The New Commandment
The commandments to love God and neighbor are found in the law of Moses. They are not commandments for God’s people. They are the commandments “written on men’s hearts” and given “by nature” itself (Rom 2.14–15). They are the commandments given by God, in His Words, to man “from the beginning” (1 Jn 2.7).
In the new covenant Church of Christ, however, there is a “new commandment” (1 Jn 2.8). It is the “new commandment” given by Jesus Himself to those who believe in Him.
A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13.34).
The new element in this “new commandment” is not the teaching of love, for this was written in the law. The new element is that believers in Christ must love as Christ Himself loves. The new commandment is to love “as I have loved you.”
Christian love must be the perfect love of Christ Himself which is wholly divine. Christian love must be the totally self-emptying love of the Lord Himself. It must be the divine love of God the Father poured into men’s hearts by the very Spirit of God. It must be the love that is absolutely faithful, perfect, eternal and divine.
Of all the men who ever lived on this earth, or who ever will live, only one has fully fulfilled the two great commandments of God; only one has lived absolutely and perfectly according to God’s laws; only one has loved the Father with all of His heart, mind, soul, and strength, and His neighbor as Himself. This is Jesus Christ, the child of Mary according to the flesh.
There is no one righteous before God’s law but Jesus. Only He has lived according to the law and by the teachings of the prophets. He alone is the one who has “fulfilled the law and the prophets” (cf. Mt 5.17, 7.12). He alone, of all men, has loved with perfect, sinless, dispassionate love.
He committed no sin; no guile was found on His lips. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten; but He trusted to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed (1 Pet 2.22–24; cf. Is 53).
Having no sin, Jesus took our sins upon Himself and became sin “for us men and for our salvation” (Nicene Creed). In this the perfect love of God was perfected in a human being, that all humans might share in the love and glory of God. As all of the holy fathers have said, “He became what we are, that we might become what He is . . . God became man that man might become god.”
For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5.21).
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness . . . that you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the nature of God (2 Pet 1.3–4).
Since . . . the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.
Therefore He had to be made like His brethren in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself suffered and was tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted.
For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize [i.e., co-suffer] with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we, yet without sinning (Heb 2.14–18, 4.15–16).
God has given us His love in Jesus. When a person is “in Christ” he can love with the love of God. This is the “new commandment,” that men filled with the Holy Spirit should love with the love of God Himself.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul describes the perfect love which is Christ’s gift of God to men in the Holy Spirit. He describes what Christian love is: the chief gift of the Spirit of God, who is love.
Through the love of Christ, men are called to bear, believe, hope and suffer all things. This is what Christ has done. This is what love does. The one who does this has fulfilled the “new commandment” of Jesus and abides in the love of God. The one who does this abides in God Himself, and already possesses eternal life as a member of His Kingdom.
The Gift of Love
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends; as for the prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Cor 13.1–13)