Title: The Law of Christ
Text: I John 2:7-11
FCF: We often struggle assessing the reality of falsity of our faith.
Prop: In Christ, a child of light can love as Christ loves, so we must analyze ourselves to see if we are children of light.
Scripture Intro: ESV
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to I John chapter 2. John has been confronting the false teaching that has greatly troubled the church in Asia Minor. He began the letter explaining the source of truth and the message of truth and then moved to how a person can know they are of God by how they view sin. Last week John showed how a person can know they are of God by how they view God’s law.
John made it plain that two proofs for knowing that you are God’s child is that you love, cherish and obey His Word and that you live a lifestyle that mimics His Son.
Today John will expand on this concept. Not just obedience to God’s law, but even mimicking Christ. Today he will draw out one specific command that if kept can prove that you are God’s.
As has been the case all throughout I John so far, if you are a child of God – this passage is latent with hope and comfort for you. But if you are only pretending to be His child, if you are only claiming to be His child, this passage will be quite troubling for you.
I am in verse 7 of chapter 2. I will be reading from the ESV but you can follow along in your own version or in the pew bible on page 1372. If you don’t have a bible of your own, you can take the pew bible home with you.
I realize I say this every week, but there is so much to cover. So, let’s get right to it, shall we?
I.) Because Christ continues to give greater success to His children, we must analyze ourselves to see if we are children of light. (7-8)
a. [Slide 2] 7 – Beloved I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.
i. John wants to be clear that he is not introducing new concepts to their faith.
ii. This is something that the false teachers he was facing could not say.
iii. John brings an old command. A command that they were having from the beginning. But we are left to wonder, the beginning of what?
iv. Is John talking about the beginning of time? Is this a command that they had since Adam and Eve?
v. If that were true, would John have better said, an old commandment that we have had from the beginning rather than you had from the beginning?
vi. Let’s get some more context from John …
b. [Slide 3] The old commandment is the word that you have heard.
i. As we see here, the old commandment is the message that they have heard. Although this could refer to a command from the Mosaic Covenant, more likely…
ii. This is the gospel, or at least was included in their gospel instruction. Namely what they had heard about Christ and His law.
iii. So as John builds to his point, the reader is on the edge of his seat waiting for this old command that they have been taught since they first heard the gospel message. A command that was included in the gospel message. What old command could this be?
iv. John refuses to answer and instead continues to build the anticipation.
c. [Slide 4] 8 – At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you,
i. So in one way, the command is old, as old as their receiving of the gospel message. But in another way this command is new.
ii. How could it be true that it is both old and new?
iii. In Him and in you.
iv. What does that mean?
v. First the Him most obviously refers to Christ here. Christ, after all, has been the unspoken subject of the entire discussion since verse 1 of chapter 2.
vi. So in Christ this command is both old and new.
vii. And in you. In their hearts, in their souls, in their persons, this command is both old and new.
viii. It may help us to understand that the Greek language has a few ways of expressing something that is new. This particular word does not express something that is new in essence or existence. In our vernacular, it is not brand spankin new. 😊
ix. Instead, this word talks about something that is refreshed, remade, revived, made new again or restored. Something that is old but is revitalized.
x. And so, this command which they have heard, which they have received, which they have had from the beginning of their conversion, this old command is also revitalized in Christ and in them.
d. [Slide 5] because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
i. Again the idea of darkness and light is brought into the discussion. He began here in chapter 1:5 with saying that God is light and in Him there is no darkness.
ii. What we have here then, is a bookend. We are nearing the end of John’s opening statements which will conclude in verse 17 of chapter 2.
iii. But what does this mean?
iv. Is this the darkness in the world or in us? Is this light in us, or is this the light in the world?
v. Cautiously, can I say… YES!
vi. Christ – the light of the world brings light and life to our hearts as we are united to Him.
vii. And so, in Christ and in us, the darkness of this world and of our hearts is disappearing… while His light in the world and in our hearts, is expanding.
viii. That is why this is an old command… that is continuing to be made new. We are seeing newer and greater possibilities of this command, because every day in Christ is a day that we can live more free of darkness and more free in His light.
ix. That is the new reality of this command – not a new command delivered but a new effect or possibility from an old command.
e. [Slide 6] Passage Truth: Although John has not yet revealed what the command is, he has revealed something about this command that is pretty amazing. This command is new, it is revitalized, because of Christ. Each day the darkness melts away, in the world and in us, and each day the light of Christ shines a little brighter. What does that mean for John’s readers? That in Christ, the command that John is about to give them, is not a command that is beyond them. In fact, every day they are in Christ they are able to keep this command to a newer and better degree.
