Romans 13

1 All authority comes ultimately from God. No matter whose authority we’re talking about—whether a king’s, a president’s, a general’s, or anyone else’s—their authority comes ultimately from God (Proverbs 8:15-16; John 19:10-11).

The same thing is true in our relations with our fellow man.74 Following Christ’s example, we must act toward other men as if we were “in debt” to them, as if we owed them love. And in doing this, we shall be obeying God’s two great commandments to love Him and to love our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). The entire moral law is based on these two commandments (see Matthew 22:40; Galatians 5:14 and comment).

Here one more question arises: Who is this fellow man we are supposed to love? Is he only our Christian brother? Is he only our fellow villager? No, our fellow man—our neighbor—is any person in need (see Luke 10:25-37).

9-10 Love is the fulfillment of the law (verse 10). The law teaches us how we must love. If we were able always and in all ways to love all men perfectly, then we would be fulfilling not only the two greatest commandments but all the other commands of the law as well.

Paul here repeats four of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:13-15,17). If we love our fellow man, how could we murder him? Or how could we steal from him? Thus we see that if we obey the command to love our neighbor, we will be obeying these other commands too. The command to love our neighbor as ourselves can be expressed in another form: … in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). This has been called the “golden rule.”

Love is not just something hidden in our hearts. Love is practical; love manifests itself. Love not only does no harm to its neighbor; it also does its neighbor all kinds of good!

Here another question arises. The second greatest commandment says: Love your neighbor as yourself (verse 9). Does this mean that we should also love ourselves as much as we love our neighbor?

This is a prof ound question. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself’ (Mark 8:34). But even if we deny ourselves, we still “love” and value our own bodies; that’s natural. Loving our neighbor as ourselves means, then, that we love our neighbor as much as we naturally love our own bodies. We must not love ourselves more than our neighbor; to do that is selfishness. Instead, we must love our neighbor more than we love ourselves. Only when we do this will we love our neighbor as we naturally love ourselves. Since we naturally love ourselves most of all, then we’ll have to love our neighbor “most of all” If we are going to truly love him “as ourself’ (see Mark 12:31; Galatians 5:14 and comment).

How much must we love God? As much as we love ourselves? No, much more than that. The greatest commandment says: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). If we fulfilled this command, there wouldn’t be any love left over for ourselves! And that’s the point: All of our love should go to God and to our neighbor; we should save none for ourselves.75

11 The word slumber in this verse means “spiritual slumber.” The time of our salvation, which Paul refers to here, is the end of the world, when Jesus will come again and destroy the works of Satan, and when the bodies of all believers will be resurrected. That is the final step in our salvation—the resurrection or redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). To believe in Jesus was the first step; now as each day passes, that final stage of our salvation draws nearer. But exactly when that final day will be, no one knows but God (Mark 13:32).

We need always to keep in mind that one day Jesus will come again and then this world will end. Jesus could come tomorrow. He will come by surprise. That final day will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). Christ says to all believers: “Be on your guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. … Watch!” (Mark 13:33-37). In other words: “Wake up!” It’s time for us to wake up from our spiritual slumber; from now on we must remain alert and ready.

How can we remain ready? By always doing Christ’s will. If we are walking according to His will, then we will be ready.

Imagine an angel from heaven coming and saying that Christ was going to return to earth in one month. If we received such news, would it make a difference in how we lived? Would our spiritual lives be any different during that last month than they were before we got the news? For most of us, the answer would be yes. But, in fact, receiving such news should not make that much difference in our lives.76 We should right now be living each day as if Jesus was going to come tomorrow.

If Jesus came tomorrow, what would he find us doing? If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping (Mark 13:36).

12 The night of darkness and sin—the reign of Satan—is nearly over; the day is almost here, when Christ will come again and defeat Satan once and for all. Therefore, let us get up at once and put aside the deeds of darkness—that is, take off our night clothes—and put on the armor of light—that is, our day clothes (see Ephesians 4:22-24; 5:8-11; 6:11,1317; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8; James 5:8-9; 1 Peter 4:7-8 and comments).

When Jesus comes, which clothes will He find us wearing? Our night clothes, or our day clothes?

13 In this verse, Paul mentions a few of the deeds of darkness. More complete lists can be found in Romans 1:29-31 and Galatians 5:19-21.

14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:2627 and comment). Jesus is our day clothing. Jesus is our armor of light (verse 12). Jesus is all that we need.

Before we can clothe ourselves with Jesus, we must first put aside our night clothes, our old sinful self (Ephesians 4:22). To clothe ourselves with Christ is to live by the Holy Spirit. If we live by the Spirit, we will not gratif y the desires of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:16). Normal bodily necessities—food, clothing, shelter, fellowship—we must make provision for. But for the desires of the sinful nature, we must make no provision.

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