WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXVII) 04/29/21

2:7 My dear friends, I am not writing a new command to you. It is the same command you have had since the beginning. This command is the teaching you have already heard

Didymus the Blind (313-398 AD) says that some people objected to what the Apostle John was teaching as a new thing, so he insisted it was not that way.[1] As odd as this may sound back then, I don’t think it would be unusual today. Read the sermons preached in America’s pulpits 100 years ago and compare them to the present age. When was the last time you heard a message on the cross, on the ravages of sin, on sanctification, on holy living, on the resurrection, on the Anointed One’s ascension, on Pentecost, or heaven and hell? The same is true now as it was in John’s day. These things are not new; they’ve been part of the Gospel from the beginning.

Andreas of Cæsarea (600-700 A.D.) says that some may ask if those who have known Jesus from the beginning did not hear about His commandment to love one another? Since they were not Jews (as appears from the end of the letter and told to stay away from idol worship). People everywhere have heard it from Torah?[2] [3] It is often an excuse when they catch someone breaking God’s laws and even man’s laws. “Sorry, officer, I didn’t know you couldn’t change lanes without putting on your turn signal.”

John Trapp has an interesting observation about the Apostle John’s confession that he is not writing anything new regarding loving God and each other. Trapp says that John thoughtfully erases any misgivings of this law being a novelty. We should never set a jealous eye upon that which is new and stop walking on the old-fashion highway;[4] in the footsteps of the saints traveling the ancient paths.[5] God’s children come from a long line of ancient saints.[6]  But idolaters are said to sacrifice to new gods recently appeared.[7] Truth, like wine, is better with age.[8] And of witnesses, Aristotle well saith, the older they are, the more credible because they are less corrupt. As we hear the newest philosophy, as opposed to the most ancient theology, we may justly suspect them of falsehood and delusions, who assume themselves inspired to utter new revelations, bringing to light new truths.[9]

In one of John Wesley’s sermons on Christian Perfection, he addresses those who might object to reading this as the Apostle John talking to fellow believers in the faith. John’s answer makes it clear: “We know all things that are needful for your souls’ health” The Apostle never intended to go on and on about this. So, not allowing him to speak it in absolute terms is evident. The Apostle’s own words later in this chapter state plainly: “I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray,”[10] as well as the words he heard from the Master, “Watch out that no one deceives you.”[11] It would have been altogether needless if his readers who had that anointing from the Holy One were not susceptible to forgetting or being mistaken.[12]

Adam Clarke notes that there seems to be a contradiction between verse six (“I am not writing a new commandment for you.”) and verse seven (“I am writing a new commandment for you.”) The Apostle John does not appear to speak about any differences in the essence of the guidelines related to more Light and faith existing in salvation under the Law or Grace. God always wanted people to walk in His Light by loving Him through one another. But the commandment to do so received greater spiritual meaning and additional light when issued by the Anointed One.[13]

In his remarks here on verse seven, Augustus Neander notes that John’s object was not to offer anything new to the congregations. He desired to awaken in them a living sense of what had always been the focus of his instructions. He meant it to guide them in the proper application of that which they already knew. That is why he held up before them the one command of the Lord, which was the sum and substance of all other commandments. The essential nature of practical Christian living stood on this foundation of loving God by loving each other. He wanted to have it etched in their hearts anew, so it would speak louder than ever.[14] So, preaching the Gospel over and over again is beneficial for any congregation to hear. To press it harder and harder into their hearts and minds.

Frederick Maurice notes that it is a curious phrase, “we know that we know Him.” In other words, we must be confident that we know who He is. But it is a familiar one to us in other applications. I say to a friend, “Are you sure you know that person? I am aware that you meet them often. You see them, perhaps, every day; you work with them; you talk with them. But are you sure you know that you know them? Have you got any real insight into their character? Have you any confidence that you are not thinking of them better or worse than they deserve?” These are questions that we often ask and to which we get various answers.

