50. Romans 13:8-14
Walk in the Light
After discussing how we are to live in submission to authority, Paul addresses the larger picture of how we are to live with one another. As Christ-followers we are to wake up and walk in the light, living in love which is the fulfillment of the law. We are to put off the desires of our sinful natures by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
Paul expands on Jesus’ teaching about love. His classic explanation of living in love is found in Matthew 5:43-48 from His Sermon on the Mount. He said, “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus uses several different examples to describe living in love. First, he extends love to include even our enemies, not merely those who love us. He identifies love for enemies as praying for them. Praying for an enemy is not trying to do good things for a bad person. In fact, praying for an enemy does not require us to ignore their sin or to pretend it didn’t happen. Rather, praying for our enemies invokes God’s presence and intervention in their lives. We release justice and revenge to God when we pray for our enemies, and He is the only One who can justly mete our both vengeance and mercy.
Jesus further reminds us that God provides for life’s needs for both the evil and the good. Jesus asks us to perceive our enemies from God’s perspective, as people who need repentance—something only He can accomplish. He asks us to turn them over to Him.
Further, Jesus points out that unbelievers and dishonest people “love” those who love them. This sort of “love” yields nothing. It is has no power to change a life. If we only offer warmth and recognition to fellow believers, we’re not behaving any differently from pagans who save their friendship for those who like them. On the contrary, we are to have compassion on the ungodly. Offering God’s love and intervention to an ungodly person is the only thing that has the power to cut through their darkness and shine the light of truth into their lives.
Further, Jesus equates this sort of Godly love with perfection. “Be perfect,” He says, “as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This command to be perfect has nothing to do with keeping the law. In context, this command is equating being willing to be the vehicle of God’s love even for the ungodly with having God’s perfection.
John records one of Jesus’ most revolutionary statements regarding God’s commands in relationship to love: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
First, Jesus delivers this statement by announcing that He is giving his disciples a new teaching: they were to love one another as He loves them. They didn’t fully realize what this teaching would mean: they were to love one another with sacrificial love, love that would be willing to die for the salvation of another.
Obviously Jesus’ wasn’t teaching that any of them would atone for another’s sins; but He was promising that His Spirit would give them the same love He had—the very love of God—and they were to be willing to live not for their own success but for the welfare of each other. They were to be willing to give up everything they personally valued for the sake of God’s glory and the care and salvation of others.
Further, the world would recognize them as His disciples even after Jesus was physically gone by the fact that they loved one another with the same selflessness and true concern that Jesus exhibited for mankind. This sort of selfless, sacrificial love is not natural to humans. It is only possible when one is hidden in Christ.
In Colossians 3:12-14 Paul describes the character traits of God’s “chosen people”: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love. It is love, Paul explains, that binds God’s people together in unity. Real love is not generated by mutual flattery; rather, it is generated by God Himself, and it binds believers together in care and compassion even when they have differences among themselves. It is bigger than their personal “issues”. Love transcends human nature.
Paul’s greatest discourse on love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. He shows that no matter what selfless acts we perform, if we do them without love, we are “nothing” and we gain nothing of eternal value. Love does not look out for oneself but protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. It is never rude, is not easily angered, doesn’t “keep score”, and delights in truth.
In fact, love is the greatest of all the gifts from God. It outlasts all spiritual gifts. When we meet Jesus face to face, the need for prophecy, tongues, knowledge, and all other gifts will be gone. Even faith and hope will be realized in the presence of God. Love, however, will still remain.
Love is the greatest of all the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. It is the one thing that is eternal, that has no “ceiling”. It is the essence of who God is.
Some have used this passage in Romans to argue that the Ten Commandments are the details of the general command to love God and love man. Keeping the Ten Commandments, they say, is how we fulfill the command to love.
The command to love, however, is not simply a summary of the law. Leviticus 19 carries a list of detailed laws Israel was to keep. The list went far beyond the Ten Commandments and included leaving grapes for gleaning, not cursing the deaf, not mating different species of animals, not planting fields with two kinds of seed, not cutting the sides of the beard, and not making one’s daughter a prostitute. Tucked into the midst of these laws is the command, “’Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.’”
