In What Way is Christ the End of the Law?


We find the following statement in Romans 10:4: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Many use this Scripture for the false concept that Christ came to end or abolish the law, and that we are free to break the law (which, they claim, does not exist anymore for us), and that all we need in order to be righteous in the eyes of God is a belief in Christ.

It is true, of course, that with the death of Jesus Christ, the sacrificial system found its completion, so that we are no longer bound to keep Old Testament rituals, including animal sacrifices and physical circumcision. We are no longer under a temporary tutor of rituals which brought us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Those ritual laws and sacrifices were added because of sin and transgressions until the Seed (Jesus Christ) would come (Galatians 3:19; Romans 5:20). Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, Authorized Version). It is obvious then that Galatians speaks about two different sets of laws—the law of temporary rituals and sacrifices which was added and the permanent spiritual law which defines sin (Romans 7:14). While the ritual law has been fulfilled in Christ and is no longer in force and effect for us, the spiritual law (some call it moral law) is still binding and, as we will see, can be obeyed by us when the love of God and the faith of Christ reside in us and when we are following Christ’s lead.

The Bible makes it very clear that theoretical faith “in” Christ is not enough, and that we will not inherit salvation when we refuse to keep God’s spiritual law of the Ten Commandments. When a rich young ruler asked Christ what he needed to do to have eternal life (Matthew 19:16), Christ answered that in order to have eternal life, to enter the kingdom of God and to inherit salvation (compare verses 24, 25), he had to keep the commandments (verse 17), clarifying that He spoke about the Ten Commandments (verses 18-19).

James confirms the biblical teaching that we must still keep the Ten Commandments today, showing that even the violation of one of the Ten Commandments convicts us as transgressors of the law which will judge us. He says in James 2:8-12: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”

It is absolutely false to say that Christ came to do away with the spiritual law of the Ten Commandments and the spiritual statutes and judgments which define and explain the Ten Commandments even further. For instance, the Fourth Commandment enjoins us to keep the Sabbath day holy (Exodus 20:8-11). But other passages show that God is not just talking about the weekly Sabbath day (the time from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset), but also seven annual Holy Days, which are also called “Sabbath” in Scripture (compare Leviticus 23:27, 32, 39, Authorized Version). Another example is the Seventh Commandment, prohibiting adultery (Exodus 20:14). Other Scriptures show that God does not only prohibit sexual relationships involving at least one married partner, but also fornication (sexual relationships between unmarried partners), as well as sexual sins such as homosexuality. The Ninth Commandment prohibits bearing false witness against our neighbor (Exodus 20:16), but this is not limited to giving false testimony in a court of law, but it also includes lying, slander, libel, false reports and spreading unsubstantiated rumors.

In addition, Christ made clear that not only the literal violation of one of the Ten Commandments (and of the statutes and judgments) constitutes sin, but that even the underlying motives and desires are already enough to convict us as transgressors of the law. For instance, not only is committing murder a violation of the Sixth Commandment and therefore sin, but anger and hatred (which could lead to literal murder) are already forbidden as well (Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 2:11; 3:15). Not only is committing adultery sinful, but looking “at a woman to lust for her” already constitutes adultery with her in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28).

Christ came to exalt the law and make it more honorable (Isaiah 42:21). He did so by keeping it perfectly, without ever sinning; by emphasizing strongly that we must keep it today and revealing to us how it can be done; and by explaining the intent of the law. God shows us through the law that we must not only refrain from carrying out the literal act of a prohibition, but that we must already control our emotions and desires which, if unchecked, would lead to such literal violations. We read that out of the heart “proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19; compare also Mark 7:21-23).

Christ stated very forcefully that those who practice lawlessness and the transgression of the law will NOT inherit God’s Kingdom. He said in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES the will of the Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” The Swiss Zuercher Bible says: “…you who practice what is against the law.”

John echoed Christ’s statements with these powerful words: “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in Him” (1 John 2:4). He also said this: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

We will answer below how we can obtain the love of God—which keeps His commandments—and how it is actually possible to keep His commandments.

But first, let us explain what Paul meant in Romans 10:4 when he said that Christ was the “end of the law.” From what we have seen so far, this passage cannot mean that the spiritual law of the Ten Commandments and of the spiritual statutes and judgments has “ended” or has been done away with, so that it would not have any force and effect for us today.

The Greek word for “end” is “telos.” It can mean “end,” “goal,” “aim,” “purpose” and “result.” For instance, we read in 1 Timothy 1:5: “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” It is obvious that this passage does not say that the commandment has been abolished. Just the opposite is expressed here: Its purpose or aim or goal is love out of a pure heart, as well as having a good conscience and unwavering faith.

