WE ARE TO SERVE GOD BY LOVING ONE ANOTHER WHILE WE STILL HAVE OPPORTUNITY
Douglas Moo: While 13:8–10 connect in substance to 12:9–21, Paul cleverly plays on the notion of “debt” that he introduced in 13:7 to create a transition back into the topic of love.
John Toews: It is important to note that the night has not ended, but is far advanced. The light of day has not yet come, but soon will. Believers in Rome live at the edge of the great change between this age and the age to come, on the cusp of the tension between what is and what shall be. . .
Eschatology motivates new thinking and behavior. But the eschatological teaching itself is minimal. The present age is passing away. The hour of salvation is very near, but still future. The kairos moment in which Christians live requires critical thinking and living which is informed by light rather than darkness.
Michael Bird: The section obviously breaks down into two discernable parts:
(1) the love command (vv. 8 – 10); and
(2) the call to live uprightly as believers wait for the consummation of their salvation (vv. 11 – 14).
While many commentators separate the love command of vv. 8 – 10 from the future hope of vv. 11 – 14, Paul clearly connects the two together. Paul begins v. 11 with “And do this,” with “this” relating back to the prior love command. Love of neighbor is to be undertaken in the context of waiting for “salvation” (v. 11). Believers should avoid the immoral excesses of pagan living (v. 13) and instead clothe themselves with Christ as they prepare for the return of Christ (v. 14). . .
Paul’s blend of ethics and eschatology forces us to think of innovative ways in which we can live out our sense of mutual obligation to each other in light of the impending return of Jesus to consummate God’s purposes on earth. The three main practical consequences that emerge are
- our debt of love,
- fleeing to God, and
- putting on the armor of light.
Michael Gorman: As he does in Gal 5:14, 22 Paul here summarizes the second table of the law (13:9, drawn from Exod 20 and Deut 5) in the words “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This summary does not negate or replace the more specific commandments but reveals what each is: a call to love. Paul understands love positively as that which edifies and honors (12:9–13; cf. 1 Cor 8:1), and negatively as that which does no harm (13:10, reflecting the prohibitions in 13:9).
David Thompson: Apparently the Apostle Paul was facing some form of spiritual somnambulism in the church of Rome. Some of the believers were walking through life sound asleep, spiritually speaking. These people were coming to the services, they were singing the songs, they were listening to the Scriptures being read and taught, but then they would leave as some type of spiritual zombie. Their spiritual senses had been lulled to sleep.
The Apostle Paul wanted the believers in Rome to be awake, alert and active, and the central motivating factor for this was the coming of Jesus Christ. . .
THE REALITY THAT WE ARE NEARING THE COMING OF JESUS CHRIST IS A REALITY THAT SHOULD MOTIVATE US TO BE AN ACTIVE DEMONSTRATION OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD.
According to the Apostle John, this thought of seeing Jesus Christ should have a purifying effect on God’s people (I John 3:3).
I. (:8-10) LOVE FULFILLS EVERY COMMAND OF GOD
A. (:8) Love Fulfills the Law by Paying Our Obligation to Our Neighbor
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another;
for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”
Bob Deffinbaugh: Paul is not saying that we should never incur debts, but that we should quickly and speedily pay every debt except that of love. We should strive to love, but we should never consider the debt ‘paid in full.’
B. (:9) Love Fulfills the Law by Treating Your Neighbor as Yourself
“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.’”
Douglas Moo: “summed up” — Two main possibilities emerge.
(1) Paul may mean that love for others is the essential ingredient that must accompany obedience to all the other commandments. We must still obey these commandments, but they cannot truly be obeyed without a loving spirit.
(2) Paul may also mean that the demand of love for others replaces the other commandments. When we truly love “the other,” we automatically do what the other commandments of the law require. As Paul puts it in verse 10, “love does no harm to its neighbor.” No one who truly loves another person will murder, commit adultery, steal, or covet.
We think the latter interpretation is closer to the truth. As we have argued, Paul elsewhere proclaims that believers are released from the binding authority of the Mosaic law (see 6:14–15; 7:4–6). Paul’s use of “fulfillment” language in this paragraph (13:8, 10) also suggests that he views the love command as the eschatological “replacement” for the various commandments of the Mosaic law (see Gal. 5:13–15).
