That’s quite the title considering that Paul is known for preaching grace. As Paul tries to tell us how to follow the law, the “law” and love, at first glance, those two words do not seem to belong together, as the “law” almost always has an oppressive connotation, but then, for some, so does heaven and worship.
Let me explain. When I was younger, growing up in church, and having a very religious mother who used the “law of God” as a threat, to hear her say you have to worship God created imagery were all we would do once we got to heaven, was to sit and cry out, Holy Holy Holy, for the rest of eternity. It did not help that the enemy comes along behind some demand like that and tries to convince you that God is like a twisted dictator that demands worship. As my understanding grew about the Lord, I learned what His nature and character were, and I found myself caught up in “worship” in such a magnificent way that I did not want to leave that place, that moment in time. Unfortunately, many of those moments are within my church body, and, regardless of what I want, they stop the music and tell everybody to shake hands with others, which breaks my heart and the moment. Being caught up in worship is the most wondrous place to be, and all I want to do is to cry out Holy Holy Holy. As I tell my wife on occasion, you made me fall in love with you once again; I feel that way about the Father.
The first verse we cover in this section is Romans 13:8.
Romans 13:8 NLT Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
Let’s take this apart. The first thing I see could be construed to be a command – a law.
- “Owe nothing to anyone.”
Alternate versions give us: Stop owing anybody anything; Let no debt remain outstanding; Don’t owe anyone anything, and Pay everything you owe.
If I were teaching a financial freedom class, this would lesson number one – get out of debt. But this is NOT just about getting out of debt; this is about stopping the destruction of relationships, including the one you have with the Father.
Why bring our relationship with the Father into this?
Because money has brought more people to destruction than just about anything else, and what do you do when you are evicted from your home? You blame God. No, God does not turn His back on you in moments like this; you turn your back on Him because of your shame.
What else does this verse tell us?
- “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another.”
The NASB puts it this way: except to love one another. Again I ask, why do the law and love go together? The Apostle Peter had something to say in response to my question. 1 Peter 4:8 NASB
“because love covers a multitude of sins,”
Sin is anything that breaks God’s law. The fact that we are breathing attributes to the breaking of the law. How? Simply by being alive, because your very being longs to do its own thing; this concept doesn’t seem like such a big deal when you don’t have the Holy Spirit in your life, and that’s the problem, as the Holy Spirit would be leading you to do what is right. Grasp this; OUR sin put Jesus on that cross. Love, in the flesh, put Himself on that cross; and, at that moment, bore the penalties for OUR sin, and offered us His righteousness instead; and with that act, LOVE covered our sins, not just once as in the sacrifice of a lamb, but in perpetuity.
Almost every translation speaks of Romans 13:8 along the lines of loving your neighbor, and in that you have fulfilled the law, meeting all of its requirements. If we still have a responsibility to maintain the law, as inundating as most see it, then this should be very freeing to most. But, loving your neighbor evokes a question that I have to deal with constantly. How do I love the drug dealer and his hate-filled girlfriend, who has taught her children that my wife, the school librarian, is to be hated and feared, because she, and I, will call the police on them? (We haven’t done that, yet.)
Perhaps Paul has an answer for a question like this, as he always does. Once again, I lean on Eugene Peterson’s Message.
Romans 13:9 MSG The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself.
If I apply this to my neighbor, sleeping with his wife is unthinkable. The neighbor has nothing that I want to take; but then there is this statement “don’t always be wanting what you don’t have.” This last portion is the world I live in, and I fight it constantly. Every once in a while the truth creeps in and I see it; I have to love myself better. I know, that sounds weird, but the truth of it is, I must see myself the way the Father sees me, and He loves me.
A staunch version of Romans 13:9 comes from the MKJV.
For: “Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not lust;” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Let me add, all these things (sins) are easily done in the mind; and, you are still just as responsible for the results, whether you acted out on the thought or not. That piece of information should make you elated that Christ paid the penalty for ALL sin. [Keep in mind that Christ’s actions do not relieve you from the legal authorities and the demands of the court.]
Another aspect of Paul’s response.
Romans 13:10 NLT Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
The CEV translation says this:
No one who loves others will harm them. So love is all that the Law demands.
