“And now I ask you, dear lady — not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning — that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” ~ 2 John 5-6
Explanation of the Text: Upon offering encouragement and exhortation, John shifts now to instruction. This shift in tone is noted not only by his directions, but by his shift from “we” to “you.” While John is encouraged by those that are walking in the truth, he recognizes the work of progressive sanctification in which all of us have continued work to do to be like Christ. Thus, he writes of them about God’s commands.
In fact, John writes of only one command, but this command encompasses all of the others that have ever been given (Matthew 22:36-40). This commandment is one that is both old and new. It is old in that it has been passed on from generation to generation as one that God had given since the beginning. His plan was that men would love Him by loving others. However, John also that it is new. It’s not new as in it has never been heard before, but rather John is emphasizing the need to remember and repeat it. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in other ways that cause us to lose sight of the command. Thus, there is a need for it to be new in one’s life on a continuous basis.
The commandment is simply to love one another. John defines love as obedience to God’s commands (1 John 3:22). Love then is an inward character that is demonstrated by the outward character of obedience to God and remaining in fellowship with one another (cf. 1 John 3:11-22). Jesus taught this point to His disciples noting that if they loved Him, they would obey Him. “As a result, love for God and the command to love others are one and the same so that a deficiency in one area shows a failure in the other as well” (1).
Examination & Application of the Text: Love has become a term hijacked and defined by worldly standards, so much so that it is almost natural inclination to accept these definitions as right and true. However, too often they neglect to include God as part of the definition and love without God at its center is not love at all (cf. 1 John 4:8).
True love is seen by outward behavior that is founded upon the desire to first please God and glorify God. The reality is that if we obey God’s commands then love to others will automatically be demonstrated.
As a chosen race, we distinguish ourselves from the rest of the world by the love we show.
(1) Tom Thatcher, 2 John in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised Edition, Edited by Tremper Longman III & David E. Longman (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 516.