1 John 2:7-11 - Whoever Loves His Brother Abides In The Light
In 1 John we have seen that there are many traits that can be seen in the one who is enjoying fellowship with God.
There will be an acceptance of who Jesus Christ is (1:1-4)
There will be a belief that God is holy (1:5)
There will not be a persistent life of living in sin (1:6)
There will be a willingness to acknowledge and confess sin (1:9)
There will be an attitude to not want to live in sin (2:1)
There will be an obedience towards the commands of God (2:3)
Today we will find another trait that is seen in an individual or a church who is experiencing true fellowship with God.
Our text this morning is 1 John 2:7-11,
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. 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.
Let me begin this morning by addressing three tings in this opening verse. “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment, that you had from the beginning.”
First, John addresses them as the ‘Beloved’ for the very first time in this letter. John uses four family terms throughout this letter (Beloved, brother, little children, children). These are not just cute words that John is using; rather, they are rich in meaning and significance.
Mindy and I have been watching a show called ‘Fixer Upper’. It is about a husband and wife who remodel homes for each other. I enjoy the show but sometimes I really get annoyed at the little terms they use towards each other. The husband will call his wife ‘sis’ and the wife will call her husband ‘bud’. Then they will use those same awkward words in reference to their clients as well.
John will use the term ‘Beloved’ five more times in this letter (3:2,21;4:1,7,11). But this is not done in a trivial manner. For example, John will use this term again in 1 John 3:2 but the context is important. He says in verse one, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved…”.
In one sense, John is speaking of a profound relationship that a believer has with the Father. In another sense, John is also using these terms in a very personal way as he expressing his own affection for these Christians. For example, we saw this in 1 John 2:1 when John says, “My little children...”
One reason the term ‘beloved’ is significant is because of the topic that John is going to address: Christian love. This kind of love is only achievable by those who have a special relationship with Christ. We see this in our text in 1 John 2:8 where John says, “...it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in Him and in you…”. Jesus’ disciples are beloved and as such they will reflect Christ’s love to others.
John speaks of this in his gospel when he says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just 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) A Christian who has experienced the love of God will be changed. Martin Luther said, “I could not love God unless I thought that He was first kindly disposed to me.”
Secondly, ‘beloved’ is significant because of the type of love that we are loved by God with; it is an agape kind of love. This is seen in the Greek word that is used here – ‘agapetoi’. Agape love is a decision of the will to love someone. It is a love that is not given on the grounds of merit, emotion or beauty. It is a decision of one’s own will to love someone else. Believers are loved by God with this sort of love and in response they are to love others in this same way.
Next let’s consider the words, “I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment, that you had from the beginning.”
We live in a world that is obsessed with enjoying the ‘newest thing’. We want to do something new, believe something new, create something new, possess something new and all too quickly put our trust in something new and when that lets us down we search for something else that is new.
I have noticed that Jim and Debi Swanson have really good appliances that work. They are not new but they work. And sometimes I wonder to myself why they do not go and get the newest appliances. The old ones have worked for decades and the newer ones, which are more disposable, will only last a fraction of the time. Yet, I am prone to think they should go get the new. How ridiculous.
Every generation has been enticed by this sort of thinking. The church(es) that John is writing too had false teachers who came and had begun to teach ‘new’ things. They spoke about how they possessed a ‘new knowledge’, a ‘new ethic’, and a ‘new morality’. They came with ‘new doctrines’, ‘new philosophies’ and ‘new theologies’. They claimed to have some special revelation that gave them a relationship with God that no one else had.
This ‘new teaching’ sounded different from the apostles message. As a result, they believers were confused and lacked assurance. They did not know what to believe about the most important things in life – their eternal life.
Therefore John says, “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment, that you had from the beginning.”
I wonder how John’s audience would receive these words? If John were there in person they may have said, “We don’t need an old thing, we need a new thing!” Perhaps they would have said, “John, you do not know what we are facing here. The old thing just won’t work under these conditions. We have tried the old thing and we need something new!”
Discouraged, confused and overwhelmed because of these false teachers they might have said something similar to John the Baptist when he said to Jesus, “Are you the one or do we see another?” (Luke 7:19)
A few years ago I learned a very important lesson about trusting in something ‘old’ and not always trying to find something ‘new’. I had taken two weeks off from work and was really looking forward to being able to get some things done at the Mosinee house. I preached on Sunday and I had fourteen days of vacation to look forward too. What could possibly go wrong?
