The command to love was not in itself a new one. For it was part of the commandments given by God to Moses: “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” (Lev. 19:18).
This command is also written in the Mishnah: “Be thou of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, [be thou] one who loveth [one’s fellow-] creatures and bringeth them nigh to the Torah” (Aboth 1. 12, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, p. 8).
It was new in that a new demonstration had been given of love, which the disciples were now asked to copy (John 14:15). By His manifestation of His Father’s character Jesus had revealed to men a new perception of the love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9).
The new command instructed men to have the same relationship with one another that Jesus had with them (John 15:12). Where the old commandment enjoined men to love their neighbors as themselves, the new admonished them to love as Jesus had loved. In reality, the new was more demanding than the old, but grace for its achievement was freely given to all that seek it (Philippians 4:13).
Love was one of the main characteristics of Jesus (1 John 4:16b). His life had been a live illustration of love in action (John 10:11-18). A display of this same kind of love by the apostles of Jesus would give proof of their close relationship with Him. Thus, it is love rather than profession that marks the believer (John 13:35).
Continual, enthusiastic manifestations of love, rather than occasional, moments of love are the true evidence of discipleship (Matthew 7:16). Paul defines this type of love saying, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinth. 13:1,2).
Paul taught that love, is more prized and valuable than the gifts of the Spirit or than the acts of charity. Thus, all these things, admirable and important though they may be, are ineffective without love (1 John 4:8).
In His service,