THE NEW COMMANDMENT
The Bible is made up of the Old and New Testaments, which are two Covenants that explain God’s dealing with mankind.
In Deuteronomy 6: 5, it is written, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” The following verse, says, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (vs 6)
Leviticus 19: 18 says, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”
When the Lord Jesus walked on the earth, He was approached by a lawyer, and asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Mathew 23:36)
The Lord answered him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (vs 37-40)
The Lord Jesus in answering the lawyer, made reference to these two commandments written in the law. The Lord also made an important statement, which is that on those two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. So that even under the law, loving God and one’s neighbour as one’s self was primary – it was the intent of the law.
John 13 begins with these words, “…when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”
The Lord knew that he was about to leave this world and He loved His disciples to the end. The circumstances which were ahead could not stand in the way of His love for His own. However the verse that follows paints an even grimmer picture of the events that would feature in His departure from this world.
“And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him.” (John 13:2)
The Lord is going to be betrayed by one whom He loved. He sets about to wash their feet and to dry their feet with a towel. From all that was said, He washed the feet of ALL his disciples, which included the betrayer.
As the Lord spoke unto them, pointing to Himself as an example of how they should treat each other “He was troubled in spirit” and He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” (vs. 21)
The disciples are now puzzled as to which one of them He could be referring to. As the account shows, Judas is soon exposed as the traitor and Satan enters into him. Then the Lord told Judas, “That thou doest, do quickly” and Judas leaves to betray the Lord. (vs 27-30)
Let us now pay the utmost attention to the following words. A commandment is NOT an option. The word itself suggest something that MUST be done. Living or acting in disobedience to this direct command is clearly sin. The presence and persistence of sin would always be a threat to our salvation.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (vs 34, 35)
The circumstances in which the Lord spoke those words, itself testifies of the kind of love of which he spake.
But a new commandment? What was new? The word “new” meant that this commandment never existed before.
It would mean that it was different from any previous commandment. If he was restating existing commandments, then it cannot be new. Loving one another, is not new. The commandment which they all knew admonished them to love others as they loved themselves. So how was this commandment from the Lord so different as to make it new?
They were now to love one another as He (the Lord) loved them.
This would mean that His love was a different kind of love to that which was taught in the previous commandment documented in the Law.
This is understood better in Paul’s writing to the Romans when he said, “…because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5)
This only happens to persons who have received Christ as Lord and Saviour of their lives. The Spirit of God who brings Christ to men, sheds the love of God abroad in the hearts of those who make Christ Lord of their lives. A new kind of love is received. The person now has an ability to love that was not possible before.
This kind of love was not possible before Christ and is not possible in those who have not accepted Christ as Lord. But for the followers of Christ, this is the NEW NORM. It is the commandment given by the Lord to His followers.
The Lord also said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)
According to the Lord, it is that manner of love which marks His followers. The identifying mark of His followers are those walking in His kind of Love. This love is so hard, not to see, that by it ALL men would recognise those who are His disciples.
While the focus is loving each other with this new kind of love, the presence of that love in the human heart would mean that the individual now has the ability to love the Lord with this new kind of love as well.
We can love both God and man as Christ loved God the Father and His disciples.