“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.”
but an old commandment
The word “but” in Greek is a strong contrast. John places the new commandment and the old commandment in stark contrast. The Greek word “old” means old in time, not old in character. John’s command echoes Jesus’ command to love the family of God.
which you have had from the beginning.
John confirms the “old commandment” by the idea that they possessed that commandment from the beginning of their Christian lives. That is the commandment of loving other believers.
The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning
We can translate the words “you heard” by used to hear. We say to our son, “Son, be careful that you do not speed.” He says, “Yea, sure, dad.” Thirty minutes later, he gets a speeding ticket. He heard, but he did not hear. God drilled the principle of loving other Christians into our heads from the beginning of our salvation.
The commandment to love is both old and new. John’s readers learned to love since they became Christians. This commandment is old because Jesus ushered it into the lives of His followers.
Those who love out of Jesus’ love produce the light that comes from fellowship with God. There is no cause for stumbling in these people. Hate distorts the light and brings in darkness. Love gives truth to our view of people.
Intimate fellowship with the Lord depends on loving the family of God.
If we love one another with a biblical love, it means that we are in fellowship with God. It means that we walk in the light as He is in the light (1:5-7). Love springs from and is in conformity with divine love bestowed on us. Is there someone in your life who you love even though you are not attracted to him? Do you love him simply because the Lord says you are to do so? It may be risky and cost you something. You may get nothing in return.
God calls us back to the divine institution of love. He wants us to distinguish between phony love and true love. We often twist God’s love into a caricature of our own making. Christianity goes beyond behavior to unadulterated love.