Christ Gives a New Commandment
INTRO: I will start this morning with a scripture from Matthew, though our text will be elsewhere. Matthew 7:28-29 tells us, “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” The people hearing Jesus speak recognized He did so as one having authority.
Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 told His disciples the extent of His authority. “Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” In John 17:1-2 Jesus in His prayer to God, “…spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, "as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”
Not only did Jesus claim to have all authority, but during His ministry, He demonstrated it in many ways. He demonstrated His power over the forces of nature, over demons, over ill health and He forgave a man’s sins which only God can do. There were many ways that He demonstrated His divine authority.
Jesus truly does have all authority and the practical point we find is that we are to submit to the Lord's authority. Colossians 3:17 refers to everything that we do and everything that we say, teaching us that everything is to be done or said in the name of the Lord Jesus. In other words, we are to do what the Lord tells us to do.
How do we know what the Lord wants us to do? Colossians 3:16 says, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom. His word is the New Testament. Hebrews 9:15 says that Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant, and if we will search His Word diligently, we will know what He wants us to do. When we comply with His wishes we'll have the Lord's approval, and we'll be setting a good example for others to follow.
Today we are going to look at something the Lord commands us to do. Read with me now our very short text in John 13: 34-35 – “34. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.''” From these verses, we learn that the Lord commands His followers to love one another. This is a direct command and is one of the ways scripture tells us how to please God, direct command.
To appreciate more fully what Jesus commands us to do, we need to look at the setting in which Jesus gave this particular command. This is called studying passages in their context. If we look at the setting in which various things occurred, it will help us to have a more full understanding of exactly what was taking place.
I. Let’s look then at the setting, what was taking place, when Jesus gave the command we find in John 13: 34-35. We need to know what was going on.
A. This was a short time before Jesus was arrested, and He and His apostles met in the upper room to eat the Passover meal. Passover was a very important feast for the children of Israel and was to be observed on the evening of the 14th day of the first month of the Jewish calendar.
1. That meal consisted of roast lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and of course, they would drink the fruit of the vine. The Law of Moses gave detailed instructions for eating that meal.
2. This meal was in remembrance of how God had delivered them from bondage years earlier when their ancestors were in Egypt. Each year, God wanted His people to remember that event.
B. Jesus ate the Passover meal with His apostles in the upper room and on this occasion, Jesus gave instructions for something else.
1. Jesus took two elements—the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine—and gave instructions for eating His supper. I’m reading now from Luke 22:14-20 – “He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; "for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.'' Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; "for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.'' And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.'' Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”
2. Jesus gave instructions for His followers to eat the Lord's supper and He said “do this in remembrance of me”. Each Lord's day, we're able to remember what Jesus did on our behalf. John doesn't show us this, but Luke does. That's why we always study all the verses that deal with a particular matter to help us see the full picture.
3. I believe we would all agree that that would be a very serious occasion. Jesus knew what was about to happen to Him and He conveyed that information to His apostles. He said that He was going to be betrayed. Jesus knew He would be killed, He knew all that was going to happen.
4. Now Jesus has told the apostles of His coming betrayal and He has given instructions for His supper. What did the apostles do?
C. Well, the first thing we see is in verse 23 where we are told they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would betray Him. Then we see verse 24. Luke 22:24 – “But there was also rivalry among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.”
1. This issue had come up before among the apostles during the Lord's ministry. Can you imagine when Jesus was assembled with His followers, gave instructions for eating His supper in remembrance of Him, and told them He would be betrayed, that what they are concerned about is which one was the greatest? There was rivalry among them.
2. Here Jesus was very patient, much more patient than I am. If I had been in that situation, I would have been tempted to say, fellas, I’ve dealt with this several times already. This is a pretty bad time to be discussing which one of you is the greatest.
3. I imagine many of us would have wanted to throw up our hands and been tempted to walk away saying, I've had it with this lot. Jesus is very patient because He knows people are sometimes slow to grasp the whole import of a situation.
4. He had already dealt with it at least twice, in Luke 9:46 and Matthew 18:1-4 for example. Jesus dealt with the situation in a little different way this time. Let's go back to John, chapter 13, and see how Jesus dealt with that situation on this occasion. What did he do?
D. He responded to that strife by washing the apostle's feet. John 13:4-5 – “So He rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.”
1. Jesus arose from the meal, took His garment off, put a towel around Him, took a basin with some water in it, and began to wash the apostles’ feet. Can you imagine what was going through their minds? They're arguing about which one is the greatest, and Jesus is doing something that only a servant would do. Now go down to verse 12, John 13:12-17 – “12. So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13. "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14. "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15. "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16. "Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17. "If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”
2. Jesus is saying, I have just taught you a valuable lesson by my example. I'm your master and Lord. You call Me that, and you call Me that correctly. He said, if I would humble Myself to the point that I would wash your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. Instead of being concerned about who's the greatest, show some humility, and be a servant. Jesus said you'll be blessed if you will follow My example.
