We’ve been studying how Christians are to live together and in the world in light of offering our entire lives in sacrifice to God (Rom 12:1–2) as is our true and proper worship. We’ve found that if we love others the way Christ loves us, we will forgive them and give others the same undeserved grace we have received. Then we looked at the beginning verses of chapter 13, which tells us to submit to authority because God establishes all governing authority.
Why are we to live this way? “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom 13:8-10)
First, we’re told “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (v 8) This tells us not let any debt remain outstanding, so that our lives aren’t lived in constant dependency, borrowing, or unreliability.
Paul isn’t primarily concerned with money here, as the following verses will show. He wants to talk about our obligation as Jesus-followers to love other people, including our neighbors. He seems to say that loving others is a debt we will never pay off. We will never be done with “paying” love to each other. How does continuing to pay our debt to love others fulfill the law, exactly? Paul is reflecting what Jesus said are the two greatest commandments, to love God and our neighbors (Mark 12:29–31).
How does loving one another fulfill the law? Paul says, “The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (v 9)
All those commands can be summed up in the word “love” from the command in Lev 19:18, to “love your neighbor as yourself”, Next Paul will shows that we can’t love someone and murder them or cheat on them or steal from them or covet their belongings.
If we obey the command to love our neighbors, we will fulfill all the other commands by default. Why? “Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” (v 10) When we act out of love for another’s’ best interests, we’re won’t do anything to harm them. Thus, love fulfills the intention of every other commands given to protect people from harm. This reaffirms the bullet point commands on how we should live in light of God’s mercy (Rom 12:9-21). Let’s outdo one another in showing honor, not lacking in zeal; being fervent in the Spirit; and serving the Lord!
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