About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 13:8 - 14

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Love For The Day Is Near (ch. 13:8 Ė 14)


Romans 13:8 in the KJV says, "Owe no man anything".  The NIV puts it this way.  "Let no debt remain outstanding".  Many people over the years have thought that Paul was talking about money here, and maybe he had money in mind, but, I think he might have had other things in mind as well.  They say this in part due to verse 7 when Paul speaks of paying taxes.  They say the context speaks of money.  On the other hand, the context also speaks of love.  The debt Paul might be talking about as well as money is the outstanding acts of love we fail to show to our fellow man.  It's my thinking that Paul had more than money in mind. 


Some have suggested that Paul couldn't have been talking about money because if that were so, all of us who have a car loan or a mortgage would be in defiance of Paul's admonishment to us.  Others would argue that point, based on the NIV, that Paul did not say "don't owe any debt.  He said don't let your debt be outstanding, meaning, pay back your debt when and as you promised. 


However you believe, I think Paul might well have money in mind, but I'm sure has other forms of debt in mind as well.            


You might ask, "Is the Bible against borrowing money?"  What did Jesus say about this?  In Matthew 5:42 Jesus says, "Do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."  Therefore, Jesus does not seem to be against the idea of lending money, and maybe by implication, borrowing money.  Another interesting verse is found in Exodus 22:25 where it says; "If you lend money to one of my people who is needy, do not be like the money lenders, charge him no interest."  Here we see that Godís command to the Jews was don't charge interest to a poor person.  I like that command.  I wish the banks obeyed the Lord on that one.  We see something of the nature of God in this verse.  That is, if you lend to the poor, then show love towards the poor by not charging them interest.  These two Scriptures tell me that borrowing and lending of money is permitted within certain guidelines.  Romans 13:8 does not tell us not to lend or borrow money, or so I believe. It tells us not to get behind in our obligation to love others, whether that is financially or in any other way.


There is one debt that Paul tells us to have though, and it is the continuing debt to love.  If we do that, then you have fulfilled the underlying reason for the law, and I believe the context of the whole book of Romans tells me that the law spoken of here is the Law of Moses.  As Paul says in verse 9, the commandment may be donít kill, or donít covet.  Whatever the command is, it is all summed up in, "love your neighbour as yourself," Just as Jesus Himself taught us.  This statement, along with all of the other statements Paul makes in Romans tells us that the Law of Moses no longer exists for the purpose it once existed for in Old Testament times.


The NIV says we should love our "fellow man".  I believe this could also be translated as love "one another".  This is how the HCSB translated this phrase and after looking at the Greek text, I would do the same.      


In verses 9 Paul tells us to love our neighbour as yourselves.  Is he telling us that we need to love ourselves before we can love our neighbour?  Is he encouraging us to love ourselves as our modern culture teaches us?  No, he's not saying that.  Paul knows that it is human nature to love ourselves.  He knows that we think of ourselves first, as selfish as that might be.  He is saying that we should love others just as much as we love ourselves, and he knows that we all love ourselves.  We should put others first, because we normally put ourselves first.  In short, in the way you love yourself, love others.  The teaching that seems so prevalent today that says we need to learn to love ourselves before we can love others is not Biblical.       


In verse 11 Paul says that "it is time to wake up Ö for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed."  Paul says a lot in this short sentence.  He is saying that we can be saved Christians but also be in a state of slumber when it comes to our faith.  It is clear that there were some sleepy Christians in Rome.  Might I suggest that we have more than a few sleepy Christians today.  Though some Christians may be sleepy, they are still Christians.  Paul says, "Wake up from your slumber."  Why does he say that?  Because our salvation is closer now than when we first came to Jesus.  We got saved when we came to Jesus, yet we are in the process of being saved as well.  Still, when Jesus returns, we will be fully saved.  This is the three aspects to our salvation.  We got saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. 


Paul also says in verse 11 that we need to "understand the present times."  This is very important.  When we study the Bible, we often think of past events because the Bible was written in the past.  We need to know what the Bible says in light of the day in which we live.  This is especially true today, as we draw near to the end of this age, and, as our western culture becomes more anti-Christian in nature.  We need to understand the times to know how to respond to the times.  We cannot bury our heads in the sand of ignorance, as many do.  We must know what is going on in the world, and we must understand what the Bible has to say about such things. 


