Our salvation is near. 13:8-14


In our passage for study, Paul speaks of the duty to love one another, for "love is the fulfilling of the law", 13:8-10. He then makes the point that all duty must be viewed in the knowledge that salvation is nearer than when we first believed; "the night is far gone, the day is at hand", 13:11-14.

The passage

v8. In v7 Paul said, "give everyone what you owe him." Continuing this thought, he now urges that we leave no outstanding debts, no outstanding obligations toward others. Yet, there is one debt which will always be outstanding because it is impossible to clear. The obligation we must try to clear and never will, is our obligation to love. This love toward "one another" is a self-giving compassion toward the brotherhood. To show compassion is to "fulfill the law".

v9. The thought expressed in v8b is now confirmed. Paul quotes some examples from the second table of the Ten Commandments and then quotes the summary of this table from Leviticus 19:18. Our obligation is to love, and this love is properly defined in the Ten Commandments.

v10. On the negative side, Paul states that the exercise of love does not disadvantage the brother; true love does not hurt a brother.

v11. In v11-14 Paul places discipleship in the context of Christ's return. Knowing that Christ will one day return serves as an effective motivator for Christian service, cf. 1Thess.5:1-11, etc. In fact, says Paul, the second coming of Christ is "nearer now than when we first believed."

v12. Continuing with the sense of Christ's close return, Paul encourages his readers to put aside evil behavior and strive for righteousness. To make his point, he uses images of light and dark. The darkness is of this age, while the light is of the age to come. This age conforms us to its ways, and they are the ways of selfishness. The age to come is of goodness and we must be transformed into its ways. So, let us put on the life-style of the age to come as we put on clothes, or as in this case, as we put on armor.

v13. The believer is to live a Christ-like life-style in the present moment as if they were living in the age to come. In fact, we must live this way because we are, in a sense, already in the age to come. We are certainly not to live as if we were still in darkness.

v14. Putting on Jesus Christ explains the meaning of putting "on the armor of light" in v12. Identification with Christ is the underlying idea. Paul is calling on us to "walk by the Spirit", to allow the Spirit of Christ to renew us day-by-day.


"I shall no longer ask myself if this or that is expedient, but only if it is right", Alan Paton.

In our passage for study, Paul gives us an insight into God-given ethics. First, he gives us a summary of Biblical morality as it relates to our fellow man, a summary of the "debt", or obligation that we owe others. Second, he gives us some motives for living out these obligations.

The obligation of love, v8-10

Paul gives us an ethical principle which comes from the Old Testament as well as the New, it is the ethic of love. This ethical principle is the most profound of moral rules: "love your neighbor as yourself."

There are a number of things we can say about this moral rule:

1. Love is a "debt" or obligation that we owe one another, v8. No one is an island unto themselves; we all share the human condition and we are responsible for each other.

2. Love is primarily directed toward our brothers and sisters in Christ - the church, v8, 9. The terms "one another" and "neighbor" refer primarily to our family and the community of faith.

3. Love is a debt we will never fully pay, v8. It is a "continuing debt" in that it is impossible for a sinful person to "fulfill" the law.

4. Love shows itself in practical care, v9,10. "Love does no harm to its neighbor." This is an important point because people often say they are doing something out of love, but in the end, what they do is sometimes very harmful.

The motivations of love, v11-14

Paul gives us a number of motivations for loving others.

1. The immanence of Christ's return, v11-13. In the New Testament, the motivation of Christ's second coming is often used to promote right living. There are two underlying prompts to this motivation. First, our friendship with Christ prompts us to want to honor him in our lives. Second, self preservation reminds us to never forget the day when all will be called to account.

2. The impelling love of Christ, v14. When we look to the indwelling Spirit of Christ in faith, we are impelled to be like Christ. To clothe ourselves with Jesus involves allowing the imparting of his righteousness through the renewing work of the Spirit.

So there we have it, the debt of love, a debt for which we must give account.


1. If love is a moral imperative for believers, what practical shape should it take?

2. Discuss discrimination in the ethic of love. Is it right to offer greater love to our family and our brothers and sisters in Christ?

3. Discuss the motivations toward love revealed in v11-14.

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