7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
Reasons for Writing
12 I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
14 I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
John continues his letter in explaining our new life in Christ, should we actually be heirs. This new, yet old command he speaks of is the ultimate proof test that we are God’s children. How can we be sure that we are secure in our salvation? We must love God.
The old command John speaks of in verse 7 is found throughout the old testament, especially in correlation to the 10 commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” – Deuteronomy 6:5. Love is a choice, though you could compare this love with how you love your mother or father. You were born into your family, one that you did not choose, and given a mother and father to love you, and you love them back for that very reason. They are your parents, so you love them. It is a decision to love them, and to not stray from them, though if you stray you will always belong to them.
The same is true of our Heavenly Father. He has made us new creations in Him if we have been saved through faith in Christ. We cannot change it. We are now His children, and because of that we have a choice to make. We make the choice to love Him because of what He has done for us, though sometimes it can be painful. Just as watching an orphan is painful, it is painful to see those outside of ‘the family’. This is our mark of belonging to God, that we love Him.
How you show your love for Him is the topic of verse 8. This new command (new because it was not written in the Old Testament) is to live as Christ lived. He lived a sinless life because of His love for His Father. There is no reason to live a good life here on earth if you don’t love God. What is the point? If you hate Christ (who was God incarnate) then why show love to your neighbor? You will certainly not reap any rewards in the life after this one for just being nice. God does not care about how nice or good, or hospitable we are to strangers. He wants our hearts. If He doesn’t hold your heart, then you will perish apart from Him when you die.
There are only two options: love God because of Christ and live a life eternally with Him, or hate God and live a life eternally in His wrath. The simple fact that we have options at all is amazing. We are all deserving of eternal separation from Him because of our lives of sin. Just one sin is all it takes. Just one lie. Just one time of saying, “Oh my god” to express how stupid something is. You’ve just sinned.
John explains that showing love for someone, such as giving to the needy, does not equal love. What it equals is a desire to give to others to fulfill an inner need. However, giving to the needy out of love for God is something different. We should do these things because we love God and want to honor Him, not ourselves. It is an act of selflessness, not an act of pride. The only way to truly love your neighbor is to first love God.
Jesus expresses this same point in Matthew 6:2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Their reward is in this life, because the one to come will not be so wonderful. The life you live now is as close as you will ever get to Heaven if Christ is not the center of it.
This is why John finishes this section with a kind of poem. He writes to us, as God’s children, so we may see the love our Father has for us in that our sins are forgiven because of Christ. He writes to us, as fathers of the next generation, so we may leave a legacy of showing love for God. He writes to us, as people growing in Christ, so we may realize our victory in Christ over Satan and therefor give glory to God. He writes to us, as His children, so we might understand that we have been given everything through Christ to know our Father. He writes to us, as fathers of the next generation, so we might be strengthened to press on in faith. He writes to us, as the generation that lives to interceded for Him, so we might persevere in the coming trials, be fully aware of what we have in Christ Jesus, and so we might be strong to share the Gospel.
“31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8
“How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” – Psalm 31:19
What does God’s law require of us?
Christ teaches us this in a summary in Matthew 22:
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind. 1
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it:
Love your neighbour as yourself.
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these
two commandments. 2
Can you keep all this perfectly?
I am inclined by nature
to hate God and my neighbour. 2