Even in the Old Testament the command to love one’s neighbor addressed the difficult issue of the heart. To love one’s neighbor as one loves himself is impossible to do apart from the power of God. The human heart is not naturally able to love another person as completely as one is concerned for himself.
Likewise, James, the author of the earliest New Testament book which was written to the scattered early Jewish believers, identifies the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” as the “royal law of Scripture”. As we saw in Leviticus, this law was merely one of many laws, many of which are obscure and esoteric. Yet James identifies it as the “royal law of Scripture”.
This law was not among the Ten Commandments. Yet James shows that if a person is intent on keeping the law—he is required to keep the whole law, including the laws which were not part of the Ten Commandments. In fact, James uses the example of showing favoritism as a law which Israel was to keep. Yet if they showed favoritism, they were breaking the law and guilty of breaking not just that command but the whole law.
James refers to the fact that the Mosaic Law carried within it a curse of death for anyone who broke it. Again using an example not found in the Ten Commandments, James says that anyone who is not merciful will be judged without mercy.
Then James says a remarkable thing: “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” The law was clear: anyone who broke any one of the laws was guilty of breaking the whole law, and he would receive the curse of death. Yet James explains that showing mercy is such a remarkable act that it triumphs over judgment. He refers again to Leviticus 19:18 and says of the command to “love your neighbor as yourself”, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.”
Unlike what many of us were taught, Paul is not referring to the Ten Commandments when he refers to the “law that gives freedom”. The Ten Commandments, in fact, did not bring freedom. They were the very words of the Mosaic Covenant, and they carried the promise of death for all who disobeyed.
James is saying, in harmony with Jesus’ own teaching, that the law to “love your neighbor as yourself” is the law that gives freedom because loving one’s neighbor in mercy was a righteous act that trumps judgment.
In other words, James is acknowledging that loving one’s neighbor, showing mercy to another, is an act so selfless that it cannot be generated by natural man. An act of true mercy and love is an act of God, and it demonstrates God’s power and presence in a person who extends such love.
Jesus loved us with this sort of love, sacrificially giving Himself as an act of mercy for sinful humanity. We are only able to love and act in mercy by having the love of Jesus acting in us. When we live by this law—the law of Christ that makes us able to love as He loved because of His opening the way for us to be united with Him by the Holy Spirit—we are living by the law that gives freedom instead of by the law that gives death. (See James 2:8-13 and 1:22-25.)
John 15:9-14 records Jesus’ own words about His commands which we are to obey. We are to remain in His love. Further, if we obey His commands, we remain in His love. Then Jesus identifies His commands to us: “My command is this: Love each other as I have love you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”
Jesus is not instructing people to keep the Ten Commandments in order to remain in His love. He is asking for something far more penetrating and difficult. He is asking for us to love one another with a love so selfless that we would die for the sake of another. This sort of love is not humanly possible. Jesus was issuing a command that no one could keep—apart from being born again by the Holy Spirit. The command to love as Christ loves is the heart of our living righteously. It is not the keeping of the Ten Commandments which demonstrates our relationship with Jesus. It is our completely selfless, disinterested love which shows our membership in God’s family.
In Ephesians 5:25-27 Paul further explained that this pure, selfless love is not possible by human determination and commitment. He describes the church as Christ’s bride—but he does not describe a bride who makes herself ready for the Bridegroom. Rather, Paul describes Christ a the One who loved the church and gave Himself up for her “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
The bride of Christ is not made ready by obeying the Ten Commandments. She is made ready and holy by the work of Christ the Bridegroom Himself. He washes her and cleanses her. He makes her holy, and He presents her to Himself. She doesn’t make herself holy or demonstrate her readiness by law-keeping. Jesus himself removes her stains, blemishes, and wrinkles and makes her blameless. He sacrifices Himself for her, and in so doing He makes His people His own.
Our worth and readiness to be Christ’s own has nothing to do with out reverence for the law. It has everything to do with our response to our Bridegroom who washes us and perfects us and makes us His own spotless bride.
Love that fulfills the law
Having love, tolerance, and acceptance is a common theme in Western culture. People excuse serious moral offenses behind the glib statement, “We can’t judge.” This sort of “love”, however, is not real love, and it’s not the sort of love Jesus and the apostles taught. Real love does not accept and protect the status quo. Real love makes “waves” because it emanates from absolute truth and grounds humans in eternal reality. Moreover, real love does not replace the moral requirements of the law but rather fulfills them. Real love is not “tolerant” of evil. Real love motivates people to place themselves in danger for the purpose of saving and protecting others from evil.
