Today I encountered a verse that I haven’t ever been able to quite make sense of, but God helped me understand it better. I wanted to share what I learned for anyone who has possibly wondered about this verse also!
“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)
I’ve never really struggled with the first two sentences– the fact that the commandment is not new, but an old commandment that they have had from the beginning. I believe that Jesus makes it clear in the gospels that loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself is the sum of all of the Law (Matthew 22:37-40) and therefore the “old commandment” is love, both for God and for others. But the second part is more confusing. Let’s read it again.
“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 2:8)
Any time in the past that I’ve read that, my brain has kind of glazed over and I’ve just moved on. A new commandment because darkness is passing away and true light is already shining? How does that make the commandment to love new? But the Bible study I’m following had a place for me to “explain why the old commandment is now new,” so I had to stop and think. As I began to write only what the verse itself said, which was a total cop-out, the Holy Spirit taught me a beautiful truth about the old commandment of God and how it has been transformed because of the “true light” of Christ. Here’s what I realized:
The old commandment is new because “darkness is passing away and the true light is shining,” guiding our way. We don’t have to follow a long list of rules to love those around us (the Law that the Israelites were given), we just have to look to the true light (Christ) and let it show us how to love. Before the true light of Christ came into the world, God’s people needed specific instructions to do things in love. Now, with the example of Christ and the Holy Spirit in us, we don’t need those specific instructions. The Law, or the “old commandment,” has been made new because there is a new way to follow it– look to the light.
The Israelites did not have Christ’s example to follow when God gave them the Law. They did not have the Holy Sprit of God inside of them, guiding them to the truth. They truly were in darkness when it came to understanding God or what he wanted from them. That’s why he had to give them such specific instructions about every area of their lives. However, that darkness began to pass away the moment that Christ stepped into the world, bringing his light with him. He showed how the Law was just a shadow of the love that God wants us to display, and then sent the Holy Spirit to guide us as we try to live out this love. Now, we can look to his light, rather than a laundry list of rules, to know how to love God and others around us.
Note that John writes that the new commandment “is true in him and in you.” I believe that along with Christ teaching us how to love, we also have been filled with light to show others more about love. Jesus calls himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12), but he also calls us “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). The darkness is passing away because of Christ, but also because of Christ in us. Amazing!
The old commandment to love is still firmly in place, but Jesus showed us a new way to do so. He wants to help all of us as we attempt to love those around us, and to love him more fully. If you are struggling to love those around you, or to love God, look to Jesus to light your way! He can make the old list of rules into a lifestyle of light.