Brethren, I am writing 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. vs 8 Again, a new commandment I am writing to you,
which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is
passing away, and the true light is already shining. vs 9 He who is saying that he exists in the light, but
characteristically hates his "brother", exists in darkness (from
the beginning) until now. vs 10 He who characteristically loves his "brother"
characteristically dwells in the light, and there is no cause for
stumbling in him. vs 11 But he who characteristically hates his "brother"
exists in darkness and walks in darkness, and has not perceived
where he is going, because the darkness had blinded his eyes
at some point in time. vs 7,8 Brethren, I am writing 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 am writing to you, which thing is true
in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the
true light is already shining.
Here "commandment" is singular, so he's has one commandment
in particular in mind. As such this is not an allusion to the Law of
Moses with its over 500 commandments including the famous 10
commandments. But note the paradoxical statements he makes:
vs 7"I am writing no new commandment to you ..." vs 8"a new commandment I am writing to you ..."
His 2nd epistles kind of clears things up as he says, "And now I plead with you, lady,
not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we
have had from the beginning: that we love one another."2John 1:5
This was an old command in that is was given by Jesus to his
apostles decades prior to John's epistles. We find it in the gospel
of John 13:34"A new command I give you: Love one
another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another",
yet note that there Jesus refers to it as a "new command". That is,
while the Law speaks of loving your neighbor, the priority for
Christians is to love fellow Christians. Thus Paul writes in Galatians 6:10"Therefore, as we have opportunity,
let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to
the family of believers."
Concerning this commandment to love one another John goes on to say
in verse 8" which thing is true in Him and in
you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is
already shining." That is, this commandment is fulfilled
among those born of God, of which is much of the content of 1John -
namely characterizing the behavior of those born of God. The true
light ALREADY shining is the fact that sanctification has taken its
hold among those born of God such that they portray a Christlikeness
distinct from the world.
vs 9 He who is saying that he exists in the light,
but characteristically hates his "brother", exists in darkness (from the beginning) until now.
Again this is not referring to an event which is uncharacteristic of
the person. Rather, being in the present tense, it's referring to
one who characteristically hates his brother, though claiming to
exist in the light. This in contrast to the "you" of verse 8 of whom
John indicated they did in fact love one another. So here John is
referring to false Christians. This fact is further supported by the
apodosis (the conclusion or diagnosis of the conditional clause), "exists in darkness (from the beginning) until now." I add the
"from the beginning", given that by saying "until now" he implies a
beginning. This statement supports the concept of the perseverance
of the saints. For given his statement here could it be possible for
one who at the beginning was born of God, walking in the light, but
who later on turned into a much different person characteristically
hating his brother? No, that is not logically possible given John's
statement here. For in that case John could not have added the
statement "until now". A more explicit statement affirming the perseverance of the saints will come up in 1John 2:19.
One who characteristically hates his brother reveals that they had
never been born of God anytime in the past all the way up to the
vs 10 He who characteristically loves his "brother"
characteristically dwells in the light, and there is no cause for
stumbling in him.
Throughout 1John I noticed when John refers to someone "being in"
(of which I translate "existing in" when it used in the present
tense), and "abiding in" (using the Greek word "meno") as if these
were synonymous expressions. And again I emphasize here that he's
not talking about an event uncharacteristic of the person's
behavior, but rather of that which is characteristic of the person's
lifestyle. In fact the word "meno" often translated "remain" in the
NIV has an emphatic sense of continuity which is inherent in the
vs 11 But he who
characteristically hates his "brother" exists in darkness and
walks in darkness, and has
not perceived where he is
going, because the darkness had blinded his eyes
at some point in time.
Notice he's contrasting "dwelling in the light" versus "existing in
darkness". It appears "dwelling in" and "existing in" seem to mean
the same thing. "Walking", as I mentioned elsewhere, refers to what
a person does. Being in darkness leads to deeds of darkness once one
applies oneself. But the interesting thing here is John is stating
there was an event in such a person's life at which point they had
become "blinded" in some sense. And, utilizing the perfect tense of
"perceive", John is saying from that point, all the way to the
present they have not perceived where they are going.
They may be "blind" in a number of ways. First, in accordance with
the common theme of much of 1John, they may be blind to the fact
that they are not genuine Christians. They are not saved. They don't
have eternal life. And indeed many in the Christian community have a
false assurance of their salvation status. They also may be blind to
the fact that they hate their fellow Christians. For I've noticed
many who practiced hatred among the Christian community but who
simply don't label it as hatred. They are blind.
There are those who would claim that since the term "brother" is
used, therefore 1John is not about distinguishing false Christians
from true, as the Bible would NEVER refer to a false Christian as a
"brother". But that statement is more of an hypothesis than it is
proof. For there are even cases where, for example Acts, speaking in
a generic sense, as it is about history rather than doctrine, refers
to some people as believers. "Then
some of the believers
who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The
Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of
Moses.'" Acts 15:5
Yet in Galatians Paul, in describing this same incident, refers to
these same people as false brothers. "This matter arose because some false brothers had
infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ
Jesus and to make us slaves."Gal 2:4
It is interesting to note that whenever "brother" is used in the
singular John uses the phrase "his brother", seemingly to apply it
generically. And consider these statements:
"not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his
"brother" at some point in time. And why did he murder him?
Because his works were evil and his "brother"ís righteous." 1John 3:12
hates his "brother" is a murderer, and you have perceived that
no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."1John 3:15
So if we were to hypothesize that "brother" means a genuine
Christian - one who has been born of God and has eternal life, then
it would seem such an interpretation of "brother" would clearly not
fit these cases. Cain was the "brother" of Abel. Abel was the
righteous man, yet Cain is not portray as a sort of second class
among the righteous, but rather he was of the evil one, and given
that he was a murderer, he didn't have eternal life abiding in him.
Secondly, given such an hypothesis
1John 3:15 would have to be interpreted to mean that these
saved, born-again Christians who hate their fellow Christians, don't
have eternal life abiding in them, which end up being some kind of
esoteric meaning rather than taking it at face value. For then such
people would have to make a distinction between having eternal life
and having eternal life abiding in you.
Another sense of "his brother", which makes the reading and
interpretation much less esoteric, much less ambiguous, is simply by
putting quotation marks around "brother", just indicating someone
who is referred to as a brother in a generic sense. This would
include biological brothers, as in the case of Abel and Cain,
genuine brothers in the faith, as well as those merely called
"brothers" by the association with the Christian community, but who
have not themselves been born of God. In other words "brother"
incorporates all among the "visible Church", of which we use the
term "Christian community". The original manuscripts had no
punctuation whatsoever in them. But if John were to write his
epistle today, I think he would have put quotes around "brother",
and perhaps barring the use of any punctuation, that may have been
his intention in using the phrase "his brother" to refer to
"brother" in the generic sense, while in the plural, "brethren", he
restricts the meaning to genuine Christians.