The Letter to the Romans



34. Christ is The End of The Law


Romans 10:1-10

Paul begins chapter 10 by expressing his prayer of love and desire for the Israelites. This introduction echoes his standard greeting in his epistles: he opens with a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing for the people to whom he writes. In chapter 10 of Romans, Paul reveals his heart's desire that the Israelites-of whom he was one-would be saved. He echoes the psalmist's words that reflect David's confidence that God's heart of love will grant His people their deepest longings. David prays that God will give the desires of your heart and make all your plans succeed (Psalm 20:40). He speaks of himself when he says the king rejoices in the Lord because he has "granted him the desires of his heart" (Psalm 21:2). In Psalm 37:4 David reveals the attitude underlying receiving the desires of one's heart-a person is to delight himself in the Lord. In Psalm 145:16 David declares that God satisfies the desires of every living thing, fulfilling the desires of all who call on Him.

Isaiah defines more clearly the heart's desires which God grants: God's name and renown are the desires of our heart, he says (Isaiah 26:8).

When Paul expresses his longing for Israel, he uses the most intense and vulnerable language of the psalms to characterize his feelings for his people's salvation. He allowed God's transcendent love to fill his heart for those of his own heritage who had turned their backs on Jesus.


Misplaced zeal

Paul acknowledges that the Jews are "zealous for God", but their zeal is flawed. Before his conversion, Paul himself demonstrated the working out of that Jewish zeal. He admits he was just as zealous as all of the other Jews, arresting, imprisoning, and persecuting to death all the Christians he could track down (Acts 22:3-5). He admits he was zealous "for the traditions of our fathers" before he met Jesus (Galatians 1:14). While he believed he was doing God's will, his religious fervor, he acknowledges, was focused on the wrong thing: tradition established by the law. As Paul penetrated Gentile territory with the gospel, it became apparent that even the converted Jewish believers still worried about reverencing the law. They were becoming distrustful of Paul because they had heard he was teaching Jews that they didn't have to circumcise their children anymore (Acts 21:17-25). In fact, many of them became so focused on preserving the law that they were discouraging and even derailing Gentile baby Christians with their expectations of law-keeping in addition to embracing the gospel. (See acts 15 and Galatians 1:6-9; 2:1-21.)

The Jews' zeal for enforcing the letter of the law is related to their seeking to establish their own righteousness. They didn't attain righteousness, Paul says, because they pursued it by works, not by faith (Romans 9:30-32). Working at law-keeping stems from the nature of unregenerate mankind. We like to be in charge and inherently resist authority. Romans 1:17-18 asserts that the gospel reveals a righteousness from God that is by faith, not works. People, though, have, by their wickedness, suppressed the knowledge of God which is universally available through all creation. The Jews' not submitting to God's righteousness is related to suppressing the knowledge of God through wickedness. They invested in their own ideas and efforts, preferring to design their own "spirituality" instead of submitting to God's clear call.

The author of Hebrews compares our submission to our fathers' discipline of us with our response to our heavenly Father. We are to submit to the discipline of "the Father of our spirits" (Hebrews 12:9). James also tells us that God "opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6-10). The psalmist asserted that God "crowns the humble with salvation" (Psalm 149:4), and Isaiah quoted God's declaration that He esteems the humble and contrite in spirit (Isaiah 66:2-4).

Paul admonished the Ephesians to live lives worthy of their calling by being humble, gentle, patient, and by bearing one another's burdens (Ephesians 4:1-2). In his instructions to elders, Peter emphasized that they were not to be greedy or to lord it over those they served. He reminded young men to be submissive to older people (1 Peter 5:1-7).

The Jews' refusal to submit to God's righteousness stemmed from a deep arrogance that originated in their unregenerate hearts. They preferred devising their own syncretistic religion to obeying and honoring God. Even those who did not fall into idol worship made idols of the law, and in their zeal to enforce the parts that were meaningful to them, they made the law their god and missed knowing the Author of the law.