On Monday Mindy I got up and worked at the house in Mosinee all day. I loaded up my truck full of pavers. That night it rained so the ground was wet. I wondered if it would be a bad idea to try to drive my truck into the back yard to unload the pavers. Against my best judgment I backed my truck around the house and I immediately got stuck so bad that the frame of my truck was touching the ground. I tried calling everyone I knew that had a truck but no one answered. I was so angry at myself for having gotten in this situation that I began to speak very badly to myself.
At one point, in between my rants I heard someone calling out on my phone and looked down to see that I accidentally called a friend whose wife had heard my tirade and I immediately hung up the phone in embarrassment. I remember thinking to myself, “How could you preach a sermon two days ago and now find yourself in this situation? What kind of pastor are you?”
It was in that moment that I literally felt the darkness of depression coming upon me. From that moment on I struggled to find any joy in the day and to find any relief from the depression that I had slid into. Day after day I would frantically go to my bible to try to find some magic verse that might help. I was looking for some ‘new word’ in the Bible that would make the depression lift. At first I had hoped that this darkness would only last a day or two but as I came to the end of the vacation I was still a mess.
It was on the last day of my vacation that I sat at home scouring the bible for help when I turned to a trusted passage in Romans that had encouraged me many times. As I started to read it I began to find comfort and peace, not in something ‘new’ but in something ‘old’. Since then I have always tried to remember that if I begin to get depressed I should return to the ‘old’ that I have had from the beginning; rather than trying to find something ‘new’.
There is something attractive about discovering something ‘new’. But in the Christian life the ‘new things’ are always built upon the foundation of something ‘old’. The new cannot exist apart from the old. The old is the foundation that the new things are often resting on. Together they form one strong structure.
Let me give two texts that will also help us to see this concept. First, let us consider Hebrews 5:11-14. In this text the author wants to teach the church the solid food of the Word of God but he find that they are not ready for it. We read, ‘About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.’ How frustrating this teacher must have been in this moment. He has so much to say about the deeper things concerning the grace of God but he cannot go any further with them and he has to stop. The reason that he has to stop is because these believers have become dull of hearing, lazy, and slow to learn. He is writing to believers who are tired and weary but he cannot proceed in teaching them things that would help.
Therefore he says to them, ‘For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.'
These believers needed to once again be taught the basic principles of the Word of God. As they would apply these things to their lives they would begin to mature through the constant application and practice of these things. Then they would be able to distinguish between good and evil.
In the case of the Hebrews, their problems resulted from spiritual laziness and neglect but Jesus’ half-brother, Jude, faced a similar problem as John when he addressed Christians who were being threatened by false teachers. Jude says, ‘Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.’ (Jude 3-4) Then in verse 5 Jude says, ‘Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.’
Both of these texts remind us that believers need to be reminded of the important truths that may be forgotten, neglected or spoken against. When they are taught and received we are encouraged, nourished and matured in the LORD. Therefore John addresses these believers by saying, “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment, that you had from the beginning.”
John says, “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment…”. There are two Greek words that can be translated ‘new’. First, there is a word that refers to something that is altogether new. It refers to the very first of its kind. Secondly, there is a word that speaks of something that is new because the original has been improved upon. John is saying that he has not come to them with a new teaching like the Gnostics had done. His message was not some new, trite, corny, cliché message. He did not come with a new man-centered, liberal, enlightened teaching that was contrived in the foolishness of man’s own thinking. John comes to them with ‘an old commandment’ that was made new through Christ.
Finally, notice that John has made a slight change in the way he has previously written. For example, in 1 John 2:3-4 he speaks of ‘commandments’ in the plural. He wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…”. In our text today John uses the singular ‘commandment’.
Why does he do this? All of the Law is fulfilled when we love God and love our neighbor. If we keep this one commandment then we will fulfill the whole law. Fulfilling this command cannot be done apart from faith in Christ. In 1 John 3:23 we will read, “And this is the commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” Living the Christian life is achieved by living by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). One who is in Christ, and who has the Spirit, will display the fruit of the Spirit and live as Christ did.
This is seen in 1 John 2:8. We read, “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.”
The phrase ‘darkness is passing away’ is in the present passive form. The present conditions of this world are passing away more and more (1 John 2:17, “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.).
