When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus masterfully answered by saying,
“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” (Matt. 22:27-40).
Jesus summarized the entire law of God by one word, which was “love”. Continuing with the theme of the believer’s responsibilities, Paul says in his letter to the Romans,
“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” (Rom. 13:8-10).
In the passage under consideration in this study, we will explore the public display of a life fulfilling God’s law, namely loving one another. This is the second aspect of the law as stated by the Lord Jesus Christ. We will see two aspects – the payment of love (13:8) and the proof of love (13:9-10).
THE PAYMENT OF LOVE (Romans 13:8)
After talking about the believer’s obligation to pay their taxes (13:6-7), Paul broadens the principle by saying, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other” (13:8a). Some well-meaning individuals have interpreted the first part of this text to mean that a Christian ought not to borrow money. Though it is true that there are
certain kinds of borrowing that are unwise or wrong, the Scriptures do not forbid borrowing (or loaning out) money. This text is simply instructing us that we ought to pay what we owe. Of course, we must be aware of the dangers involved in borrowing (cf. Prov. 22:7). However, there is one thing we are to constantly owe people and we will never be able to pay it off. He continues, “except to love each other”. This is a call to sacrificially show commitment and care to each other. This is the Christian’s duty and delight (cf. 1 John 4:7- 11). By showing this kind of love, “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (13:8b). Here Paul connects that command to love with the summation of God’s law and mentioned in our introduction. This leads us to the next point.
THE PROOF OF LOVE (Romans 13:9-10)
Love is proven to be genuine by the way in which it has a focus on others and not self. After making reference to the law (13:8b), in verse 9 Paul lists four of the Ten Commandments (no. 7, no. 6, no. 8, no. 10). The purpose of quoting these commands is to eliminate self-love. He says, “You shall not commit adultery”. This prohibition prevents you from sinning against and harming the prospective “love” interest, your wife/husband and children. “You shall not murder” is a prohibition against hating and unjustly taking the life of another individual – clearly murder is not love! Thirdly, “You shall not steal”. Stealing is clearly another act of self-love. It shows no regard for someone else’s possessions and only selfish focus. Finally he says, “You shall not covet”. This again is the result of one consumed with themselves. Paul summarises this by saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
In bringing this passage to a conclusion Paul says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (13:10). As the people of God, let us love one another.
Suggested Study Questions:
- What does the Scripture teach regarding borrowing money? Consider some of the following Scriptures (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-37; Deut. 15:7-9; Neh. 5:7; Ps. 15:5; 37:21, 26; Ezek. 22:12; Matt. 5:42; Luke 6:34)
- Why is self-love so damaging in the practice of loving others? Cf. 2 Tim. 3:1-2
- Discuss how the four of the Ten Commandments listed by Paul (13:9) show love to others.
- How would you respond to someone who says, “As a Christian we don’t have to worry about God’s law, all I need is grace”?