End of the law

In verse 4 Paul boldly says, "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." The Greek word telos, translated "end" here, can mean "termination" or "cessation". It can also mean "goal", "culmination", or "fulfillment". In light of Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:17, it seems best understood as "fulfillment", although there is still some suggestion of the authority of the law ending for us when we are in Christ.

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus plainly said He had not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it-to fill it full of meaning and His obedience. Originally, the law held God's people prisoners, locked up to protect themselves from themselves and to create in them a deep longing for a Redeemer. Now that Jesus has come, now that righteousness that is by faith has been revealed, we are no longer under the law's supervision (Galatians 3:23-25). We live by faith in Jesus, not by struggling with the law.

Paul emphasizes the difference between living by the Spirit and living by the law in Galatians 4:28-31. He compares those under the law to Hagar and her son Ishmael-the naturally-born child of Abraham. He compares those living by the Spirit to Isaac, the child of promise, born not in a natural way but by a miracle of God to Sarah when she was 90 years old. The children of Hagar the slave-those still imprisoned by the law-will never share the inheritance with the children of promise-those born from above and living by the Spirit. We cannot be both children of the law and children of the Spirit; now that Jesus has come, we must throw out the slave woman-the law-and live like sons of promise, regenerated by a miracle of God. Paul stresses the importance of realizing Jesus Christ as the end of the law in Galatians 5:1 where he reminds us that Christ set us free in order to have freedom. We are not to allow ourselves be bound again by a yoke of slavery to the law.

Earlier in Romans Paul explained how we can know the law is no longer our authority when we are in Christ. He uses the metaphor of the civil laws governing marriage to explain that the law has power over a man only as long as he lives. Once he dies, the law has no more jurisdiction over him; further, his wife is free to marry another. In a similar way, Paul explains, we died in Christ to the law. It lost its power over us when we accept Him and enter into His death. Now, we've been raised to new life in Him, and we are free to belong to Him instead of to the law. The law has no more authority or claim over us. We are entirely Christ's (Romans 7:1-4).

Paul follows this declaration in 8:1-2 with the confident statement that now there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ. The law of the Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and death. In this passage the word "law" can best be understood to represent the controlling power of sin and death. It is not a stretch, however, to connect this passage with 7:1-4 and see that being free from the power of sin because we are alive in Christ also means we are free from the law which emphasized and kept us prisoners in our sin. The law of the Spirit has replaced the law as our authority and identity.

Paul goes so far as to say that Christ is the end of the law SO THAT there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. It seems antithetical to common sense to suppose righteousness follows being released from the law. This apparent paradox, however, is at the heart of the gospel. This righteousness is from God; people obtain it by believing in Jesus, thereby being justified by grace (Romans 3:21-24). The Gentiles, Paul explains received this righteousness without pursuing it-unlike the Jews-because they accepted Jesus by faith. The Jews, on the other hand, tried to attain it by works (Romans 9:30-32). The law was never about helping people become righteous; it was added because of sin. Its job was to keep people imprisoned and to lead them to Jesus. Once Jesus came, those who receive Him are no longer under the law's authority (Galatians 3:19, 22-26). Instead, they live by the Spirit. If someone who professes belief in Jesus continues to try to live by the law, he becomes alienated from Christ and falls away from grace (Galatians 5:4, 18). Jesus ended the reign of the law on the cross. He brought us to live while we were still dead in our sins-we don't have to "clean up" before accepting Him. He nailed the law to the cross and "disarmed the powers and authorities", "triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:13-17).

The law had to be fulfilled and removed as the authority over men's morality in order for people to attain righteousness. As long as the law was in place, the Messiah was not its fulfillment. As soon as Jesus paid the ransom for us and delivered us from the curse of sin and death, the law ceased to be our authority. Jesus Himself now takes responsibility for our morality. He earned the right to restore us to intimacy with God, and the stop-gap of the law which held people in check against their natures is set aside. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life which fulfilled the law's requirements and which redeems our own sinful lives, and he took on Himself the curse of sin in our place. Now God gives us new natures, and we answer to the Father of our spirits instead of to a law designed to hold our behaviors in check. Now we are able to respond to God; our spirits are alive, and we can grow in grace and in the righteousness that actually comes from God, not from our own determination to be good. We have Christ's perfect obedience and sinlessness imputed to us, and we have His death propitiating for our sins.

