This idea that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (based on Galatians 5:14 and Romans 13:10) was certainly not new with Paul. Jesus had said the same thing to the inquiring lawyer (Matt 22:35-40). But the first person to say it was actually Moses. Jesus and Paul were both quoting Moses, the man who was instrumental in giving the commandments in the first place: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5, NIV). That is one half of it. Notice the other half in Leviticus: “Do not hate your brother in your heart. . . . But love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:17-18, NIV). Jesus quoted that directly from Moses (Matt 22:37). But you cannot really command things like love, can you? You cannot command “not hating your brother in your heart” either (based on Matt 5:21-22; 1 John 2:11; 3:15; 4:20). But when people are misbehaving, you may say it that way as an emergency measure. But that is all it is. It doesn’t provide the lasting motivation that God desires.
Even love is not always clearly understood. The love that fulfills the law “is patient and kind. . . is not jealous or boastful. . . is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right” (1 Cor 13:4-6, RSV). Imagine living in a community where everyone lives as described in the Ten Commandments, where everybody loves God and loves everybody else! It would mean that no one is ever rude, arrogant, or impatient. No one insists on having his own way. Can you imagine living in such a community? Would you be free in that environment?
Look at the details of the Decalogue (Exod 20:13-16). No one ever steals. No one ever kills. No one ever hates. No one ever lies. Everyone can be trusted. And even more than that, look at number ten (Exod 20:17). People not only never do anything wrong—no one even wants to. That’s the meaning of the coveting commandment, number ten, the one that bothered Paul so much at first (Rom 7:7-11). He thought God was interfering too much when He got in that deep. But that is the mindset that really guarantees our freedom, as Paul eventually learned (Gal 5:22-23). In eternity we will live in a place where people not only never do wrong, they will never even want to. That means they have really been healed.
Even more than that, imagine living in a community where everyone loves and reveres the same God (Exod 20:3). Every member of God’s family will admire the God who values nothing higher than the freedom of His children and who has paid such a high price to prove it. They will worship a God who asks for nothing more than mutual love and trust. The unity of love and trust will be based on the fact that we all love and worship the same God. When you have a group of people who live like that, you have real freedom, real peace, and real security. Seen in that light, the Decalogue is a guarantee of freedom. For God says, “I will always run my universe this way. I’d rather die than change it.”
Some of us say, “God, please, do not change it. Please, always run your universe in harmony with the principles of the Ten Commandments, or we won’t be really safe and free.” But there will be one major difference in eternity. When the emergency is over, there will be no need for God to tell us to love each other and to be decent neighbors. The Spirit of Truth will have convinced us that it is only right and sensible to behave like that. That’s the meaning of the law being written in our hearts, where we do our thinking (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:8-12). That means we have thought this through. We agree with God. That’s the best way to live. That’s the best way to run the universe. It is right, and that means that our self-control has been restored.