The question, though, is how does one “access” this sort of love?
Jesus gives us the first look at the practical reality of humans having access to this sort of love. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.,” he says in Matthew 5:17. We have to understand that Jesus is the One in whom law is transformed into accountable love. He didn’t negate the law’s moral foundation. Rather, He fulfilled it in Himself—and even more, He has made it possible for the morality the law reflects to become part of us when we are in Him.
John looks at this mystery from another angle. Instead of discussing how Jesus fulfilled the law, he explains how love comes from God and how that love becomes ours.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love,” he writes in 1 John 4:7-8. And in verse 15-16 John writes, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”
John explains that when we believe in Jesus, we become born of God, and we know God. This is the means by which real love enters us. God lives in us, and His love functions in and through us.
This love is manifested by our being able to love our brothers. If we love those around us with a disinterested love that is concerned primarily with the other person’s good and not for our own ultimate benefit, that is a sign that God’s love is in us, because this kind of love is not possible in natural humans.
Romans 8 is the classic description of living by the Holy Spirit as opposed to living by our natural nature. Because of Jesus’ death ad resurrection, when we accept Him, all the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in us. Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the law, lives in us through His Spirit, and all His righteousness that God requires is imputed to us. We are covered with Jesus, and our natural sinful nature no longer controls us.
When we are born again, we finally have the opportunity to choose to offer our lives and decisions to Jesus. The same Spirit that raised Him from the dead lives in us and gives His life to us even while we’re in our mortal bodies. When Jesus lives in us, His perfect love which is the fulfillment of the law becomes ours. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be able to love others and love Jesus with God’s own love, not with our own human affection.
Because He lives in us, nothing—not even death or angels or demons or any other power—will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus our Lord. The reason nothing can separate us is that God Himself has sealed us by indwelling us. We don’t make ourselves moral or loving; God in us is our morality and love. We don’t generate these things nor make them “real”. God Himself is responsible for us and for our security in Him. He holds us in Him, and He fills us with Himself. His fulfillment of the law fills us with His love and perfection.
Understand the present time
In verse 11 Paul connects loving one another with the sacrificial love of Jesus with understanding the present time. Loving with God’s selfless love is the essence of living with an understanding of the nearness of Christ’s return and the Day of the Lord.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 7:29-31, he stated that “time is short,” and people are to live as though the physical assets they have are not permanent, “For this world in its present form is passing away.” To the Philippians he wrote, “The Lord is near,” and explained how they were to live with rejoicing, without anxiety, and “by prayer and petition with thanksgiving.” They were to live with the peace of God. (See Philippians 4:4-7.)
James also reminded the very first scattered Jewish converts that “the Lord’s coming is near,” and in the same breath admonished them not to grumble against each other, for “the Judge is standing at the door”(James 5:8-9). Likewise Peter wrote that “the end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (1 Peter 4:7).
John also confirmed, “Dear children, this is the last hour,” and he cited the presence of antichrists as the evidence of the fact that it is the last hour.
Further, at the end of the book of Revelation, God gave John a very different command from the one He gave Daniel hundreds of years before. In Revelation 22:10 He said, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.”
To Daniel, at the end of his visions of the future, He said, “But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge” (Daniel 12:4).
The “present time” to which Paul refers in Romans 13:11 is now. We are living in what the Bible refers to as the “last days” (Hebrews 1:2) which began after Jesus came and died and rose and ascended to the Father. Understanding this present time means we anticipate the return of Jesus. A time of trouble and wickedness will precede His return, but when He comes, He will usher in a whole new time of blessing and redemption.
Jesus emphasized to His disciples the necessity of living with His divine love as they understand the present time. He explained that those who cared for others and ministered sacrificially to their brothers in need will receive the reward of the sheep in the “sheep and goat judgment”. They will be invited to take their inheritance “prepared for [them] since the creation of the world.” Those who do not respond to the needs of their suffering brothers, however, will be damned to eternal fire.
This warning is not an admonition to do “good works” from a sense of obligation, however. It is a description of the difference between those who know Jesus and have Him living in them and those who do not. Only those who know Jesus will be able to love with His love.
