Think of something old that you own. I’m sure I have a rock or something petrified in my home that is probably thousands of years old (likely under my couch), but I’m not sure I would classify it as being very interesting or containing any “newness.” On the other hand, my mother recently showed me a Sunday School hymnal that was printed by my great-grandfather in March of 1891. It is old. The binding has weakened, the pages show signs of stain and wear, but they hold that wonderful color of age. It’s as if the book has carried the burden of every year on the face of every page. Here’s the thing: my great-grandfather also wrote some of the hymns. For me, the book is captivating. Though old, it is new and fresh. I had no idea my great-grandfather was a Christian, but now I see his words penned, “What a gath’ring of the ransomed, what a gath’ring that will be, there to meet and be with Jesus through the vast eternity!” That which was old whispered new to me; it was weighty and enlightening. But most of all, the words he wrote carried a message that was ancient, a message with roots that could be traced back to the stories of creation itself.
From the start of this week’s text, we see what seems to be a contradiction within the first two verses. John writes of an old commandment that is not new, but it is new. To what is John referring? It is something that his audience had “heard” and had “from the beginning” apparently from the start of their faith. In the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 6, we read what much of the Jewish world still recites multiple times each day, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” This ancient truth found flesh-and-blood newness in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and John writes that this commandment is “true in him” (Jesus) and “in you” (his hearers). Is it possible that John is saying that this “newness” displayed afresh through Jesus is also revealed through those that were listening and living “in the light”?
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. 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. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 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. 12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Isaac Serrano is Lead Teaching Pastor of South Valley Community Church. He likes talking theology, history, and culture. Isaac lives in Gilroy with his family. On his days off, he likes to go fishing and venture outdoors. Isaac serves on the leadership board for the Regeneration Project and the school board of Pacific Point Christian Schools.