Vol. 10 — No. 5 February 2, 1969
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
In Christ Jesus, who was put under the law and who fulfilled the law for us, Fellow Redeemed:
Our text is taken from the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. That chapter begins with Paul’s instructions regarding the functions of government as God’s representative here on earth and the relation of the individual to his government. This is a section of Scripture which exposes many church leaders and people today as anti-christs and flagrant rebels against the Word of God.
In the section which is our text Paul continues by speaking of the relations of the child of God to society. What should govern our actions towards others with whom we come into contact as neighbors, as fellow citizens, as fellow laborers, as fellow businessman, as fellow servicemen? One word gives answer: love! “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.” When our paths cross the paths of another, whether he be a long-time acquaintance or a new acquaintance or a total stranger, we are to know and understand one thing. We are indebted to that person. The debt we owe is to love him. And if and as and when we pay off that debt, we fulfill the law of God, “for he that loveth another hath fulfiiled the law.”
Paul continues by giving examples from the law, taking them all from the second table of the law. He cites the sixth, the fifth the seventh, the eighth and ninth commandments. He then refers to all and any other commandments under that table and sums them all up in that well known summary, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Since love is a positive force working good for the neighbor, therefore “loveworketh no ill to his neighbor.” And for that reason “love is the fulfiiiment of the law.”
How well known that statement is! How easy it is for us to say these words! How pious they do sound! But how condemning they are! If we all loved our neighbors as ourselves and so fulfilled the law, we would have no family quarrels and we would have no friction within our congregation. Our relations with neighbors, friends, and all others would be harmonious. But unfortunately and sadly it isn’t that way, is it? What should we do? Despair of it all? Throw up our hands in disgust? Become cynics and nihilists? These aren’t solutions. The solution is to direct the light of God’s Word on this problem again and again and to seek strength again and again to believe and then to act on and live by our faith. Let us begin right now by Considering this simple truth:
It is important for us to know and to realize this, for otherwise we may well be driven to despair. When we hear the summary of the second table of the law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” we can either reduce this to meaningless superficiality or find ourselves convicted by it. The fact of the matter is THAT WE DON’T LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES! We stand condemned by this statement, even as we do by the more comprehensive statement, “Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law,” If we could love our neighbor as ourselves, if all our thoughts and words and deeds reflected love towards our God and our neighbor, then we wouldn’t need a Savior. Then Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost would be superfluous. Then God could have kept His Son in heaven and not sent Him to earth to redeem mankind. But we can’t love as we should. We can’t even begin to love as we should, for we are by nature at enmity with God and at odds with our fellowman. This is why God had to send His Son if man were to be saved. What we can’t do and don’t do God’s Son had to and did do for us. He lived a life of love and so fulfilled the law for us.
Now let us examine Christ’s life, using commandments from the law that Paul used as examples. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Jesus was not married. He did have female disciples who were devoted to Him and who administered unto Him, freely using their own funds to care for His needs. There are unbelieving and blasphemous scholars who have made insinuations concerning the relations that Jesus had with these women, but any child of God turns from any such blasphemous insinuations in holy horror. Jesus did sanctify marriage with His presence at the wedding of Cana. He did use that occasion to manifest His glory for the first time by revealing Himself to be the Lord over nature. He caused water to be converted into excellent wine. The Lord did take exception to the manner and way that the Jewish religious leaders thwarted God’s original plan of having one man and one woman live together as one flesh in marriage by their frivolous divorce laws and practices. In His attitudes and in His words and in His actions He lived the only pure life that ever has been lived as a member of one sex over against the other.
