Love Fulfills the Law

Key Verse: “Do not owe anyone anything—except to love one another. For the one who loves another has fulfilled the Law.”
—Romans 13:8, International Standard Version

Selected Scriptures:
Romans 13:8-10; I Corinthians 13:1-13

IN THE APOSTLE PAUL’S day, some Jews who converted to follow Christ were insisting that keeping various features of the Mosaic Law was a condition of living in Christ. Paul refuted this error, explaining that no Jew had received life under the Law, which proved that all were sinners and in need of a redeemer. Furthermore, Paul admonished that faith in Christ was the only way to be freed from sin and to gain life.—Rom. 3:20-24

Elsewhere, Paul pointed out that it was God’s plan from the beginning to deal with his people by faith. (Gal. 3:7-9) Based upon the arguments set forth in the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans, Paul begins chapter twelve by stating, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”—Rom. 12:1

In our Key Verse, Paul emphasizes the need “to love one another.” Jesus stressed the importance of this, stating “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:12-14) In these verses the word “love” is a translation of the Greek word agape.

In the New Testament there are two different Greek words—phileo and agape—which have been translated as the word “love.” Phileo love is “brotherly love,” or “affection,” and is often based upon an existing relationship or friendship.

Agape love is the highest form of love, which the Scriptures describe as being a God-like, selfless love. (I John 4:8-12) “God so loved [agape] the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” (John 3:16) The love prompting our redemption was completely selfless on God’s part. He had not wronged his creature in the sentence of death; nor had man ever done anything for his Creator which could put him under obligation to restore life to his human creation. God’s love prompting to our redemption was divine, selfless, agape love.

In Paul’s lesson on love, recorded in I Corinthians chapter 13, he describes it with these words: “Love [agape] is always patient … always kind … never envious or arrogant with pride. Nor … conceited … never rude … never thinks just of herself or ever gets annoyed … never is resentful … never glad with sin … always glad to side with truth, and pleased that truth will win. She bears up under everything; believes the best in all; there is no limit to her hope, and never will she fall. Love never fails.”—I Cor. 13:4-8, ISV

The concluding words of our Key Verse, “the one who loves [agape] another has fulfilled the Law,” brings the contrast of “the Law” versus “faith which worketh by love,” into harmonious agreement. (Gal. 5:6) Similarly, Jesus said that loving [agape] God as well as your neighbor are the two great commandments on which “hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40) Additionally, Paul states, “If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, … love [agape] is the fulfilling of the law.”—Rom. 13:9,10