the same message that Christ taught to love another, and John was brushing it off in exhortation reminding this local body of believers to continue within it. This commandment of love was continuously and currently evident in the life of Christ, and was with in the receivers of this epistle or letter. So critical is this aspect of loving others that John ties it to this second concept of light.
This is where things can get tricky. Is “light” code word for love? I don’t think so. Here is why. First, John compares the passing darkness to the true light, not just light in general, but a specific true light. Second, John addresses this light motif in John 12. Jesus calls himself the light. It reads,
John 12:34–36 (NKJV)
34 The people answered Him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
It is glaringly obvious from the text that Jesus is referring to himself as the light. John continues this theme here in 1 John 2, but refers to Jesus as the true light. Verse 10 is the thesis of these few verses. Relationship with Christ produces brotherly love. As verse 9 addresses, inconsistency of confession and lifestyle reveal the lack of true relationship with the True Light. In fact it tells us that one is walking (living) in darkness.
Of scarier note is that twice “darkness” is used with the definitive “the” denoting a specific darkness. This darkness is not the simplicity of ignorance or sin, but something much greater. John likely is discussing two things. First it is the nondescript darkness of willing ignorance, selfishness, and rebellion. Second, the darkness is the demonic system of this world. John 1:5, 11, and Eph 6:12 also address spiritual “darkness.” There are many other references to darkness, the darkness, and of darkness. All the definitions allude to aspects of sinful behavior but also spiritual deception of the enemy.
Ultimately the intent of what John is saying in our passage is a warning that we are serving the kingdom of darkness and our flesh in rebellion to God based on our own dead works of selfishness, arrogance, and bitterness. To say that we are followers or disciples of Christ yet hate brothers and sisters in our church is lying…We may be believers but we aren’t followers nor disciples…
So as John documents the admonition to the Ephesian church in the book of Revelation, don’t lose your first love and light whom is Christ so that you will love others and not walk in darkness…Focus on Christ’s work not your failures…Just a few thoughts…