Fulfilling the Royal Law (Romans 13:8-14)

Fulfilling the Royal Law (Romans 13:8-14)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, October 2 and Sunday, October 3, 2021

Do you ever think about Christian conduct? How are we to behave?

Our conduct is to be decent and honorable (v. 13). It must be acceptable in the open light of day. One example is Augustine. In his Confessions Augustine tells of his conversion to Christianity (viii.12). In a.d. 386, at a time when he was deeply moved by a desire to break from his old way of living, he sat weeping in the garden of a friend in Milan. Suddenly he heard a child singing Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege! (“Take up and read! Take up and read!”). He picked up a scroll lying there, and his eyes fell on Rom 13:13–14, “Not in orgies and drunkenness …” Immediately his heart was flooded with a clear light, and the darkness of doubt vanished. No other theologian has made a greater contribution to the theology of the Western world.[1]

The passage today talks about these ideas.

My theme today is:

Christian living means loving our neighbor and clothing ourselves with Jesus, making no provision for the flesh.

  1. Owe love to others (verses 8-10).
    1. Let’s read verses 8-10: Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9For 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.” 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
    2. Paul had just been writing about being submissive to authorities and now he begins to write about motivation. What motivates us, and how do we respond? Love must motivate us.
    3. We must owe loves.
    4. ESV Study note: Verses 8–10 focus on the Christian’s relationship to the Mosaic law. Owe no one anything links back to v. 7, and thus the command does not prohibit all borrowing but means that one should always “pay what is owed” (see v. 7), fulfilling whatever repayment agreements have been made. The debt one never ceases paying is the call to love one another. Indeed, love fulfills what the Mosaic law demands.[3]
    5. New American Commentary: The Christian is to allow no debt to remain outstanding except the one that can never be paid off—“the debt to love one another.”76 The obligation to love has no limit. We are to love not only those of the family of God but our “fellowman” as well. As God’s love extended to all, so must our concern reach out to believer and nonbeliever alike (cf. Matt 5:44–45).[4]
    6. We must love.
    7. What do we owe? Do we owe service? Do we owe money? Do we owe Bible teaching? No, this passage says that we owe love.
    8. For the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Jesus said this (Matthew 22:38-40). James 2:8 is very similar as well.
    9. In verse 9 Paul lists some of the ten commandments (see Ex. 20:13ff and Deut 5:17ff) and says they are summed up in “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
    10. Paul lists 4 of the commandments dealing with human relations.
    11. You shall love your neighbor as yourself comes from: Lev 19:18; Matt 19:19.
    12. Remember in Luke 10 Jesus was asked “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus responded with the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). The Good Samaritan served his enemy and so even our enemy is our neighbor.  
    13. In verse 10, Romans 13:10, he says that love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
    14. If we love someone, we do not make fun of them. If we love someone, we do not harm them physically. If we love someone, we do not try to have competing comments that are one-uppers. If we love someone, we care about them. If we love someone, we want them to know Jesus. If we love someone, we won’t cheat them out of money. If we love someone, we want the best for their children.
    15. Think of how you feel if something bad happens to your children. Go further, think of your children as a young, innocent, vulnerable child, how did you feel if they were mocked or harmed? We should strive to love everyone that way. We, as Christians, ought not to harm anyone. We should try to think of all people like an innocent vulnerable person and then I think we are more likely to love them.
    16. By the way, I think God likely thinks of us that way.
    17. Gal 5:14; James 2:8 are good cross references.
    18. augustine: The rule of love is that one should wish his friend to have all the good things he wants to have himself and should not wish the evils to befall his friend which he wishes to avoid himself. He shows this benevolence to all men. No evil must be done to any. Love of one’s neighbor works no evil. Let us then love even our enemies as we are commanded, if we wish to be truly unconquered. of true religion 87.[5]
  2. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ (verses 11-14).
    1. Now, Paul challenges them to step up. Now, Paul wants them to think in a wartime way. The time is coming for them to wake up in the faith.
    2. Look at verse 11, Romans 13:11: Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
