A New Commandment

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:7,8, ESV).
God’s commandment to love is not surprising to Christians. Love is the foundation of the gospel message. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). To know Jesus Christ is to know the clearest expression of the love of God. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The commandment to love is not new, but is the essential message of the “old, old story.”
The love presented in the gospel of Christ is more than a feeling, it is a reality embodied in a sacrifice of eternal significance. The power of the gospel is not merely that God loves us somewhat, but that God loves us profoundly. That God loves us so much that Jesus died for our sins. To anyone believing the gospel message, the commandment to love is not new, but foundational. It is a basic understanding required to even become a Christian.
In contrast with Christians, the unregenerated world finds the commandment to love to be a new concept. Apart from an understanding of the Christian message, the commandment to love is peculiar and surprising. The world would never have brought forth a message of sacrificial love with the gospel’s depth and power. In this sense, the command to love is forever new.
Jesus teaches this new understanding, using His life and love as an example for us to follow: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35). Faith in Jesus Christ is inseparable from the experience of God’s love. It is impossible for someone so enlightened to continue to walk in darkness. Knowing the love of Christ, we understand how we are to reach out to others in love.
A profession of faith in Christ is not the same as the reality of saving faith. It is possible to know about Christ without ever experiencing His salvation. The experience of salvation, however, changes a person’s life and outlook completely. Receiving the love of Christ, we are given power to be God’s people, ordered and guided by that love.

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Greg Tidwell

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