In Romans 13:10 (NASB)

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.

Is Paul proposing law-keeping as an ideal for the Christian life?

  • Its moral precepts, detailed briefly in the immediately preceding verse.
    – Lucian
    May 22, 2021 at 19:27
  • Keeping the law as a sinner is for everyone but Jesus Himself is nothing but filthy rags. This does not mean we shouldn't live according to the moral law. We must remember the law does not save us...it is simply a means of determining standard by which we should live. If there is not standard (is no moral law), there is no sin. That is why the law is absolutely still important today. It was not done away with at the cross. The new covenant was the writing of the law on our hearts so the Holy Spirit could do the work...not doing away with 10 commandments.
    – Adam
    May 22, 2021 at 19:44
  • 1
    See all the Questions on Law of Christ, law of God, royal law. This is different from the Mosaic law. It is beyond Mosaic law the spirit of Mosaic law.
    – Michael16
    May 24, 2021 at 2:36

4 Answers 4


Let us ask the opposite question - Is Paul suggesting that a saved person does not need to keep the law and thus be a-moral? Hardly!!

Jesus actually says this:

Matt 5:17-19 - Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

In fact, the earlier passage in Rom 13:1-7 strongly encourages Christians to be law-abiding citizens and keep the law of the land. We must also keep the moral law else we would be adulterers, murderers, abusers of parents, covetous, etc. Further, Paul regularly eulogizes the moral law:

  • “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot of the Law to become void.” (Luke 16:17)
  • the law is essential because “through the law we become conscious of sin” (Rom 3:21, 7:7, 13)
  • “we uphold the law by faith” (Rom 3:31)
  • “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom 7:12)
  • “the law is spiritual” (Rom 7:14)
  • “the law is good” (1 Tim 1:8)
  • keeping the law is to do right (James 2:8)
  • “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Certainly not! Instead, we uphold the law.” (Rom 3:31)
  • “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not!” (Rom 6:15)
  • “we are now slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:16), or, “slaves to God” (Rom 6:22)

This is all true of the converted person and NOT the unconverted person. It is impossible to keep the moral law and keeping the moral law does not earn us salvation as Paul is at pains to regularly point out:

  • “not declared righteous… by the law” (Rom 3:21)
  • “not under the law” (Rom 6:14, 15)
  • “released from the law” (Rom 7:6)
  • “the law is powerless” (Rom 8:3)
  • “Christ is the end of the law” (Rom 10:4)
  • “If righteousness could be obtained through the law, Christ died for nothing” (Gal 2:21)
  • “no one who relies on the law will be justified” (Gal 3:11)
  • “the law was our guardian until Christ came” (Gal 3:24)
  • “if you are led by the Spirit you are not under law” (Gal 5:18)
  • “there is no law against such [who have the fruit of spirit]” (Gal 5:22, 23)

Paul placed these two ideas in perspective in Eph 2:8-10 -

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.

Jesus sermon on the mount recorded in Matt 5, 6, 7 expands the law and shows its all-encompassing nature in our lives. BUT, we must recall, that we cannot keep the law in human terms - we need the power of Christ to make us what we are not.

Matt 11:28-30 - Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

We take Christ's yoke by fixing our eyes on Him:

Heb 12:2, 3 - Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.


St. Paul is distinguishing between keeping law as some legal matter, and keeping the law as naturally flowing out of love. This what is meant by "writing the Law on" our "hearts," as noted by @Adam:

Jeremiah 31:31-33 Behold the days shall come, saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Juda: not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt: the covenant which they made void, and I showed myself their master, saith the Lord. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord: I will give my law in their inward parts, and I will write it in their heart: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

The contrast between the Old Law and the New, then, is that this time it will be 'written on the heart.' In this respect, it will be different to the 'letter of the Law' given at Sinai on stone tablets.

Without love, faith, by which we are saved (latch onto the gifts offered at the Cross) is "nothing." Faith must be fueled by love in order to bear fruit, and thus be useful (much in the same way that, to use the Parable of Our Lord Himself — as seed is only worth the fruit it bears: where the seed is faith or hearing the word).

1 Corinthians 13:1-2 If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

Sometimes we quibble about things like 'well clearly if you have true faith you will love; and if you truly love, you must have faith: therefore we are actually saved by faith alone,' yet this is actually the same exact thing as saying we aren't saved by 'mere faith without action/love/working:"

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by love.

That is, the actions themselves do nothing, and are from nothing to nothing, because they are physical signs, and have no inrinsic worth — except in that they relate to a command from God. This is the converse of the fact that, according to Our Lord, sin doesn't reside in the physical actions themselves, but in the heart of the one committing them:

Matthew 5:28 But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.

The act of adultery is scarcely made worse than imagined in the heart already — wherein the sin truly lies, even when it is committed in actuality.

In this sense James is rightly read to be in line with, and not 'responding' to Paul or any that read Paul:

Seest thou, that faith did co-operate with his works; and by works faith was made perfect?

(In this Biblical context, 'perfect' doesn't mean that the faith was fine but could be better before it was 'perfect,' but that faith met all its requirements to be true faith when it was such as bore fruit, which is another way of saying it bore fruit, and wasn't idle faith that has no regard for how one lives, as if the grace of Christ was meant as a "cloak for evil" 1 Pet. 2:16).

