True Love Fulfills All
Read Romans 13:8
Paul starts out, “No one, no one owe,” using command, imperative language.
- How can someone “no one, no one owe”?
- What is the “debt” we never pay off?
- In context, “love” is the debt we can never pay off. If we can never pay “love” off, what does that say about love continuing to come to us, which makes it impossible to pay off?
“loves another fulfills the law”: Greek, “to love the other [heteros] Law, he has fulfilled.” Here, the ESV translates heteros as “another,” meaning one’s neighbor (referred to in vs. 9, using plasion), which turns “another” to mean neighbor into a “forced” translation. Paul is not telling Christians that by loving they fulfill the Law but from love flows the fulfillment to love your neighbor, which is the “other Law.” In other words, if love is within you, you will love your neighbor, which Paul mentions next in vs. 9.
- How can love “fulfill the other [that is, the rest of the] Law” when Paul earlier wrote, “From God and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36)?
Read Romans 13:9-10
“love”: Greek, agape, a love, which expects nothing in return.
“fulfill”: Greek, plaroo. Paul echoes what he earlier wrote in Romans 8:4, where he said God sent His Son, Jesus, to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law for us. This love is God’s love for us (Salvation coming to us in the Divine Service) being lived out in us and through us.
“the word”: Greek, logos. Paul is using “wordplay” to point also to the Logos, Jesus (John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus fulfills the Law for us, which we live out toward others in our lives, for He is the incarnation of love (1 John 4:8).
- If “love” does no wrong to the neighbor, what is the source of this love?
God’s moral Law appears in Scripture in the form of many outward commands. Still, the outward form and action, which God commands, is never in itself the moral precept. In reality, the moral Law commands what needs to exist within—an inner attitude, love.
Jesus taught this when He spoke to the Pharisees. Love God and love neighbor (Matthew 22:37, 39; also, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18), for “all the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). Paul states the same truth in a more concise way: “Love is the fulfillment of the Law.”
Salvation is Nearer
Read Romans 13:11-12a
- What “salvation” does Paul refer to? (Remember Romans 8:18-23)
- What “wordplay” does Paul do with the word “sleep,” referring to two different times of “waking up”?
- What “day” is at hand?
Read Romans 13:12b-14
- What is another way to say “cast off the works of darkness?”
- Is Paul’s list of sins all inclusive?
- What is another way to say “to put on the armor of light” (Ephesians 6:10-17) and/or to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:27)?
In Romans 14:1 – 15:13, what Paul writes fits the situation at the church in Rome. Some brought with them a rigorous form of following the Law, which they held contributed to one’s standing before God—the Jewish Christians. What we would find ironic is how Paul refers to them.
Jewish practice. These formed at least part of the ranks of “the weak,” who might also include Christians adopting a less rigorous form of Jewish observance.
The other group, mostly Gentile Christians, saw no need to observe the dietary and ritual prescriptions of the Law. For them, those were part of the Old Covenant meant to point forward to its fulfillment in Christ.
What we find here is Paul addressing “the strong” more than “the weak,” which could imply “the strong” outnumber “the weak,” which mirrors the demographics of the congregation of Rome after Jews were allowed back into the city.
Read Romans 14:1-3
- What were “the strong” to do with “the weak”?
- What did “the weak” practice, which “the strong” thought to be stupid?
- Who, most likely, are “the strong”?
Read Romans 14:4-5
- What does Paul tell the strong not to do?
- What is Paul’s rationale for not judging?
- The Christian is a servant (not doulos, slave, but oiketas, someone who lives in a house, often a servant) for whom?
- Isn’t Paul judging when he tells “the strong” not to judge the weak?
- Is Paul violating his own words, or does he have authority from the master of the household to judge?
Read Romans 14:5-6
- By using days of fasting as an example, what principles does Paul bring out?
Read Romans 14:7-9
- Jesus is the Lord of whom?
- What does this mean if we die?
- Therefore, for whom do we live?
Since Jesus is Lord of both the living and the dead, he is our Lord whether we live or die. This allows us to reflect on reality with both earthly and eternal perspectives. If God does not give you authority to judge another concerning some matter, you don’t. If He has, you do, as the Apostle Paul is doing with the Church of Rome in his letter.
Read Romans 14:10-12
To make his point, Paul conflates Isaiah 49:18 (“as I live”) and 45:23.
“confess”: normally “confess” is homolego, to speak what exists somewhere else, to say the same thing. Here, Paul uses exolomegeo from the Septuagint, which means acknowledge or admit (recognizing something, which someone may or may not believe). Note: The Masoretic Text has “swear.”
- Instead of someone judging without Christ’s authorization, to whom does such a person leave the judging?
- If each answers to God, how does this “free” us from judging another, especially if Christ has not authorized us to do so?