Romans 13:8-14

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Observation

  • We are not to be in debt to anyone except for the debt of love.
  • If we love we fulfill the law.
  • The last four commandments from the 10 commandments are summed up by loving your neighbor as yourself.
  • If you love you won’t do things that harm your neighbor.
  • Love does not wrong a neighbor.
  • Since love summarizes the law, love fulfills the law.
  • We know the time of salvation is near.
  • It is time to wake up.
  • Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed in Christ.
  • The night is long since past.
  • It is now day.
  • We are to no longer do the works of darkness.
  • We are to be armed with the light.
  • We are to walk properly.
  • Orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, sexual sensuality, quarreling and jealousy are all examples of what it means to walk in darkness.
  • We are not to gratify the desires of the flesh.
  • We are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • We are not to make provision for the desires of the flesh.

Interpretation

Paul’s reduces all of the law to one single command, love. This is the same teaching Jesus gave when asked what was the greatest commandment. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Paul does not refer to the whole law, only the 2 second tablet of the law which refers to how we treat others. While Paul does not mention Honoring Father and Mother this is only to not obscure his point. Love fulfills the law.

The law prohibits harming others. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet. (Exodus 20:13-17a) All of these are ways to bring harm to another. If we love will not bring harm to another.

Obviously Paul is speaking metaphorically when he speaks about day and night. Ignorance of God is what Paul is referring to as night. Those who are unbelievers suffer under two different evils, blindness and insensibility. This insensibility Paul refers to as sleep. By light Paul refers to God revealed divine truth. When Paul says we are to wake up he is referring to the fact we are to equip ourselves for service to the Lord. For our salvation, i.e. our being freed from the evils of the world, is nearer than when we first believed. The sum of what Paul says is, — as soon as God begins to call us, we ought to look forward to the coming of Christ.

Those who do evil try to hide their actions. Therefore they prefer the cover of darkness rather that daylight were a multitude of witness may observe their actions. But Paul uses the analogy of day and night to point out that we realize we are always under the gaze of God. God witnesses all of our actions. Therefore the dawn has come. The light shines on our actions. Paul mentions five different vices that unbelievers are ashamed to commit in the sight of others. How much more should we, who are in the light of God, avoid.

Paul concludes this passage by using the metaphor of putting on Christ. Good clean clothes are honorable. Filthy ragged clothes bring dishonor to a man. It is like say clothes make the man. Putting on Christ makes us a new man or woman.

Finally Paul says, “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” As long as we are housed in a fleshly body we cannot disregard caring for it. Even though we are citizens of heaven we are traveling through this world. So the body must be taken care of but only in ways that help us in our journey. And not in a way that will cause us to forget our citizenship. Paul’s intent is that we are to bridle our desires. We are to use the world without abusing it.

Application

It may be easy to say, love everyone. That is what the law commands. If we love, we fulfill the law. But how easy is it to love everyone all the time. It is tough. But God has loved us. He has loved us so much that he has provided a means to maintain His justice and still allow us forgiveness. He did that by accepting the punishment Himself. He loves us all the time. How can we do that? We can only do that by putting on Christ. As we “put on Christ” we are able to love others as he loved us. His love to shines through us.

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