In Mark 13:33-37 and Luke 21:36 Jesus warned his disciples always to be “on the watch” “alert”. He stressed that no one knows when He will return, and His followers are to pray to “escape all that is about to happen”, not sleeping and missing the cues. We are to complete our assigned tasks, not losing vigilance because the Master is away.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 that the stories of Israel and God’s deliverance and punishments are given as “examples” and “warnings for us on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” We who live on this side of Jesus’ incarnation and redemption of humanity must not think we have an advantage that allows us to “zone out”. We are not to lose vigilance and think we’re standing firm. We are to be careful, remembering what happened to Israel when they became proud and arrogant and confident in themselves rather than living in complete trust and dependence upon God.
In Romans 8:22-24 Paul reminds us that all of creation is groaning in bondage to decay, waiting for the bodily redemption of God’s sons. In 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 he further explains what our time of waiting and expectation is to look lie. We are to be “sons of the light and sons of the day.” We must not sleep but be “alert and self-controlled.” We are to wear God’s protective armor of faith, love, and hope, knowing that He has died for us so we may live with Him whether we are “awake or asleep”. We are to build each other up as we anticipate His return.
Paul further explained this active waiting in Ephesians 5:8-14. He reminds Christ-followers to be people of the light, having nothing to do with “the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
As we live in love and truth, understanding this present time of anticipation of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus, we have His certain promises on which to depend. For example, in Hebrews 9:27-28 it says, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Further, Peter wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
We are to know that we live in the last days, that trouble will come, but we are to remain faithful, trusting God’s certain promises that He has prepared our inheritance, and He will return and invite us to take possession of it. Meanwhile, we are to live with the self-sacrificing love of Jesus, staying alert, being vigilant to walk in the light and expose the darkness. We are to live with faith and hope as we overflow with the selfless love of Jesus, committed to honoring Him and making Him known in a dark world.
In verses 12-14, Paul talks about living godly lives. He uses a metaphor of darkness and light, however, instead of directly speaking against “sin”. He admonishes the Romans to put off deeds of darkness and to put on the armor of light because “the night is nearly over, and the day is almost here.” This metaphor addresses the underlying reality of both sin and righteousness. “Darkness” is the natural condition of mankind; “light” is the essence of God.
Colossians 1:13 tells us that God rescued us from the “domain of darkness” and has transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. Ephesians 5:8-14 asserts that “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” It goes on to detail what it looks like to live as “light in the Lord”; one living in light will exhibit goodness, righteousness and truth; he will expose the evil deeds of darkness. The light makes everything hidden in the darkness of natural mankind visible.
Ephesians further drives home the point identifying the true nature of our original darkness. In chapter 2:1-7 Paul explains that we are originally dead in our sins, following the “ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” By nature we were “objects of wrath”.
When the Lord Jesus confronted Paul on the road to Damascus, He commissioned him to go to the Gentiles and to “open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to god, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26: 15-18).
God was revealing to Paul the true condition not only of himself and his fellow Jews but of every human being born. The antidote to this darkness of death, condemnation, and bondage to the spirit of evil is that God makes us alive in Jesus, seating us with Him in “the heavenly realms”.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:7-9, Paul further expands his metaphor of light and darkness. He contrasts those who are spiritually asleep, dulling their senses with drunkenness, as living in their denial in the darkness of night. As Christ-follower, however, we “belong to the day” and are to be “self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” because God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation.
Belonging “to the day”, as Paul puts it in the Thessalonians text, involves wearing the armor of God’s gifts of faith, love, and salvation. He expands this armor theme further in Ephesians 7:11-18 where he says we are to wear “the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” This armor consists of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit “which is the word of God.”
Paul’s use of the metaphor of darkness as contrasted with light emphasizes that our struggle is not simply with bad behaviors and self-discipline. God, he tells us in 1 Timothy 6:16, “lives in unapproachable light”, and this light of God is the only thing that can expose and defeat the natural darkness into which we are born. The reason Paul emphasizes wearing the armor of God is that when we submit ourselves to the light of God, only then are we protected from the darkness of temptation and deception.
