1 JOHN – SERIES : NR 5
Scripture: 1 JOHN 2: 7 – 11
Theme: The new commandment
Respiration/pulse/temperature/eye reflexes/blood pressure. From these five vital signs, you will know with certainty that someone is physically alive.
In the same way, you can be certain that you are spiritually alive and that the Holy Spirit has done a true work in your life.
In his first letter, the Apostle John gives namely several such vital signs to reassure his readers that they are truly saved children of God – particularly because the Gnostics – the antichrists – have confused them.
The word “know” appears more than 20 times in 1 John. Great joy comes into one’s heart when you discover that the Lord has done a true work in your life, not so?
Look what is written in 5:10: Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his/her heart. When one’s trust rests in the cross-salvation of Christ and God’s promise, it automatically produces certain vital signs in your heart and life and when you recognize/notice it, it strengthens/underlines your assurance.
And of course, the opposite is also true: when the vital signs are absent, you should realise that the Lord has probably not yet done a work in your heart (even though you probably are a religious person) and it should lead you to become anxious and bring you to true repentance.
John’s letter is interspersed with such vital signs: “indicators” with needles that move if the Spirit truly lives in you. The testimony is visible in the heart of the believer.
From what can you know that a true work of the Lord took place in your heart? Summarise it like this: you are just the opposite of what you used to be by nature (a sinner). Without trying to be like that. It comes automatically because the Holy Spirit is indwelling. You are the complete opposite of what man is by nature. Particularly there where you are on your own/in secret, there is where your true heart/nature/character is the most evident. The truly reborn person is in principle a “spiritual” person. That means: Your first instinct is always, always, always Christ.. and His business. The un-reborn CAN simply not be like that! Impossible!
In the previous paragraph of chapter 2, John has already mentioned THREE such vital signs. And in the present paragraph, he mentions another one. And in the rest of the letter, there will be more.
Verses 7-11 = The 4th vital sign: The love and attraction that you notice in yourself for other followers of Jesus Christ. Although love is not mentioned by name in verses 7-9. Only in verse 10. But that is what the new command is about from verse 7!
Love is a spontaneous fruit of rebirth. It is indeed the Holy Spirit that pours out God’s love into your heart when He brings you to life in Christ (Rom 5:5). THAT someone who knows the Lord loves is a truth that is taught throughout the Bible. From the start of the OT. It is indeed the fulfillment of the Law.
Nowhere is it written that you must love the Lord and your neighbor to find favour with God and in that way try to become saved. Never! The love is always the FRUIT of someone who is already saved by grace. It is the fruit produced by the Spirit. It is not possible to stimulate it. And that fruit of the Spirit IS the fulfillment of what the Law (the absolute will of God) demands because love is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom 13: 8-10). But, it is not a question of TRYING to love. Yes, it is indeed a command. But it is the fruit of the indwelling Spirit and the new life He created.
To no one who hears these things, it should be something new, because the OT is written full of it. In the OT love for God is very central.
But now listen to what the Lord is saying in John 13: 34-35 > “A NEW command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
It correlates perfectly with verses 7-8 (read it again).
Keep in mind that the Gnostics (antichrists) professed that they have a NEW version of the Christian Faith. They say they are preaching wonderful new truths. And that while any new doctrine is heresy. If anyone comes with new doctrine/teaching, it is immediately a move away from the Christian Faith. Anyone who wants to add to the teaching of the Scriptures or comes with a wonderful new interpretation is a wandering spirit. Flee from someone like that.
The OT teaching about love is also the NT teaching about love – as instruction but fulfilled by the Spirit’s fruit in the life of the person who has hope in Christ. There is nothing that can be added.
And yet both Jesus and John use the word NEW. A NEW command I give you. And listen to John: “I am not writing you a new command but an old one (meaning that the OT is full of it). YET I am writing you a new command. It is the truth. One sees it – that it is new – in Jesus and also in you as His followers”.
What on earth does that mean? It sounds so confusing. How can it be old (familiar) as well as new?
All that it could mean is that the love command from the OT gets a new driving force through Jesus and His people. We now see how He perfected it in His own life on earth and how the almighty power of the Spirit works it in the lives of Christ believers! A new fresh, powerful way. Look for example at the cross and you see how Jesus intensified love and to what extremes His love was prepared to go. And look at His saved people in whom His love came to dwell. Look at what extremes they are prepared to go. That is what makes it NEW. A new driving force of an old command.
Thus, the NEW doctrine which the Gnostics taught, is false. New truths are false. It is the OLD TRUTH which is validated in Christ himself and in everyone who is His followers – THAT is all that matters.
