1 John 2:7–14: Growth
In the last chapter, we saw how John preaches the gospel to people with two extreme positions regarding God’s law. On one side are the legalists, who insist that their salvation comes by their own ability to keep God’s law. On the other side are the libertines, who argue that because they have been saved already, the law no longer applies to them. John refuses to give in to either side’s errors. Instead, he argues that all of us need the gospel because we have fallen short of the perfect light of God’s holiness, but that our salvation through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ leads us toward holiness, not away from it.
Now, John transitions to describing the growth that Christians ought to expect in our lives. Practically speaking, growth in discipleship leads us deeper and deeper into love. Love is the subject that comes up again and again through this letter. Of course, John isn’t talking about some kind of fuzzy, flowery, sappy emotional love (the apostle is not a first-century hippie); he is describing a love that is far more substantial. John writes:
 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you but an old commandment, which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.  On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in him and in you, for the darkness is passing away and the true light already is shining. (1 John 2:7–8)
The commandment John is talking about in these verses is the commandment to love. Right away, John refocuses our attention on love by addressing us as “beloved” and then immediately offering a paradox: the commandment to love is so old as to have been from the beginning, but it is also brand new. Later, in verses 9 to 11, John will speak explicitly about love by contrasting those who hate their brother and are in darkness (verse 9) with those who love their brother and abide in light (verse 10).
1. If you had to sum up the central message of the Old Testament in one word, would you choose the word love? Why or why not?
2. Compare how Jesus carries forward the Old Testament’s message of love with the way that Jesus makes that old commandment new. What does Jesus keep the same, and what does Jesus change in his connection with the Old Testament?
3. What does it mean when we say, “Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone”? How does this help clarify the middle road of the gospel between the errors of the legalists and the errors of the libertines?