The End of the Ten Commandments
Pastor Ricky Kurth
Perhaps you heard about the Sunday School teacher who was teaching her class the ten commandments. After discussing the command to “honour thy father and thy mother,” she asked the class, “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?” To which one boy replied, “Thou shalt not kill?”
If you are wondering why we’ve entitled this article “the end of the ten commandments,” the answer to that question has to do with the Apostle Paul’s words in I Timothy 1:5:
“Now the end of the commandment is charity…”
If you are thinking, “But that verse speaks about the end of the commandment, not the end of the ten commandments,” consider what James wrote about the ten commandments:
“…whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill…” (James 2:10,11).
You see, as far as God is concerned, the ten commandments are one commandment. You break one, you break them all! So in speaking of “the commandment,” Paul is talking about the ten commandments.
But in speaking of the end of the ten commandments, Paul isn’t thinking of a time when it would ever be acceptable to kill someone or dishonor your parents. He is rather talking about the purpose or the goal of the ten commandments. We use the word “end” that way when we ask someone, “To what end are you doing what you are doing?” That is, we are inquiring about the purpose of what’s being done.
So in speaking about “the end of the commandment,” Paul is addressing the purpose or goal of the ten commandments, a goal that he identifies as “charity,” one of the Bible’s words for love. And that makes sense, if you think about it. If you love God, are you going to take His name in vain, or have some other God before Him? If you love your neighbor, are you going to lie to him, steal from him, commit adultery with his wife, kill him or covet his things? I don’t think I have to tell you, that is not the way love behaves!
This explains why Paul says that “he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8 cf. 9,10), and that “all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Gal. 5:14). You see, “the end of the commandment,” the purpose or goal of the law, “is charity.”
In closing, we have to add that while it is true that “charity” is a Bible word for love, don’t change the word charity here to love. Love is a feeling. Charity is an action. Charity is the action that expresses the feeling of love. So when Paul says that the end or goal of the commandment is charity, he’s not saying that God’s goal in giving the ten commandments was to get you to have some warm fuzzy feelings of love for others. He’s saying that the goal of the ten commandments was to get you to put those feelings in action by treating God and your neighbor with the respect that the ten commandments were designed to bring out in us.