Christ, The End Of The Law
The Jewish Problem Evaluated

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 47c of 83


1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 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. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:1-4).

[In our previous two instalments of this study, we noted how the apostle Paul deeply desired the salvation his own country-men despite their antagonism against him. In the second instalment we  considered Paul’s observation of the reality that has befallen them despite their zeal. In this concluding part, we must take a look at Paul’s conclusion to the Jewish problem and the lessons and warnings that we may draw from it. —JJL

3. The Jewish Problem 
in Paul’s Mind

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.

This famous statement of the apostle Paul is also one which many commentators struggle with. The reason for the difficulties is partly in the connective word ‘for.’  For it is quite a challenge to explain how this statement connects to the previous statements. We will not try to explain how it is connected this morning. You can try to work it out yourself or consult a good commentary on it.

But the main difficulty with understanding what Paul is saying is due to the word ‘end.’ This word comes from the Greek telos. But whether it is in Greek or English it is quite ambiguous. It can mean, amongst other things: ‘termination’, ‘aim’ or ‘purpose.’

For this reason, some commentators suggest that what Paul is saying is that Christ terminated the law; or Christ abolished the law as a way of attaining righteousness.

They say that in the Old Dispensation, righteousness was obtained by keeping the Law, whereas in the New Dispensation, righteousness is obtained by faith in Christ. Christ, they say, terminated the role of the law as a way of righteousness.

But this interpretation runs contrary to the context and contrary to the doctrine that Paul has already established earlier. Did not Paul speak about how Abraham and David were both justified by faith?

He spoke about that in chapter 4 where he was trying to establish the fact that the doctrine of justification by grace through faith is not a new invention! It had always been true even in the Old Testament days. The saints in the Old Dispensation were justified by grace through faith, never by law-keeping.

So this cannot be the interpretation. Paul could not be saying that Christ terminated the old way of salvation and ushered in a new way.

What then does he mean? Well, without going into too much exegetical details, let me suggest that what Paul means can be understood from two angles.

In the first place, Paul is saying that the Law is a means to an end. The word ‘end’ can also be translated ‘goal’ or ‘purpose.’ When we say: “The means does not justify the end,” we mean “The method does not justify the goal.”

Bearing this in mind, we see that when Paul says “Christ is the end of the Law,” he is saying that “Christ is the goal of the Law.”

That is to say: The Law pointed to Christ and led to Christ.

·        The Law point pointed to Christ because Christ was the fulfilment of the Law.

·        This is especially so with the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. These were but shadows and types pointing to Christ (cf. Col 2:17; Heb 9:9).

·        The tabernacle pointed to the incarnation of the Word who was made flesh and tabernacled among men (Jn 1:14).

·        The ceremonial washings points to spiritual washing that the Spirit of Christ gives His people.

·        The bloody animal sacrifices pointed to the sacrifice of Christ at the Cross of Calvary (Heb 10:1-4).

·        The Passover lamb pointed to Christ the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. 

·        The feast days of Old pointed to the fellowship which we enjoy with God in Christ (see 1 Cor 5:7-8).

Christ is the Sun of Righteousness. With Christ already come, the shadows ceased to be useful. But in Old Testament days, the shadows were necessary. They were pictures of Christ. They were means by which God taught the people about Christ as well as the means by which the people expressed their faith in Christ.

The Law was not an end in itself. It was designed to lead the people to Christ. The law was a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ says Paul in Galatians 3:24.

And Christ is the goal of the Law for the purpose of righteousness. Christ is what the Law lead us to in order that we may obtain righteousness. We may obtain righteousness by faith in Christ.

Therefore the Jews who were keeping the Law without fixing their affection on Christ were missing the point.

They are like a lot of religious people today. If you ask them:

·        Why do you do what you are doing? They would say: “Our fathers have always done so; we are merely following their tradition.”

·        Why do you sacrifice the lamb? “Our fathers have always done so.”

·        Why does God require a lamb? “I don’t know,… we’ve always used a lamb.”

