The New Commandment
The last words of someone certainly carry a lot of meaning, especially when those words are recorded as some of the last teachings of our Lord. Here’s the setting for those last important words of truth taught from Scripture: “Now before the feast of the Passover, 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” (John 13:1). In the context of this portion of Scripture, the subject of God’s love permeates intensely from the beginning of this chapter throughout this upper room discourse. Love was the subject of interest, love was the lesson, and love was the NEW commandment, all given by the One “having loved his own.” Jesus spoke some life changing words concerning love in that upper classroom that day: “A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (v. 34). Jesus gave his disciples a “new commandment” that was spiritually connected to the old commandment of love that had been written long ago by the prophets. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). That love connects with loving others as well, “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18).
So, what is the meaning of the “new commandment” of love? Here’s the answer to that newness of God’s commandment in loving one another. It is new in the matter of the newness of love that Jesus gave his disciples, “having loved his own” (v. 1), and new with reference to newness found in the person of Christ, loving “as I have loved you.” Here’s the harsh reality involving love, the complexities of human, tainted by sin, interpersonal relationships demand God’s love. Loving as Jesus loved is a total impossibility without the indwelling power of His Spirit. Problem solved: it wouldn’t be long before Jesus would leave them and send His Holy Spirit: “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you” (John 15:18). Then, the encouraging love from the powerful fruit of his Spirit (Galatians 5:22) will find a new place in the new heart of the new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The newness of the very love of Christ’s Spirit will encourage them and empower them to “love one another” dismissing the power of hate and indifference. Without the new activity of the Holy Spirit, and without the pouring of the love from His Spirit into the hearts of those justified by faith (Romans 5:1, 5), there would be no love to pour out into the lives of “one another.” Certainly, a sad state for a sedated, Spirit-less, Christ-less “Christian.” Simply stated, there needs to be a “born of the Spirit” conversion (John 3:3), and God’s love must be poured in before HIS love can be poured out, and that divine love is cherished by the Spirit-filled Christian. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (I Peter 1:22-23). So, there it is, the newness of Spiritual love, based on the new commandment, active in the newness of the Christian alive in the Word, so Scriptural. So, “Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). Yes, “Jesus knew that his hour was come … having loved his own” and with the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us, our hour has now come to love as he loved.