I am in an ongoing discussion with my friends on the purpose of the law. Recently I began reading 1 Timothy and this verse screamed to me from off the page. In it, Paul explains the purpose of the law to his young pastor protégé, Timothy, to begin his letter.
Discussions with my friends can get complicated quickly, not to mention heated! So, what I love about this verse, is that Paul cuts through the complexity and offers us something easy to understand.
According to Paul, the purpose of the law, or “the end of the commandment” is love. The KJV renders that word as “charity.” Love is the purpose of the law. The purpose is a good conscience and faith.
In a conservative Hebrew sense, the law includes hundreds of commands. To consider their implications, hundreds more! This is where the discussion gets complicated. What was God’s purpose for instituting them? Morality? National purity? There are a myriad of reasons, to be sure. But, Paul writing to Timothy explains clearly one purpose for the law: love, a good conscience, and faith. He has a way of cutting through the complexity to give my small mind one thing it can wrap itself around.
The beauty of this verse is the insight offered by the modifiers that describe love, faith, and conscience. This love is “pure”, the conscience is “good”, and the faith is “unfeigned.” When love comes from a pure heart, it is genuine. It seeks the best for others for their own sake. When our conscience is good it is clean. It has integrity. It’s not hiding or harboring secrets, things it fears others will find out. When faith is unfeigned it’s not fake. It’s ingenuous. It’s not malicious or manipulative.
This text does not say that we become loving when we obey the commandments. Romans clears that issue. We know that no one is good and able to obey the commands (3.23). Further, it is not the law that makes us good. “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” The law is the mirror God holds up to us, so we can see ourselves by His standard, marred, broken, and disobedient. But the better hope ushered in by the law, Jesus, does make us perfect through His blood. That is why we have hope.
1 Timothy 1.5 paints a portrait of faith that is genuine. It’s the real deal. It’s trustworthy—the “real McCoy” as my fifth grade teacher would say. When we reach the end of the commandment we love.
Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5.17) Jesus fulfilled the law, every commandment (Hebrews 4.15). What better portrait have we than Christ loving with a pure heart, a good conscience, and a faith unfeigned?
When we reach the end of the commandment we love. We participate in and with the One who is love. And in so doing, we become more like Christ.