The Purpose of the Commandment

Intro:  What is the most annoying question kids ask? (Besides “are we there yet?”)  It might be the question why?” The time when this question often comes and is especially annoying is in response to a command.

Pick up your toys – Why;  Make your bed – Why?  Eat your vegetables – Why?

It would seem that this question is an indication that a maturing child is learning that commands (and the subsequent obedience that is expected) should have a purpose or reason.  Maybe your final answer to their question was, or is, “because I told you to.” I am convinced that is not a bad answer, and certainly helps one focus on the authority behind the command.

But God is very willing to answer the “why” question when it comes to His commands or laws. What is the purpose of God’s laws? There are many who fail to understand the answer to that question, erring on both sides of the truth. There are those who view and teach that their justification from sin comes through law-keeping.  As long as they obey the law more than they disobey the law, they will be saved. There are many who go the other direction. They view law as irrelevant and law-keeping as contrary to the grace of God. How does the Bible answer the question concerning the purpose of law?  Are God’s commandments only to illicit blind obedience?  Or is there more to it?

I. The Purpose of the commandment: Read 1 Tim. 1:5-11 – Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. 8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. The context is always important. The apostle opened his letter to Timothy by urging him to charge(command) those who were teaching at Ephesus to “teach no other doctrine.”]

A. The word “purpose” (endkjv; goal – HCSB; aim – ESV) is telos which is used in the sense of aim or objective: “the goal aimed at, reached, result, end” (A.T. Robertson). It is the word one would use to answer the “why” question.

1. What commandment is under consideration? The word commandment (paraggelias) may  e a reference to the order that Timothy was to give to the teachers at Ephesus to teach no other doctrine (v. 3).

2. Others contend that Paul is referencing specifically the law of Moses.  Paul’s earlier mention of the false teachers’ fascination with myths and genealogies (v. 4) may give support to this view.  Those who focused on these spurious elements of OT revelation, certainly failed to see the true value of the law of Moses.

3. Others view Paul’s reference to be more general to include any law of God, including the law of Moses, but also the law of Christ. I am unsure of the specific reference, but I am convinced that the end result of Paul’s teaching here on the purpose of God’s law is the same.

II. The Purpose is Love… Does this initial answer surprise you? How would most people fill in the blank, The purpose of the laws contained in scripture is  __________.  Some might answer obedience, submission, even some might say salvation. But Paul tells us that God’s law is designed to produce love. The word here is agape – which indicates self-surrendering love. It is a love that is not oriented in reciprocal affection, or even emotion. It is doing what is best for another person.

  • Note: in the context, this love (that is the purpose of God’s commandments) is contrasted with the disputes engendered by those who give heed to fables and genealogies and false gospels. The word translated as disputes means questions or inquiries. Paul used it again in Titus 3:9 – 9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. There are some people who use the words of God to cause disputes. They study it, and discuss it. They debate it and defend it, and are able to pose myriads of foolish questions about it,  but they never get around to obeying it in their own lives.  They produce disputes, but never love – in their hearts or others.

Law and love are usually considered mutually exclusive, or at least disconnected. But the scriptures connect love (biblically defined) and law-keeping often.

A. The O.T. saints understood God’s words on this subject. God expected commitment, and the commitment to obey the commandments was intrinsic to the call to love God comprehensively.  – Deut. 6:5“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.”  Loving and obeying were not optional, nor separable.

B. The N.T. scriptures also connect law and love. Real love for God does not minimize or exclude obedience, it demands it. Love cannot be claimed apart from law-keeping.

1. John 14:15“If you love me, keep my commandments”;

2. John 14:21“He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me.” There is a direct relationship between the love God desires from us, and the requirements of the law of God.  This connection is also seen in our for each other. 1 John 5:2-3 – By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.  What type of love does the law seek to produce in us?