The true essence of living godly lives is not to struggle against temptation directly. Rather, God asks us to surrender to Jesus, submitting our natural pride and arrogance to Him and allowing His truth and righteousness, His gift of faith, His gospel, His word, and His salvation of us to guard our hearts and minds. When we submit to the light and protection of Jesus, we no longer struggle directly with temptation. Rather, we surrender our temptations and weaknesses to God, allowing His armor to protect us, giving Him our desires and fears and concerns. We give up our “rights” to Him instead of trying to suppress evil by rigid self-control.
We submit to the light; we deal with the Lord Jesus Himself instead of fighting the darkness on our own.
Clothes ourselves with Christ
In verses 13-14 Paul exhorts Christ-followers to “behave decently” and not to indulge in sinful behaviors. Often we read exhortations to godly living and understand them to mean that we need to get our lives in line with the directions and commands given in the Bible. The question that surfaces is this: if we are living in the new covenant and are under grace, not under law, how do we handle the commands to godly living? What is the difference between living a godly life as a Christ-follower and living legalistically?
Paul explains this difference in perspective. In Titus 2:11-14 he plainly says that the grace of God has appeared and “teaches us to say 'No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” while we wait for the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ.
In other words, the law is not what teaches us to refuse sin. It is the grace of God that teaches us to live godly lives. God Himself works in us to desire godliness instead of our natural tastes. He gives us the desire and power to say “No” to sin.
Ephesians 2:8-10 further explains that we have been saved by faith—which itself is a gift—and that we are God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Our godly living is God’s work. God created the work He wants us to do for Him in advance, and both our salvation and our works in the flesh are His creation and gift.
Romans 8 is the classic exposition on living by the Spirit. When we are in Christ, we no longer have to generate obedience and godliness from sheer will-power and self-control. We are no longer “controlled…by the sinful nature but by the Spirit if the Spirit of God lives in you.”
“But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness…Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For is you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you pout to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (see Romans 8:9-14).
Our godly living is only possible as we surrender to the Holy Spirit and turn our temptations over to Him. Instead of struggling against sin, we now surrender the moment to Jesus. Our godly living depends upon Jesus’ resurrection power living in us. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who live in you (Romans 8:11).
Jesus’ resurrection gives us, through the Holy Spirit who indwells us, the power to live with purity and perseverance. No longer do we see a list of behaviors and have to fight them into oblivion in our lives. Now we can surrender at the moment of temptation to the Lord Jesus, asking Him to keep us rooted in truth, to show us how to live for Him at that moment instead of indulging our desire to respond to temptation. We surrender to Jesus our “right” to our desires and temptations and ask Him to place His Spirit in our hearts at those points of weakness and need.
As born-again Christ-followers, we have a new identity. Instead of being natural humans “in Adam”, we are born of God and hidden “in Christ”. Being in Christ means we are no longer identified and driven by our natural inheritance and addictions. We are now identified by Christ’s own perfection which He imputes to us. In Galatians 3:26-29 Paul says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Being clothed with Christ means we are no longer limited nor identified by our gender, our status, or our ethnicity. We are identified solely by Jesus and His death and resurrection. We are hidden in Him. Paul further says in Galatians 5:24-25, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
Being clothed in Christ means we are filled with and now live by the Holy Spirit’s power and promptings instead of by our own desires. We have new “selves” identified by purity and integrity, as Paul explains in Ephesians 4:20-24: “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Further, in Colossians 3:9-14 Paul emphasizes that these new selves we have in Jesus are characterized by “being renewed in knowledge in the image of [our] Creator”. Again he stresses that we’re no longer limited or identified by our ethnicity or status but by Christ who “is all, and is in all”. Because we are in Christ, we are to “clothe [ourselves] with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Living by the Spirit means that we are hidden in Christ, completely covered y Him, and God sees us through the lens of Jesus. We are clothed, in this way, with
Christ; when God looks at us, He sees Jesus’ righteousness on us, and we are empowered to live by His power instead of by our sinful natures because He has imputed His righteous perfection to us.
God is asking you to walk in the light, putting aside the deeds of darkness and living in the love that owes nothing to anyone except the continuing debt of love. The only way to live in love is to surrender the needy, wounded parts of yourself to the Lord Jesus so He can fill you full of Himself and His love so you don’t manipulate or “bleed dry” those in your life.