“Sometimes the answer is quite confident,” says Maurice. “I am certain that they are, or that they are not an honest, or a kind, or a wise person.” And yet, it may not inspire us with confidence. We may say, or we may think, “Is that person deceptive? Did they gain my trust through flattery? In due time the mask will fall off, and you will find out your mistake.” To this, you might say, “You’re not the person I thought you were. You fooled me with your pretentious acts of kindness.” You may also find that you misinterpreted their intent. They’ve proven to be a much more dependable friend than you gave them credit.

That’s why now, and then, we are convinced that a friend holds the same opinion about that person. You still are not sure how you arrived at the same belief. Maurice says he thinks it is because your friend helped you understand and appreciate that person. They helped throw light upon what we experienced in the person’s presence to see the wrong impression we formed of them. However, even their good recommendation, especially a very favorable one, still does not satisfy us. We are determined to verify it. We must get to know that person of whom our friend speaks so highly. In the end, we want to be able to say, “I know that I know that person.”[15] It seems that Maurice took the long route to explain that we cannot say we know that we know a person until we experience it ourselves. Of all people, this is true of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Christopher Wordsworth believes that the Apostle John’s aimed his mention that he is not writing a new commandment was what he accused the Judaizers and false apostles of doing. They were treating the Gospel as being modifiable, making it thus a novelty. They attempted to limit the mercy of God to only those who were willing to live under the bondage of the Law. Furthermore, they also sought to restrict God’s love to only the Jews or Israel. But John tells his constituents that the Christian doctrine of love is for humanity, and it has been so from the beginning.[16]

Daniel Whedon (1808-1885) remarks that the Apostle John interrupts the current line of thinking twice in this chapter to express his writing’s purpose and feeling. Other writers might have done this in their introduction, but he began with total confidence in his subject, and he makes his remarks parenthetically. This interlude in verses seven and eight meets head-on the objection that his doctrine is a novelty.[17] We might compare it to someone describing the beauty of some wonder of the world, who would interject: “I know what I’m talking about, I’ve been there and saw it with my eyes.”

William Alexander (1824-1911) points out two different Greek terms translated by the same English word here in Epistles. The first is the adjective kainos (“new”), which means: “recently made, fresh, recent unused.” The second is the adjective neos (“new”), which implies: “young, youthful.”[18] Alexander notes that kainos is used here in verse seven. It signifies that it is new in quality to that which it replaces or supersedes as being antiquated or inferior.[19] However, John is not doing away with the original commandment; he is giving a revised edition. And the revisionist is none other than Jesus the Anointed One.[20]

John James Lias (1834-1923) finds that the first question Bible commentators have asked, how is this commandment to love one another fulfilled? The natural reply has been, “brotherly love.” However, some commentators say it is likely that the Apostle chose to introduce the question of brotherly love this way. He does not mention it until verse ten. That brings up another question. Was this commandment already in his mind before he wrote it down, was he just waiting for the right moment? Or, did John purposely choose to introduce it this way?[21]


[1] Didymus the Blind, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., 1-3 John, p. 179

[2] Matthew 13:34

[3] Andreas: Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., 1-3 John, p. 180

[4] Jeremiah 16:6

[5] Ibid. 18:15

[6] Isaiah 44:7; Cf. Hebrews 12:1-2

[7] Dueteronomy 32:17

[8] Luke 5:39

[9] Trapp, John: On Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 726

[10] 1 John 2:26

[11] Matthew 24:4

[12] Wesley, John, The Works of, Vol. 6, Sermon 10, p. 11

[13] Clarke, Adam: First Epistle of John, op. cit., 370

[14] See Revelation 3:3

[15] Maurice, F. D., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 70-71

[16] Christopher Wordsworth: NT with Introduction, op. cit., p. 110

[17] Whedon, Daniel D. Commentary on NT, op. cit., p. 259

[18] See Hebrews 12:24; cf. 1 Peter 5:5

[19] Alexander, William: The Expositor’s Bible, op. cit., First Epistle of John, p. 130

[20] John 13:34

[21] Lias, J. J., The First Epistle of John with Exposition, p. 77

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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