SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 21 August 2022
Sermon Text: Romans 13:8-14
Sermon Series: “Romans Chapters 9-16”
I. Owing love to each other
II. Love is the fulfilling of the law
III. The hour to wake up and walk properly
People say and we agree that the Apostle Paul who is the author of Romans and many other NT books is a great Christian, theologian, pastor and missionary. But I’ve never heard anybody talking about Paul’s competence in finance or saying he is a finance guy good at financial management. In his letters sent to various churches, we read him talking about expenses, offerings and financial gifts. But his topic has never been on finance or business.
But, reading today’s text passage, a finance expert might say quite differently. He may sound like talking about financial management. He starts v. 8 with a good advice on debt, telling Christians not to owe anything to anybody. Then, in the second half of v. 8, he talks about what to share freely with shareholders. In addition, the apostle defines what values the most and balances out all liabilities. He then emphasises what to focus on and that could sound like he is talking about good and rewarding investment.
But, as you know well, the apostle’s only concern is not at all finance or business – I don’t think that would be on his list. Rather, his heart is always on preaching Jesus to bring more souls to salvation; his only concern is the way of the living – such as you and me – and about helping us with what we must know and focus on in our days on earth. So, let’s follow the apostle and hear his message which is our gracious Lord’s lesson for us all. In short, the message for us is to wake up and walk properly as in the daytime.
I. OWING LOVE TO EACH OTHER
Firstly, we begin with his simple and straightforward charge, that is, to ‘owe no one anything.’ What an adequate behest and urge especially for us of the era of credits and mortgages. About the risk of debt, someone says that ‘debt is like a trap, easy enough to get into, but hard enough to get out of.’ Another adds and says, ‘Don’t let your mouth write no check that your tail can’t cash.’ Many financial management experts advise, therefore, to have and maintain a debt-free lifestyle. Their top-ranking advice is to build up savings. In order to do that, they tell people to pay-off credit card transaction immediately and buy things only what you need.
We hear the same principle from Paul in Eph. 4:28 that says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” 2 Thess. 3:10 is another place that is consistent with this and it reads, “if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” So, owing debt is not wise nor safe.
But the debt Paul is interested in and emphasises here is not financial but spiritual. Although he would’ve not recommended any monetary debt, that is not his concern here. He is interested in spiritual debts. By ‘spiritual debt,’ I mean ‘sin’ or ‘transgression’ which is an ‘act of exceeding of due bounds or limits’ against anyone. You cross with anyone, you sin against that person and that’s a spiritual debt you owe to him. Some examples of this are given in v. 9 and they are the sixth, seventh, eighth and tenth commandments of the Ten Commandments, such as “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet.” Committing adultery or murder or stealing is a debt the offender owes to the victim. If any of us covets anything that belong to a neighbour, that’s owing a debt. And the apostle’s urge is to not owe such a debt to anybody.
While we’re forbidden to owe no one anything, only debt Paul allows us to owe is ‘debt of love.’ Owing such a debt to fellow Christians is a good thing. We ought to be creditors of love and debtors of love to one another. It is commended and encouraged as you hear Paul clearly saying in v. 8 this, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.”
Once anyone owes a debt of love, he pays his debt in two ways. Firstly, to the one he owes and, secondly, to many others. In monetary terms, paying a debt should always be made to its creditor. If the payment is made to someone else, then, that’ll cause a serious problem. But with debt of love, it never works that way. Sometimes the creditor who has shared Christ’s love with another Christian receives love from the debtor in return. But, usually, the creditor does not expect a pay back from his debtor. The debtor also plans to pay back not only to the one he owes but also to any other Christians who would need it. After all, the creditor’s kind act of love was a part of her paying back her own debt of love she had owed to another Christian.
So, this debt of love is to be owed and paid among Christians who are brothers and sisters in God’s family. The more debt of love each one owes to another, the greater joy of Christ they will share and the closer the day of the Lord comes.
