Life-Study of 1, 2, & 3 John, Judeby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider 2:7-11, the last portion of the first Epistle of John concerned with the conditions of the divine fellowship.
In verse 7 John says, “Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment, which you had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you heard.” The “old commandment” referred to here is the commandment given by the Lord in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” This commandment is the word the believers heard and had from the beginning.
In verse 7 the phrase “from the beginning” is used in the relative sense. We have pointed out that this phrase is used twice in the Gospel of John, eight times in this Epistle, and two times in 2 John. In John 8:44; 1 John 1:1; 2:13, 14; and 3:8, it is used in the absolute sense; whereas in John 15:27; 1 John 2:7, 24 (twice); 3:11; and 2 John 5, 6, it is used in the relative sense. John was not writing a new commandment to the believers; he was writing an old commandment, which they had from the beginning, that is, from the time the Lord Jesus was on earth and gave them the commandment to love one another. That old commandment is the word which they heard.
The commandment of the Lord is His word. This means that His commandment is not merely an injunction; the Lord’s commandment is also a word conveying the life supply. In John 6:63 the Lord Jesus said, “The words which I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life.” Therefore, in 2:7 “the word” indicates the life supply. Whatever the Lord speaks is a word supplying us with life and spirit. What the Lord says may also be an injunction demanding that we do a certain thing. Nevertheless, as long as that injunction is something uttered by the Lord, something that proceeds out of His mouth, it is a word that supplies us with life. Therefore, whenever we take the Lord’s word and keep it, we receive the life supply.
In verse 8 John goes on to say, “Again, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light already shines.” The commandment of brotherly love is both old and new: old, because the believers have had it from the beginning of their Christian life; new, because in their Christian walk it dawns with new light and shines with new enlightenment and fresh power again and again.
The relative pronoun “which” in verse 8 is in neuter gender. It does not refer to “commandment,” which is in feminine gender. It should refer to the fact that the old commandment of brotherly love is new in the believers’ Christian walk. This is true in the Lord, since He not only gave it to His believers, but also renews it in their daily walk all the time. This is true also in the believers, since they have not only received it once for all, but also are enlightened and refreshed by it repeatedly.
In verse 8 John tells us that the darkness is passing away and that the true light already shines. The passing away of the darkness is its vanishing in the shining of the true light. The true light is the light of the Lord’s commandment. Because this light shines, the commandment of brotherly love dawns in the darkness and makes the old commandment new and fresh throughout the entire Christian life.
Many who read verses 7 and 8 are bothered by what John says concerning an old commandment and a new commandment. In verse 7 he says that he is not writing a new commandment but an old commandment. But in verse 8 he says that he is writing a new commandment. How can an old commandment be a new commandment? Is the new commandment a commandment other than the old commandment, or is it the old commandment becoming new? If we read these verses carefully in context, we shall see that actually the old commandment and the new commandment are one. The reason for this is that the commandment is the word of the Lord, and the word of the Lord dawns as a new day dawns when the sun rises in the morning. When the sun rises, the shining of the sun swallows up the darkness. The darkness of night always vanishes with the shining of the morning sun. Here John indicates that the Lord’s commandment, as His living word, shines as the dawning sun, and this shining swallows up darkness.
After any kind of human commandment has been given, it gradually becomes old. Human commandments are not living. Because these commandments are not living, they never dawn and they never shine. But the commandment given by the Lord is His living word. Because His commandment is His living word, this word shines. When this living word dawns in the darkness, it dawns with heavenly light. The shining of heavenly light makes old things new. In particular, it makes the old commandment new, fresh, and full of light.
Perhaps you are familiar with the principle that the shining of light indicates newness. Suppose you shut off the light in a room for a period of time. When you turn on the light again, you will spontaneously have the sense of newness. The shining of light brings us this sense of newness. Every time light shines it brings in a new situation.
Because human words are dead, they cannot shine and therefore cannot give us a new beginning. But the Lord’s commandment, as His living word, always gives us a new beginning because His word shines anew and afresh again and again.
Many of us can testify that we have experienced the shining of the Lord’s word in this way. For instance, in John 13:34 the Lord Jesus commands us to love one another. We can testify that many times this commandment has become new and fresh in our Christian life. Throughout the years we have been Christians, often this old injunction has become a fresh word to us. Whenever we contact the Lord and His old commandment dawns in our darkness, light shines. With this light there is newness. This is how the old commandment can be a new commandment. The old commandment becomes new because it is a word that is living and shining. This shining makes the old commandment new and fresh.
Now we can understand why the apostle John says, “I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment....Again, I am writing a new commandment to you.” In these verses John seems to be saying, “I believe that what I am writing to you is shining upon you and swallowing the darkness. The darkness is now vanishing, passing away, in the shining of this new light.”
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