Summary: This paragraph again describes the Christian's responsibility toward all men. Our relationship to others can be summarized in one word, namely Love. Love one another is the basic principle of the Christian life.
ROMANS 13: 8-10 [CHRISTIAN RELATING SERIES]
THE PRIMACY OF LOVE
The previous paragraph dealt with God-invested authority to government, the submission to rulers, the payment of taxes, and respect for those in public office. Having spoken about the Christian obligation to the state, Paul turns his attention to the Christian's obligation to love.
This paragraph again describes the Christian's responsibility toward all men. Our relationship to others can be summarized in one word, namely Love. Love one another is the basic principle of the Christian life (CIT).
Love is a theme found throughout Scripture. It is the theme of countless hymns and secular poetry; literature and music are permeated with its message. "Love makes the world go round," we are told, and there is little doubt that people generally hold the idea in high regard. But love seems to reside in peoples' minds as something between a noble ideal and an optional extra. The apostle insists, however, that love is an obligation as real as taxation and personal debt repayment. [Briscoe, D. Stuart. The Preacher's Commentary Series, Vol. 29: Romans. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1982. S. 237.]
Three times in these three verses the apostle writes of the need to love our neighbor. He points out that love is the key to all godly obedience, because love fulfills God's law.
In these beautiful and challenging verses, our apostle relates the Debt of Love, the Discharge of Love & the Design of Love.
I. THE DEBT OF LOVE, 8.
II. THE DISCHARGE OF LOVE, 9-10a.
III. THE DESIGN OF LOVE, 10b.
What should be the attitude of the justified believer toward others? Verse 8 answers that question. "Owe nothing to any one except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law."
The initial statement is a continuation of the responsibility of Christians to discharge or pay their debts. We are to be on time in paying our bills and meeting our tax demands. Also before entering into a mortgage or hiring someone or purchasing anything, we want to be assured that we can manage the agreed upon repayments punctually. Though we must do what we can to be out of debt there is one debt which will always remain due, because we can never pay it off, and that is our obligation to love. We can never stop loving one another and say "I have loved enough."
Love one another is the basic principle of the Christian life. The new commandment Jesus gave His followers is "that you love one another, even as I have loved you that you love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35). Love is the theme of John's first letter. He admonishes, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).
To love one another also applies to our neighbors even if they are unbelievers and not just those who are likeable and friendly (Mt. 5:44). [Paul has just raised that point in Chapter 12. Jesus taught in Luke 10:25-37 that our neighbor includes the person that God places in our path that has a need that they are not capable of handling.] We must love our neighbor as Scripture commands, [even though we will always fall short of the love required of us,] because we can never repay the love Christ showed us on the cross of calvary. Therefore it is a Christian's obligation or debt to express divine love in all interpersonal relationships (John 13:34-35; 1 Cor. 16:14; Eph. 5:2; Col. 3:14; 1 John 3:14, 23; 4:7, 11, 21).
Love is also the fulfillment of the law. "For he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law" (Mt. 22:39; Mark 12:31). If we love our neighbor, at least in the sense of wanting God's good for him or her and not doing him or her harm, it may be said that we have fulfilled the law even though we have not fully paid our love obligation. [This loving does not put an end to the law, it is just the only way you can fulfill it as we learned through our study of Romans.] Love is the essence and expression of the Law (Gal. 5:14).
Godly love is a matter of choice and nothing less than a willing voluntary love is pleasing to God and can energize and unify His people. "Beyond all these things put on love which is the perfect bond of unity" (Col. 3:14) Paul says.
II. THE DISCHARGE OF LOVE, 9-10a.
Not only must we grasp the reality that love is an obligation, and that love fulfills the law, but we must awake to the reality of the nature of that love. Though love has its romantic and its sentimental aspects, and certainly today love has sexual connotations, but the agape love spoken of here is a choice to behave in a certain way, [not necessarily because of romantic, sentimental, or sexual feelings, but] simply because it is right. To love means to refuse acts because they are unloving by nature. Various specific commands from the Ten Commandments are quoted in verse 9 to substantiate that loves fulfills the Law. "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."