Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rm. 13:8).
While the interpretations of the apostle’s command to the church at Rome, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another,” are many, his purpose can be surmised in the verses that follow his exhortation. And though it is wise not to owe any man anything at all, e.g. lent money, etc., and to pursue such lack of indebtedness is a godly pursuit, that particular debt is not what the apostle is speaking about chiefly, though it cannot be discounted totally.
The debt about which the apostle is speaking particularly is the debt of sin or transgression. For the apostle’s command, “Owe no one anything,” is fulfilled by the command, “Love one another.” This is the same debt that Christ speaks about in his model prayer where he says, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt. 6:12). The idea is the same as that which the apostle presented in the previous section of his discourse, namely that we as Christians have an obligation to our fellow men to obey the law, be it God’s law or a government’s law, and we are to pay our debts according to the law, be it taxes or honor (cf. Rm. 13:7). Therefore, the Christian is a debtor in this life to the laws under which he finds himself.
But one will object, “We are not under law but under grace.” And this is indeed true. And the apostle does exhort, “Owe no one anything, except love.” However, in God’s ordinance, the debt of love is not disjoined from the law, but it fulfills the law. For the apostle writes:
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.”
For the salvation that Christ brings is not freedom from the commands of law so that we might not fulfill the law, but it is to bring us under new ownership, as apostle intimates earlier in his letter, “You also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from dead, in order that we may fruit for God” (Rm. 7:4). Our death to the law through Christ is not so that we can cast aside the law, but so that our ownership might change. For our death to the law has taken us who were once under ownership of sin and death and has placed us under the ownership of Christ so that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rm. 8:4). For, the apostle writes, “While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now, we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rm. 7:5, 6). For the law has not changed, nor has its righteous requirement, but the means by which we fulfill it has changed from our former fleshly inability to our new Spiritual ability (cf. 7:14-25; 8:1-8).
Therefore, the law is to be fulfilled, but it is not to be fulfilled by negation, e.g. “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder, etc.” but by the positive fulfillment of “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” For, as the apostle writes, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
For this reason, we who are of the Spirit are to pay the debt of love to our neighbor, and, by paying that debt of love, fulfill the righteous requirement of the law. For if we love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we will do no wrong to our neighbor. And we shall do this by the power of the indwelling Spirit alone.
Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study