WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXXI) 05/05/21

2:8 But what I write is also a new commandment. It is a true one; you can see its truth in Jesus and yourselves. The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.

Robert Law (1860-1919) says that the Apostle John’s commandment on loving one another comes with a “new” instinct alive with a vital force, a spark from the Divine fire that kindles every soul into being. But to the Christian, it is “new” in another and unique capacity. Not new in its insight, but new in living awareness There are times when the Law of Love shines out with the splendor of sunrise when it reveals a new significance to the human conscience and enters upon a further stage in its destined conquest of human life. And this was embodied in the Anointed One. He became the new dynamic in “Love one another” by adding, “as I have loved you.”[1]

The love of the Anointed One, says Law, was symbolized in washing the disciples’ feet[2] and ultimately realized in laying down His life for those who became His “friends by love alone.”[3] He created a new commandment, giving humanity a fresh conception, and imposed an updated obligation. And this commandment is still “new” in Him. His whole Love expressed but did not exhaust itself in one act. He laid down His life that He might retake it. The Love of Calvary is an ever-flowing fountain. But also, in “you” – in the Christian life – the commandment is always in the present tense. It may qualify as “old” because it has been heard and accepted. But it is “new” because it continually replenishes itself in the activities of life, daily imparting fresh light and impulse in every heart it invades. There it is permanently posted as a life-transforming relationship with the Anointed One who declared in His inspiring words, “as I have loved you.”[4] [5]

David Smith (1866-1932) notes that the true God is opposed to the false gods, idols, which were “worthless things.”) The “true Light” of the Gospel – in comparison to the “dim light” in the Jewish Law – became the opposite of “false light” of human speculation and counterfeit reasoning. So when the Apostle John talks about issuing a new commandment, it’s the revelation of new truth as taught by the Anointed One, expressed by Him and in Him. His arrival caused the darkness of not knowing God pass and the Light of being His child to shine brightly.[6]

Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) questions in what sense is an old commandment nevertheless a new one? It is not new as a phenomenon in the history of ideas but rather as a prophetic reality. It remains grounded on the love which Jesus bestowed on His own. Not only that, but it has, therefore, become real among believers as the love they have for one another. And the proof that it is accurate and working in us is made evident when we put it into daily practice. As John said, it’s like a new light has arrived, and the old darkness has fled. But when this brotherly and sisterly love fails to go into action, that person cannot claim to be enlightened.[7]

Rev. Priestly L. Greville (1891-1976) disagrees with the KJV’s beginning of verse eight with the word “Again.” To him, it should read, “Yet.” (The NIV begins the verse this way.) In other words, the commandment John was quoting here was from a long time ago, yet, it was new because now it is understood by examining how the Anointed One lived and put it into practice. Jesus Himself implied that these things He quoted were already part of the past.[8] However, Jesus takes many of these and revises them into something new from His perspective.[9] Truly we can see that the commandments in the First Covenant were written by men under the influence of the Holy Spirit, but now the Word Himself is speaking of them as part of the Final Covenant.[10]

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) focuses on John’s mention that the darkness is fleeing, and the light is dawning, just like the beginning of a new day. It helps explain why the charge to love one another can be called “new.” It can also see it in the words of the Apostle Paul, who saw the same darkness of the old worldly sinful-self that brought nothing into the present life which is doomed to pass away. As he told the Corinthians, “God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.”[11] Not only that, but when we speak wisdom to full-grown Christians. This wisdom is not from this world or from the leaders of today. They die, and their wisdom dies with them.[12] Therefore, says Paul to the Romans, “The night is almost finished, and the day is almost here. So, stop doing things that belong to darkness and take up the weapons used for fighting in the Light.”[13]

The Apostles John and Paul were on the same wavelength, says Wilder, when it came to the difference between hiding in the dark and living in the Light.[14] It sounds like God’s words might have influenced the children of Israel in the wilderness: “In the past, you lived in Egypt, but you must not do what was done in that country. And you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their customs. You must obey my rules and follow them. I am the Lord your God.[15] [16]