So, you and I should start loving one another in Christ. In doing this, many of us know what to do to give and share Christ’s love with others. But many of us do not realise that it is necessary for one to let another have an opportunity to love. What I mean is that you should not close your door behind you and draw the curtains so that no one could see you’re in need of help. Instead, you should let others pray for you and give a hand if needed. By this, you’re helping your fellow believers to share their love with you. Lord willing, you’ll soon be able to pay back your debt of love to them and may others in Christ. This is the first part of the message we hear from the Lord through His apostle, telling us, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.”
II. LOVE IS THE FULFILLING OF THE LAW
Interestingly, the apostle tells us in v. 10 that “love does no wrong to a neighbour” and “therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” What does he mean by love being ‘the fulfilment of the law’?
It is, in fact, a simple fact. If you love anyone, you’ll never do anything wrong to him, will you? Mum loves her child, and she will never even dream of harming her child. Dad works hard, enduring many difficulties at work, because he loves his family. A brother will give his life for his sister he loves and vice versa. Where there’s love, there’ll be no murder, no dishonesty, no stealing, no coveting between and among people. In this sense, love is the fulfillment of the law.
This is why the Lord Jesus confirms that ‘loving our neighbour as ourselves’ is the second great commandment, following the first, that is, ‘loving our Lord God with all our heart and soul and mind.’ If you put these two great commandments together and squeeze, you get just one pure command, that is, love – love God and one another.
Loving God and one another is the only way to keep and fulfill all laws and commandments of God. And Jesus Christ lived this love perfectly in His life on earth, and His death on the cross on sinners’ behalf is the culmination of His life of love!
So, when you hear a command of the Lord, when you read a law of God, do not consider it as a burden which limits or locks you up in fetters or chains. That’s not what God’s law is. Instead, consider it as a measure of your love for God and neighbours. It is also an urge for you to change the way of your mind, and turn to God’s way. In a word, God’s law is a reference point for Christians like you and me to measure where we’re heading at and which way we should go, thus, steer our course by the mercy and strength of God. Such a reference point is so important and indispensable for us Christians. Because, without it, we’re not living in Christ nor can please God.
Let me give you an illustration of this in terms of flying airplanes. An instrument called attitude indicator is vital for pilots flying in the air. Attitude indicator provides information on where the horizon is in relation to the plane. Referring to this indicator, pilots get orientation, that is, whether the plane is flying horizontally or tilted sideways or going up or down. When a pilot can see the land below and check the horizon with his eyes, then, he can know the attitude of the plane without looking at this instrument. But when it is dark or the plane is in clouds, pilots can’t see anything outside, then, this attitude indicator is the main and only help to pilots for orientating their plane.
The law of God is exactly like attitude indicator. By providing us information on our present heading and attitude, the law of God enables us to measure them against the way we supposed to go. Without this information, one could never know how far he has drifted from God’s way, not even knowing whether his life is upside down or on a crash-course.
In this way, God’s law points us to love, and leads us to love God and one another in Christ!
III. THE HOUR TO WAKE UP
What I’ve just explained with an illustration of flying planes is, in fact, what Paul the Apostle tells us in the rest of the section we’ve read and are considering today.
Listen to Paul and see the point he makes. In v. 11, he says, “you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.” As you drop everything down and check the law – which is the indicator of love in you – you must wake from sleep. Gaining your orientation, you must, then, steer your heart and soul and mind to love God and love one another, your neighbours.
This is what vs. 12-14 explain further. Casting off the works of darkness and putting on the armour of light are to regain your orientation and steer your way toward loving God and neighbours. What must be dropped are orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality. Quarrelling and jealousy must also be thrown out. Then, the destination of your path is the Lord Jesus Christ!
My dear brothers and sisters, the urge of the apostle for you and me is that now is the hour to wake up! Now is the hour for us to love. Now is the hour for us to owe no one anything, except to love each other in the Lord Jesus.
This is God’s call for us of this congregation of St Columba’s over the past 126 years. And this will be the same for the rest of this year and all the years and decades and centuries that are ahead of this church. After all, this is what the Lord Jesus tells us as recorded in Jn. 13:34-35 in these words, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Let us wake up and love God and one another! ***