Summary: We who claim to be Christians must be sure they are on the true path.
The Christian Walk
Last week we learned that sin is not normal in the Christian. The Christian’s sin does not affect just that person, but the entire body of Christ. We saw from the plural "we have an advocate" that there has to at least be a sense in which the whole body intercedes for the individual who sinned. The word here was the same used by Jesus to describe the operation of the Holy Spirit, paraclete. In Christ alone and in His atoning sacrifice do we find forgiveness of our sin.
We were also reminded that this epistle has a high theology of the church or body of Christ. We all together are Christ’s body. We cannot have fellowship with the Father or the Son if we are not in fellowship with His body. the church. The ones who had left thought they could do Christianity on their own as though it was a "survival of the fittest" race for salvation. Instead, we must see this race as a group effort in which the church is not crowned until the weakest of the brethren cross the finish line. The “we” sections accent this as contrasted to the approach of the ones who thought themselves above the fellowship of the church are introduced by the singular.
If we see that we cannot achieve the crown until the "least of these my brethren" finish the race, how much the more should we intercede, encourage, and assist them!
Exposition of the Text
v. 7. Beloved, This is not a new commandment I am writing you BUT an old one which you have been holding from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard.
John is about to give the church a new commandment which is not really new at all. We all know how sometimes our walk in Christ gets stale and suddenly something new pops up that refreshes us. But when we think about it, we remember that we have heard it before but had forgotten it. The Greek word êáéíὴ, keh-knee, which is translated "new" does not mean "new" in the sense of "novel" or something entirely new and different. It instead has the idea of a commandment which is of the same substance as the old, but new in application or deeper in meaning. In fact, êáéíὴ is used in the Greek for "New" in the title "New Testament". The New Testament is not something entirely new or novel as it is founded upon the Old Testament and the promises of the Old. The New Testament stands out in relation to the Old in the sense that while it has its foundation in the Old Testament, it also goes richer and deeper. The commandment they are about to receive is the same one which they heard from the very beginning of their faith journey. But there is growth in the understanding and application of this commandment.
We know in John 15:12 and John 15:17 and in other places in Jesus’ final sermon to His disciples before the crucifixion talked about the vital importance of loving one another. It was the proof to the world that they were disciples of Jesus (John 13:35). John earlier in this epistle talked about the twofold manner of our witness. The one was the proclamation of the good news in human speech. The other was the witness of character or who one is. If we belong to Jesus, our lives will reflect this testimony by the love we have for each other. What we say, what we do, and who we are must all agree. The perfect testimony is the complete integration of sound doctrine, sound living, and a sound heart.
Jesus told the disciples many times that the world would be hostile to the message of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it was all the more important that the church be united in love. the church would also need to respond to persecution from outside with the same forgiving love that Jesus had shown the world on the cross. We can take the church of Antioch mentioned in the book of Acts for an example. That church was a church made up of people of various economic and social statuses. Not only this, it was interracial. In the world, these people would certainly not have mixed. In fact, the only way you could have gotten them together was by spear point. This does not mean the task of uniting the church in love was an easy one. But what a testimony it must have made to the world who saw them worshipping together! "Surely God is in this place" must have been the reaction of many who saw them. Who knows how many were won to Christ because of this love.