But the Gnostics did NOT have this love, because they did not love the true children of the Lord (the true church of Christ). They preached wonderful new truths – so much so that you are amazed at what you hear from those preachers – but the NEW powerful manifestation of the love in and through Jesus and the power of the Spirit – they did not display.
John’s judgment over them is therefore that they are false. False preachers, false doctrine, even though they speak so well. They are living in darkness, while the darkness has indeed been conquered and shall pass away. It is the true light that already shines in Christ and that will remain forever and ever. Whoever discovers the new command (love) and lives in the power thereof, is in the true light. That love is an attribute of a Christian.
The Gnostics say the attribute is the new doctrine they have discovered and which they are preaching. But John says no, the attribute is the driving force of the love which flows from Christ through you. And exactly that was lacking with the Gnostics because look: they turned their back on the Apostles and the true church.
Do you see what the 4th vital sign is that John highlights? It is the 4th thing by which one can see in yourself that you are truly spiritually alive, that the Lord truly came to do something in you, that you have been made alive. That is the love – especially the love for the teaching of the Apostles and the true church of Christ. Your firm attachment to it shows that you are alive.
This 4th vital sign is/must be seen in conjunction with the other three which he mentioned in verses 3-6 (which we have studied last week).
Let us just mention them again: 1 > Lifestyle of obedience 2 > Presence of God’s love 3 > The life of Christ Jesus that becomes evident in my own life.
And add to that the 4th > The practical love – particularly the love for the teaching of the Apostles and the true church of Christ. Your devotion to it.
If 1 of the 4 is present, then all 4 will be present.
Think again about the scene of an accident where someone is lying on the ground and it looks as if the person is dead. Then the paramedic comes and looks for vital signs. When ONE vital sign is present, for example, pulse, then the others will automatically be present – respiration, heartbeat, blood pressure, etc. If there is no pulse, there is no heartbeat.
The same is valid for the vital signs which the Apostle talks about here.
If one sees these vital signs in your life, you know that the darkness is fading and that the light is breaking through. With the coming of Christ, the light has been turned on. The light shines everywhere where the doctrine of those who were first-hand witnesses of Jesus-on-earth is preached and embraced. The light shines everywhere where the love of Christ becomes evident in people’s lives. In this way, the darkness of unsaved-ness, unholy-ness, sin-addiction, hate, and misleading is driven out. Yes, the true light already is shining. Without a doubt.
But many people profess that they know this light and that this light is shining in their lives, but there is no practical caring and love for other Christians who are in Christ and who are in the light.
That is verses 9-11.
Here the Apostle refers to the Gnostics – the antichrists – who maintain that they have become enlightened, but they are still in the dark because they have separated themselves from the Apostles and the true church of Christ. They hate the true Christians. Therefore they are still living in darkness and are blinded by the darkness. Someone who is blind is without direction. He/she does not know where they are going. Such a person stumbles easily.
It is terrible to think that a person can be convinced about ONE THING in yourself, but that ANOTHER THING is, in reality, true about you. What shall be your end? It is a very dangerous situation. And a blind person cannot make himself see. God alone can do that.
On the other side, verse 10. The person who truly loves other disciples of the Lord. Who feel attracted to them. On social media and everywhere. Your contact is with people who are in the light. You WANT to have contact with them. Your heart has changed. You are no longer established worldly in general as you were before and as everyone is by nature. Something has radically changed. Your love has changed. You now love people about whom you know that they are walking in the light and you want to communicate with them, learn from them, etc. The Lord’s church is your joy. It is your place! (READ VERSE 10 AGAIN).
Two things are significant here:
1 > Whoever lives in the light and loves other disciples of Christ, are themselves also in the light. That “fellowship” helps you to also live in the light. It is a great support system.
2 > The love for other Christians contributes more to the light! The light increases. The same is also true for those who are allergic to other Christians. It adds to the darkness and the blindness increases. While those who are bound to other Christians become more and more sighted! You can almost not believe that you previously could NOT see! Previously you could not be sure where you were on the way to. Now there is stability, solidity, assurance in your heart. And it can not be changed for anything.
Let us abound in wonder at what great things the Lord can do in one’s life. It is nothing less than miraculous. The eyes of some shall probably never open. But those who are delivered from blindness, can hardly believe it and the fellowship with like-minded people is enriching and it feels fantastic to be useful in the interest of others.
Who can create something like that in a sinful person’s heart?
Answer: Only God, because He IS light!
Translated by Marthie Wilson