“Thou shalt not steal.” There are those who charge Jesus with violating the property of others when He overturned the tables of the money changers and drove the sacrificial animals out of the temple area. But He took nothing and destroyed nothing. What He showed on that occasion was zeal for the House of His Father, which had been converted into a merchandising mart by the religious authorities. He helped the young couple at Cana by giving them a wedding gift of a large quantity of excellent wine. He provided food for the multitudes on occasions when they had need. He accumulated no estate, owning only the clothes on His body. He owned no real estate, for He had not where to lay His head. He became poor in order to make us rich. The Lord of all died without even having a plot of land for burial. His friends had to provide that. Why? So that He might make us the richest people on earth—blessed with treasures that no amount of money can buy: forgiveness, peace, the assurance that we are children of God and heirs of heaven.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness.” This commandment deals with that uncontrollable organ of the body—the tongue. It deals with “speaking the truth everyone with his neighbor.” This is a commandment that damns all of us, but not our Lord. He was the only One that ever lived who always used His tongue to speak the truth in love. His enemies tried again and again to entrap Him in His speech, to get Him to testify against Himself, but they found Him answering their questions in truth and love. When the situation demanded rebuke, He rebuked firmly but lovingly. When the situation demanded comfort, He comforted most tenderly. He treated all men alike, speaking to each and to every one of them the truth that they needed and that fitted the moment. He was and remains the King of Truth. What He said, on whatever subject He said it, remains truth eternally.
“Thou shalt not covet.” Here is that commandment which puts a prohibition upon the heart. It Forbids the heart to desire anything that it can’t and shouldn’t have, be that the neighbor’s house, wife, servants or anything that is the neighbor’s. The prohibition against coveting is one-sided. The other side is the demand for perfect love towards the neighbor which shows itself in rejoicing with him over that which has been given to him and helping him to keep it. Review in your mind the whole life of our Lord. What impression do you get in a flash picture and what would you find if you examined each incident in His life and each word that He spoke under a microscope? You would find a completely selfless person. You would find a person whose whole life was for others. Never before and never since has this earth witnessed what it witnessed when Christ lived here on this earth—a life completely free of malice towards others and completely dedicated to others. This life was lived for us! This life becomes our life by faith. The Judge of all flesh imputes His righteousness to us. We are saints because His fulfillment of the law is credited to our personal account. He will one day be able to stand divine inspection because we are clothed in the spotless garments of His righteousness. The love, which is the fulfillment of the law, was achieved by Christ for us and becomes ours by faith. Thank God for this gift!
Does the righteousness which is ours by faith mean that we can now continue on confidently in our sins without any effort to love our neighbor and so fulfill the law? That would be and is sinning against the grace of God. Love is the fulfillment of the law. By faith we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. But the righteousness of faith is also to become the righteousness of life. That means that—
The sixth commandment governs our relationships with the members of the opposite sex. Boys and girls go to school together. Men and women work together, play together, socialize together, do business together, engage in politics and all kinds of activities together. The commandment demands that in all these activities and relationships we be chaste—clean in thought and in word and in deed. This isn’t easy, for each one of us has his own flesh to contend with. This isn’t easy, for all of us are exposed to the world which keeps on mass producing pornography in word and picture and which keeps on challenging God’s standards of behavior and justifying man’s rebellion against them. In our efforts we falter and fail at times. What then? We can but turn to the fountain of forgiveness for pardon and ask the Christ of our salvation for strength to try anew and again.
Our Lord came that we might have life and have it more abundantly here and hereafter. We find ourselves so frequently as the agents of sin to hurt and harm, to embitter and destroy life. Let us strive to speak the kind word. Let us cultivate the warm smile that is not a mask for bitterness but an expression of our genuine loving concern. Let us forgive and seek to bind up the old wounds. Let us strive to understand and to put the best construction on everything. Let us believe and practice the love that works no ill towards anyone. Let us pursue with vigor the role of peacemakers. This is the fulfillment of the law. Oh how we need to pray for grace so to live. How we need to pray that Christ become more and more, day after day a power in us so that we may follow in His footsteps.
Our Lord lived for us. That was His life! By nature we live unto ourselves. That is our natural way of life. It is so easy for us to become all wrapped up in our little lives, to nurse our little hurts, to feel sorry for ourselves, and so to become frustrated and embittered. Let us strive against all this. The power to live otherwise is available to us. The Christ for us would become the Christ in us—powerful to redirect our lives. He would give us grace to break out of our shells. He would have us rejoice with others when they rejoice and sorrow and grieve with them when they grieve. He would have us take of our time and strength and energy and freely cast them upon others. He would have us love lavishly and serve untiringly. How our spirits would be lightened! How our lives would be filled with noble purposes! How our achievements would stand the test of time and eternity if we would more and more direct our energies towards these ends!
We need to help one another. We need to admonish one another. We need to encourage one another. We need to pray for one another. Let us be doing these things, so that the community about us may be able to see and say, “Oh how they love one another!” Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.