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2000) points to a significant theme in this part of the Epistle; that is, God expects us to obey and follow His Word. One of the essential elements of that theme of obeying Him is to love His other children, our brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is the very heart of Christian morality and the exact place where the false teachers realized their inability to prove any genuine spiritual relationship with God. John said that this commandment was both old and new. “Old” in the sense that it was taught by Moses as part of Torah long ago, but “new” in that the Messiah now explains it as a necessary part of life.[17]

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) notes that Roman Catholic scholar Antonio Vicent Cernuda (1915-2011) states that we should not take the Greek alēthinos (“true”) as an adjective to the Greek noun phōs (“light”), but used as a substantive,[18] the object of the verb. In other words, “the light manifested in the truth.” However, Brown joins most other commentators that there is no need for such an unusual translation. Indeed, it’s the other way around. The truth demonstrates itself through the Light – the Son of God.[19]

Simon J. Kistemaker (1930-2017) makes the point that the Greek adjective kainos (“new”) suggests that the old has given birth to the new. The former still exists but is reflected in a new way through the new model – the same with believers. They come into existence through the new birth, but their old self is still there. However, people now see and understand them in a new light. In the same way, the First Covenant made way for the writing of the Final Covenant. It is a relevant interpretation of the old commandment to love one another seen in the new Light of Jesus the Anointed One.[20]

Marianne Meye Thompson (1954) says that the Apostle John’s command to love one another can be called “new” for two reasons: First, it points to Jesus’ life as the example of the love God is expecting of us. Second, He manifested another example of this new love by his death. Jesus lived His whole life for others, not Himself. Nowhere in Scripture do we read about Jesus going on a vacation or establishing a religious center for the world’s masses to stream to as pilgrims to make Him not only famous but rich. If we look at it this way, when our Lord was born, God sent Him into the world with a million dollars worth of love and grace. He spent it all on others, none on Himself.

In setting an example of this love by His death, says Thompson, He did so for a lost and dying world to enjoy the same fellowship with God He had.[21] Through His death, people worldwide of every race, color, gender, or social status.[22] [23] Such actions on our part are not required, but the principles are. When we were born again through God’s love, grace, and mercy, we received a new life not just to benefit ourselves but also for others. And by our death to sin, we are freed to fellowship with all other believers as part of the body of the Anointed One, so we could share the good news with others that they can join us in the union with God and the Anointed One. Remember, when the Anointed One returns at the trumpet sound, “all,” not “some” of those who lay at rest in Him will rise simultaneously, and those still alive will “all” nor “some” be instantly changed to meet Him in the air.


[1] John 13:34

[2] Ibid. 13:1-17

[3] Ibid. 15:13

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

[5] Law, R. (1909). The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 233–234

[6] Smith, David: Expositor’s Greek Testament, op. cit., p. 176

[7] Bultmann, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 29

[8] See Luke 4:12; Cf., Matthew 2:5; 4:4, 6-7, 10; 21:13; 26:24, 31; John 6:31, 45; 12:14

[9] See Matthew 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44; 11:22, 24; 12:6, 36; 17:12; 26:29; Mark 9:13; Luke 6:27; 10:12

[10] Greville, Priestly L., The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 50-51

[11] 1 Corinthians 1:28

[12] Ibid. 2:6

[13] Romans 13:12

[14] See verses 9-11

[15] Leviticus 18:3-4

[16] Wilder, Amos N. The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., Vol. XII, p. 233

[17] Schnackenburg, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 103-104

[18] Substantive refers to the basis of reality.

[19] Brown, Raymond E., The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 268

[20] Kistenmaker, Simon J., James and I-III John, op. cit., p. 260

[21] See John 13:1; 1 John 3:16; 4:9-10

[22] See John 10:16; 11:5-52; 12:24

[23] Thompson, Marianne Meye, 1-3 John, op. cit., p. 58

About drbob76

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