Romans 13:8-14


Debt.  It is a word that usually brings with it certain accompanying negative connotations.  The American dream is to reach the point where you are debt-free.  And yet, there are some debts from which you can never be free.  Someone who gave you help when you most needed it.  Someone who sacrificed of themselves on your behalf.  Someone who put themselves in the place of danger and hurt so that you might be spared.  Debts like that can never be repaid.


We have that kind of debt.  It is a debt that cost God the life of His only begotten Son.  It is a debt of love.  C.S. Lewis wrote, “Love is as hard as nails. Love is nails... driven through hands and feet.”


The ideas of debt and obligation come together in this chapter.  Verses 1-7 described the civil obligations the Christian is to meet toward the governing authorities.  Paul proceeds now to speak of another obligation.  This is an obligation to love one another.


Romans 13:1-7

Romans 13:8-10

Romans 13:11-14

Fulfill your obligations...

To governing authorities

To love one another

To live as Jesus





We have already seen in verses 1-7 the obligation that we have toward those who are in authority over us.  It is an obligation of submission because submitting to governing authorities is a part of our submission to the Lord.  Now we are brought to see what is at the center of that obligation.  It is an obligation to love as we have been loved.





            8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10).


1.         The Debt of Love:  Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another (13:8).


We are not to be debtors.  Paul says that we are to owe nothing to anyone.  We are to pay our debts.  Some have taken this to mean that a Christian should not take a mortgage or a car loan, but that is reading too much into the text.  To the contrary, the verb is given in the Greek present tense, indicating that this state of indebtedness is not to be a regular or ongoing lifestyle.  On the other hand, the Proverbs warn against a common problem in indebtedness:


The rich rules over the poor,

And the borrower becomes the lender's slave. (Proverbs 22:7).


As Christians, we are not to be constantly in debt, but instead we are to repay the debts we owe.  As we saw in the previous verses that we are to repay our obligations to authority, so also we are to repay all other debts.


There is one exception to this rule.  We will never be able to complete our obligation to love one another.  We will always be debtors with regard to our love.  Why is this?  It is because we have been loved with an infinite love and we will never be able to repay that kind of love.


2.         Love and the Law:   For he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law (13:8).


The law is about love.  It could be summed up with the commands to love the Lord your God with all your mind and all your soul and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.


            35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,  36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

             37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  38 This is the great and foremost commandment.  39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35‑40).


Jesus answered this question by quoting two Old Testament passages.  The first of these is Deuteronomy 6:5.  It was customary to have this verse written on a phylactery and bound to the wrist or to the forehead.  This lawyer merely pulls up his shirt sleeve and reads the answer.


           Love God:  Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!  5  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).


“Love the Lord your God.”  He is not just any God.  He is the Lord.  He is Yahweh.  Notice the extent of this love.  It is all-consuming.  It is a fanatical love.


           Love Man:  You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18).


“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is a quote from Leviticus 19:18.  It is found in a passage that forbids oppressing the poor.  It commands, not only the loving of the Jew, but the loving of the stranger and the foreigner as well (Leviticus 19:34).  The Jews in the days of Jesus had perverted this passage to say, “You shall love your neighbors and hate your enemies” (Matthew 5:43).  But the Scriptures did not contain these words.  God’s commandment has always been one of love.


The fact that Jesus pointed us to the Law tells us something about Christianity.  It is not something new or recent.  It is something that is very old and which is rooted in the Old Testament.  As Christians living in this age, we do not ignore the Old Testament or relegate it to some past and unrelated dispensation.  God is the same in every age and salvation is also the same in every age.


Jesus called this the greatest command.  It summarized all the other commands of the law.  It is striking that your greatest calling is to be relational.  You will never be judged for how many programs you planned or how many sermons you preached or how many fliers you printed up.  You will be judged for how much you loved.


If there is no greater commandment than this, then it is also true that there is no greater sin than to fail to do this.  We are called to love and a failure to love is a failure to keep God’s law.


3.         Love and Law’s Negation:  For this, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet" (13:9).


Notice that this description of love is stated primarily in the negative.  There are a lot of positive things you could say about love.  Just read through 1 Corinthians 13 and you will see an entire list of positive things said about love.  But this is a list of things that love does not do.


