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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary

Romans 13

Verses 8-14

A New Year Message

Romans 13:8-45.13.14


As one faces the New Year there are usually two dominant things that confront the thoughtful: 1. What about the year that has passed? 2. What about the New Year that is about to dawn? Let us think on these for just a few moments.

1. Are we satisfied with the year gone by? Perhaps all would answer, "No" not altogether satisfied. There are none of us but wish we might have done more for God, and also for men. Yet, granting all this, are we able to say that we have run a good race, fought a good fight, and kept the faith? Have we lived above the power and dominion of sin? Have we bought up the days as they swept past, and redeemed the time?

Remember, if our own hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts. If we are far from satisfied with our own faithfulness and victory in Him, how could He be satisfied? Let us not think that we are boasting in ourselves when we stand before God without self-condemnation. The Apostle Paul said, "I know nothing by (against) myself"; then, should we? The Apostle also said, "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men." Should we not, also, so exercise ourselves?

If we do, it is because Christ leads us in the train of His triumph. If we do, it is because we are walking in the Spirit, and not in the flesh.

2. Whether we are or are not satisfied with the past year, what about the New Year now before us? Let us determine now that the New Year shall be met, day by day, in the power of the new life in Christ Jesus. We will lean upon Him, and be led by His Spirit. This means a full surrender; a happy and prompt obedience to the Lord.


Here is a motto we may well follow for the New Year: "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."

This motto covers our obligations to men. There are many things we owe the government, our rulers, our country, our state, our city, and our neighborhood. No Christian should overlook these things. As saints we should always carry a good report among them who are without. We should do good to all men, not alone to those who are of the household of faith.

Christians honor God when they honor the state, because the state is God's minister unto us for good. It is God's executor against evildoers. To dishonor the state, therefore, is to resist the ordinances of God; and it will bring upon our selves condemnation.

Christians should pay tribute and custom, such as the law requires. To seek to evade this duty ensures a tendency to disown our obligations toward God.

Christians should be faithful to the individual. Upon the second stone of God's Law were written six Commandments which no believer dare sidestep, if he would please God.


We are told to owe no man anything, but to love one another. This truly sets aside any refusal to pay any just debt to any man. We are to owe no man anything whatsoever. However, we can never fully pay our debt of love, for this debt lingers with us for aye. It is for this reason that the Word says, "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another"; because this debt of love we always owe, and can never fully pay.

The Apostle said three things in Romans 1:1-45.1.32 :

First, he said, "I am debtor." He was debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians; both to the wise and the unwise.

We, too, are debtors to every man under Heaven. We owe them the love of God as manifested in Christ, and as set forth in the Gospel of His grace.

Secondly, he said, "I am ready." He was ready to preach the good news which he owed. He was ready, so much as in him lay the power, to proclaim that message of love. He was ready to love and to tell. Are we ready? Have we added our best effort in this great ministry of love?

Thirdly, Paul said, "I am not ashamed." Surely we can also be ready to pay our debt to all men, unashamed of our message, for we know that it is the power of God, through faith, unto salvation to all who believe.


How true is the word, "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour." Paying this debt, then, works only good to our neighbor. It is love that suffereth long, and is kind. It is love that beareth all things, and endureth all things. No wonder, therefore, that the saint is told to "walk in love."

Love does not kill, nor steal, nor bear false witness against a neighbor; neither does it covet a neighbor's goods, nor work shame to a neighbor's person.

Love is God's chief gift to His children. It is by love that we are to conquer all evil, and accomplish all good one toward another.

If we walk without love, we walk in sin and harm to those who dwell about us, and we injure our own selves also.


The second stone of the Law of God, as expressed in the Commandments, establishes God's conception of man's highest good toward his neighbor. We can reach this highest good only by keeping the Law, and we can keep the Law toward our neighbor only by walking in love, for love is the fulfillment of the Law, Our resolution number 4 cannot be kept by a mere determined purpose in our heart. It cannot be kept by dogged effort. The fulfillment of the Law toward God, or toward our neighbor, is not an effort at all; it is a result of being filled with love. This is the fruit of the Spirit. The love that fulfills the Law is not inherent in our human nature, because human nature is corrupt according to deceitful lusts. Human nature is full of envy, murder, deceit, malignity, and of all unclean things. No, the world can never get beyond the sway of hatred, and of malice, and of evil working toward a neighbor, until it acknowledges the sway of love, as made potent through the indwelling of the Spirit of God.


There are too many who, like Peter, and James, and John, are sleeping when they should be watching. Too many lounge about when they should be working. Let us adopt for a motto during this year, "Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep." We have slept long enough. We have been inactive, unconcerned, too long. Souls are being lost, and what are we doing to carry to them the Gospel? The Macedonian cry is being heard, but we are slow to go over and help the ones who cry.

Let those of us who have slept, sleep no more. Even now we hear the voice of our Lord, saying, "Go work to day in My vineyard." We cannot afford to be idle while millions have never heard the message of salvation. We cannot afford to hold back our money while men and women, the choicest of our churches, are ready to go out and proclaim the truth of the Gospel.

It is true that our own salvation is nearer than when we believed. The Lord may come at any moment. Our opportunity to serve may pass at any time; so let us awake.

Shall we not give one last long shout of salvation, giving the lost their opportunity to be saved before our Lord shall appear, and before we shall be taken away from these earthly scenes?


Our key verses are wonderful. They say: "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying." Here are a group of New Year's mottoes that we may well adopt:

1. We will cast off the works of darkness. We will partake of them no more. We are children of the light and of the day, not of the darkness and of the night. How then can we walk in the darkness? God has said: "What communion hath light with darkness?"

2. We will put on the armor of light. The Christian's armor is described for us in Ephesians 6:1-49.6.24 . Its helmet is salvation; its breastplate is righteousness; its shield is faith; its sword is the Word of God; its feet are shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. This is the armor of light; and this, by God's help, we will wear.

3. We will walk honestly, as in the day. They who work evil, work in the night. The children of darkness crave the darkness to hide their deeds. We, however, who walk honestly. are not afraid of the shadows; yet we love the light, that our deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought of God. They who are drunk, are drunk in the night; they who riot, riot in the night. From such things we have long since turned away.


Here is a marvelous possibility. Has it ever occurred to us that we might put Christ on as one puts on a garment? We have often thought of being robed in the righteousness of our Lord. Now we learn that we can even put Him on, that we may be clothed with God.

Putting on Christ makes the putting off of the old man, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts, a necessity.

Putting on Christ means, of necessity, that we shall make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. If we walk in the Spirit we shall not, we cannot, walk in the flesh. No man can serve two masters. Will it not make a wonderful year to us if we put on the Lord Jesus? if we walk in His love? if we work in His power, and fulfill His will?


An English dredger and quarryman having been converted, was assailed by the head of a clan of theological specialists, whose chief delight lay in proving everyone else to be ignorant and wrong. This man was always urging the dredger to a public argument about the Bible, but at last was silenced by a counter challenge from the latter, who said: "I can't argue about the Bible with you; you are too clever for me, but I'll have you on works any day, We will hire a hall, and let alt the people come. Then you tell them all you know about me, and I'll tell them all I know about you, and then let them judge which religion is best yours or mine." Needless to say, this challenge was not accepted, "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35 ). Acts tell more than words.

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Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Romans 13". "Living Water".