f. Passage Application: Such truth would have been so comforting to his readers. After being told that any effort to keep God’s commands is irrelevant, and even that desiring to keep his commands means they don’t know God well enough. After being told all this, to hear the apostle that Jesus loved, John, say that not only should they keep God’s commands, and live like Christ, but that in Christ, each command they have received is now more and more possible to keep because Christ is winning. Indeed, he has won!
g. [Slide 7] Broader Biblical Truth: You know what friends, in some ways, it doesn’t even matter what the command is that John is about to say. We know from the whole of scripture that God has defeated the forces of darkness and has crucified our flesh with His Son. We know that every new day the Spirit strives in our hearts to produce the works that God has prepared for us in Christ to do. Not only are we not alone in this, but also the more our flesh is crucified, and the more we are pressed into the mold of Jesus Christ, the more we are able to keep His ways and obey His commands in new and greater ways.
h. Broader Biblical Application: If you are a follower of Christ, if you have left these messages on I John so far and felt greatly encouraged, I hope you feel weight lifted from you from this truth. I hope you feel comforted by this fact. That He who began a good work in you, will keep on perfecting you until you are perfected. To a greater and greater and newer and newer degree. He will not let you stay where you are. And for a person who desires to flee sin and obey the Lord’s law – that is a comforting thought. But you know who that is not a comforting thought for? Those who do not want to obey God and those who love their sin. Because at some point, if God isn’t chastening them, if God isn’t purifying them, if God isn’t giving them victory – at some point that person has to ask… Am I a child of the King? And they would be right to be concerned.
[Slide 8 (blank)] Of course by now, you are no doubt firmly fixed on the edge of your seats wondering… what is this command that we are more capable of performing with each new day in Christ? Of course, we’ve already read the passage, so mostly I am just adding dramatic flair here 😊 But still you get this feeling of anticipation…. What could it be?
II.) Because Christ continues to provide love for one another, we must analyze ourselves to see if we are children of light. (9-11)
a. [Slide 9] 9 – Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.
i. Again, he is addressing something that the false teachers have claimed.
ii. I am enlightened! I AM in the light!
iii. John hops right on this. For his readers he wants them to know that they CAN claim to be in the light – but only if certain things are true of them.
iv. In this opening statement here before he reveals the command positively, he will reveal it negatively.
v. If any person says that they are in the light but hates his brother – this is a participle so this isn’t an action or one-time act of hate, but rather a characteristic of hate. This is a hating their brother kind of person.
vi. Brother here refers to others within the Christian community. Not just men, but women and children too.
vii. Hate here is in the theological sense. What that means is that there is no twilight only darkness and light. And so, if there is no love there is hate. Coming down to brass tacks, this does not mean that a person goes around seething with unbridled rage or acts of violence against a person, although this certainly would be included. Rather, if I can put it simply, any attitude that could be described as unloving, is included here. This could be a person who slanders, insults, maligns, undermines, disrespects, or vilifies another believer, publicly or privately.
viii. So, if a person is characterized by this kind of hatred toward those within the church, what is true?
ix. They are still in darkness. They are still disconnected from God. Euphemistically John says they aren’t saved people.
x. You may object. “John says – if he hates HIS brother this implies that he is also in the community of believers.” This would be true if the term brother is used to mean those who are actually children of God. However, the term is not that specific. Brother simply means those who are in the community of faith. That could include those who are pretenders, nominal, or future apostates. So John is saying, if you claim Christ and hate people who also claim Christ, then you are not in the light.
xi. Then John presents the positive side of the command.
b. [Slide 10] 10 – Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
i. So there it is, finally, the command to love. But again, here, it is not put in as a verb but rather a participle. Meaning that a person is characterized by their love for their brothers. They are a love their brother kind of person.
ii. And if that is true – they abide in the light. They exist in the light. They are children of light.
iii. Love here is very obviously speaking about a supernatural kind of love. A love that is selfless and divinely empowered. John has referenced a couple things in the immediate context to make us think this. First that in a person who keeps God’s word, God’s love has been perfected to the point that it continues to impact them even to the day John wrote the words in verse 5. Second, that a person who is truly conquered and united to God, will live a lifestyle that mimics God’s Son, Jesus Christ which he said in verse 6.
