The Debt You Always Owe Romans 13:8-10)
charles e whisnant, teacher/expositor
(1) Love Your Neighbor and know the time (2)your present walk and the coming days (3) love, law and the last days (4) a call to fulfill the law through love 8-10 (5) The Believers Secular Duty, His Christian Duty (7) Fulfilling the Law Through Love
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 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.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. ESV
Romans 13:9 For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (NASB: )
Paul proceeds to cite 4 of the 10 commandments to show that if one loves, these commandments will be fulfilled. Paul has just said that loving one’s neighbor fulfills the Law & now he reiterates with 4 laws relating to our neighbor as found in the second half of the 10 commandments, concluding with the “key” (coveting) that is involved in the other three
Adultery (3431) (moicheuo from moichós = an adulterer) is used of one unfaithful to marriage vows. This was a figure of speech in the OT and was synonymous with unfaithfulness to God especially manifest by idolatry.
Murder (5407) (phoneuo) means to kill a man unjustly. Webster (modern version) says that murder is the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought. (See topic Murder) In the OT passages (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17) the Hebrew word for “murder” refers to pre-meditated, deliberate, intentional murder not accidental killing.
Steal (2813) (klepto) (our English kleptomaniac) Paul had used this term once before describing the “religious” Jews in (Ro 2:21-). If you love your neighbor you won’t take from him.
Covet (1937) (epithumeo from epi = upon or intensification + thumos = passions) (See also noun epithumia) literally means to fix the desire upon and thus is a graphic word picture. Furthermore, prefix preposition epi- expresses motion toward an object!
AND IF THERE IS ANY OTHER COMMANDMENT IT IS SUMMED UP IN THIS SAYING YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF:
(Leviticus 19:18,34; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:13; James 2:8, 9, 10)
LOVE IS THE CONSUMMATION OF THE COMMANDMENTS
Who is our neighbor? Remember that our “neighbor” is anyone “near” (Greek word for neighbor is plesion (4139) which is derived from word meaning “near”!), and thus is anyone we encounter in our life who needs our help. Love is the inevitable response of the heart in which God’s love has been poured by the Holy Spirit
Paul’s quote is from Leviticus 19:18 and is the single most quoted verse in the NT (Nine times – see Mt 5:43, Mt 19:19, Mt 22:39; Mark 12:31, Mark 12:33; Lk 10:27, Ro 13:9; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8).
As Christians, we should pay our debts, including the debt of love for others, because love fulfills God’s law.
But before we look at Paul’s instruction on love, we need to consider his brief phrase regarding debt.
1A. As Christians, we should pay our financial obligations.
2A. As Christians, we should work at, but can never fully pay, our debt of love toward others.
Romans 13:8: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”
A. WE OWE THE DEBT OF LOVE TO ALL PEOPLE.
B. WE PAY THE DEBT OF LOVE OUT OF THE SURPLUS OF GOD’S INEXHAUSTIBLE LOVE FOR US.
C. THE MEASURE OF OUR LOVE FOR OTHERS IS WHETHER WE LOVE THEM AS WE LOVE OURSELVES.
D. SINCE WE CAN NEVER EXHAUST THE DEBT OF LOVE, WE MUST KEEP WORKING TO PAY IT OFF.
E. THE DEBT OF LOVE INVOLVES NOT ONLY OUR FEELINGS, BUT ALSO OUR ACTIONS, BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE.
3A. As Christians, loving others fulfills God’s law.
Paul says this twice explicitly (Ro 13:8, “he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law”; Ro 13:10, “love is the fulfillment of the law”) and a third time implicitly (“it is summed up,” Ro 13:9).
Why does Paul bring up God’s law here? Earlier in Romans (Ro 6:14) he has made the point that we are not under law, but under grace. We have died to the law in Christ (Ro 7:4). He has said (Ro 10:4) that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” So, why does he now bring up the law and cite from the Ten Commandments?
So my understanding here (Rom. 13:8-10) is that Paul is countering his critics who accused him of abandoning the law and promoting licentiousness (Rom. 3:8; 6:1). He is showing them that when believers in Christ love others, they are fulfilling the law of Moses. And while we always fall short of perfectly loving others, Christ, who is our righteousness, did perfectly fulfill the law on our behalf. But as we practice true biblical love, which is to seek the highest good of those we love, we will not commit adultery or murder or theft or coveting. We will obey God’s holy commandments. Thus we fulfill the law through love.
Conclusion – So the question that Paul asks us here is, “Are you paying your debts?” Are you working at paying the debt that you will always owe, the debt of love for others? Are you making the effort to sacrifice your comfort and convenience to meet the highest good of others? If you’re married, begin with your mate. If you have children, practice on them. We all have difficult members of our extended families who need God’s love and we may be the only channel for it to flow to them. It may be someone at work. Love’s aim is their highest good, which is to know Christ and be conformed to Him. It will take effort. But we owe such love to them, both in good deeds and in sharing the gospel as opportunities arise.