Jesus was the representative human who kept the covenants with God. His obedience unto death and divine authority gives Him the right to be our substitute, to redeem us from our inherent sinfulness and to restore us to the Father.


Word Is Near You

In verses 6-8, Paul again quotes the Old Testament. Throughout his explanation of the new covenant, he showed how in Jesus the Mosaic covenant was fulfilled. Here he expands on the idea he presented in verse 4 when he said, "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believers." He refers to Deuteronomy 30:12-14 where Moses told Israel, after delivering the law to them, "What I am commanding you is not difficult or beyond your reach." Then Moses uses metaphors to explain the accessibility of the law. Israel was not to think the law was an unattainable, heavenly reality for which they needed a divine messenger to make it real for them. Neither were they to think it was hard to find or embrace, as unreal as something across the sea. No, Moses said, "the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it."

Paul now directly applies these words of Moses to the reality of the word of faith revealed through Jesus. Now, because of our faith in Jesus, we do not struggle with righteousness anymore. Because of Jesus, our focus is no longer the law and its requirements, because He is our righteousness. Yet this righteousness is not a distant or unattainable reality. We do not have to struggle with Christ, trying to figure out how to access His gift to us. He is not hiding from us in heaven, requiring that we cleverly figure out how to tap into His victory. He is not hiding from us in the grave, waiting for us to heroically bring Him back so we can earn our right to His righteousness. Quite the contrary, Paul says, the word of faith-the gospel-we are proclaiming, is near us. It is in our mouths and in our hearts.

Israel had personal access to the law through Moses' instruction. They knew in their hearts and could teach with their mouths its requirements for them. Now, Jesus Himself-the fulfillment of the Israel's law-is near us. He is in our words through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and He is in our hearts literally by means of the Holy Spirit's indwelling. (Ephesians 1:13).

Verse 9 explains this reality further. If we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, then our hearts contain Jesus. If we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, we prove that our hearts belong to Him. His truth is in our words, and His Spirit gives us the understanding and conviction to utter those words.

When Moses said the word was in their hearts and mouths, he was referring to the prophetic, foreshadowing "word" of the law which taught and promised Jesus. When Paul says the word is in our hearts and mouths, he is referring to the word of faith that comes from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in us. Today, the word in us is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that gives us words to testify of Jesus.


Believe and confess

In verses 9 Paul says that if we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord, then we will be saved. In Acts 16:31, Paul told the Philippian jailor that the only requisite for salvation was to believe in the Lord Jesus. Why, then, the added component of confessing with one's mouth if belief is enough?

Paul is not saying that the "work" of confession is required for salvation. Rather, he is describing the evidence of true belief. James wrote in James 2:18-22 about the fact that one's works or behaviors flow from one's faith (or lack of it). Without works that can only come from faith, then one must assume there is no true faith. Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). Again in Matthew 15:18 He says that the things that come out of the mouth come out of the heart.

In other words, without a true heart surrender to Jesus, a person cannot truly confess that He is Lord. Paul told the Corinthians that no one can say, "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). John wrote that every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God (1 John 4:2-3).

If we are uncomfortable publicly declaring that Jesus is our Lord, it is unlikely that we have truly surrendered our hearts to Him. When we give ourselves to Him completely, the new birth is tangible. Our recognition of Jesus is clear and immediate, and we are never the same. If we are reluctant to acknowledge Him, then we have not given Him our hearts and lives completely.

Our public confession of Jesus is not a requirement of salvation, but it is an evidence of it. We cannot honor Him publicly if we do not honor Him in our hearts.



God is calling you to surrender your entire self to Him. Knowing in your head that Jesus is the Savior and acknowledging this fact is important, but it does not change your life unless you surrender your heart and your control to Him. God is asking you to trust Him with your fears, your dreams, and your suffering.

Copyright (c) 2006 Graphics Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Posted June 21, 2006.
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