iv. [Slide 11] And to put the cherry on top of all this. John 13 – which is no doubt where John is pulling this command from – verse 34-35 Jesus reveals a new commandment for his disciples which is to love one another (and here is the new part) just as he loved them. Jesus says that it is by them having this love that others will know that they are His disciples. Interesting that He says “having” this kind of love rather than “showing” this kind of love. More on that at the end.
v. [Slide 12] Putting all of that contextually in place, means that this love is the love of Christ demonstrated toward our fellow believers. Such love is only possible from someone who is actually in Christ… or is abiding or existing in the light.
vi. Furthermore, John goes on to say that there is no cause for stumbling. Literally the phrase says there is no snare in it (referring to the light) or him (referring to the loving their brother kind of person). The Greek pronoun here could be neuter or masculine. But in either case what is clear is that John is saying that it is impossible for Him to stumble. Why? Because no snare exists in the light that he walks in, or in his heart at all.
vii. It is difficult to know what he means by this. There are a few options we could consider.
1. He could be talking about simply sinning, but that would need to have the caveats that no one can do this perfectly. But that seems to contradict his statement (there is no snare in). Is there or isn’t there?
2. He could mean that this person can’t cause others to sin, which also would need the caveat of not doing so perfectly.
3. One way of interpreting this so that this snare does not exist is to say that this snare means to be scandalized or to fall away. Meaning a sin that is permeant or unrestrained that ultimately leads to the judgment of the person.
4. I prefer the last interpretation. Why?
viii. John’s discussion has not been toward individual sins so much as identity in Christ. It is very clear, that up to this point, John’s discussion is about how to recognize whether or not someone is a child of God or not. He has been discussing this since chapter 1, verse 1. To come to this point and suggest that a person who is a loving their brother kind of person can prevent themselves from sinning or causing another to sin seems off topic. What makes more sense is that a loving their brother kind of person proves that they exist or abide in light. And a person who exists or abides in the light is a person with whom darkness has no power or sway. So this is not saying it is impossible for a person in the light to sin or to cause another to sin, but rather that it is impossible for a person in the light to permanently fall or be scandalized and reject the gospel of Christ.
ix. If that is true, then such a person who is a loving their fellow Christian community members kind of person, is a person that is clearly a child of the light and in whom there will never be a permeant failure. Why? Because in them, the love of God has been perfected!
x. Wow – There is a promise for you. Right?
xi. John could end it right here, but after such powerful words of comfort and promise to God’s children – he wants to deliver an even more powerful message of warning to those who are only pretending.
c. [Slide 13] 11 – But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and doesn’t know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
i. In many ways what John says here is something he has already said, but he adds some extra emphasis that is quite troubling.
ii. A hating their Christian community member kind of person is clearly in the darkness. This we have seen.
iii. However, they also walk in darkness. Walk, as we have seen, communicates a pattern of lifestyle and living. John makes clear that they are not in the darkness at the moment. They are not in the darkness temporarily. Instead, their life exists in the darkness. This is the opposite of abiding in the light. This is abiding in darkness. This is quite a disturbing image John conjures. But he is not done.
iv. He doesn’t know where he is going. The Greek is literally, he has not and continues not to perceive the place that he is going. He is lost friends. While claiming to be of the light – he is lost in the dark.
v. Finally, John gives the reason that he is so lost.
vi. The darkness blinded him. We don’t know how he got in darkness, we don’t know if the darkness is still blinding him or if it finished its work of blinding him. All we know is that he has no idea and still has no idea where is going because the darkness took his sight.
vii. The absolute truth of this man – without shade of doubt – is that he is not God’s child. He can’t be. Why? Because God is light and in Him there is no darkness. And this man abides in darkness.
viii. Just as it is impossible for the person in the light to be snared or to fall into permeant sin
ix. Conversely it is impossible for the person in darkness to NOT fall into permeant sin.
x. But we cannot think the solution is to simply start to love.
xi. The solution is not to walk more carefully in the dark – but to turn on the light.
xii. [Slide 14] John Cotton “Never look to fulfill this commandment to imitate Christ until you become a new man; for it is a new commandment, and a new commandment requires new obedience, and a new obedience requires a new spirit.”
d. [Slide 15] Passage Truth: So John the apostle, finally reveals this great command. A command that Paul says is the summary of the law. A command that Paul calls the Law of Christ. To love other believers. Such a command is only possible by those who are in Christ, because the love is the love of Christ. A person who is a love their brother like Christ kind of person, is a person who is a child of light, and is a person who will never be allowed to permanently fall.
e. Passage Application: What a comforting thought to his readers. All these false teachers that had maligned them, insulted them, and abandoned them… and yet they held together. They drew close to one another. They cared for each other. All of what John is saying is… you have proven yourself to be the genuine believers. And they have proven themselves to be in the darkness.
