Scripture Notes for Romans 13:8-14
- Believers should be "debt-free" in relation to others, except with regard to love.
- The commandments can be summarized and fulfilled in one statement, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
- Christians should be motivated to goodness because of agape and the approaching Second Coming of Christ.
- Believers should choose to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
- Christians should live honorably, avoid the common sins of the day, and make no opportunity to gratify the desires of the flesh.
This week's passage presents a second category of debts for which the Christian is responsible. In verses 1-7, Paul writes about public debts; that is, the standard contributions that the Roman government levied on its subjects — various taxes. In verses 8-14, the conversation shifts to private debts. "Owe no one anything, except to love one another" sums up the message of this passage.
The weight of Paul's admonition to love is felt when we consider it in context. Paul, and we, live and love in anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ. As Christians, we are to live as if the new age in which Jesus Christ reigns is the reality.
The admonition to love also evokes a counter-response to reject the works of darkness. Paul identifies the works of darkness as those acts that society understood to be taboos: uncouth revelry, drunkenness, immorality, and so on.
Lastly, the admonition to love involves putting on Jesus Christ. Paul's intent is not clear, but he may be referring to daily communion with Jesus Christ through devotions, prayer, meditation, and Scripture reading — activities that produce a transformed life of Christ-likeness.
Does your audience know the following terms found or alluded to in Romans 13:8-14?
- Revelry — Noisy, uncouth actions that lower a person's stature and are a nuisance to others.
- Licentiousness — This is more than engaging in immorality. This is a person who has lost shame. This person does not care how the public perceives him or her. This person dares to do ungodly things in public without remorse.
1. For Paul, teaching about the centrality of love was revolutionary to the pagan world. In what ways is Christian love a revolutionary idea today?
2. What are the implications of the phrase, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor" in light of our heightened concerns over personal security and terrorism?
3. After 2,000+ years of waiting, how can we evoke a sense of urgency about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?
4. Have the "works of darkness" of our times numbed our sacred senses into uncaring nonchalance?
5. Practically, what does it mean to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ"?
Evangelistic Preaching Tips
The preaching points in this week's passage are simple but provocative when taken seriously. Challenge yourself to provide practical ways for people to:
1. "Owe no one anything, except to love one another."
2. "Love your neighbor as yourself."
3. "Wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers."
4. "Lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light."
Seize the opportunity to preach clearly about these basic Christian beliefs.
Reading: Romans 13:8-14 [An Evangelistic Approach — To lead people to Christ]
A Golden Opportunity — "The Golden Rule" (loving your neighbor as yourself) can be quoted by many pre-Christians. What they may not understand is the concept of agape — unconditional love. What does it mean to love someone without any desire for personal gain? What does it mean to love when the expected response is hatred? How does one consistently give agape without getting "donor fatigue"? As with all sermons, the impact of this sermon on pre-Christians will depend greatly on the genuine expressions of agape by the pastor and congregation toward others during the week.
Aim: Help pre-Christians discover that "loving your neighbor as yourself" is the result of a life motivated by agape.
Reading: Romans 13:8-14 [A Renewal Approach — To strengthen the faith of Christians]
The Great "Put On" —The term "put on" usually conjures negative meanings, such as pretense, charade, or farce. In Romans 13, however, Paul urges us to "put on" the Lord Jesus Christ. In the context of our fashion-conscious society, it might be rewarding to explore the thought processes people engage in when choosing the attire to "put on." Compare that process with the conscientiousness required to "put on" Jesus Christ everyday. What does it mean to intentionally "wear" Jesus all day and all night?
Aim: Encourage Christians to make a conscious effort to "put on" Jesus Christ daily.
Reading: Romans 13:8-14 [A Reclamation Approach — To restore "de-churched" individuals to vital faith in Jesus Christ]
What's the Difference? — When you travel to other parts of the world, differences in people become glaringly apparent. In many cultures, people wear certain colors for weeks or months to indicate that they are grieving. Some adherents to other religions wear certain clothing that distinguishes them from outsiders. Christians do not wear distinctive clothing. Christians do not practice uniform rituals worldwide such as prayer five times a day. So what's the difference? When people see Christians participating in what Paul calls "the works of darkness," they may ask: "What's the difference?"
What is the difference that a professing Christian should display to the world that announces that I am different, I am a child of God? If we cannot answer that question and if the people around us do not notice a difference between the world and us, what change does God expect in us today?
Aim: Persuade de-churched persons to examine their behaviors and choose to realign them with Jesus Christ.
Provide Opportunities for a Faith Response
Offer creative outreach to the community that actively demonstrates agape. For example:
1. Provide tutoring classes for school children in the neighborhood.
2. Offer shower, bathroom or laundry opportunities for the homeless.
3. Open the church once a week for some activity for the homeless.
Provide Opportunities for Follow Up
Build relationships with people who participate in any of the faith response activities you offer. Gradually, invite people into other aspects of congregational life in Christ.
- Bread of Life
- St. John's Downtown UMC, Houston, TX
- Food, health care, laundry for the homeless
- Drive In, Reach Out
- School Day Giveaway
- Homeless Musician Jam Session
- Equipping Baby's Future
Resources for Romans
- The New Interpreter's Bible A Commentary in Twelve Volumes: Volume X — Acts, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 Corinthians. Abingdon Press.
- The Message of Romans: God's Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today) by John R. W. Stott
- Romans: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries by F. F. Bruce
- Romans: A Shorter Commentary [ABRIDGED] by C. E. B. Cranfield
Follow Up Resource Available in pdf
Small Groups & Accountability: The Wesleyan Way of Christian Formation, by Steven W. Manskar, Director of Accountable Discipleship, Discipleship Ministries
General Evangelism Resources
- Ancient Future Evangelism by Robert Webber
- Webber explains Pentecost as the traditional time to declare one's Christian vocation.
- The Faith-Sharing Congregation by Roger Swanson and Shirley Clement
- Faith-Sharing: Dynamic Christian Witnessing by Invitation by H. Eddie Fox and George Morris
The Faith-Sharing initiative Participants' Manual (Spanish Version) — El compromiso de compartir nuestra fe: Manual del Participante (pdf)
- The Faith Sharing New Testament
- That the World May Know Jesus Christ! by Brazilian Methodist Bishop Paulo Lockmann
- Transforming Evangelism: The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith by Henry H. Knight III and Douglas Powe Jr.
- Witness: Learning to Share Your Christian Faith