Sunday, May 6, 2012

Romans 13 8-14 Neighbors and Time


We have been studying our response to the gospel. In Romans 10 we confess and believe; in Romans 11 we trust in the sovereign calling of election; in Romans 12 we begin to worship by serving God especially in church, being living examples of renewal, trusting in the justice of God, and trusting in the authority of God.


8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

[Now some have used verse 8 as a command that Christians should never borrow money. But I see it continuing the thought of verse 7 which was to fulfill all your obligations to the government. So flowing from verse 7, verse 8 is about fulfilling your obligations to your neighbors. Pay you debts, when they are due; don't be delinquent in any responsibility. The exception is love, because love is the obligation you never finish paying.]


9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

[I've noticed in Paul's letters multiple times where his teaching closely mirrors the teaching of Jesus on the same subjects; this is a perfect example.


In Matthew 22 Jesus was challenged by a lawyer for the Pharisees with the question, which is the great commandment. Jesus' answer listed two: love God, and love your neighbor. Then in verse 40 he concludes that these two commandments embody all of the Law and the Prophets. In connecting these two He reveals that God is the silent partner in every relationship we have. Adultery breaks the marriage covenant with your spouse and with God, remember marriage is the analog of Christ's relationship with the church. Murder kills a person but also violates the sacred trust of human life we have with God. People who steal are saying God cannot supply my needs. Those who proffer lies act as though God cannot hear them; and those who covet say that God does not have the right to bless whoever He wills.


In modern culture people say sometimes love hurts; but they are using the definition of affection whose focus is to satisfy me. This passage uses the agape love that is selfless which is why verse 10 says "love does no harm". "Love your neighbor as yourself" means that every gift of God I might desire for myself, I would also want for my neighbor. Once you cast aside selfishness, most relationships can be healed pretty quickly.]


11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

[Now we shift the discussion from neighbors, to time. Most people don't like waking up to alarm clocks because of the loud abrupt noise that wakens us from sleep. In college I was so sleep deprived that I had my stereo on a timer set to come on every morning, this was my backup in case I slept through the alarm clock.


This passage sounds the alarm, saying "do you know what time it is"? It's time to wake up! Sleep here is a metaphor for moral laxness. Each day we are closer to Christ's return and/or our own death. Salvation is getting closer, but the final stage of our bodily transformation does not take place until the end. Salvation begins with the immediate down payment in our endowment of the Holy Spirit. Then it continues in a life of good works driven by the sanctification of the spirit. But what happens when instead of walking in Christ's righteousness we slide back into immorality? We endanger our own lives, and the souls of those who we could be leading to Jesus. Get up and change your clothes, stop walking in darkness and put on the armor of light. In John 8:12 Jesus said He was the "light of the world", and that His followers would not walk in darkness.]


13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. [Here are some things to avoid, any kind of intoxication whether from drinking, pills or smoking, and the revelry or crude partying that seems to go hand in hand with intoxication. I was really surprised how tame and well behaved the Harley Owners Rally was this week. My brother-in-law Bob told me that place was like a Baptist convention. Other things to avoid include:

Lewdness, the old King James calls it chambering, refers to sexually defiling the marriage bed.

Lust or wantonness, means your mind is always on your own flesh and the desire to satisfy it. Think strip clubs, pornography and things like that, should all be avoided.

Strife we have talked about recently, a contentious mind that seems to be constantly offended and ready to fight.

Envy or jealousy, always comparing yourself to others thinking you are entitled to anything you see, these are false measures of value. God will not judge us by what we have or by comparing us to other people. Our value is in the life we are given, the costly salvation paid for us, and the people around us that we love and serve.]


14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

["Put on the Lord Jesus", sounds like you are wearing your favorite team Jersey. Why do we wear things like that? We like to identify with a team, to say that "I am a part of the competition". At the Harley Rally it was easy to distinguish that group from all the others in the Stockyards, they were all wearing the riding gear, like they could jump on their bikes and take off at a moment's notice. Do we wear Jesus the same way? Are we always ready for action, for spiritual battle, or do we get bogged down with moral laxness?


Some use Christian liberty as an excuse for a self indulgent lifestyle and sink into a false sense of rest thinking the time of judgment is far away but that is not so. Jesus said His coming will be like a thief in the night; sudden, unexpected, and final. "Make no provision for the flesh" is a very pointed command because immorality has such a corrosive effect on our spiritual life.


When we studied the Book of Acts, we looked at the council of Jerusalem. There we had a battle for the focus of Gentile believers. Would they be shackled to the 613 Laws of Moses, or would they be led by the Holy Spirit. In the end the Apostles gave them two things to avoid; idolatry and immorality. With those two prohibitions they were freed to seek after Jesus, and the two great commandments to love God and love your neighbor.]



  1. Do you think verse 8 forbids all borrowing?
  2. What is the obligation we never finish paying?
  3. How is your salvation now nearer that when you first believed?
  4. Why do you think "night" and "darkness" are so often used as metaphors for sin?
  5. How can we better "put on the Lord Jesus"?



Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ's return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. (Philippians 2:14-16)

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