Living with Gospel Love
Preached at Main Street Church on August 4th, 2019
Proposition: Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God we must live with gospel love.
What does it mean that Jesus has brought in the kingdom of God?
What is ‘gospel love’?
Main Point 1: We must live with gospel love in everything (v. 8-10)
Main Point 2: We must live with gospel live with urgency (v. 11-14)
This message is the fifth in our series through Romans 12-15 entitled: Gospel Living: 101. Paul wrote the book of Romans as a letter around 60 AD to the church that was in the city of Rome at that time. In the first eleven chapters Paul gives an explanation of the gospel, and in chapters 12-15 he gives application of the gospel to our everyday lives, which is why we have entitled this series, “Gospel Living: 101.” Another way to say it would be to say that chapters 1-11 talk about God’s work for us in the gospel, and chapters 12-15 talk about God’s work in us through the gospel. Today we will finish chapter 13, and I’ve entitled this message: “Living with Gospel Love.”
Romans 13:8-14 “8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
One day during my Junior year of high school was different from the rest. I woke up, took a shower, got dressed, as usual, and started making some toast to get ready for the day. My mom poked her head out our of her bedroom and asked me what I was doing. I told her I was getting ready for school. “At 2:30 in the morning?” She asked.
I suddenly realized that I had not looked at a clock the entire time I had been awake.
If you don’t know what time it is, then you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing.
Many Christians feel an inner tension with how they are supposed to live their lives because they don’t know what time it is. And if you don’t know what time it is, then you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing. That’s why Paul says, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
So what time is it, and what are we supposed to do as a result?
This passage tells us that since Jesus has brought in the kingdom of God, we must live with gospel love.
Main Point 1: We must live with gospel love in everything (v. 8-10)
Main Point 2: We must live with gospel live with urgency (v. 11-14)
The reason we are to do this is because Jesus has brought in the kingdom of God; that’s what time it is; and as a result we are to live with gospel love.
What we’re going to do is first answer two questions:
- What does it mean that Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God?
- What is gospel love?
Then we’re going to explore how Paul expects us to live with gospel love; namely, in everything, and with urgency.
What does it mean that Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God?
In v. 11 Paul says to the believers in Rome, “You know the time. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. Put on the armor of light. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” And what Paul is indicating to those early Christians is, “Hey, you guys know that Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God. In his life, death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus has ushered in a new age. The powers of darkness are retreating. Death is defeated. The authority of Jesus as the true king of the world is being established.”
The gospel accounts record an instance of Jesus publicly casting a demon out of man, so that everyone was amazed, because they had never seen that kind of power before. The Pharisees, began to say that he was doing it by the power of Satan. But Jesus said, “26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:26-28)
In other words, Jesus declared that his power over demons, and over disease, and over death were all evidence that the age of darkness was coming to an end, and the kingdom of God was at hand. And Jesus decisively brought in his kingdom through his life, death, burial and resurrection, establishing his authority as the king over all things, so that at the end of Matthew’s gospel he said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” And Paul would write in Philippians 2, “God has bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” And at his return Revelation 19 says the name on his Robe is “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
So Paul is saying, Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God! You know what time it is; the hour has come to wake from sleep, salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
The Overlap of the Ages – The Already and Not Yet
You and I live in a period of time in history that scholars call “the overlap of the ages.” That is, there is the age of darkness before Christ came, where sin and death ruled, that Galatians 1:4 calls “this present evil age,” and there is the future age where the rule and reign of Jesus are fully realized once he returns. Ephesians 1:21 calls this “the age to come.”
We live in the overlap of these two ages. We live in this present evil age, and Romans 12:2 says, literally, “Do not be conformed to this age.” And yet we also live in the age to come where Jesus’ power is always becoming more of a reality in our lives. We live in the overlap of the ages. Sometimes this tension is also called “The already and not yet.”
So this is what Paul means when he says, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand.” He means that Jesus has brought the Kingdom of God. That’s what time it is.
So if we know what time it is, that being that Jesus has brought the kingdom of God—what do we do? According to Paul we are to live with what I’m calling “gospel love.”
What is gospel love?
The reason I’m calling it gospel love is to give clarity to just what kind of love Paul is talking about since the kingdom of God is here. He says in v. 9 that the 10 commandments are “summed up in this word: ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” And that command, to have that kind of love, is a command to have gospel love. Loving your neighbor as yourself is gospel love.
There has been some confusion over this verse, and this command from the Bible, because it tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And right now, and perhaps for a long time our culture has been obsessed with the concept of “self-love.” This has led some people to say that the reason we don’t love others as we ought is because we don’t love ourselves enough, and if we loved ourselves, then we would be able to love our neighbors, as we love ourselves. So you really need to love yourself more if you want to love your neighbor well. That is wrong. That is not what this verse means.
The reason this is wrong is because when people talk about “self-love” what they are talking about is self-esteem. But people with low self-esteem still love themselves in the sense that is implied in this verse. When this verse talks about loving ourselves, it is very simply referring to everyone’s desire to be happy. Everyone always does what they think will make them happy, even if they have low self-esteem.
So in the gospel accounts when Jesus gave this command, he is not commanding self-love. In fact, he assumes that everyone loves themselves in the sense that everyone does what they think will make them happy. Even people who are contemplating suicide contemplate it because they want their suffering to end. They want what will make them happy, and they’re suffering here and they’re hurting here, and they love themselves in the sense that they want to be happy.