C. (:10) Love Fulfills the Law by Doing No Wrong to Our Neighbor
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.”
Thomas Schreiner: The word πλήρωμα (fulfillment) in this instance is synonymous with the term πλήρωσις (plērōsis), and thus the sense is that love fulfills the law. By loving, a person puts the law into practice. This is supported by the connection between verse 10a and 10b, for in the former sentence love “does not work evil” (κακὸν οὐκ ἐργάζεται, kakon ouk ergazetai) to the neighbor. The use of the word ἐργάζεται demonstrates that the activity of love is intended.
II. (:11-14) LOVE SEIZES LIFE’S FADING OPPORTUNITIES TO DISPLAY JESUS CHRIST – UNDERSTANDING THE TIMES URGES RIGHT LIVING
Thomas Schreiner: The basic structure of this text is not difficult to identify. Verse 11a begins with a summons to action. This summons is based on the nearness of the eschaton (vv. 11b–12a). Verses 12b–14 recapitulate more specifically the call to ethical behavior. The argument in verses 11–14, therefore, is in the form of a sandwich, and the middle section (vv. 11b–12a) forms the basis for the exhortations in verses 11a and 12b–14. The flow of thought is represented as follows:
Carry out all of 12:1 – 13:10 (v. 11a),
because the end is coming soon (11b).
Since the end is coming soon (vv. 11b–12a),
we should lay aside the works of darkness (vv. 12b–14).
Douglas Moo: We need to recognize both what God is doing and what he plans to do and then live accordingly. The verses of the paragraph fall neatly into these two basic categories:
- Understanding the times (13:11–12a, the “indicative”)
- leads to right living (13:12b–14, the “imperative”).
James Dunn: The imagery used has two features.
(1) It is strongly temporal—“time,” “hour,” “near,” “far advanced,” “at hand” (vv 11–12).
(2) It is strongly contrasting—“wake up from sleep,” “night” /“day,” “put off”/“put on,” “darkness”/ “light,” “decently”/“revelry, drunkenness,” etc., “put on Christ”/“make no provision for flesh.”
The combined effect is powerful. The readers are left in no doubt that there is a sharp “either-or” confronting them, not only in their original decision to accept the gospel, but precisely as a result of their decision to accept the gospel. A choice once made has to be confirmed and lived out in a whole sequence of repeated decisions.
A. (:11-12a) Understanding the Times =Life’s Fading Opportunities
- (:11) Urgency of the Hour
“And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.”
Thomas Schreiner: What this text in particular emphasizes is that the end is drawing nearer. The experience of salvation is “nearer” (ἐγγύτερον, engyteron) “than when we believed” (ἢ ὅτε ἐπιστεύσαμεν, ē hote episteusamen). There is no doubt that the term “salvation” here designates a future salvation that is not yet the possession of believers; it is a salvation that will be theirs when the day of the Lord commences. The verb ἐπιστεύσαμεν (we believed) is ingressive (so Cranfield 1979: 681; Dunn 1988b: 786), denoting the inception of belief. The time that has elapsed since they began to believe has only brought salvation closer.
Grant Osborne: Believers must be vigilant, alert, and not caught unaware. Paul knows that the old sinful nature will still cause problems from time to time, but he requires believers to stay “awake.” Remaining too long in a state of spiritual lethargy, where sin is tolerated and good works are not pursued, can lead to a spiritual coma, rendering us unresponsive to God (see 1 Corinthians 15:34; Ephesians 5:14).
- (:12b) Unveiling of the Day
“The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand.
Frank Thielman: Those who have believed the gospel and become God’s people live at a critical moment in salvation history, just before God himself comes to restore justice and peace to the earth. God’s people should anticipate this future restoration in the way they live in the present. To continue the metaphor, it is time to throw the covers off the bed, pull on some clothes, and pick up the weapons of justice, peace, and love with which to fight for the purposes of God.