Oversimplified? Perhaps; but what was the jest of those laws, written in stone by God, that Moses carried down from the mountain? TREAT PEOPLE DECENTLY.
Now, it seems that Paul makes a shift in thought.
Romans 13:11 CEV You know what sort of times we live in, and so you should live properly. It is time to wake up. You know that the day when we will be saved is nearer now than when we first put our faith in the Lord.
I sometimes think, life could not have been more simplified back then; with an outhouse only a short distance away, and a well in the city square from which to get water, life was good. But, just like today, there were thugs and bullies willing to take what is yours and kill you in the process. How did this happen if we all came from the same stock? And, if Noah told his sons about this God that talked with him, wouldn’t they have shared that with their children? But if you read your bible, then you know that one of Noah’s own sons committed some heinous sexual crime against his father.
When I think about this statement (“You know what sort of times we live in,”) in relation to the world I live in, what has changed?
Modernization has certainly upgraded the weapons thugs and bullies can use against me/us; technology has improved the ability to communicate to others the gathering points for mass attacks; and people, like George Soros, are willing to fund brutal and coordinated attacks on the unwary populace. In short, the world has gone mad.
Could the general population have felt the same emotion in Paul’s day? Maybe.
What does Paul tell us to do, and consider this answer in light of what verse 10 says?
“Love never does anything that is harmful to its neighbor,”(ISV)
Never intentionally do anything harmful to your neighbor. Paul tells us:
“It is time to wake up.”
Paul, then says something unusual – it is only unusual because the church has been in existence for over 2000 years, and yet, even then, there was an anticipation, and an understanding, of the events that would precede and announce the coming of the Lord.
“You know that the day when we will be saved is nearer now than when we first put our faith in the Lord.” (CEV)
One of the ways of interpreting this sentence would be to take it on a daily basis; that idea works, but clearly, some aspect of understanding is missing. Having been berated by a friend and a pastor, I know that NOT everyone is willing to even come close to making an effort to understand the end times and the events that move God’s plan forward.
An alternate way to interpret what Paul is saying is to look at the context. The context has everything to do with the day in which we will be saved.
Hebrews 10:25 GW We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.
Hebrews 10:37 GW “Yet, the one who is coming will come soon. He will not delay.
Obviously, Paul, and the early church anticipated His soon return.
But which return are we, the church, looking for?
Paul again writes.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 GW The Lord will come from heaven with a command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the dead who believed in Christ will come back to life. (17) Then, together with them, we who are still alive will be taken in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. In this way we will always be with the Lord. (18) So then, comfort each other with these words!
We will be caught up to meet him in the air. This is not on the ground as the prophet Zechariah describes; these are two separate events.
Zechariah 14:4 GW On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives will be split in two, forming a very large valley from east to west. Half of the mountain will move toward the north, and the other half will move toward the south.
If we can understand that we are to be looking for His soon return for the church, then how are we to live?
Romans 13:12 NASB The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
The NLT conveys this: “The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here.”
Night can, and should only be, interpreted as everything less than the glory of living with the Father – in our changed bodies.
This understanding is why I gave you passages like 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. Since we know that the day of salvation will soon be here, then we need to lay aside the deeds of darkness, and, put on the armor of light.
What of this darkness and the deeds Paul speaks of?
John 3:19-21 NASB “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. (20) “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (21) “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
I might think that these deeds are anything that would drive you toward the darkness.
The word deeds is the Greek word ergon and can also mean acts or toil. Obviously, the acts or toil are for NO good purpose. When I look up the word exposed, I find the Greek word elegchō. Elegchō is of uncertain affinity and also means to confute, admonish: – convict, rebuke, reprove. Confute means to prove to be wrong; to convict of error.
The dark things that Paul talks about in Ephesians 5 when he speaks of how it is disgraceful to speak of those things are nothing new. Israel reverted back to their disgraceful ways when they camped at Mount Sinai. (Read Stephen’s discourse, in Acts 7, in your spare time.)
Ephesians 5:11-12 NASB Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; (12) for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.
Keep in mind, that as a follower of Christ, you have been redeemed and made new, however, it is only the union between you and the Holy Spirit of God, that keeps you from returning to your completely deprived state.