So loving our neighbor as ourselves, is spending the same amount of time, and thought, and energy, and creativity into striving for their ultimate happiness as we do for our own.
Now, if you’re a Christian, you know that the only thing that can every make someone truly happy, is God. You know that true happiness is only found in the King of the kingdom. The only thing that can make you truly happy, and satisfied, is God. So if you love your neighbor as yourself, your desire is then for them to find their happiness in the gospel of Jesus Christ, because you know that the gospel is the only thing that can every satisfy them and make them truly happy, and you desire their happiness as much as you desire their own, so you continually strive to love them with the good news of Jesus that they actually can find true, lasting, unfailing happiness in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So that is why I’m calling this kind of love “gospel love.” Because it is living with a kind of love for people that desires for them to find their happiness and satisfaction in God.
So this passage is saying “Since Jesus has brought in the kingdom of God, live with gospel love.
And Paul tells us how we are to live with gospel love: 1) in everything, and 2) with urgency
Live with Gospel Love In Everything (v. 8-10)
Look at v. 8. It says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other,” This is in the context of what has come just prior where Paul says, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Then he says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.”
Some people have taken the first part of v. 8 to mean that you should never, ever, under any circumstance take on any form of debt. And while there is certainly wisdom in avoiding debt and being a good steward of your resources, this verse isn’t saying you should never incur debts, it means when you do, pay them. We see this from the context provided by v. 7 that puts owing in positive light. So it’s not primarily about whether or not you should borrow anything, but it’s about paying what you owe.
This is the context in which Paul then says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other.” So if his point is that we are always supposed to pay what we owe, and we are always to owe love, then he is saying that we are supposed to live with gospel love in everything.
Now that might sound basic, but what Paul is saying is actually very profound. He is saying let everything you do be an act of love, even paying your taxes, paying your mortgage, showing honor to those in authority over you. Do you see this? He is saying, don’t just pay your taxes out of obligation, pay them out of love. Don’t just show honor to an authority figure because you have to, show honor out of love. This is radical! He is saying live with gospel love in everything!
In other words, don’t limit your gospel love to one area of your life. As if you’ll live with gospel love on Sunday, but what you do on April 15th has no gospel love. Or writing your tithe check is an act of live but writing your mortgage check is just neutral. He is saying, “Live with gospel love in everything.”
Now, the only way it is possible to live with this kind of love, is because Jesus has brought in the kingdom of God. The only way that you can pay your taxes out of love instead of out of mere obligation is if Jesus is your king. Paul is literally saying here that you owe the government your gospel love, more than you owe them your taxes.
So in everything you do, live with gospel love, because Jesus has brought in the kingdom of God.
Verse 9 says, “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Paul is strengthening his argument that we should live with gospel love in everything, by pointing out that every law God gave had as it’s ultimate purpose, gospel love. The spirit of the Ten Commandments is that we might find our happiness in God. In fact, that is the very first commandment “You shall have no other God’s before me.”
Since Jesus has brought in the kingdom of God, we must live with gospel love in everything.
Live with Gospel Love with Urgency (v. 11-14)
Secondly, we must live with gospel love with urgency. Verse 11: “11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
It is a reality that the time we have to live with gospel love is running out. This is an encouragement of hope. Paul is saying, “you’re almost there!” Heather Miller just ran her second 100 mile race. If Paul were there he would be saying, “You’re closer to the finish line now than when you started! Keep going! Don’t stop now!” And that’s what Paul is saying to us. He is saying live with a sense of urgency. You’ve gotta know what time it is. It’s the fourth quarter, the clock is ticking down, it’s not time to relax. It’s not time to slow down. It’s time to live with gospel love!
The city of Rome is described by authors who lived at that time as “a place that provided every virtue and vice known to mankind.” Most of the residents of Rome were pagan, and would have taken place in the pagan rituals that worshipped the gods of Rome. Paul describes some of the cult practices here in v. 13, that would have taken place at night. He is saying, the day has come, those practices are over and behind you, just like you’ve left your former life behind. Jesus is the king now, not Caesar. So put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Since Jesus has brought in the kingdom of God, live with gospel love with urgency. That means, invite the neighbor over for dinner. Write that letter to that relative. Don’t participate in the kingdom of darkness, but live with gospel love, and do it with urgency. The hour has come to wake from your screens, wake from materialism, wake from your addiction to media narratives, because Jesus is the king and his return is one day closer than it was yesterday. So live with gospel love in everything you do, and do it with urgency.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe there is a wonderful portion of the story when the land of Narnia, which has been under the frozen curse of the White Witch, begins to heal. Trees bloom…ice melts…flowers reveal themselves. And whenever someone witnesses evidence that the curse is fading and healing is taking its place, there is a singular pronouncement on that person’s lips:
“Aslan is on the move!”
But Aslan had not yet appeared. The White Witch still seemed to be winning. Frozen waste still covered much of Narnia, but where ever a bird sang, grass grew, or a treacherous heart repented it became increasingly apparent to everyone in the land that Aslan’s rule was expanding, and the White Witch’s was receding. Although no one had seen him yet, everyone, including the witch knew:
“Aslan is on the move!”
Like Narnia, our world was not meant to be governed by a curse. Sin and death are foreigners here who have resided in our home illegally for far to long.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
Jesus came to give “the curse” its eviction notice and to empower his people to be agents of life, light, and love (his body). We are to share with everyone that a new Kingdom has been established with a new King who does not advance his kingdom through military conquest or economic domination, but rather through gospel love.