f. [Slide 16] Broader Biblical Truth: And as we zoom out and look for this truth in all of scripture, we have kinda already talked about it. John 13 – Jesus says that those who love believers with His love prove they are the disciples of Christ. Why? Because as Mr. Cotton said, there is no way a person could produce the love of Christ toward believers without being in Christ.
g. Broader Biblical Application: What a great comfort then it is to know that if I am a loving my brother like Christ kind of person, then I am that way because Christ is in me, because I am in the light, and that I am guaranteed to never fall way. I am secure. Of course, what fearful concern this produces in one who is not able to show this kind of love to those in the community of Christ.
[Slide 17 (blank)] So I hope that this has been incredibly comforting for you if you are a believer, in that you show the love of Christ to your fellow believers. However, I think sometimes we can either overthink or underthink this. So I want to spend some time unpacking what it means to love others like Christ loves you.
We can underthink this by dismissing the ability to love like Christ altogether. We determine that to love like Christ is simply not possible, but as long as we don’t murder anyone or get in fights, then that means we love the way Christ wants us to. This could also mean not being judgmental of others and not criticizing their decisions or choices. Unfortunately, this is not what the love of Christ is. How do I know? This is a standard that is natural to all men. There are plenty who reject Christ and His teachings that have never killed anyone, do not get into fights and never judge anyone. Therefore, there is nothing supernatural about this kind of love. Don’t underthink the love of Christ. He spoke harshly to people remember. Some of those were his opponents, but some of those were his disciples. He also did more than not kill and not fight right? Certainly, there was more to Christ’s love than this?
On the other side of the coin, I think we can run the risk of overthinking this too. We look at Christ’s perfect selflessness, and humility. We see him traveling across all of Israel to heal people and finally dying on a cross to redeem people. And I think we compare any love we offer to that and think – I am no where close. In some sense this is true. But I’d encourage you to understand that your definition of Christ’s love is being inferred from scripture but not drawn from scripture. We wonder, do I do enough for others? Am I giving enough money, do I help enough people? Certainly, these are expressions of love. Certainly, supporting the church’s financial needs and helping people are acts of love. Perhaps you have even learned the 5 love languages. Am I affirming them with words, am I spending qualify time with them, do I give gifts or serve them, do I hug people? Now listen, I went through that study, I enjoyed it, and there are certainly helpful aspects in the work. But as a whole, they all boil down to acts that demonstrate love. But John speaks here of the character of Christlike love, not acts of love. What is the difference?
As if God knew we would need a “quick start guide” to the love of Christ, He had His apostle Paul record a chapter of the bible that, unfortunately, we only use for weddings. We should use it for every issue related to unity of the body of Christ. Because that is the context in which it is found. Of course, I am speaking of I Corinthians 13.
[Slide 18(end)] Love is patient, love is kind, it doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, nor does it treat others condescendingly (to be puffed up). It isn’t rude or selfish. It takes a lot to anger it and it is not bitter. It doesn’t rejoice when people fall into sin. But it does rejoice when the truth wins the day. There is nothing that is too much for love to handle. There is nothing that can be done to permanently lose love’s trust. There is nothing that can be done to break love’s hope. There is nothing that can be done to stop love because love never ends.
This is the love of Christ. It is the goal to which we aspire. And so to be a person characterized by this kind of love, is not to be a person who ALWAYS demonstrates this love, nor is it a person who demonstrates it in BIG ACTS all the time, but rather it is someone who ALWAYS pursues this love with all who claim Christ. Is this the way you generally see others who are Christ’s followers? This passage didn’t talk about quality time, or financial aid. It didn’t talk about hugs or kind words. Certainly, those things may be included. But it talks about character. Character is who you are most of the time, whether someone is watching or not. Is there a warmness, respect, humility, and trust that you have for each one in this room who claims Christ? This is the test John puts forth. This is the evidence of being a child of light.
Analyze your heart. Is this you? Not perfectly, but generally. If so, know that you are a child of light. Why? Because this kind of love is not natural. It is supernatural. Only those in Christ can display this kind of love toward His people. And they can do it in a new way and new degree every day they are in Christ because the darkness is shrinking away as His glorious light shines brighter.
But if you find this isn’t you, then I have no comfort for you– but I do offer hope. Don’t try to love as Christ loved. Because you can’t. Instead, cry out for mercy from God. Seek Him. He will hear those who diligently seek Him.