    3. Do you ever feel like you are sleep walking through the day?
    4. Do you ever drive somewhere and it was such habit you don’t really remember passing certain roads?
    5. Do you ever feel like you are almost in overdrive through life?
    6. Paul is urging us not to live the Christian life like that.
    7. It is time to wake up. This is a common exhortation for Paul: 1 Cor 15:34; Eph 5:14; 1 Thess 5:6.[6]
    8. ESV Study note: Sleep here is a metaphor for a life of moral carelessness and laxity. Salvation is viewed as a future reality here, and it draws nearer every day. the day is at hand. The nearness of the end summons Christians to put off all evil works and to live in the light.[7]
    9. Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. What does that mean? I think it means Jesus’ coming is getting closer and our death is getting closer.
    10. Verse 12 expands on this, Romans 13:12: The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
    11. There is often a contrast of light and darkness in the Bible. Darkness is sin, and wrong, and evil. Light is good.
    12. So, we know Jesus, get rid of the works of the flesh, of the devil, of sin, and live for Jesus.
    13. Look at verse 13, Romans 13:13: Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.
    14. Walk properly… This means walk as Christians. Again, it is daytime, we know Jesus.
    15. Paul lists some of the sinful ways we are not to walk. Don’t walk in orgies and drunkenness.
    16. Don’t walk in sexual immorality.
    17. Don’t walk in sensuality. This is literally debauchery, that is excessive indulgence, sensual pleasures.
    18. Dr. Constable: The practices he urged us to avoid here were common in Corinth where Paul wrote this epistle. He observed them constantly. Intemperance often leads to sexual sin that frequently results in contention and quarreling.[9]
    19. Now, let’s look at verse 14, Romans 13:14: But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
    20. This verse really sums up verses 11-14.
    21. Put on the Lord Jesus.
    22. It is like we are clothed with Jesus. It is like Jesus is our uniform.
    23. ESV Study note: The metaphor of putting on clothing implies not just imitating Christ’s character but also living in close personal fellowship with him.[10]
    24. This passage is famous for bringing Augustine of Hippo to salvation (Confessions, 8:12.22).[11]
    25. Don’t give the flesh any chance. The flesh is the worldly ways. We are to be different. Why? Because we love one another.
    26. Don’t give the flesh any opportunity to gratify its desires. They are not of God.
    27. This is a common exhortation: Job 29:14; Gal 3:27; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10, 12[12]
  3. Applications:
    1. Do we aim to love another (verse 8)?
    2. Do we realize that we will always owe love to others (verse 8)?
    3. Do we view other people as created in the image of God, or do we objectify people? When we view them as created in the image of God it will help us to love them.
    4. How do we view that waitress and waiter? Chik-Fil-A, that is God’s chicken, once had a training video. It showed people coming up to the counter to order. Over their heads a little bubble was shown that shared what each person faced that day. For example, this person just got news that their husband died. This person’s child was just diagnosed with cancer. This person just got laid off of their job.
    5. We must remember everyone has something they are dealing with and they are all worthy of grace. We need grace too.
    6. We must give up the old ways and clothe ourselves with Christ (verse 14).
    7. This week, try to be less demanding and try to be extra gracious wherever you go. This week give a good tip at a restaurant even when the service is not worthy. This week try to think of others as created in the image of God.


[1] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 248.

57 M. Volf, Exclusion and Embrace (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), p. 276.

[2] Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 320.

[3] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2180.

76 Moule says the debt of love is not like a forgotten account that is owed to a lender but like interest on capital that is continuously due and payable (Romans, 358).

[4] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 245–246.

[5] James Stuart Bell, ed., Ancient Faith Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bibles, 2019), 1409.

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[7] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2180.

[8] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 13:12.

[9] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 13:13.

[10] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2180.

[11] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1802.

[12] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

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