Beloved, we have reached week 4 in our Partnering to Remember 1 John and something is happening as I rehearse that which I have already memorized from 1:1-2:6. At the beginning of each week, getting the words parsed and put in order in my head was my main focus. But now, as I recite the now-memorized verses, comprehension is growing. As I repeat the passages out loud to myself, the meaning of what John has written is dawning on me with increasing understanding, and it is wondrous to behold.
Way back in eternity past, before the creation of the world—“from the beginning”—the Father and the Son covenanted together to bring us into fellowship with them and with one another. This eternal plan was accomplished in God’s perfect time, and John and the apostles were charged to proclaim this joyful, life-changing message to the whole world. And when God brings us into this holy fellowship he banishes the darkness in which we once lived and calls us to live and walk in the light, just as Jesus did—cleansed by his blood and freed from the shackles of deception and hate so that we may love one another in obedience and truth.
Love and obedience are our joyful privilege and they set us apart from unbelievers. This week’s passage expands on that theme with the 2nd test of assurance: do we love other believers?
And so, onward to memory aids:
7 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.
John begins with an even more loving address, “Beloved.” He tells us “I am writing,” which he will repeat in the next verse. Then he repeats “commandment” three times, 1st it’s “no new,” then twice it’s an “old” commandment. They had it “from the beginning,” and it is “the word … heard.” I often trip on the smaller words, so get these in the right order— 1st, “that you had,” then “that you have heard.”
8 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.
Here we have the last use of “commandment,” and move into a new pattern of “true,” “light,” and “darkness.” John says this is a new commandment that “I am writing” (there it is again), which is true where? —”in him” and “in you”—why?—”because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” Here we have a perfect example of the already and not yet. The darkness is going, but not all gone, and the true light is already shining, but has not banished the darkness entirely. We have a logical flow here, so ask and answer the questions: “which is true,”—why?—“because…”
9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his
brother is still in darkness.
Now we’re back to the “whoevers.” John sets up another hypothetical contrast. The pattern for these three verses (9-11) is “Whoever,” “Whoever,” “But whoever.” The first two are very straightforward. We are still comparing light and darkness and adding love and hate. Love = the light and hate = darkness. So, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” So simple, right?
10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light,
and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
And now the other side of the contrast—“Whoever loves … abides in the light.” Last week John introduced the idea of abiding in him, meaning Jesus. He returns to this again—as he often will, as a synonym for being “in Christ,” ‘in the light,” “in him.” This is an important theme in John’s writings, so keep an eye out for it. Then, we see that in one who “abides in the light,” “there is no cause for stumbling.” If one can see where he is going—because of the light—one won’t stumble. Again, simple.
11 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.
Finally we see how thoroughly “the darkness” affects those who are trapped in it. The evidence that one is in the darkness is his hate for his brother. This shows that he is not only “in the darkness,” but he “walks in the darkness,” he therefore cannot see, or “know where he is going, because” (naturally) “the darkness has blinded his eyes” (3 results of being in the darkness, stated in 4 points). Note that this is not just any darkness, but is qualified as “the darkness” every time it’s mentioned in this verse.
As you practice this week’s passage, do not let the darkness be discouraging to you, but remember, the light of Christ is already shining and is growing brighter every day. He has accomplished his work and has decisively defeated the darkness! Our love for one another proves that we are abiding in Christ, and he has promised that if we abide in him and his words abide in us we may ask whatever we wish (our wishes being rooted in him) and it will be done for us—and by this the Father is glorified. As the Father has loved Christ, so he loves us (Jn. 15:7-9). I pray that this fellowship with Christ and the Father brings you much joy.