Romans 10:4
Christ the end of the law?

With all the “defense” one does in regards to the law of God, there are at times those verses that on the surface, if not studied well, seem to say that the law is abolished. Romans 10:5 is one of those verses. Let’s read it:

Romans 10:4
(4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Some of our critics use these words to suggest that Christ has abolished the law, and that therefore, under grace, we don’t need to keep the law. To these critics I would like to show some of Paul’s words, from this same book, in regards to what he says of the law.

My first verse says:

Romans 3:31
(31) Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Lets back up a bit. Paul is trying to let the reader know that he is not justified by the “works” of the law, but by grace (verse 24). Why? Because “all have sinned” (verse 23), and therefore with our sinful flesh we can not be justified because we simply can not please God by our righteous deeds. We can not make ourselves “look good,” in other words. So grace needs to take the initiative. The law, which is righteousness (Psalm 119:172), was not obtained by the Jews, neither was it given to the Gentiles. So what had to take place was for the Son of man, who is the law “alive,” to be manifested, and “be” that righteousness for us. Notice:

Romans 3:20
(21) But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets

Manifested? How?

1 John 3:8
(8) He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

The righteousness which is of the law (Psalm 119:172) was not obtained by the chosen ones, neither was it shared with others. So Christ, who is now our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30) was “manifested.” Does this do away with the law, because the above verse says that the righteousness of God was manifested “without the law?” No indeed… because Christ literally is that law… for as the law is righteousness, so is Christ!

Now we return to verse 31. Note the word “establish.” The greek word translated establish literally means to “make stand.” In other words… while we are justified freely by grace through Christ, since he now abides in us, and he is the manifestation of that perfect law… this causes us to uphold, or, make stand, the law. For if Christ lives in us, his “life” of righteousness, or, obedience to the law, will be made…

“… manifest in our mortal flesh.” -2 Corinthians 4:10-11.

What then my dear friends, will Paul, after establishing the law, now disestablish in chapter 10?

My second verse, or verses, will be found in chapters 7 and 8. Note that throughout chapter 7, in speaking about the 10 Commandments, he shows that because the law is spiritual (verse 14), he can not obey the law with his own carnal mind (Romans 8:7). The solution?

Galatians 5:16
(16) Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (these words parallel Romans 8:1, 5).

If we walk in the spirit, we will mind spiritual things, for…

“… they that are after the spirit [do mind] the things of the Spirit.” –Romans 8:5.

Since the law is spiritual (Romans 7:14), then the man walking in the spirit will logically mind (or regard) the spiritual law of God. This is why Paul said in chapter 7 verse 22 that he delights in the law of God “after the inward man.” That inward man is none other then Jesus (Romans 8:10, Col. 1:27). Only while Jesus is in him, in his mind (Philippians 2:5), can he really say…

“... So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” -Romans 7:25.

… for the carnal mind is “enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be.” –Romans 8:7.

Paul is once again establishing, or, “making stand” the law of God, while being Justified by grace alone, for through Christ in our minds we too can “delight in the law of God.” Tell me, will Paul now contradict himself in chapter 10?

What does the word “end” mean?

The word “end” in Romans 10:4 is the greek word “telos” which, according to both Strong’s and Thayer’s greek definitions, can mean “goal, result or purpose.” At times, this words can also mean “termination,” but given the surrounding context we just addressed, this is hardly the case here. In fact, most of the times this word is used in the New Testament, it is implying some type of goal or purpose. For example, notice how Peter uses this word in his first epistle:

1 Peter 1:9
(9) Receiving the end (telos) of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

Of course, Peter is not telling us that faith will come to an end when a believer is “saved,” for “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” –Romans 14:23. Obviously then, it is the purpose/goal of faith… to save souls.

Now whenever this word is used to literally mean “to end” or “terminate,” it always speaks about the end of the present condition. For example, our present world is said to one day come to an end:

Matthew 24:14
(14) And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end (telos) come.

Yet, the bible also says that the earth will endure forever:

Ecclesiastes 1:4
(4) One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

Notice also this verse about our Lord:

Luke 22:37
(37) For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.

Have all the things of Christ come to a literal end? Or is it the work he had to perform in his first advent that came to an end at the cross? Are there not other things concerning Christ that are yet to be fulfilled (i.e. the second coming)? How about the earth? Will it end, or is it the present wicked condition of the earth that will end?

You know the answer.

The goal of the law

Let us read down the context:

(Romans 10:1-2)
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

Note carefully that Israel, who was given the law of righteousness (Psalm 119:172), have a zeal for God but “not according to knowledge.” Why not according to knowledge? The answer is found in the next verse:

(Romans 10:3)
For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Note that the Jews were trying to establish their own righteousness. It is in this verse where Paul’s concern is revealed. Throughout the beginning of his letter to the Romans, he establishes the fact that it is by grace, through “faith” that we are to be justified. Paul here asserts that salvation is not earned by works, and anyone who thinks to establish their own righteousness by works is walking "not according to knowledge” –verse 2.

With the context considered, and with the word “end” understood, we may now proceed with “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15):

(Romans 10:4)
For Christ is the end (telos – goal, purpose) of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth

Since Israel could not gain righteousness by their works of the law, what then is the goal of the law? Verse 4 gave us the answer, the goal of the law was Christ. But for what? The verse continues...

“… for righteousness…”

Paul is not stating that the law is abolished; on the contrary, he is saying that "Christ is the goal of the law FOR righteousness." The law’s purpose was to bring about righteousness. Jesus is righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30) therefore it brought about him. We can’t become righteous by keeping the law, but we can become righteous by believing in Christ, who will in turn manifest his righteousness through “our mortal flesh” -2 Corinthians 4:10-11, which is how we will in turn be found obedient to his law. Since the law is righteousness and Christ is that righteousness alive, if he abides in us, his life of righteousness will show, and we will be found with HIS nature… a nature that obeys every one of God’s commandments. Truly then, can we be called… “the sons of God” (1 John 3:1-2), for…

(1 John 3:9)
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (break the law –verse 4); for his seed (the seed is Christ –Gal. 3:16) remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

It is no longer we, trying to obey the law. It is him obeying the law for us... and through us.

For further study, see:

-Romans 7: Dead to the law?
-Sin is the transgression of which law?
-Is Jeremiah 3:14-17 proof that the 10 Commandments
are abolished?