A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
It is new, because —
I. FOUNDED ON A NEW RELATION.
1. Our relation to Christ. We are united to Him by faith, and receive from Him, as the branches from the vine, the life by which we live.
2. This new relation to Christ involves a new relation with each other. We are brethren, members of one family — "as many as received Him," etc.
3. On this new relation the new commandment is based. As the relationship of nature gives rise to natural affection, so this spiritual one begets love in accordance with itself. It is more than philanthropy, patriotism, party attachment, friendship, etc. It is love to those who love Christ and are beloved by Him: love to the Elder Brother in His brethren and ours.
II. PRESENTED IN A NEW FORM — "As I have loved you." It must be the same in kind, although in a lesser degree; just as a drop from the ocean, or a ray from the sun, is the same as the fulness from which it comes. These conversations exhibit several characteristics which we ought to imitate.
1. Tender consideration for each others' needs. He thought of them more than He thought of Himself.
2. Humble ministration to the welfare of the brethren (vers. 4, 5). Christ's was not a sentimental, but a practical love.
3. Self-sacrifice for our sakes. "He gave Himself," not merely certain blessings, and not merely to teach and minister, but to die. "Greater love hath no man than this." "We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
III. ENFORCED BY A NEW POWER. It is in this respect that the new covenant differs so widely from the old. The law enjoined the duty of loving our neighbour; but it had not sufficient motive power to carry the commandment into effect. Hence it remained a dead letter, and spoke only to condemn. But the new commandment is "The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," and its word is with power. It is attended by the constraining influence of the Saviour's love. "We have not received the Spirit of fear," etc. As we contemplate this "great love," we become the subjects of a new emotion of admiration and gratitude. Above all, His Spirit writes the new commandment on the fleshy tables of our hearts.
IV. DESIGNED FOR A NEW PURPOSE (ver. 35). It is not only a law to be fulfilled; but its fulfilment is a distinction and evidence of our relation to Christ.
1. A peculiar distinction. Of old time, discipleship was known by dress, language, meat, and drinks, creeds, etc.; but our Lord declares that the distinct mark of His disciples shall be, beyond everything else, love like His own.
2. A certain distinction. For what is there more directly opposed to the sinfulness of the human heart? And what is the saving change, but one from selfishness to love? "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because," etc.
3. An influential distinction. For wherever it exists, men cannot but recognize us, and Christ in us, and be attracted to His love and service.
(B. Dale, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.