Ask God to reveal to you the things hidden deep in your heart that continue to hold you in insecurity or shame or even anger. Often a person’s defensive responses have more bases in knee-jerk reactions to past wounds than to the actual events a person experiences in the present. God knows what you need to remember and know; He knows what you need to remember or admit and what you need to give up to Him.
Ask God to give you the courage to know the truth and to release to Him the nearly forgotten transgressions that marked you. When you can allow the Lord Jesus to enter your memories and to heal your heart from the wounds you’ve carried deep in your heart, you will find a great release from anxiety and fear and shame.
The only way to put off sin and love with a love that does no harm is to allow Jesus to heal your own heart. As you are able to surrender the empty places in your heart formed by past neglect or abuse or carelessness, you will find that where once you held fear or a reactive anger or a self-protective defensiveness, there is now a growing calmness, a deep peace that releases the debt owed you by those who mistreated you. Giving to God your right to “get even” opens your heart to His protection and love, and you will begin to feel confident and grateful for God’s gifts to you. You will be able to love with a love that covers sin, knowing the Lord Jesus is faithful to be both just and merciful.
Praise God for making it possible for you to live by the Spirit, justified by the blood of Jesus and adopted by your Father into His family.
He is faithful, and He will heal your heart and give you the ability to love others for Him.
Fulfillment of the law
Armor of light
Clothe yourself with Christ
After discussing how we as Christ-followers are to live in submission to authority, Paul addresses the bigger picture of how we are to live with one another. Love, he explains, is the fulfillment of the law, and as Christians we are to wake up and walk in the light, putting aside the desires of our sinful natures.
1. In verse 8 Paul echoes Jesus’ revolutionary teaching. What did Jesus teach about love that blew apart traditional understanding, and how did Paul expand on this concept? (see Matthew 5:43-48; John 13:34; Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
2. Verse 9 echoes both the Ten Commandments and the law expressed in Leviticus. Is Paul advocating keeping the commandments, or is he saying something different? If he is not promoting keeping the law, what is he saying? (see Leviticus 19:18; James 2:8-13; James 1:25; John 15:9-14; 17; Ephesians 5:25-27)
3. Both Christians and non-Christians advocate love as the proper motive for “getting along”, but love fulfilling the law implies something more significant than “getting along”. How are we to access the sort of love that does no harm and fulfills the law? (see Matthew 5:17; 1 John 4:7, 8; 15-17; 19-21; Romans 8:1-4; 9-14; 37-39)
4. To what does “the present time” refer in verse 11, and what are we to anticipate urgently? (see Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 13:33-37;Luke 21:36; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; 10:11-12; Philippians 4:4-7; James 5:8; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 John 2:18; Rev. 22:10 cf. Daniel 12:4; Ephesians 5:8-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11; Romans 8:22-24; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 1:3-5)
5. From verses 12 through 14 Paul discusses living godly lives by the power of Christ. What is significant about his using the terms “deeds of darkness” and “armor of light” instead of merely referring to putting off “sin”? (see Ephesians 5:8-14; Ephesians 6:11-18; Ephesians 2:1-7; Colossians 1:13-14; Acts 26:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:7-9)
6. If God saves us in our sins, as Ephesians 2:1-7 explains, and our behavior has nothing to do with our fitness for salvation, how are we to understand Paul’s specific instructions not to indulge in sin, and how is this instruction different from legalism? (see Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; Romans 8:9-14)
7. What does it mean to clothe ourselves in Christ? (see Galatians 3:26-29; 5:24; Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians3:9-14)
8. What situations in your life elicit reactions that are “deeds of darkness” rather than love that does no harm and fulfills the law?
9. What deep fear or shame or insecurity is God asking you to admit and to relinquish to Him, giving up your “right” to react with anger or rage or blame or other self-protection and instead to hide yourself in Him rather than defending yourself?
10. Ask God to show you what deep fear or shame or wound or self-centeredness you protect and ask Him to give you the courage to know the truth about it, to release it to Him, and to teach you to trust Him and to run to Him instead of defending or protecting yourself in moments of crisis or attack. Ask Him to guard your heart and to plant you deeply in truth ad reality, trusting Him to hold you together and to protect you. Praise Him for His faithfulness in revealing your deep sin and brokenness, and praise Him for His healing and faithfulness to complete the work He has begun in you.
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