In failing to see that the Law pointed to Christ, the Jews became hypocritical in their worship. They were, as such, trying to establish their own righteousness. They would never succeed.

But in the second place, when Paul says, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth”, he is also saying that such as believe in Christ no longer seeks to attain righteousness by law-keeping.

Christ is the goal of the Law. If you have come unto Christ by faith, you would have understood that the Law, —whether moral or ceremonial, —does not save.

Now, this is not to say that it was ever possible since the Fall of Adam to attain righteousness by law-keeping. But it is true that God did enter into a Covenant of Works with man, wherein man might be saved by perfect obedience to God’s Law.

Adam was our representative in the Covenant of Works. Had Adam kept the Law perfectly, he and his posterity would have had eternal life. But Adam fell. All mankind descending from him by ordinary generation sinned in him and fell with him.

From that day on, no one could keep the law perfectly. So although… “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them” (verse 5); yet none can live by them.

None can keep the Law perfectly. None can attain eternal life by keeping the law, for even our most righteous deeds are filthy rags in the sight of God. None of us, after all, can love God perfectly with our whole heart, soul, might and mind.

But the law was not removed. And neither was the Covenant of Works. This is why when the rich young ruler asked the Lord Jesus, “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Mt 19:16); the Lord said: “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17).

The Lord Jesus was simply telling the rich young man what he already knew he should do. The natural man knows he must keep the Law of God if he is to gain God’s favour. Unless his mind is enlightened, he would not admit that it is impossible for him to keep the law perfectly so as to gain God’s favour. But He knows that God requires all men to keep the law.

So the unbelieving Jew would try to keep all the Laws that God revealed through Moses.

The fact that it is impossible to attain righteousness by the Law does not deter them.

The Jews lived a very tightly regulated life. There seemed to be precepts for everything in their life—what to eat, what to wear, what to do with mildew, what to do with skin infections, what to do if you touch a dead body, what to do with your hair and beard, what to do at certain times of the months, what kind of sacrifice, how to kill the sacrifice, who to offer what kind, etc, etc.

The Jews knew that these precepts were given by God; and they figured that obedience to God pleases God, while disobedience incurred his wrath.

They are right on this point. But they fail to see that it is impossible for them to obey the Law perfectly. The Law ought to shut them up to Christ. But instead they fell in love with the law, and found no need for Christ.

Paul says, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” Those who believe in Christ know the futility of seeking righteousness by law-keeping.

In fact, they were driven to Christ by their knowledge of their inability to please God by law-keeping. So they have been shut up to Christ. So they cling on to Christ and no longer try to attain righteousness by way of the law.

So then, the Law of God points us to Christ and leads us to Christ. This was the case under the Old Dispensation as well as under the New.

Righteousness was and is never obtained by law-keeping. It was and is a gift of God in Christ Jesus. In the Old Testament, they knew Him as the Messiah. The Hebrew word ‘Messiah’ is the same as the Greek word ‘Christ.’ They both mean “anointed one.”

The Law in the Old Testament pointed to, and led to Christ for salvation.

But sadly the Jews failed to see it. They were sadly ignorant of this doctrine. But ‘ignorance’ is no excuse, for as the apostle to the Hebrews attests:

“… unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Heb 4:2).

The Gospel was preached by the prophets and priests in Old Testament days. It was preached by John the Baptist. It was preached during the ministry of the Lord. It was preached during the ministry of the apostles. But yet the Israelites would not believe.

The Israelites were ignorant indeed, but it was a wilful ignorance. Christ was, and is, the end of the Law to everyone that believeth, but they would not believe!

Conclusion

What do we say to these things?

The Jews sought to establish their own righteousness. They refused the righteousness provided by God. They did not obtain righteousness. But this problem was not restricted to the Jews only. It is the problem of all unbelievers. All unbelievers are seeking to establish their own righteousness, believing that they will be acceptable enough to God to enter heaven. So they try to do a lot of good works and engage in religious exercises to try to win God’s favour.

