Philip Schaff on John 13

“A New Commandment”

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34–35, ESV

v. 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; even as I loved you that ye also may love one another. The new commandment is love, such love as Jesus had Himself exhibited, and as had been His ‘glory’ (John 13:31); and this love to one another they would need, that in an evil world they might be to one another sources of strength and comfort. It is again the lesson of the foot-washing; though here it appears not so much in the form of general love to all men as of that specific love which can only be exercised towards the members of the body of Christ. By ‘commandment’ is meant not a definite precept, but rather a sphere of life in which the disciples are to walk (chaps. John 10:18John 12:50); and it is this, rather than the character or quality of the love, that makes the commandment ‘new.’ The whole life of Jesus had been love; the life of His disciples, as that of those in Him, was to be love also. There was to be a transition in them from the outward to the inward, from the letter of an injunction to its felt experience. Hence the first half of the verse is complete in itself; and the second half points out the ground upon which this love was to rest, and the means by which it was to be obtained. It was the very purpose of the love of Jesus that He might form a community all whose members, born again into His love, might love one another, ‘Even as I loved you, that ye also may love one another.’ Out of Him is selfishness; in Him, and in Him alone, we love.

v. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are disciples of mine, if ye have love one with another. The expression ‘disciples of mine’ is worthy of notice. It seems to show that the meaning is not exhausted by the thought of that language so often quoted in connection with it, ‘Behold how these Christians love one another.’ It directs our thoughts, not to the disciples only, but to Jesus Himself. He was love: in the love of the Christian community, the love of its members ‘with’ one another, it was to be seen not merely what they were, but what He was, and more particularly that He was love. Thus, then, the disciples have their great charge committed to them, to be in the season now at hand what He had been who had washed their feet.

– Philip Schaff, Schaff’s Popular Commentary on the New Testament