A New Command That is Not New

It is a touching scene. A man, wrinkled and gray, yet with a slight twinkle in his eye, looks lovingly at his wife of many years, and tenderly says, “I love you my dear, more and more as the years pass behind us.” Likely that scene has been played and replayed over and over, yet something like that never grows old. Love is something that is as old as God, for John tells us, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). No matter how many times it is said, the phrase “I truly love you,” when it is backed up with honesty and sincerity, never grows old; it is always new. And that is what the apostle John wrote to early Christians

 “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. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing 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). A command is an order or a mandate from one with authority. W.E. Vine observed that the word for command, entole, is the most common way of expressing moral and religious precepts. He also added, “It is frequent in the Gospels, especially that of John, and in his Epistles.” Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Volume I, page 210. Every rational being needs to recognize that there is only one source of such authority. Only God has the right to issue religious precepts. And those who will please God must certainly submit in humility to his decree.

The decree here is both old and new. Countless opinions have been expressed to how a command can be both old and new at the same time. Some have seen two entirely different commands from God while others see that as a dichotomy between the Old and New Testaments. It is hardly possible that this could be anything other than one command that has both old as well as new aspects. Later in this epistle, John again addressed this point. He wrote, “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). John was present at the time Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Furthermore, he had heard Jesus say, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Also, “These things I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:12,17).

Love is so much an integral part of Christianity that John could refer to this command in the singular. Without it as the catalyst all else in Christianity has no genuine and lasting meaning. Paul wrote to a group of churches at a time when controversy raged over circumcision. Some hotly contended that it was an essential ingredient in the conversion of Gentiles to Christianity. Others thought it was senseless to submit to human ordinances. Paul settled it quickly by saying to the churches of Galatia, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing” (Gal. 5:1-2). He explained his conclusion by adding, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (verse 6).

And much more could be said about this command. Paul wrote, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12:10). As if that had not been sufficient, he added, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love {is} the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10). Hopefully it is not boring to read the numerous times this point is proclaimed in the New Testament. Again, Paul wrote “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:2).

There is a very serious question, however, that we should address. Have we really understood the truth about love? Do we know what it really means to love as God loves? The expression, “God loves you,” can become very trite and meaningless to an individual who has not been able to find that love in his or her life. The real meaning of love is quite different from that which is assigned to it so regularly in soft hearted and overly sentimental so-called Christians.

What is true love? There are three words used in the Bible to describe it, another was available to those who wrote in the Greek language at the time of Christ and His apostles. Of the three, the word agapeo is the one most commonly applied by inspired writers to this command that is such an intrinsic part of Christianity. But here is an interesting fact. It was coined by the Greeks to describe a love completely unknown before Christ came. They knew of the love a man has for a woman, both sexually and romantically (and there is a difference). They knew of the natural response of family members to each other as love, but they had no word to describe the love that God manifested in Christ. So they coined the word agapeo.

The love that is commanded is as old as God, for John says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is as new as today for it is a constant challenge to every accountable person who ever lives on this planet. The kind of love commanded is based upon a realization that God is love. Listen again to Mr. Vine. “In respect to agapeo as used of God, it expresses the deep and constant love and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects, producing and fostering a reverential love in them towards the Giver, and a practical love toward those who are partakers of the same, and a desire to help others to seek the Giver.” (Ibid., page 21).

The love God commands is not based on a natural reason such as love for our families. Neither is it based on the impulse of emotion and feeling. This does not mean it is without feeling and emotion. It is simply not understood by the kind of emotion and feeling we experience under normal conditions. A young man sees a lovely young lady, becomes infatuated with her, and may fall deeply in love with her. That is not the kind of love commanded in this passage. God commands us to love what might even go contrary to natural feeling and/or reason.

Paul describes this love in a beautiful manner. He wrote, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8). The love of God is not based on a divine affection he has for sinners. It is based solely on his interest in doing that which is best for the object of His love. And so it is with us. We must love, not by what we say, but by how we act and react to those we are commanded to love. We might not even like some things we must love. We might not like crude and offensive behavior, but we can love those who act that way. And we show our love by trying to show the truth of God’s love for those who are sin.

One way we are taught to express our love is by helping others understand the very dangerous nature of sin. The apostle Peter wrote, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). Love seeks relief from sin, for love realizes the horrible destiny of those who meet God unforgiven of their offenses and transgressions. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Love seeks life for all. It is not right to allow people to be deluded into thinking that God loves them so much that He will just ignore all their ungodliness and sin. Yet often, that is the message they hear. What is needed; what love would provide; is a very sincere appeal to turn from sin and turn to God, on His terms, while the flame of life still flickers.

Love is first directed toward him who loved us and then it turns to those who have the same blessings. As Vine commented, “it fosters a reverential ... desire to help others to seek the Giver.” Love is not expressed in words but deeds. John also wrote, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 2:17-19).

The question each of us must deal with is whether or not we truly love God Almighty. The answer to that question comes through the way we respond to others while we are here. Please believe me, dear friend: we present this program for but one reason. It is not to change you to our way of thinking, or to “proselyte” you to some denomination. We preach on this radio station solely because we believe many of you are in sin, deceived through false and erroneous teachings you have heard. Thus, it is our purpose to preach only the truth -- because we love you and your soul. If you have the same kind of love, and find us teaching anything other than pure and untainted truth, please express your love and let us know.

It is because of our love for the lost that we preach that faith in Jesus Christ, as God’s only Son, is an essential requirement for salvation. “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for he that comes to God must believe that he is” (Heb. ll:6). We also proclaim the very words of Jesus Christ, “Except you repent you will likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Because of love for the lost we preach they must be baptized in water, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, for the remission of sins (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:38). My dear sinful friend, this is what your own Bible teaches and I pray you will comply with God’s will today.

If you have a question about this, or anything else you read from us, please let us know. Contact us at valleychurch@vscoc.org

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