Why is this list so negative?  It is because the law was primarily stated in the negative.  It told you what not to do.  That is the very nature of law.  Its primary focus is upon prohibitions.


Love acts a certain way.  We have already seen a number of positive reflections of love in Romans 12.  But it is also true that love refrains from acting in a certain way.  There are certain actions that love avoids.


           Love does not commit adultery.

           Love does not murder.

           Love does not steal.

           Love does not covet.


Thus, there is a positive aspect to each of these laws because they can all be summarized in the simple statement to love your neighbor as yourself.  At the same time, we should not avoid giving voice to the negative.  We live in a society and a culture that doesn’t care to talk about negatives.  But the Bible does and perhaps there are times when we should, too.  If we are showing real love, then there are certain things we should not be doing.


4.         Love and the Summation of the Law:   And if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (13:9).


This is not an exclusively New Testament teaching.  Before Jesus ever said these words, they were given in the Old Testament.  Leviticus 19:18 gives the command from God that you are to “love your neighbor as yourself.”


How do you do it?  How do you love the person for whom you really don’t care?  I want to suggest that you start by seeing how much you have been loved.  Then you ask yourself, “If I really loved that person, what would I do?”  And then you go and do that thing.





            And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. (Romans 13:11).


When Paul starts off in this verse by saying, “And this do,” he is referring back to the command from the previous verse to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  This means he has not changed his topic.  He is still speaking of the importance of love.  He is pointing out that love has a present priority.


1.         The Priority of Wakefulness:  And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep (13:11).


Paul says that we know the time.  To what time does this refer?  It means that we understand that we are in the last days.  We understand that we have entered into that period of which the Old Testament prophets spoke.  We have entered the time when the Spirit of God has been poured out on all flesh. 


Since I have been retired from my 29-year career with the fire department, I no longer have to get up with the alarm clock to go into work.  But Paula does.  And the way we approach alarm clocks is fundamentally different.


I am one of those people who hear the alarm clock and within two seconds my feet are on the ground and I am moving.  It comes from years of hearing an alarm in the fire station and going into immediate action.  It is a conditioned response that I would find difficult to change.


Paula’s response is notably different.  For her, the alarm clock is a device to tell her that getting up is somewhere in her not-so-immediate future.  She has developed some considerable expertise on the use of the snooze button.  It is the button you can push that temporarily cuts off the alarm, but only to reset it and have it ring again several minutes later.


There comes a time when I come over and tell her, “Honey, it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep.”  Paul isn’t speaking of physical sleep.  He is speaking of spiritual sleep.  He indicates that our problem is that we have a spiritual snooze button and we’ve gotten into the habit of using it.


What are the characteristics of such spiritual sleep?  How can we know if we ourselves are in the midst of such a slumber?  I will suggest several qualities:


           “Going with the Flow” versus purposeful living.  Remember the parable of the master who gave talents to his servants?  The one who was rebuked was the one who took the talent and did nothing with it.  He refused to see that he had been given that talent for a purpose and that he was meant to do something with it.


           An awareness of the spiritual dynamics taking place behind the scenes of normal, everyday living.  The spiritual life is not something that only takes place on Sunday morning or when you come to church.  It is also involved when you go to work and when you take out the garbage.  It is involved in all of life.


           An understanding of the reality spiritual warfare and the regular utilization of deliberate tactics as a part of this conflict.  Paul is going to speak in verse 12 of how we are to put on the armor of light.  When you put on armor, it is not a fashion statement.  Rather, you put on armor because you are going into battle.  There is a spiritual conflict taking place and you are a participant.


2.         The Priority of Proximity:  For now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed (13:11).


Every day brings us one day closer to eternity.  It could be that Christ is going to come in our lifetimes.  Or it could be that we will see the day of our death.  But in either case, we are one day closer to what Paul calls, “Salvation.”


This reference to salvation is significant, given what Paul has had to say about this subject in the book of Romans.  Throughout most of the epistle, Paul has described salvation in terms of what Christ has already accomplished upon the cross.


           The gospel is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16).

           When a person believes the gospel and confesses it with his mouth, the result is salvation (Romans 10:10).


But now we see that there is a future tense to our salvation.  It is true that we have been saved through faith and that we are being sanctified through that continuing faith, but the final aspect of our salvation is something that is still future.  It is future, but it is closer than it used to be.  We are one year closer.  One week closer.  One day closer.


