1 John 2.7, 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.
From the beginning – When? From of old? Perhaps. From the beginning of their Christian career. It was “the word” they had heard, a message proclaimed that they heard and received. It was “the word” that they had heard, a message proclaimed that they heard and received. So to keep this commandment, we must love one another; actively seek to have Christ formed in your brother/sister. Indeed, this is how one walks as Jesus walked – His entire life was wrapped up in reclaiming that broken image in us.
What is this old commandment which at the same time is new (v.8)? 1 John 3.11, 23; John 13.34 – Love one another. To walk as Jesus walked, you must walk in love.
8 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.
New – or fresh. How is the command both old and new at the same time? What is the commandment that is both new and old at the same time? John 13.34, love one another (a common message from John). It is new in kind and new in time. The kind of love is seen in Jesus’ statement to His disciples: “even as I have loved you.” It is new in time in that this is the standard for the new covenant.
Note: Gk. Word is agape – this kind of love 1)always seeks the other persons highest good (not accidental but on a quest), 2)whether they deserve it or not, seek their highest good, 3)whether they ask for it or not (love volunteers), 4)regardless of what it costs me, 5)regardless of the number of times I must do it. This kind of love is objective, i.e. it seeks to see the image of God restored in others; it seeks Christ formed in others.
This is the new command; we love as He loved and this is the kind of love He had for us.
Which is true in him and in you – Jesus demonstrated true love; when we love as he loved (as we ought), the command is true in us also. When we love as we ought, love like Christ, the commandment is true in us also. These Christians were already obeying it and it was finding fulfillment in them.
Darkness…light – lots of light and darkness in John’s writing. These are common themes in both the gospel and his epistles. “Darkness” is moral imperfection, sin (i.e. hatred in context). (true) Light is the opposite of moral imperfection, even Jesus Christ. What does it mean that the “darkness is passing away” and the “true light is already shining”? One possibility is that the darkness is the Gnostic teaching which, when exposed to the true light – Jesus Christ – is receding. Another possibility is that the darkness is hatred which dissipates when the true light of the commandment is shone forth by Christians. Perhaps the latter better fits the context (v.9ff). As these Christians practice this command, hatred is driven out and Jesus Christ is shining forth in their life.
These Christians were already practicing obedience to the new commandment. Hence, darkness was being driven out and Jesus Christ was shining forth in their lives. When we obey the commandment of love (one another), hatred (sin, darkness) is driven out (ceases to exist) in us and instead we have Jesus Christ (true light) shining forth from us.
9-11 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Whoever says – variant of the catch phrase used repeatedly in ch. 1. This persons profession does not match his practice.
He is in the light – this person is claiming to obey the command of Christ, love one another.
Hates his brother– more of the need to match talk and walk. Here is direct disobedience to the command which is love your brother. What does it mean to hate your brother? Naturally we’ll ask “Who is my brother?” A fellow Christian. So you hate them; that is, you fail to put their greatest good as priority 1. Their greatest good: to have Christ formed in them. When you hinder that process, you are manifesting hatred for your brother/sister. How does this show up? Certainly there are a number of ways – malicious intent, libel, gossip. Refusal to speak the truth in love; perhaps you see your brother or sister engaged in some sin and you say nothing to them about it. Is this person lost? What does John say? Does darkness characterize a saved person?
If love is the singular desire to see Christ formed in a person, then the opposite of that would be hatred. In other words, you lack the desire to see your brother/sister imitate Christ more fully. This desire drives out the malice, jealousy, gossip and promotes truth speaking.
He “is still in darkness” – fumbling around, stumbling in disobedience, i.e. sin.
Loves his brother– has an overarching desire to see Christ formed in his brother. Here is a man who is obeying the command. Hence, he abides/dwells in the light, in Christ.
Abides in the light – this person is in Christ (the true light).
No cause for stumbling – It is a man’s own salvation that is under consideration here, not necessarily his influence over other.
Notice that v.9 is the thesis, v.10 the antithesis, and v.11 the antithesis of v.10. All this repeats and enlarges the idea of the need to keep the commandment of love one another.
Whoever hates his brother is in darkness – present reality. He is wrapped up in darkness. In other words, he is falling short of the standard and keeps falling short of the standard (the standard of love). He lacks the desire to see Christ formed in his brother. Or this person is indifferent toward his brother, which is just as worse as the absence of the desire.
Walks in darkness– this is his career, his continued practice or habit. His career is wrapped up in indifference or apathy toward his brothers and sisters in Christ. He continues to lack the desire to see Christ formed in his brother. You see the problem: his focus is not God’s focus. God wants your brother to look like Christ; he could care less. This is selfish and self-centered and has no place in the fellowship of God’s people.
He does not know where he is going – interesting that John uses the perfect tense (past completed action, present continue results). But this is wrapped with “because the darkness has blinded his eyes” which “blinded” is in the aorist tense. At some point, sin (darkness, hatred) crept in and blinded him. He began to fumble and stumble in darkness and continues in this present state. Hence, because he was blinded, he did not know and continues to not know where he is going. He is stumbling, fumbling around in the darkness.
Note: It is essential to note that there is no mean or connection between light and darkness, love and hate, life and death, (we’ll see) God and the world. Each of these is meant to stand in striking contrast with the other to drive the point home – Christians live a different life.