B. (:12b-14) Urges Right Living = Display Jesus Christ
- (:12b) Put Off and Put On
a. Put Off Deeds of Darkness
“Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness”
b. Put On Armor of Light
“and put on the armor of light.”
- (:13) Live Properly
a. Proper Behavior
“Let us behave properly as in the day,”
b. Improper Behavior
“not in carousing and drunkenness,
not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality,
not in strife and jealousy.”
Douglas Moo: Verse 13 carries on the contrast between the behavior typical of the daytime/the Day of the Lord and that characteristic of the nightime/this present evil age. The Day of the Lord may not have come yet, but it is so close that we should live as if it were here. We should “walk [peripateo; NIV, behave] decently,” which suggests behavior that is careful, decorous, and restrained (see 1 Cor. 7:35; 12:23, 24; 14:40; 1 Thess. 4:12). We are to avoid, in contrast, those actions typical of the nighttime: unrestrained sexual conduct and drinking to excess (i.e., what we today call partying). Interestingly, Paul concludes his list with some unexpected items: “dissension and jealousy.” He probably adds these because he is thinking ahead to the next subject he will address: the divisions in the Roman community (ch. 14).
Steven Cole: Paul spells out the world’s deeds of darkness with three couplets of sinful behavior. These are not comprehensive, but representative. Also, the fact that he commands Christians to lay aside these deeds of darkness shows that we are not immune from doing them. As believers, we must be on guard so that we are not enticed by these sins.
First, the deeds of darkness consist in carousing and drunkenness. The Greek word translated “carousing” was used generally of “feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry” (Joseph Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament [Harper and Brothers, 1887], p. 367). Many first century believers came out of backgrounds where they had “pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Pet. 4:3). Paul lists drunkenness and carousing as deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:21). But such things are not appropriate for believers. . .
Second, the deeds of darkness consist in sexual promiscuity and sensuality. The first word refers here to sexual intercourse outside of marriage. The second word means licentiousness and unrestrained lust. It is also a deed of the flesh (Gal. 5:19), characteristic of unbelievers, not of believers (Eph. 4:19-20). God has given the marriage relationship as the proper place for sexual relations. To engage in any sexual activity outside of marriage is to participate in the deeds of darkness (Eph. 5:3-12).
Let me remind you that no one who is walking in the light suddenly and without warning falls into sexual immorality. Sexual sin always begins when we toy it in our minds. We relish lustful glances by replaying them in our thoughts. We sneak a peak at pornography, which leads to more frequent and longer looks. Eventually, the temptation to flirt with a tempting woman comes and it sucks us into the fatal act (see Proverbs 7). The key to avoiding it is to judge every sinful thought as quickly as it happens and to make no provision for the lusts of the flesh. Much of our sin can be traced to the fact that we made provision for it by toying with it.
Third, the deeds of darkness consist in strife and jealousy. These are relational sins that we often shrug off as no big deal. But they are opposed to the second greatest commandment, which is to love others as we love ourselves. Leon Morris observes (The Epistle to the Romans [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 473), “Both indicate a determination to have one’s own way, a self-willed readiness to quarrel. All six of these vices stem from self-will; they are all the outreach of a determined selfishness that seeks only one’s own pleasure.” They are all a failure to love.
- (:14) Put On and Put Off
a. Put On the Lord Jesus Christ
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,”
Douglas Moo: In one sense, of course, we are already clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27). By faith we belong to him. He is “in [us]” (Rom. 8:10), and we are “in [him]” (6:11). But Paul wants us to make Christ the focal point of everything we do. He should be like a suit of clothes that we wear all the time. His dominating presence should guide us to do things pleasing to God and restrain us from activity inconsistent with the Lord whom we represent.
b. Put Off the Deeds of the Flesh
“and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
Frank Thielman: The expression “to make provision for something” (πρόνοιαν ποιεῖσθαί τινος) was idiomatic for having regard for (Demosthenes, Against Meidias 97) or making preparations for (Dan 6:19 LXX) something or someone. Here it probably refers to placing one’s self in situations that might lead to the debauchery and divisiveness he has just mentioned in 13:13.