There is a certain wakefulness that we ought to have in light of that truth.  Of what does that wakefulness comprise?  Paul explains in the next two verses.





            12 The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. (Romans 13:12-13).


Our time on earth is limited.  It is going to end one of these days.  Either you will die or else Christ will return.  In the meantime, you are called to be awake.  This is a reference to spiritual wakefulness.  Are you sleepy or awake?  A sleepy attitude ignores that which is taking place.  A wakeful attitude is aware of all the spiritual realities around you.




Spiritually asleep.

Spiritually awake.

A picture of those without Christ.

A picture of those with Christ.

Where we used to live.

That for which we are called to live.

Lay aside the deeds of the dark.

Put on the armor of light.

Sexual promiscuity, sensuality, strife, and jealousy

Let us behave properly.

The flesh and its lusts.

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.


A hoplite was an armored soldier, a heavy infantryman.

C. S. Lewis used to describe life in our everyday realm as living in the “shadow lands.”  We see things dimly, but there is coming a day when the lights will be turned on fully.  We are called to live in the light of that fuller revelation and we are called to live that way today.  Such a life involves putting on what Paul calls the armor of light.  That makes it sound as though Paul is only speaking of that which you wear for defense.  I suppose the reason the translators rendered this word as “armor” is because it is that which you “put on.”  But the word itself — hoplon — is more general.  It refers to any sort of weapon.  It is frequently used in the Septuagint to describe a shield.  It was used by Paul in Romans 6:13 when he warned his readers not to go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  In Ephesians 6:11 Paul speaks of putting on the full armor of God.  While in that passage the elements of equipment are described in detail, here it is only mentioned in passing.  It is armor / equipment of light.


Paula and I visited Puerto Rico in the spring of 2007.  While we were there, I had the opportunity to visit a bio‑luminescent lagoon located on the northeastern tip of the island.  To get to the lagoon, you must paddle by kayak across a bay and through a narrow, twisting channel, taking you through thick mangroves, all under the darkness of night.  The lagoon itself is filled with millions of microscopic organisms that give off light when the water is disturbed.  Put your hand into the water and they look like tiny lightning bugs.  Splash the water with your paddle and the entire area lights up with a soft glow.


Reflecting on this creative wonder, several things came to mind.  First of all, I am told that these tiny organisms derive their light from the sun.  They collect the light during the day and then give it off during the night.  If the previous several days have been cloudy, then they will have little or no light to give off.  We are much the same way.  We derive our light from the Son and from being in His presence.  He is the source of our equipment of light.  Shut us off from His presence, and soon we will have little or no light to share with others.


Another thought that comes to mind is that it is often in our adversity that we shine the brightest.  Allow us to remain undisturbed and our light begins to fade, but churn us up and we shine brightly.  May the Lord continue to churn your spirit to shine for Him.





            But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Romans 13:14).


We are instructed to “put on Jesus.”  What does that mean?  It means we are to come and look at the cross and believe its message and to appropriate it through faith and to so hold to that faith that it becomes to us like a set of clothing.  Paul speaks on several occasions of “putting on Christ.”


            22 ...that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,  23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,  24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22‑24).


Notice that the “new self” has a new likeness.  It is the likeness of God.  Mankind was created after the image and likeness of God.  Then the fall took place and that image was corrupted.  Salvation involves a redemption of that image and likeness.  It involves restoring people to the proper image — the very image for which they were originally created.


            9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,  10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Colossians 3:9‑10).


Notice the difference between the two passages in Ephesians versus Colossians.  Both are written by the same author, but in Ephesians, Paul commands the new self to be “put on” while in Colossians he says that believers have already put on the new self.  Both are true.


We are to put on the very thing that we have already put on.  We are to believe the very gospel we have already believed.  We are to renew our minds as a living sacrifice in the same way that we underwent such renewal to come to Christ in the first place.


This is a wonderful lesson about the gospel.  It is the lesson that you never outgrow the gospel.  You never leave the gospel to go on to “deeper things.”  The gospel IS the deeper thing.


What does it mean to “put on Christ”?  It means to believe the gospel and to enter into all He has prepared for you.  Then it means, by faith, to let your position in Christ filter down to your daily experiences.


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