If you ask, “How can I develop this quality?” Paul’s answer is, “Walk in the Spirit.” Love is the first fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 22). If you ask, “How can I know whether I am acting in love?” Paul gets pretty specific (1 Cor. 13:4-7): Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. That’s our debt to all people! Are you working on paying it off?
Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (NASB:)
Love (26) (agape] from agapao = love) means unconditional, sacrificial love. Agape is the love that God is and in that sense is divine love. It is the quality of love that is commanded by God, empowered by His Spirit, activated by personal choice of our will, not based on our feelings toward the object of our love and manifested by specific actions .1Cor 13
Does (2038) (ergazomai from érgon = work) means to engage in an activity involving considerable expenditure of effort. Note present tense indicating love continually does no wrong. The NT uses in a literal (to do manual labor) and figurative (especially spiritual – see below) sense. To labor, do work. Speaks of “an action as something that stands in contrast to inactivity or talk.” (Richards)
No (3756) (ou) signifies no, and expresses full, absolute and objective negation.
Wrong (2556) (kakos related word = kakia) is a word which basically denotes a lack of something so that it is “bad” or “not as it ought to be.” Means not meeting accepted standards of behavior, and thus worthless, bad or inferior. Then speaks of lack of goodness, of a bad nature, evil, destructive, damaging, unjust. Describes something as it ought to be. Morally describes a person characterized by godlessness or evil.
Neighbor (4139) (plesion from pélas = near, near to or from plesios = close by) literally means near (literal use only in Jn 4:5), quite near, nearby = position quite close to another position.
LOVE THEREFORE IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW: (Ro 13:8; Mt 22:40)
Therefore (3767) (oun) introduces a logical result or inference from what precedes. In the present context it introduces a consequence of loving one’s neighbor.
Fulfillment (4138) (pleroma from pleroo = make full, fill, fill up) means fullness, full measure, abundance with an emphasis upon completeness What is fulfilled or is completed without any gap. Was a recognized technical term in theology, denoting the totality of the Divine powers and attributes. (Lightfoot)
Romans 13:11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. (NASB:)
Do what? In context Paul is referring to what he has just emphasized. We are called to Love because it fulfills the Law (Lev 19:18, Ro 13:8-note; Gal 5:14, Jas 2:8, Mt 22:37, 38, 39, 40, cp Jn 13:35).
Do this – Literally the Greek reads “and this”. Notice that the verb “Do” is not in the original Greek but has been added by the translators. “
Wuest – Paul urges the importance of the foregoing exhortations in view of the imminency of the Rapture and the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Pulpit Commentary – Christian motives are brought forward to incite to moral duties. We are called upon to do right, not only by the voices of expediency and of authority, but by the voice of revelation. Christians are addressed as those who know the seasons, who discern the signs of the times, who regard the present as a period of probation, of discipline, of education, and whose gaze is ever forwards, whose hope is in their Lord’s return to judge and to save. (The pulpit commentary)
Amplified Version – Besides this you know what [a critical] hour this is, how it is high time now for you to wake up out of your sleep (rouse to reality)…
Loving and living wholeheartedly for Christ should be our primary objectives in view of the brevity of our remaining time on earth (especially when compared to the “length” of eternity to come).
See Scriptures that allude to the shortness of our lives on earth: Job 7:6, 7 9:25, 26 14:1, 2 Ps 37:2 Ps 39:5, 6 Ps 90:4, 5, 6, 9, 10 Ps 102:3, 11, Ps 103:15,16 Ps 144:4 Isa 38:12,13 40:6,7 Jas 1:10, 11 Jas 4:14 1Pe 1:24 2Ki19:26
We are never to stop offering our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God (Ro 12:1). While Paul is calling for a once for all time offering in Romans 12:1, there is also a sense in which this offering should be our daily “sacrifice” to the Lord. Before we put on our clothes, we should offer ourselves to God and put on His clothes (put on Jesus) and then go forth with eyes wide open and ready to recognize the opportunities our Father has prepared for us even before the foundation of the world (see Eph 2:10).
Ro 13:11-14 were written “to bring us back to the bedrock basis for walking in love. Paul’s words turn our attention both to the motivations which inspire love and the means which help it function. Paul’s teaching in these verses is predicated upon that which he has already taught us in chapters 1-11. There are two principle themes dealt with in Romans 13:11-14 whose foundations have been laid in the earlier chapters of Romans. These two themes are salvation and love….What Paul describes in verses 11-14 has happened to me all too often. I go to bed at night. Then in my first waking moments I become increasingly aware of the light. Suddenly it dawns upon me. It is morning! Good grief, what time is it? I grab the clock. Oh no! I have overslept. The day has begun, but I have not. I shed my bed clothes and hastily dress, running from my bedroom to get to the day’s duties. I think this is the picture Paul is painting. We have been oversleeping. We need to wake up. The night has passed. The new day is dawning—the day of our Lord’s return. We must get about doing those things which remain to be done. We must put off our night clothes and put on clothes appropriate for the work our Lord calls us to do. (Love, Law, and the Last Days