3. What a wonderful approach, to use this strong example for teaching. After Jesus dealt with the situation the way that He did, you do not find in the Bible the apostles arguing about which one is the greatest anymore. I think they finally got it. Sometimes we need a stiff nudge to reach a point of understanding too.
E. At this point, Judas leaves. After he had left, Jesus had many things to say to the other eleven apostles. What Jesus had to say to them is recorded in chapters 14 and 15. Now though let’s consider our text, John 13:34-35 – “34. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.''”
1. So looking at the context, as long as they were arguing about which one was the greatest, were they showing love to each other? No.
2. Not long from now, Jesus was about to trust His apostles with a great commission. How could they be successful in carrying out the great commission if they kept arguing about which one was the greatest? If they loved one another, they would be successful.
3. That's the setting, the context, for the Lord's command. Once we understand all of that information, it will help us to more fully appreciate what Jesus commanded of His apostles.
II. We need to look at this commandment in more detail because this commandment applies to us today. Jesus referred to this as a “new commandment”.
A. Is this the first time that God's people had been instructed to love each other? No. Back in the Law of Moses, in Leviticus 19:18, Moses wrote to the children of Israel – “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” The command for God's people to love others has been around for a long, long time. When Jesus said that this commandment is new, we understand that it was not new in the sense that it is the first time that God's people were commanded to love others. So what is new about the Lord's command?
B. If we look, it does indeed say something new. The Lord's command was new in the sense that His followers, today His followers are Christians, are to love each other, notice, “as I have loved you”. You don't find that in Moses’ Law.
1. Moses Law said that God's people were to love their neighbors as themselves. There wasn't anything in there about following the Lord's example of love.
2. The newness of it is implicit in the words, "even as I have loved you."
3. There is a deeper intensity in this love than can be found in Moses' "Love thy neighbor as thyself." In that commandment, that embraces the whole law, self-love is assumed and made the standard for the love of neighbor.
4. The new commandment, on the other hand, is based on a new principle, measured by a higher standard than a love of self. This is based on Christ's love, which was self-abandoning and self-sacrificing love.
5. I fear that lack of love among Christians is a glaring weakness of faith today.
C. Jesus has many things to say to His disciples in chapters 14, 15, and 16. As we study these scriptures the import of this new command becomes more apparent. Let’s look at some of this now in John 15:12-13 – “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.”
1. That's the greatest act of love that a person can show, to give their life on someone else's behalf. Sometimes we read about people doing heroic things to save someone else. We say that was great love.
2. The greatest act of love is to give your life for somebody else. Isn't that what Jesus was about to do? He said, love each other as I have loved you. Shortly after Jesus spoke those words, He gave Himself for our sins and He died on the cross.
D. Paul talks about this when he wrote to the Christians in Ephesus. He says in Ephesians 5:1-2 – “Therefore be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” The apostle Paul is referring to the love that Christ demonstrated on our behalf. He says we're to walk in that love. In other words, we're to do what Jesus taught us to do in John 13:34-35. God's people have been commanded to love others for years, but we are to follow the Lord's example of holy, sacrificial love.
III. There is something else about the Lord's command and I’d like us to go back to John 13:35. Jesus said that the way that we respond to His command will tell others something about us.
A. How did Jesus say that His followers are to be identified? He said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if…” there is a condition, “ if you have love for one another.” People will recognize us as the Lord's true followers based on our love for one another. Let's look at two congregations that we read about in the Bible—one positive example and one negative.
B. First is the positive example. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 and look at the congregation that met in the city of Thessalonica. “9. But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10. and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;”
1. That is a high commendation. Paul said, concerning brotherly love, I don't have to write to you about it, you already understand it. He commended them for showing their love to others.
2. Then Paul went on to say, increase more and more. Do you ever get to the point where you say, I've got enough love? I don't think so. The Bible says increase more and more.
3. Even to this congregation, that was highly commended, notice what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 – “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you,”
4. To this congregation, noted because of its members’ love for one another… there was an admonition to grow in love. Not to become satisfied, but to continually increase and grow in their love for each other and toward others.
C. Now a negative example. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are addressed to the seven churches in Asia. Let’s read a few things that the Lord had John write to the church in Ephesus. Revelation 2:1 - “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, `These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:” We know that imagery is explained in chapter 1.
1. When we examine these seven messages that are found in chapters two and three, they all have two statements in common.
a. In the first the Lord says, I know your works. In other words, the Lord knows what's going on in His congregations.
b. The second statement the Lord makes is, he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches. From that, we understand that we do not receive spiritual information regarding our salvation from any inner impulses, dreams, impressions, or inner strivings of the soul, but by listening to the words given by the Holy Spirit. We need to study this very carefully, make the proper application, and then comply with the Lord's will.