The passive form refers to the fact that God is doing this by His wisdom and in His might. Dr. John Hannah says, “Believers are in the middle of an unseen march of divine progress that will end in the triumph and glorious reign of God with His children over all evil.” Only Christians can experience victory in these things. And they experience it because God is accomplishing it.
We asked how John’s readers may have reacted to this text. Would they say, “We don’t need an old thing, we need a new thing for this problem”? Johnboldly declares that the old commandment is the word that they had heard. But at the same time, it is a new commandment that he is writing to them.
The ‘old commandment’ can be seen in a three ways. First, it is the same command that is found in the Old Testament (Leviticus19:18; Deut. 6:5). Secondly, it is a command that was given by Jesus gave to His apostles in John 13:34-35. Thirdly, it is old in the sense that these believers had been given this message by the apostles from the very beginning.
John says that he is writing a ‘new commandment’ because of the coming of Jesus Christ. We know what this looks like even in our day. There are moments in history when there is an actor that is so good at what they do that it is often said that they changed movies forever. There are those athletes who make such a profound impact upon the game that it is said that the game has been changed forever. There are inventors who created something that is so life changing that it is said that their invention changed everything. Recently the talk show host Rush Limbaugh died and everyone talked about how he changed the talk radio industry forever.
Now if this can be said of so many in every conceivable field, how much more is this to be the case when the Son of God, the creator of all things, comes among men and propitiates the sins of men. He humbled Himself and came among sinful men to die for us so that we might be redeemed. He changed everything with that sort of love. And those who benefit from and enjoy fellowship with Him will reflect that sort of love.
There are many who claim to have fellowship with God and continue to disobey Him. And there are many who claim to be walking in the light, but they hate believers. In doing so they prove that they are in darkness. This is what 1 John 2:9 says, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.”
John could not be more succinct and clear about the condition of these empty confessors. Dr. Daniel Akins strikes this tone as well when he says, “Spiritual darkness is not a passive reality. It goes on the offensive. Darkness attacks those living in it so that they become increasingly trapped in this realm of confusion and blindness. In a real sense what we do we become. How we live is who we are. The longer one remains in this realm of darkness, the more difficult it becomes to see the sin that is in one’s life, and the less likely one is to see his need to confess his sins so that fellowship with God can be restored. Habitual hatred, and the possibility of loving becomes less and less likely.”
Let us take a moment to read 1 John 2:9-11, “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.”
Take notice of the word ‘whoever’ that is in all three of these verses.
The ‘whoever’ who hates his brother in 1 John 2:9 is contrasted with the ‘whoever’ who loves his brother in 1 John 2:10. In 1 John 2:11 John again addresses the ‘whoever’ who hates his brother again saying that such a person walks in darkness, he does not know where he is going, and the darkness has blinded his eyes.
First, again in John’s mind there are only two types of people: the saved, and the unsaved; those who are walking in the light, and those who are in darkness; those who lie, and those who are walking in the truth; those who obey the commands, and those who talk about fellowship; those who love; and those who talk about knowing God.
Secondly, all of us have been those spoken of in verses 9 and 11. We have all been unregenerate and rebelled against God, His Kingdom and His people. We were all in darkness. We walked and lived in darkness. We all at one time enjoyed the darkness and thought it was normal. We were lost in the darkness and the darkness blinded our eyes.
Thirdly, this darkness was a deep spiritual darkness that affected every area of our life and we were helpless to see our way out of it. We were like Hagar who could not see the well full of water until God opened her eyes. (Genesis 21:19, “Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.”) If your eyes are being opened the darkness is passing away by the power of God.
Fourthly, God can save ‘whoever’. He does not save the good, the pleasing, the religious, the special, the deserving. He does not save a particular ethnic group. He saves ‘whoevers’. You qualify to be saved because you are a sinner who is lost in darkness. You qualify because in the darkness of your heart you rebel against God and His kingdom.
Fifth, when ‘whoever’ comes into the light they will be changed from the inside out. The darkness that once enslaved them will pass away and the true light will shine more and more (8). The power of God will be evident in the life of a true believer. It will be missing from those who confess fellowship with God but are still lost.
Let me end with a question. Who are you? Are you the ‘whoever’ of verse 9,11? Or are you the ‘whoever’ of verse 10? Are our lifestyles in line with what we are professing?