1 Corinthians 9:19-21 For whereas I was free as to all, I made myself the servant of all, that I might gain the more. And I became to the Jews, a Jew, that I might gain the Jews: to them that are under the Law, as if I were under the Law, (whereas myself was not under the law,) that I might gain them that were under the Law. To them that were without the Law, as if I were without the Law, (whereas I was not without the Law of God, but was in the Law of Christ,) that I might gain them that were without the Law.

The "law of Christ" is keeping the commandments as Jesus does (i.e. out of love and knowledge that they are good, and that the one who observes ought to be good) and not as though they were merely a set of legal rules (i.e. observed simply to stay out of trouble). This is still in its essence the same "law of God," yet the mode of its keeping, and thus its place in the life of a person, is different. When he says "I was not without the law of God, but had the law of Christ," he conflates "the law" with "the law of God" (which we know since there is no way in which the Law given at Sinai could be something other than "the Law of God"), meaning that 'I may have been outside the letter of the Law, as a legal matter, yet I still had the Law I know I need to keep by love, not by compulsion).

Jesus taught this very plainly when He taught His disciples that they are not to demand recompense for obeying the laws of God, or for being good people, because this is the duty of every soul — and every reward is a gift of God, not a debt He pays:

Luke 17:7-10 But which of you having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, will say to him, when he is come from the field: Immediately go, sit down to meat: and will not rather say to him: Make ready my supper, and gird thyself, and serve me, whilst I eat and drink, and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant, for doing the things which he commanded him? I think not. So you also, when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.

That is, which servant is owed some special privelege or reward for doing the basic essential things of a servant?

Every time God issues a command, it is necessary to obey. It doesn't matter what law or system you are under. God is God. Have arguments about how that plays into salvation, or effects salvation, but don't claim it's optional — commands are not optional.

Malachi 1:6 The son honoureth the father, and the servant his master: if then I be a father, where is my honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts.

Therefore, all 'boasting' is removed for works done in Christ even if they are necessary in order to be considered in right standing with God (just because they are required in order to recieve salvation, doesn't mean that you are owed salvation — that would completely destroy and denature every instance where St. Paul mentions works not earning salvation):

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man may glory.

So whereas we are commanded to be good people, and live according to the dictates of God, and our salvation depends on being those who seek to obey God, this does not mean that our obedience is that which saves us. Rather, as Jesus taught, the servant cannot say that he is owed that which is not owed to him. Obeying the just dictates of God is not 'over and above' anyone, but required of every living soul.

In short, "love" stands for appreciating what Christ did, and doing the very least that one can do in response, which is to live uprightly and sacrifice a life of sin, for a life of virtue, and of seeking good, instead of evil — no matter the temporal cost. Keep the law not only as an ideal, but as a commandment from the Almighty God of the universe — that is, as not optional. Doing the opposite is to do nothing else than to spite Jesus, which can't result in salvation, whichever way you cut it!

John 15:1-10 I am the true vine; and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now you are clean by reason of the word, which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. 6 If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit, and become my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; as I also have kept my Father's commandments, and do abide in his love.

  • «That is, which servant is owed some special privelege or reward for doing the basic essential things of a servant?». Perhaps you know this quote from Augustine of Hippo => "No eulogy is due to him who simply does his duty and nothing more." (Still, when someone still thanks me, I experience generosity) May 23, 2021 at 7:26

Is Paul proposing law-keeping as an ideal for the Christian life?

Answer: He is proposing we keep the Law of Christ.

We are no longer subject to the Law of Moses: it has been superseded by the Law of Liberty (Jas. 1:25, 2:12). No one can ever perfectly adhere to the Law of Moses, which was "nailed to the Cross" (Col. 2:14).

Suppose we consider the laws we have today. There is a law that we must not exceed 55 mph on a highway. The moment we drive 56 mph, we have broken that law (of course, we will probably not be penalized). But, the law exists for the benefit of society and there is no reward for simply keeping it.

Thus, sin arises the moment we recognize there is a law, and that we have violated it (whether today, or sometime in the past). As is stated in John's First Letter, sin is lawlessness:

1 John 3:4: "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness."

Once we have driven 56 mph in a 55 mph zone, we become a sinner -- irrespective of how we view the circumstances, in God's eyes we have violated His law:

Romans 13:1: "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities."

Fortunately, in both the Old and New Covenants, God provided relief for transgressions (no matter how slight we view them). Now, that relief comes through faithful obedience to the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:21, Gal. 6:2), that which is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

In the O/T that meant offering bloody sacrifices, visiting the Temple regularly, keeping all the commandments (613 or so), etc.

However, under the New Covenant (written in the N/T), we must worship God on every first day of the week (Sunday), where we are to memorialize Christ's death through communion: unleavened bread and (unleavened) fruit of the vine. We must offer spiritual sacrifices to God through our obedience to all N/T commandments (the Golden Rule, etc.).

The law itself has always meant death since no one was able to keep it:

Romans 7:9-11: "I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died;... for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment (Law), deceived me and through it killed me."

Only through keeping God's New Testament Plan (the Gospel) can we be saved from the consequences of the law. (cf. 1 John 1:7, 9).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curiousdannii
    May 23, 2021 at 21:38

Matthew 22:

36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ d 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus considers love as the greatest as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 13:13

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Romans 13:10

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.

Before Jesus' arrest, he tells his disciples in John 13:34

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

The word "love" is mentioned 3 times in just one verse.

Both Jesus and Paul propose love as an ideal for the practical Christian life.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.