2. Now Revelation 2:2-3 – “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.” If we stop right there—it
3. sounds to me like the church in Ephesus was an ideal congregation.
a. They were true to the Lord. They were devoted to serving him.
b. They would not put up with false teaching.
c. They tested people who came into their midst and claimed to be apostles and if they were determined not to be true apostles, they were rejected.
d. These people had not given up, had not fainted. They were serving the Lord faithfully. It sounds like an ideal church, doesn't it? Christ himself commended the diligence and faithfulness of the Ephesian church.
4. Then in Revelation 2:4 – “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” The charge is not that they were in danger of leaving their first love, but that they had already done so! The first love of every true congregation is our Lord himself, and what is indicated here is the departure (in heart) of the Ephesian church from their Lord who had redeemed them.
5. This congregation did not have the love it did earlier. If they lost their love of the Lord, how then could they follow His New Commandment?
6. This congregation had grown somewhat cold and the Lord knew it. He said, there's something wrong with your love. Did the Lord give up on this church? No. Revelation 2:5-7 – “5. "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent. 6. "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.'' '”
7. This was not a hopeless situation and the Lord called upon the members of this congregation to restore the love that they had at the beginning.
D. As we examine various congregations in the New Testament, we see that some are highly commended because of their reaction to the Lord's command for the members to love each other. Some had some problems in those areas, and of course, we need to be sure that we're doing the Lord's will.
E. Let's contrast those two churches for just a moment. Which one would have been more attractive to outsiders? A congregation consisting of members who love each other, or a congregation consisting of members whose love has gone cold? You know which church would have been more attractive to those outside. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
IV. We can see that the love of God and the love of the brethren are inexorably intertwined. This is a very serious matter and we ought to have a desire to know all that the Bible has to say about Christians loving one another. Today let’s look at what John tells us in 1 John. We will find some responsibilities given to us, but also some blessings.
A. Let's look at 1 John 2:9-10 – “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” How important is it for us to abide in the light?
1. In 1 John 1:7 we read, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanses us from all sin.” John says if we walk (abide) in the light, we have the promise that the Lord's blood will continually cleanse us.
2. What is one way that we can determine if we're abiding in the light? John said, it is on the basis of our love for one another.
3. He was proclaiming the tremendous truths already revealed by Jesus nearly a whole generation previously. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said: "If thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness" (Matthew 6:23).
B. Let’s look at 1 John 3:11-14 – “11. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12. not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous. 13. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” In verse 14 John says if a Christian loves his brother, he shows that he's gone from death unto life.
C. Chapter 3, starting at verse 16 – “16. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18. My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.” John begins by talking about the love of God, and that we know God loves us because of what He did for us at the cross. John went on to say that others can see our love at work. If we see a brother who is in need and we supply that need, that's a demonstration of love. It's one thing to talk about love, it is something else to show it.
D. 1 John 3:23 – “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” This verse teaches us that loving one another is as important as believing in Christ. Again we see how these are joined together, you can not separate them and be a Christian.
E. 1 John 4:7-8 – “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Knowing God involves loving our brethren.
F. 1 John 4:11-12 – “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” God dwells in those who love their brethren. We certainly want God to dwell in us, don't we? God wants us to meet certain requirements and one of those requirements is that we're to love one another.
G. 1 John 4:20-21 – “If someone says, "I love God,'' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” These verses show us that true love for God includes loving his children.
H. Then 1 John 5:2 – “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” Loving our brethren is associated with loving God and obeying His will.
CONCLUSION: In John 13:34-35 we saw that John was present when Jesus gave this New Commandment. When John taught and wrote he had a lot to say about that very special subject. That's why John has often been called the apostle of love.
As far as we know, John was the only apostle to die of natural causes after living a very long life, that's why sometimes he's referred to as John the Elder. Can you imagine the things that that man saw in his life? I can appreciate that when I read his letters because he often wrote this, “Little children, love one another”.
Why did John say that? It was because he heard Jesus say those words and he understood how important they are. We are so very blessed to have all of these writings recorded by the apostle John for our benefit. He heard what Jesus said, and he recorded it. In his letter we call 1 John, he wrote all these extra details to help us understand exactly what the Lord requires and shows us how we are blessed when we carry out the Lord's will.
In this brief look, we have seen several verses about Christ telling His followers to love each other. He commands it, and He requires it.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
If anybody needs to respond, either to dedicate themselves to Christ, be buried with Him in baptism, and become a part of the work He has for us; or if you need to ask for prayers on your behalf, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing our Invitational song.
# 644—Trust and Obey
Reference Sermon by: Raymond SiegPrint
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