C. From a pure heart- Prov 4:23Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. All outward actions originate in the heart. The heart here is the inner person (mind, emotions, will, conscience) If the fountain is poisoned, so will all that comes from it. God wants us to love and obey, but if our motivations are impure or hypocritical, it is not true obedience to his commands, or true love for Him. Paul warned against such in Romans 12:9: “Let love be without dissimulation (hypocrisy).”  1 Peter 1:22 –Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,

D. From a good conscience – The word for good is agathos, which points to that which is beneficial, good in a utilitarian sense, or that which produces satisfaction or pleasure (Norma makes a really good pecan pie; not morally good, but pleasurable) Wuest comments on its use here: “One can see from the above that a good conscience, therefore, is one that produces a sense of well-being, satisfaction, and pleasure. The guilty conscience is uncomfortable, dissatisfied. A good conscience is one that leads its owner to obey the Word of God.”

1. Conscience (suneidësis) means “a co-knowledge (with oneself)” (Vine). Thayer says “lit. ‘joint-knowledge.” It is the voice within us that either approves or condemns us according to our knowledge of what is right. In practice the conscience is an urging to act in harmony with ourselves. It’s ability to urge us in the truly right direction is dependent on the knowledge we have.  Paul (Saul) murdered Christians with a clear conscience until he learned better. When he learned better, he repented and obeyed God’s commands, and thereby kept his conscience clear. It’s function also depends on whether or not we have seared (calloused) our conscience through suppressing it and acting contrary to it. (1 Tim. 4:2) The Christian must always keep a clear conscience – sensitive to his knowledge of right or wrong. It is a God-given power designed to help one save his soul.

• 1 John 3:18-21My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.

E. From sincere faith – The faith here is described as genuine, as opposed to fake or spurious. There are some who only pretend to have faith.  They may tell you they believe, but when the test is applied, they fail.  What is the test of faith?  I would affirm to you that there is only one – obedience. “ Trust and obey for there is no other way..”   If one claims to believe, but refuses to obey, his faith is fake, and James says it is dead. Paul is telling us here that the only love that matters is love that is attached to sincere and obedient faith.

III.  Love-producing Law-keeping: The purpose of the commandment is love. God’s answer to the “why” question is more than just “because He said so”.  He would have us understand that true obedience to His commandments is designed to produce love for Him and others. In fact, God’s commands are not a call for arbitrary or meaningless acts of obeisance. God’s laws are expressions of His love for us. They are what is best for us in every way. (marriage, family, worship, work of the church, morals of society, etc)

A. That is why it was so important for those teachers in Ephesus (and Timothy himself) to teach no other doctrine than that which God had revealed through His Spirit. God’s message is the only one that will produce the love He desires.

B. But even in our call for doctrinal purity and strict obedience to God’s commands, we cannot overlook the type of love that God desires, and that true obedience produces. The purpose of the commandments of God is to produce love that flows from a pure heart, a love that seeks and maintains a clear conscience before God, and a love that is evidence of a sincere faith in Jesus.  Anything less is not enough.

C. In some of the last writings of the NT, at the close of the first century, John received a revelation that contained the message of God to 7 churches in Asia Minor. God’s assessment of His people. One of those church was Ephesus.  What did HE tell them? There were some good things:

1. They were a laboring and patient church.

2. They had been successful in fighting against false doctrine, testing even the false apostles that came their way.

3. But then there is that one assessment that we usually remember about the church at Ephesus: Rev 2:4-5 – Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.

4. Jesus expected love… but they had left that behind. So He calls them to repent, and do the first works (keep the commandments) because the goal of the commandment is love. God does not just want us to do it, He wants us to do out of love.

Conclusion:  Does your religion please God?  It must be one that expresses itself in love.  The kind of love that is produced and sustained through obedient faith in God.   It is the kind of love that comes from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith. This is the purpose of the commandment. Would you dare conclude that keeping the commandments is not important?

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” (Ga 5:6) If you love Him, will you now obey Him?

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