Sunday, 16 September 2012

The New Commandment

This rounds off some unpacking of the three slogans that appear at the top of our recent published literature: the Great Commission, Great Commandment and New Commandment.  You can replay or download our Sunday meetings on  

Jesus told the disciples: "Love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13:34).  How do you say something fresh about love?  What did He have in mind?  How did the disciples respond? 
  1. With the Jewish crowds, Jesus had already set a standard of: “Love your neighbour as yourself”.  To His disciples, He discloses a new example.
  2. It will be distinctive and evident to all, anticipating the spread of the gospel to the world beyond the bounds of God’s existing favoured covenant people.
  3. After the resurrection, Jesus unpacks what this devotion means personally to Peter.  He slowly acknowledges this must replace other affections and activities.
  4. Paul reflects on what has been revealed to him as he writes to his friends in Philippi.  He testifies to One Who enters immeasurable humbling to secure redemption for us.   He recognises this is sourced in God.
  5. John, writing many years after the gospel has borne fruit in churches across the world, commends this command of love as the key in godly fellowship among the saints, though they don’t deserve a bit of it.
  6. All wise guides have recognised that it is only stretching out to embrace the other that builds love.  Our natural affinities shrink from this.  Jesus spent His life to benefit the interests of people unlike Him.
So, what’s this about?  Jesus passes on His last vital words to His disciples.  He must grip their imaginations.
JOHN 13:14  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.  15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.


A new standard for a new faith.  The “golden rule” (see James 2:8) is said to be a universal thread in all faiths.  Jesus supersedes this with a double-whammy that must have left His disciples astounded.
JOHN 13:34  "A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
JOHN 15:9  "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.  10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.  11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  14 You are my friends if you do what I command.


Peter was floored by his stupidity and self-protection.  Jesus points the way to his restoration.  Disciples, selected for specific teaching and testing, sent out with authority in His name, obliged to stick with Him through hardships, directed to be His representatives after his death and resurrection, must bend low in love.
JOHN 21:15  When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"  "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."  Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."  16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"  He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."  Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."  17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?"  He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."  Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.


Paul exalted the mystery of Jesus’s condescension.  For him to follow, it would cost the pride in his ancestry, his exclusivity, his orthodoxy, his recognition and status, his zealous activity and his morality.
PHILIPPIANS 2:5  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,  7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!
PHILIPPIANS 3:3  we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh --  4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.


Paul also discovered the secret was the same Christ divine source through the Holy Spirit.
ROMANS 5:1  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.  5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.


John confirms the church’s message and life centre around the love of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
1 JOHN 3:11  This is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another.
1 JOHN 3:23  And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.  24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.  And this is how we know that he lives in us:  We know it by the Spirit he gave us.


John also reminds the saints they weren’t initiators of any move to love God.  They weren’t loveable, or even with a notion what it means.  They were opposed and needing to appease God, though even this added rejection.  They now have a chance to make evident with each other a little of what this love bears in their lives.
I JOHN 4:7  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.


Application  Love that asks no loveableness is exceptional.  Therefore Christ must do His loving through us.
·       Jesus’s impossibly high demand indicates that His followers must receive rather than achieve; do you get this?
·       The New Testament saints drank in the life-examples they saw and pondered on.  Do you do similarly?
·       How does the new command convey that beyond redemption’s wisdom and power, God’s heart is the prize?
·       What other sorts of people do you find difficult in stretching love towards?  What are some practical remedies?

Scripture quotes from the New International Version.

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?

2. He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

3. Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

4. Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.

5. They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they saved,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

6. In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb wherein He lay.

7. Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Words: Samuel Crossman, The Young Man’s Meditation, 1664.

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