All of the above being said, Paul wasn't specifically talking about our times in this verse.  He was talking about the times these Roman Christians were living in and those times were bad times.  Nero and the Roman authorities were persecuting Christians, even killing them.  That was no time for a Christian not to be on his toes when it came to the things of the Lord.  They had to be prepared to make the right decision, to serve Jesus, even if it meant death.  If they weren't alert spiritually they might well cave in and lay aside their faith.


The full salvation of these Roman believers could easily come before this letter was finished being read to them.  Roman soldiers could easily walk into their homes and drag them to prison or to their deaths.  If they were executed for their faith, their full salvation would be realized.  I'm not convinced that Paul had the end of this age in mind when he said that our salvation is near.  He could have easily meant that our death that would bring full salvation is near.       


In verse 12 Paul says that "the night is nearly over, the day is at hand."  Again, Paul could be speaking of one of two things.  He could be saying that this present age is like night and it will soon be over, or, he could be saying that this present darkness that envelops him and his brothers and sisters in Christ could be over, either by death or by God's intervention.  Whatever the case, the tough times these people were enduring was like a very black night. 


We should understand that the first century Christians viewed their world and the present age in terms of being very wicked, very black and bleak.   The early Christians had a distaste for the world and the world system that few Christians have today.  We love the world way too much.  Paul compared this present age to night, and in the Bible, night often symbolizes sin.  The day, the light of day, is the day that Jesus rules.  So, He will either rule you in death or He will rule when He returns to this earth.  However Paul is viewing this, Jesus will rule.  We can count on that. 


Paul encourages the Roman Christians to put off the deeds of darkness.  He would not have told these Christians to put off the deeds of darkness if they did not have some darkness in their lives.  Christians do still sin and some sin more than others.  Whatever the case, we are to stop living in sin.   


Paul also says in verse 12 to put on the "armor of light."  I don't know for sure if you can compare this armor to the armor spoken of in Ephesians 6, but I think you can.  The point is that Christians do have protection from sin and this present evil age if we decide to be protected.  Armor is defensive.  We need to defend ourselves from the attack of the enemy and the world, but once again, most modern Christians don't view the world as our enemy and therefore don't think in terms of fending the world off.  We tend to be on the same side as the world, whether we admit it or not.    


In verse 13 Paul lists some pretty serious sins we should not be involved in.  I would suggest that if these Christians were not involved in some of these sexual sins, Paul would not have had to point them out.  So, a Christian can commit a sexual sin, and it appears from what the text says, the person who does so has not lost his salvation.  Note the last sin.  It is the sin of jealousy.  Many of us would think jealousy is not as bad as committing adultery, but Paul lists it with those bad sins.  Jealousy is alive in well in many parts of the church today.  


I maintain that we are saved by faith and not by good works.  It's only logical for me to conclude then that I'm only unsaved by unbelief and not by bad works or any particular sin. 


It was verse 13 that brought the famous theologian Augustine of Hippo (354 to 430 AD) to his spiritual senses.  As a youth and early adult Augustine was wild and passionate.  He struggles with all verse 13 speaks of.  While in a garden, he heard a child's voice saying "take up and read".  He took that to mean, read the Bible.  It just so happened that there was a Bible close by and when he opened its pages he read Romans 13:13 and 14.  What Paul tells Christians not to do, he was doing.  In one moment of time, he gave himself to Jesus.  It's very similar to the story of Martin Luther and his experience with Romans 1:17.       


In verse 14 Paul says to put on Jesus.  That's just another way to say keep giving more of you life to Jesus so you won't "gratify the sinful nature'.  We always need to understand that we do not get rid of our sinful nature.  It will be with us to the day we die.  Christians should be always fighting against the sinful nature.  I suggest if you are not involved in this fight, then you have given into your sinful nature, else you would be struggling with sin right now.  It is simple.  If we still have a sin nature, then we will have to fight against it.  If we no longer had a sinful nature, then there would be no fight. So it is clear to me, since the day has not yet come when our sinful nature is laid to rest, we either fight against it or give in to it and not fight.         


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