Love fulfills the Law
Good Morning. Lets grab our Bibles and turn in them to Romans chapter 13. As a reminder, if you do not own a Bible, we have some on the back table as our gift to you. We are indeed back in Romans after a kind of, sort of, not really, detour last week.
Paul here, in his letter to the churches in Rome has been showing what being a follower of Christ practically looks like. Right application and right action necessarily come from right understanding of doctrine. And Right understanding of doctrine should lead to right application and action.
But just simply having the right doctrine and the right application, might not be enough. In order for the doctrine to be put into practice, our heart needs to be changed. In order for our actions to be rooted in right doctrine, we need the right motivation. And that is one of the things that we are going to see Paul talk about this morning.
This section, chapters 12 & 13, are one big thought by Paul, following up on his long, extended treatise on the Christian doctrine and faith, from chapters 1 through 11. Pastor Ligon Duncan reminds us of the connective thought process Paul has been developing over the last two chapters, as he says:
This whole section of Romans in chapter 12 and chapter 13 is Paul’s fleshing out of what it means to live your life in light of the realities that you are to be a living sacrifice to the Lord as your spiritual service of worship. This is what it means to put your life on the altar. It’s what it means to die for the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s what it means to live the whole of life as an act of worship.
So, with that said, we look at our verses from this week, Romans 13:8-10. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and please follow along in whatever version you have with you. Romans 13:8-10, Paul writes:
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 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.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
So, right away here, Paul continues on from verse 7 and follows it up in verse 8. Summing up, verse 7, Paul told us to give to everyone what is owed to them. He went into the specifics about some of the ways that looks like. Taxes, revenue, honor and respect. And here, he writes out the general principle. All of those things fall under how we treat each other and how we treat each other falls under the heading of love.
We know the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19 & 20:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
However, we often forget about the great commandment. This is what we looked at last week in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Remember in Luke 10, Jesus asks the lawyer, starting in verse 26, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Love God and Love your neighbor. This is the Great Commandment. All other commands, principles, and applications fall under these umbrellas. And Paul says that here in verse 9, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There are a couple of aspects that flow out of what Paul is saying here. Two main ones actually. The first is that all are owed love. We are to owe no one anything except love. This has to come from some place. If we are owed something, it implies something. If we are owed something, it implies that we deserve it. If we deserve it, our minds imply that we did something to deserve it. If we are owed love, it implies that we are loveable.
We know by reading Romans specifically and the bible in General that we are, indeed not lovable. Thats the whole beautiful thing about the Gospel, about what God the Father sent God the Son to do, to love us when we were at our most unlovable. And when we become followers and children of God, through the Power of the God the Holy Spirit, we are to love all those around us who are unlovable. By that still implies that there is a reason for us to love those who are unlovable. And there is.
Imago Dei. Genesis 1:27 tells us So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. We, as in all of us, as in all human beings ever, as in people. We were all created in the image of God. We were made reflecting the glory and image of God. We are evidence of the reality of God. That does not mean that we are all children of God, that we are all followers of Christ or that we all will go to heaven. But we were all created in His image and therefore, through Gods goodness, and nothing we have done, we are all worthy of the dignity and respect, and In this context, love that comes with being made in his image.
As we saw last week, neighbor is not a limited term. It is everyone. That includes all of our enemies. It includes our religious enemies. It includes our political enemies. It includes our personal enemies. It includes our workplace enemies. It includes our friends. It includes our family. It includes each other in this very room. Each of those categories is our neighbor and we are commanded to love them. None of those categories is easy to love.
DA Carson says that Christians are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” Think about this, Any group, any association you have, any friends, you all spend time together because there are common interests. You get to know people and you spend time with them, “Hey, you like horses? I like horses! You like working on cars? I like working on cars! You like knitting or crocheting? I like knitting or crocheting!” There is a common bond that brings us together.
Now look around this room. We are here together whether we have anything in common or not. We look around this room and we are all different. If we have things in common, great! Added bonus! The Bible says that we don’t need anything in this world in common. Jesus tells us that he is enough.
We talked last week about loving those we don’t like, those who we don’t know. But we need to remember to love one another, even when and especially when its hard and especially when we don’t want to.
The Apostle John writes in his second letter:
And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. (2 John 5&6)
He reiterates the Great Commandment. He points out how we are supposed to be with one another. Peter writes that love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) We are brothers and sisters in Christ, those of us who are children of God. We are family. Think about your family. Nobody can get on your nerves, nobody can irritate you more than your brothers and sisters. You know its true. But they are still family and there are few that we love as much as or more than our family.
The same with our church family. I’m sure there are people in this room that can, at times, annoy us, grate on us, do things we don’t particularly care for. Thais a part of life on earth. Anytime you gather a group of people together in a room, there is 0 chance that at some point, there wont be something that happens in that room where one, two or more are annoyed, hurt or mad.
But the Bible reminds of us that often, we are on the giving end of that hurt. Get a handful of sinners together, we are still sinners.
