Romans 13:8–9 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Having just celebrated the birth of our Messiah, the Anointed One, Christ the Redeemer, we are now heading into 2017, we may ask: “Why did our Heavenly Father God send his Son Jesus into the world?” Because, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, not having rendered to Him the perfect obedience He demands from His creatures.” Therefore, the only way we can have peace with our Creator is by the righteousness of another—Christ, whose obedience is imputed to us when we trust only in Him for salvation. Do we truly understand the magnitude and severity of our situation? Our salvation from hell-fire and damnation is enough to celebrate with praise, honor, glory, and adoration to our Almighty Maker. Yet God does not only justify us, or declare us reconciled and righteous in His sight. He also regenerates our heart and changes us from the inside out, then we pursue holiness not in order to secure a right standing with the Lord, but to thank Him for the right standing He has granted us by grace alone. He purposed to give us this right standing by electing us in Christ before the foundation of the world. The outworking of all this is seen in continual transformation by the renewing of our minds and the Lord’s process of Sanctification, which produces sincere love in our hearts toward others.
One commentary on Romans 13:8-9 explains that Paul emphasizes this idea of obligation when he commands us to “owe no one anything, except to love each other”. He does not mean that Christians are not allowed to go into any kind of financial debt; rather, the point is that the only perpetual obligation that believers have is to love one another. In other words, there is one debt that believers will be repaying from the point of conversion into all eternity, and that is to love the brethren. Without a doubt, the Apostle leans on the words of Jesus Himself, who said love of God and neighbor are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:34–40). Paul does not mention love for the Lord explicitly in this passage; however, Scripture assumes that true love for neighbor manifests itself only when we have true love for our Creator and Savior. Reformer John Calvin comments, “The whole law is fulfilled when we love our neighbors; for true love towards man does not flow except from the love of God, and it is its evidence, and as it were its effects.”
Notice that Paul in Romans 13:9, which speaks of love as the fulfillment of the moral law, specifically the Ten Commandments. True, biblical love has objective moral content. We cannot justify actions merely because they feel loving. Instead, godly love conforms to the Lord’s standards. It does what pleases Him. The key point is that as disciples of Christ, we must define love by what the Lord has revealed and not by what happens to feel right to us at the moment. This side of heaven, our fleshly heart’s desires can deceive us, but God’s Word teaches us only the truth. Our desires must align with God’s desires. As we consider our love for others, a desire to act in conformity to the commands of the Lord will show us that what we are experiencing is the godly kind of love that the Lord demands. Is such love evident in your and my heart? That is my New Year’s resolution.
In Christ, Brian