Peter expressed exactly the same thought in 1 Peter 1:9 when he states that you will be “receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” Peter did not want to say that our faith would ever end [in fact, it never will end, compare 1 Corinthians 13:13]; rather, he stressed the point that the goal or aim of our faith is the inheritance of our salvation.

Another example can be seen in James 5:11 where we read: “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” Here, the word “end” is very clearly used as a description of God’s goal, aim or purpose: God intended to show Job through his trials that He was compassionate and merciful. God had to reveal to Job his sin of self-righteousness which had to be repented of, but throughout the book of Job, God showed His compassion and mercy with Job even when he began to launch some very harsh criticism against God.

Christ describes Himself as “the beginning and the end” (Revelation 21:6; 22:13). He did not mean to convey that He had a beginning or that He would cease to exist, but He wanted to show that nothing exists or came into existence without Him, and that His goal, purpose, aim and result will be accomplished. Nobody can prevent His Will from being carried out.

And so, the German Pattloch Bible renders the phrase in Romans 10:4 as follows: “Final goal [Endziel] of the law is Christ for righteousness for everyone who believes.”

This leads us to the question as to why is Christ the “end”—that is, the aim, goal or purpose—of the law “for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Righteousness is defined as keeping God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 6:25). But we cannot keep God’s law, based on our own strength. We need Christ to make us righteous. When we sin, we commit unrighteousness (1 John 5:17), but when we repent and believe in Christ’s Sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, then we are washed clean and become righteous again. The law shows us what sin is (Romans 3:20; 7:7), but it does not make us righteous. Only God, through the Holy Spirit, can do this.

We read earlier (in 1 John 5:3) that this is the love of God that we keep His commandments. This is the case because His commandments define for us what God’s love is (Romans 13:8-10). When we love our neighbor, we fulfill the law which tells us how to love our neighbor (by not murdering him, stealing from him, committing adultery with his wife, lying to him, etc.). The Bible also shows us how we CAN receive the love of God (“This is what the love of God IS: keeping His commandments,” New Jerusalem Bible). Romans 5:5 tells us that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [which] was given to us.”

The important point to realize is that Christ must make us righteous. It is actually Christ, dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit, who fulfills the law through us—if we allow Him to do so, and if we don’t resist His lead. Romans 8:3-4, 9 states:

“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh [our flesh was too weak to keep it], God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he is not His.”

The German Revised Luther Bible translates Romans 8:4: “…so that the righteousness, demanded by the Law, would be fulfilled in us.”

The Living Bible translates Romans 8:4: “So now we CAN obey God’s laws if we follow after the Holy Spirit and no longer obey the old evil nature within us…”

We can only keep the righteous requirements of the law, IF Christ lives in us through the Holy Spirit, and IF we follow Christ’s lead. When God’s Holy Spirit lives within us, then the love of God and the faith of Christ live within us. And THAT is what will make us righteous.

Romans 3:21–22 (Authorized Version) talks about the “righteousness of God which is by faith OF Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.”

We need to believe in Jesus; that Jesus is the Son of God; that He died for us; that His Sacrifice forgives our sins and removes our death penalty (because the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23)—but that belief is just the beginning. The faith necessary for salvation is Christ’s faith—the faith OF Christ—living in us and enabling us to keep the law.

The Bible teaches that the faith of Christ—Christ’s faith in us—makes us righteous. Those who believe in Christ must have the faith OF Christ living IN them.

Philippians 3:9 (Authorized Version) says: “… and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith OF Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

The faith of Christ in us is a living, obedient faith, which brings forth good works (James 2:20, 26). We are called upon to uphold the OBEDIENCE of the faith (Romans 1:5; 16:26). And remember: This IS the love of God (which is given to us by the Holy Spirit) that we keep His commandments.

All of this is expressed in Paul’s profound statement in Romans 10:4 that Christ is the real purpose of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. The law shows us what sin is, and Christ in us fulfills the law through us, thereby enabling us to obtain God’s righteousness, if we believe that Christ forgives us our sins (doing away with our unrighteousness) and that He, through the Holy Spirit in us, helps us to obey the righteous requirements of the law.

For more information, we recommend the study of our free booklets:

“Paul’s Letter to the Galatians–How to Understand it.”

“God’s Commanded Holy Days.”

“And Lawlessness Will Abound.”

“Old Testament Laws–Still Valid Today?”

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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