That brings us to the second main point here in our passage this morning. Paul says that Love is the fulfilling of the law. The law needs to be fulfilled. It especially needs to be fulfilled if we want to be let in to the Kingdom of Heaven. But we are unable to fulfill the law. We cannot live up to the perfect and holy standard that God has set. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:20, during the Sermon on the Mount, what I see as the entire point of the Sermon on the Mount summed up in one statement, I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The scribes and Pharisees were the most righteous of the Jews in their day. God handed down the law to Moses back in Exodus. Forgetting that Abraham was justified by faith and not fully understanding the Great Commandment, which was given in the law and was where the Pharisees got that from, the tried so hard to follow the letter of the law and even added rules and laws on top of Gods laws. But they thought that, by following the commands of God, that their own righteousness could be enough to earn them salvation and eternal life. They were not only wrong, because our righteousness on our own can never be enough, we don’t have perfect righteousness. Only Christ had that. But also, as they trusted in their own righteousness, by following the letter of the laws, they lacked the very love that God command them to have.
We see numerous times in the Old Testament prophetic books that God admonishes Israel for doing the things, the religious rituals, the sacrifices, and offerings and the pageantry in the temple, but doing them without love, with wrong hearts and motivations. God says, through the prophet, in Malachi 1, verse 10:
Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.
This is just one of many examples. The priests were making the offerings they were supposed to, but wrong hearts and motivations, without love and in this case too, offering unsuitable animals and gifts for the offerings.
With what Ezekiel calls a heart of stone, (Ezek. 36:26) our outward actions don’t add up to anything in Gods eyes. Moral actions without a heart of flesh, does nothing but make us white washed tombs. (Matt. 23:27) Nice looking on the outside, but dead on the inside.
Paul talks about what it means to do all sorts of good things but to do it without love. 1 Corinthians 13, verses 1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.
We cannot love with a heart of stone. We cannot love in and of ourselves. And we can’t change our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. It takes the holy Spirit to do that. And it took Jesus, his perfect life, perfect righteousness and death and resurrection to secure forgiveness from our sins and clothe us in His righteousness.
That forgiveness is a key thing here. Love covers a multitude of sins, right? Paul writes in Romans 5:8 that God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We are forgiven, we are clothed in Christs righteousness. We are made a new creation. Our heart of stone is change to a heart of flesh. Because God loved us and Jesus secured our forgiveness.
God gives us all this through by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing we do can earn it, nothing about us can be good enough. Our forgiveness and salvation is based and solely based on Gods love for us.
God loved us first, and now calls us to love him, to love God with all out heart, soul, strength and mind. He also calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. And just have to be careful we put things in the right order. Again, it bears repeating often, we don’t do anything to earn our salvation. We don’t follow the commands of God in order to earn his good graces. We are saved by grace through faith. When we are saved, we follow his commands to show our love for God who loved us first.
Jesus says it clearly in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And love is the fulfillment of the commandments. Jesus says, just about a chapter later, John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
Love is the first of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5. It is the first and foremost of the visible evidences of our salvation, of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And through love, we show others the love of Christ. Again, in Johns Gospel, 15:35, Jesus says: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Again referencing Ligon Duncan, he shows the love that God gives us as debt to be paid. We pay our debt by pouring out love to those around us. He says the following:
The interesting thing about the exercise of this debt is that you get richer as you pay the debt. Listen to what Robert Haldane says, “The more they pay off this debt, the richer they will be in the thing that is paid.”
You pay off this debt with love, and as you pay off this debt, you don’t end up with less love, you end up with more love.
But just talking about loving each other and loving our neighbor is not enough. 1 John 3:18, John writes: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. Paul lists a few of the Ten Commandments in this passage, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” And says that these are all reduced and simplified to Love your neighbor.
Heres what he is not saying. No longer follow the Ten Commandments. We are not bound by them, as in required to keep them to achieve or earn salvation. But God gave them for a reason. We have looked at that recently too. The law was given for our benefit. For our holiness. But we are called to be Holy as God Our Father is Holy (Matt. 5:48) We are called to know and follow the word of God. Jesus tells us to repent and believe the Gospel. (Mark 1:15)
But as we also saw just a few moments ago, we can follow the commands the wrong way and missing the point, missing God in that. And so Love God and love our neighbors gives us the umbrella from which we filter all things. Again from 1 John, 5:3: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
We love God, we love his word. inerrant, sufficient and complete. No new revelation, no picking and choosing what we like and what we don’t. But to love God means to love all of him, including what he has revealed to us in the Bible.
And We love our neighbors, we love each other by acting on his commands, by following them. We reject the worlds definition of what love is and we act on the Bibles definition. We owe all people around us love, it is a debt that can never be fully repaid, a debt from God. Since all people are created with the Imago Dei, creation in the image and likeness of God, they deserve love and respect.
The two aspects of the Great commandment are intrinsically related. I like and Ill finish with the way John Piper sums it all up these verses: Christ will be my focus, love will be my fruit.”