Romans: 13:10 – Love is the fulfilment of the law

Paul wrote:

Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.  (Romans 13:10)

‘Fulfilment’ is the translation of ‘pleroma’, which is derived from ‘plero-oo’ (to be translated as: to fill up, replenish).
‘Pleroma’ is translated as:

  • something that is filled, or being filled
  • something that makes full, or with which something is filled
  • fullness, abundance

Love ‘fills’ the law therefore, makes the law to ‘become full’; is the ‘filling’ of the law.

The ‘fulfilment’ of the law.

When a lawyer asked Jesus:

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?   (Matthew 22:36)

Jesus answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets
hang on these two commandments      (Matthew 22:37-40)

Jesus sums up the whole of ‘the Law and the Prophets’ (the laws and the teaching from the Old Testament), in two commandments, which are ‘like’ each other.

‘Like’ is the translation of the Greek ‘homoios’:

  • like, of the same sort
  • looking like
  • similar

In a mathematical formula, if A equals B, B then also equals A.
Applying mathematics to this statement would mean that if loving God (A) equals loving your neighbour (B), loving your neighbour (B), is then also equal to loving God (A) and a person loves God if he loves his neighbour. Mathematics are not applicable to a spiritual dimension, however.
Jesus says that loving God is the first and greatest commandment.

Loving your neighbour as yourself is the second commandment and is alike, similar, to the first commandment: to love God with all that is within you.
If the second commandment is similar to the first, the second cannot exist without the first commandment.
In the life of a Christian, his love for his neighbour is a reflection of his love for God.

The whole of ‘the Law and the Prophets’ are contained in these two, similar commandments.
Literally: The whole of the teaching of the Old Testament hangs on and is derived from these two commandments to love.

Practically.

The law can be looked at as an empty vat, a set of rules that have to be filled in.
In the Old Testament the Israelites were commissioned to ‘fill’ this ‘empty vat’ by obeying the law strictly, to keep the law.
To fill the ‘vat’ it was necessary to keep all the commandments.
Keeping the law was primarily a question of the mind, a decision of the will: you had to do this and you were not to do that. When someone did wrong he was punished.

God was not only concerned with all those rules and laws, however, as became apparent when He said:

These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.   (Isaiah 29:13)

God already told prophets in the Old Testament that a time would come when He would renew the people’s hearts.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
(Ezekiel 36:26)

I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.   (Jeremiah 31:33)

I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.   (Ezekiel 36:27)

Jesus taught that the law could only be fulfilled from a heart that is filled with love for God.
The love meant in this case is expressed by ‘agape’ in Greek.
‘Agape’ is not emotional love, but love that determines action.

Conclusion:

Christian life is thus not about doing kind things, but about being kind, love from the inside, from the heart.

God IS love, and everything He does, He does out of His love.
In the same way, God also wants man to BE love - that he takes the love for and from God into his heart and lives out of that love, as Jesus ‘lived love’. He said:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life (literally: his soul, himself) for the sheep.   (John 10:11)

He told His disciples:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.   (John 13:34)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.   (John 15:12)

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life (literally: his soul, himself) for one’s friends.   (John 15:13)

In the life of Jesus we have learnt to know God as a loving Father.
Jesus summed up the whole of the teaching of the Old Testament in the one word: love.

This is a love that a person does not have in himself, but he receives it from God, through the Holy Spirit, as Paul wrote:

God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.   (Romans 5:5)

This love in the heart will become visible in the way in which a Christian goes through life.
Paul gives a number of identification marks thereof in the letter to the Corinthians.

If I speak in the tongues (languages) of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship (remark: the image of sacrificing one’s own body, one’s own life, as a burnt offering) that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient,

love is kind.

It does not envy,

it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonour others,

it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil

but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.   (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.   (1 Corinthians 13:13)

This love can only exist as a reflection of the love for and from God in the heart of a Christian, as a consequence of conversion and discipleship.

See also the studies:
Matthew 5:17 - Jesus has fulfilled the law.
Luke 5:36-39 - The parable of the wineskins.
Matthew 25:14-30 - The parable of the gabs of gold.

 

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Romans 13:10 – Love is the fulfilment of the law.