Everyone has his own idea of what should be done. I think of a recent Newspaper report about a little girl who was murdered. It was reported in the papers of how many people called up to offer advice to her parents on what rituals to do or what colour clothes to wear for the little girl, etc, etc. Everyone seems to know something about what to do in regard to the afterlife. Everyone is zealous to share his or her knowledge. But sadly, it is superstitious and ignorant knowledge.

The fact is: Such as know not Christ cannot have any true knowledge because Christ is the anchor of all true knowledge. Christ is the Word of God.

Therefore, if you are without Christ, you are seeking salvation blindly, you will never attain unto it.

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. The Jews ought to know. They wilfully refused to believe. Christians ought to know. But many are still mistakenly seeking to establish their own righteousness by law-keeping and good works. So they are zealously keeping the Law, and they are zealously attending to all the means of grace they can get their hands unto.

Every morning, when I look out of the window, I see a crowd of people attending the Roman Catholic mass before they go for work. I am afraid that many Protestants like that too.

If you ask them: What are you doing? Why do you attend so many meetings, they would say: “Oh I desire a blessing from God.” But how would you get your blessing? “I don’t know, I am sure God would be please when I attend the means.” Well, I am sure God would be pleased with your attendance, and it is indeed good that you attend many meetings; but is there any other reasons why you go for them?

The child of God who understands the way of grace ought to say: “I desire to worship the LORD with God’s people for ‘the LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob’ (Ps 87:2). And besides, I desire to be sanctified by the hearing of the Word of God.”

But sadly, many today have a legalistic and ritualistic attitude towards worship—like the Jews.

Are you one of them? You know you are one of them if you have the idea that some how attending more meetings or giving more offerings or being more strict in Sabbath- keeping will make you more righteous and acceptable to God.

Well, I have bad news for you: We do not become more righteous by law-keeping or by attending the means per se. You do not become more sanctified by keeping the Law. You do not become more holy by attending more worship services. You are sanctified by the Spirit of Christ through the Word preached, but you are not sanctified by your mere presence at worship—especially if you sleep through much of it.

This is why, whether you are a child or an adult, if you find yourself unable to be alert during evening service, then you should really take a nap in the afternoon. You must be prepared to worship and to receive of Him if you would grow in grace through the appointed means.

But now, before we get the idea that since law-keeping or attendance at the means do not sanctify us, they are therefore optional, let us remind ourselves that Christ did not come to abolish the Law.

Christ himself says:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mt 5:17).

Now, in so far as the ceremonial laws are concerned, Christ’s fulfilling them, brought an end to their usefulness. So today, the ceremonial laws are no longer in force.

But our Lord appears to have in mind the Moral Law rather than the ceremonial law, for He adds:

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:19).

Now, whenever the New Testament refers to the commandments of God, it usually refers to the Moral Law. The Moral Law, which is summarised in the Ten Commandments, is the heart of the Law of God which is perpetual and unchanging.

Now, Christ has fulfilled the Moral Law. But He tells us that it must still be kept by God’s children. In fact, He adds that we must be even more diligent to keep the Law than the Scribes and the Pharisees. Look at verse 20—

“Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20).

Now, do not misinterpret what the Lord is saying. He is not saying that we can be righteous by Law-keeping. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” He is saying that only such as are in Him are righteous. If we are united to Christ by faith, we are perfectly righteous in terms of our standing before God; and at the same time, our personal righteousness will exceed that of the Scribes and the Pharisees on account of the mighty work of the Spirit of Christ in our heart.

We do not become more righteous by law-keeping. But we must reflect a righteous standing and a righteous life by law-keeping.

We must keep the law out of love and gratitude to God. Lawlessness is sin. Christ came to pay for our sin. How could we continue to live in sin? Shall we not strive to keep the Law conscientiously?

But knowing that we fail at every point, shall we not be driven to Christ? Shall we not sink out roots in Christ and draw up life-giving nourishment that we may grow and bear fruit for His glory? Shall we not gratefully and humbly acknowledge that we need Him everyday and every step of the way? Amen.

—JJ Lim