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1 John 2:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 Beloved ones, I am writing you, not a new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you heard.
Beloved ones, I am writing you, not a new commandment. That is, what I am now instructing is not new. It is the same doctrine that you have always heard. There has been much difference of opinion as to what is referred to by the word commandment, whether it is the injunction in the previous verse to live as Christ lived, or whether it is what he refers to in the following verses, the duty of brotherly love. Perhaps neither of these is exactly the apostle’s idea, but he may mean in this verse to put in a general disclaimer against the charge that what he instructed was new. In respect to all that he taught, the views of truth which he held, the duties which he instructed, the course of life which he would prescribe as proper for a Christian to live, he meant to say that it was not at all new; it was nothing which he had originated himself, but it was in fact the same system of doctrines which they had always received since they became Christians. He might have been induced to say this because he apprehended that some of those whom he had in his eye and whose doctrines he meant to oppose might say that this was all new; that it was not the nature of Christianity as it had been commonly understood, and as the Savior laid it down. In a somewhat different sense, indeed, he admits (ver. 8) that there was a ‘new’ commandment which it was proper to instruct—for he did not forget that the Savior himself called that ‘new;’ and though that commandment had also been all along taught under the Gospel, yet there was a sense in which it was proper to call that new, for the Savior had so called it. But in respect to all the doctrines which he maintained, and in respect to all the duties which he instructed, he said that they were not new in the sense that he had originated them or that they had not been enjoined from the beginning. Perhaps, also, the apostle here may have some allusion to false teachers who were in fact, scattering new doctrines among the people, things before unheard of and attractive by their novelty, and he may mean to say that he made no pretensions to any such novelty but was content to repeat the old and familiar truths which they had always received. Thus, if he was charged with broaching new opinions, he denies it fully; if they were advancing new opinions and were even ‘making capital’ out of them, he says that he attempted no such thing but was content with the old and established opinions which they had always received.
But an old commandment. Old, in the sense that it has always been inculcated; that religion has always enjoined it.
That you have had from the beginning. Which you have always received ever since you heard anything about the Gospel. It was preached when the Gospel was first preached; it has always been promulgated when it has been promulgated; it is what you first heard when you were acquainted with the Gospel. See Notes on 1 John1:1 below.
The old commandment is the word that you heard. Is the doctrine, or is what was enjoined. John is often in the habit of putting a truth in a new form or aspect to make it emphatic and prevent misapprehension. See John 1:1, 2. The sense here is. All that I am saying to you is an old commandment or one which you have always had. There is nothing new in what I am enjoining on you.’
1 John 1:1 Notes: What was from the beginning. There can be no doubt that the reference here is to the Lord Jesus Christ, or the ‘Word’ that was made flesh. See Notes, John 1:1. This is such language as John would use respecting him, and indeed the phrase ‘the beginning.’ as applicable to the Lord Jesus, is peculiar to John in the writings of the New Testament: and the language here may be regarded as one proof that this epistle was written by him, for it is just such an expression as he would use, but not such as one would be likely to adopt who should attempt to palm off his own writings as those of John. One who should have attempted that would have been likely to introduce the name John in the beginning of the epistle or in some way to have claimed his authority. In speaking of ‘that which was from the beginning,’ the apostle uses a word in the neuter gender instead of the masculine (ὃ.) It is not to be supposed, I think, that he meant to apply this term directly to the Son of God, for if he had he would have used the masculine pronoun; but though he had the Son of God in view, and meant to make a strong affirmation respecting him, yet the particular thing here referred to was whatever there was respecting that incarnate Savior that furnished testimony to any of the senses, or that pertained to his character and doctrine, he had borne witness to. He was looking rather at the evidence that he was incarnate; the proofs that he was manifested; and he says that those proofs had been subjected to the trial of the senses, and he had borne witness to them, and now did it again. It seems to me that this is what is referred to by the phrase ‘that which,’ (ὃ.) The sense may be this: ‘Whatever there was respecting the Word of life, or him who is the living Word, the incarnate Son of God, from the very beginning, from the time when he was first manifested in the flesh; whatever there was respecting his exalted nature, his dignity, his character, that could be subjected to the testimony of the senses, to be the object of sight, or hearing, or touch, that I was permitted to see, and that I declare to you respecting him.’ John claims to be a competent witness about everything which occurred as a manifestation of what the Son of God was. If this is the correct interpretation, then the phrase ‘from the beginning’ (ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς) does not here refer to his eternity or his being in the beginning of all things, as the phrase ‘in the beginning’ (ἐν ἀρχῇ) does in John 1:1; but rather means from the very commencement of his manifestation as the Son of God, the very first indications on earth of what he was as the Messiah. When the writer says (ver. 3) that he ‘declares’ this to them, it seems to me that he has no reference merely to what he would say in this epistle, for he does not go extensively into it here, but that he supposes that they had his Gospel in their possession and that he also means to refer to that, or presumes that they were familiar with the testimony which he had borne in that Gospel respecting the evidence that the ‘Word became flesh.’ Many had indeed supposed that this epistle accompanied the Gospel when it was published and was either a part of it that became subsequently detached from it or was a letter that accompanied it. See Hug, Intro. P. II. § 68. There is, it seems, no certain evidence of that, but no one can doubt that he supposed that those to whom he wrote had access to that Gospel, and that he refers here to the testimony he had borne in that respecting the incarnate Word.
By Albert Barnes