Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. — Romans 13:8
True love to God is shown by fulfilling God’s requirements, and one aspect of that is obeying God’s mandate to love others. Rees Howell (1879-1950), founder of The Bible College of Wales, learned that lesson early in his walk with the Lord. After his conversion in America in 1904, Rees returned to his birthplace in Wales during the great revival in that country. There he consecrated himself and all his resources to the Lord’s use, and received the infilling of the Holy Ghost.
Shortly after Rees received the Holy Ghost, the Spirit placed a burden on his heart for a man named Jim Stakes. This man was a drunkard and had such a terrible reputation around Rees’ hometown that the common saying was, “What Jim Stakes would not do, the devil himself could not do.” It caused quite a sensation during the revival when Jim was converted. However, a short time later, as Rees Howell was in prayer one morning, God laid a burden upon his heart for that man. “I had never before known such a conflict for a soul in the spiritual realm,” Rees said later. He realized that the devil was attacking Jim, and knew if Satan could get this new believer back, it would greatly hinder the revival fires that had been kindled. “I saw that it was a conflict between God and the devil for a soul,” Rees related, “and I told the Lord I would do anything if He would keep him.”
That evening there was a knock on Rees’ door, and there stood Jim Stakes. He told Rees that at 10:00 that morning — the very hour when Rees had been praying — God had showed him he should come to see Rees Howell. “Are you in trouble?” Rees asked. Jim acknowledged that he was in dire financial straits; he was two years behind in his rent and that morning the bailiffs had marked his furniture and were coming to fetch it.
Two years of rent was a lot of money, but after just a moment’s hesitation, Rees told Jim that he would give him one year’s rent, and he knew a man whom he believed would cover the other year. As Rees went upstairs to get the money, the Holy Spirit spoke to him, “Didn’t you tell Me this morning that you would give all you had to save him? Why are you only giving him half? Did not the Saviour pay all your debt and set you free?”
Immediately, Rees turned and ran back down the stairs. He told Jim, “I am sorry I told you I would only give one year’s rent. I am to give you two years’ rent, and all you need beside. I am to deliver you in such a way that the devil can’t use this situation any longer to get at you.” Rees would later say, “The moment I said that, the joy of Heaven came down!” When Jim went home and told his wife what had happened, she too was touched by the Spirit of God, and was converted.(1)
In our focus verse, Paul stated a moral principle: that followers of Christ owe a debt of love to others, for “he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Rees Howell was under no legal obligation to meet the need of Jim Stakes. No one in his town would have expected him to do so; in fact, they might even have cautioned him against it. After all, how could Rees be certain the man would not use the money to go back to his old ways? However, Rees was constrained by the Holy Spirit to meet Jim Stakes’ need. Love enabled him to respond in obedience and fulfill his “obligation” to the man whose soul hung in the balance.
Loving others may not mean spending hours on our knees for a single soul . . . but it might. It may not always require a financial outlay . . . but it might. It may not mean accepting and caring for one looked down on by society . . . but it might. Will we surrender ourselves fully, as Rees Howell did, and be willing to let God love others through us, no matter what the personal cost?
Continuing his instruction concerning the transformed life, in chapter 13 Paul expounded upon the Christian’s responsibilities as citizens in secular society. In verses 1-7, the Apostle outlined principles related to submitting to authority. In verses 8-10, his exhortation dealt with the Christian’s responsibilities toward unbelievers.
Since it was God who granted the power held by governmental rulers, Paul instructed the Roman Christians to submit to “the powers that be.” Specifically, this submission was to manifest itself through payment of taxes and demonstrating respect for those in authority.
Paul’s view that secular authorities are given their responsibilities by God is highlighted by the word “ordained” in verse 1. This comes from the same Greek word translated as “appointed” in Paul’s description of his encounter with the Lord on the Damascus Road, where he was told, “Arise, and go unto Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do” (Acts 22:10, emphasis added). To Paul, the “ordaining” of governmental leaders merited the same word that was used in the “appointing” of religious duties.
Verses 3-4 substantiate the Apostle’s earlier teaching regarding man’s innate sinfulness. He taught that human authority is necessary in preserving an orderly environment, for unless an authority is present to punish evil and reward good, man will pursue his own self-centered course to the detriment of society as a whole.
The word “tribute” in verse 6 refers to a tax or assessment on persons or property; the word “custom” in verse 7 refers to a duty levied, such as on exported or imported goods. Verse 8 points out that while secular debts to others must be discharged, followers of Christ have an indebtedness which can never be eliminated: the duty of loving others.
Five of the six Commandments concerning relationships with others are referenced in verse 9, and summarized by the Apostle’s statement in verse 10 that “love worketh no ill to his neighbor.” His point was that when love is properly demonstrated, the requirements of the Law are adequately met.
In verse 14, Paul taught that a sanctified walk involves both positive and negative actions. In order to maintain moral purity, Christians were instructed both to “put on” the Lord Jesus (experience His cleansing and live in His righteousness) and to abstain from making provision to fulfill the lusts of the flesh (they were not only to reject sin, but also to avoid situations that could lead to sin).
(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The results of salvation
B. Live holy under government (13:1-7)
C. Live holy in society (13:8-14)
While we can never repay the tremendous debt of love we owe to God, we are called to keep His commandment to love others freely and sacrificially.
1 Norman Grubb, Rees Howell Intercessor, Pennsylvania: Christian Literature Crusade, 1984, 47-50.