1 Thessalonians 5:5 NASB for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;
As I read my bible one theme stands out over the others, and that is that we are called to live in enthusiastic awareness, but of what?
Romans 13:13-14 NLT Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
- “Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see.”
- “Don’t participate in the darkness” – (or anything that darkness includes.)
- (Instead,) clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- “And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”
Live with eager excitement, as you long for the day that Jesus will return for His church. This is what he told the disciples, with the addendum, I am telling you the truth; after that, God’s wrath will be poured out over the earth. An acquaintance of mine, as well as others, believe that we are in those seven years now. If that was the case, then God would still be holding US accountable for sin. The logic only works if you disregard Jesus work on the cross. Because of the cross, sin was paid for, so that we do not have to pay with our lives.
Romans 6:9-11 NLT We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:19-21 NLT For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him, God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions.
I focused, for a second, on Romans 13:13-14, where it says, “And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” Why would Paul have to mention such a thing?
The best way of thinking this through is to understand that each of us was born broken (you can thank Adam for that.) That brokenness is the basis for sin, and sin, in its refined state, is desire. So, there you have it; you have an innate and perpetual desire to do what you want. For some, that means theft, while for others, it means murder. Let’s just say, you haven’t done those things, and your desire is to merely fret over the fact that you don’t have an RV like your neighbor – that you have come to despise because they have and you don’t. If you thought it, you have done it, and that makes you a sinner. Now I am sure you are smart enough to have figured this all out, but some of us clearly have not. Some, foolishly believe that migrating over to Christianity totally frees you from your lust, filled desires, but it does not.
If you think that life is all rainbows and sunshine and that humanity can be completely free of God and live like civilized people, you are wrong because we are oriented, by our brokenness to do anything but love. All you have to do is to exam the story from Genesis chapter six – the section that contains the events that lead to the flood, and the destruction of “all” flesh; there you will find that humanity and their understanding of God came almost exclusively through word of mouth. Many, so-called Christians, love to fight about every point, so let’s fight about this word of mouth idea.
After the garden incident, how many times do you see God speaking to “his” people?
Just about zero times. Surely, God spoke with Enoch, but people who choose to listen to God are always rare. Why do you suppose that is? If you have followed the ancestral lineage through to Noah, haven’t you wonder what happened to Enoch’s brothers and sisters? How about Methuselah, he too had brothers and sisters, and yet, like Noah, NONE of them got on the ark. It is very obvious that there was only a thread of people – Noah’s family, and Noah specifically, that paid any attention to the voice of the Lord.
Genesis 6:5 NLT The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.
Can I understand that everything was polluted, especially when there were men like Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah?
Percentages were less than 100%, and like the story of Lot, it was enough for God to assert that the entirety of the population was polluted. Now there is an interesting word polluted. When we see such terminology, we think about places like “cancer alley” that runs along the length of the Mississippi River and empties out into the Louisiana bayous, or the power plants of Chernobyl and most recently Fukushima. You get the idea. While even back then, in Noah’s time, there had to be some form of pollution, but it was nothing like today. And so, we are not talking about humanities physical destruction of the earth, and therefore have to be talking about something even greater, something that affects the moral fiber of mankind.
Genesis 6:11-13 KJV The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
The Hebrew word for corrupt is šāḥaṯ and means spoiled, ruined, and perverted. That destructive force reared its ugly head when we read, “the sons of God, looked on the daughters of men.” Sons of God is the Hebrew words bēn elohim. “bēn” pronounced ba’ne is found over 5000 times in scripture and carries the most basic meaning and general translation of son – the direct male offspring of human parents, it is more generally a relational term because of its variety of applications. This word can express an adopted child.
While this information, obtained from the Word Study Dictionary, seems to prove the point of those unwilling to pursue answers, it opens the door to more questions, because of Job 2:1.
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. (NASB)
If God can use the term in Job to refer to a fallen angel, Satan, then who are these sons we see here I Genesis 6?
I do not want to end here, focused on a broken, fallen world, not when Jesus has redeemed us all. Focus on this:
If you want to lose sleep over something, make it this, how can I clothe myself in the presence of the Lord.