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About Doctrines

Jesus - The End of the Law



In chapters 9-11 or Romans, Paul sees the Jewish nation missing Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. If the Jewish leaders had properly understood and applied their beloved law, and the balance of the teaching of the Old Testament, they would have recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They would have found the fulfillment of many of the Old Testament prophecies and pictures in Christ. As Paul has written elsewhere (Gal 3:24), the law leads to Jesus.

His statement here that Jesus is the end of the law causes much concern to many scholars. The exact meaning is vague and, of course, men want to add their own two cents to the equation. At issue is the meaning of the term “end.” The Greek telios may mean goal, completion, end or termination or conclusion or result. Indeed, in the New Testament telios may carry as many as six different meaning.

Does Jesus end the law? And, if so, which or what part of the law? All of it? The ceremonial portions? The moral precepts? Clearly, Jesus did not end the moral precepts of God’s law. On the other hand, Jesus did fulfill all of the ceremonial requirements such as the sacrifices. And, as a man, Jesus kept the law, as viewed by God (but obviously not as viewed by the Pharisees).

 The law, in the mind of the Jews, was to justify a person, at least as long as that person kept the law. We know that we cannot keep the entire law, so it is foolish to think in these terms. Rather, the idea of Paul’s statement is that Jesus “fulfills” the law, as for example, in the completion of the sacrifices.

 The law appears designed to lead to righteousness, but it truly points us to Christ. Christ is our righteousness, so, in Jesus, the law of righteousness is fulfilled, and thus, is “ended” in the sense there is no other way or path to travel to find God’s righteousness. Thus, Christ is the object or target of the law, and, so, having hit the target, the law is ended – to those who believe. This qualifier is important, for while Christ’s death was for the entire world, it is only effective to those who open their hands and accept the gift of grace God places therein. Without belief, there is no righteousness. In other words, one must be “justified by faith!”

We should make one other note here. Paul once again, in simple straight-forward terms reminds us there are but two classes of people in God’s eyes. Christ is the end of the law of righteousness to everyone who believes. This statement makes it clear that Paul sees a second group of people who are not helped by Christ. This is the group who does not believe! These are the lost, the ones we are to reach out and evangelize.

Romans 10:5-8
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them" 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' "(that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, " 'Who will descend into the abyss?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"(that is, the word of faith which we preach):

Paul, as is frequently his habit, turns to a specific Old Testament passage to support his thesis that the Jews had headed the wrong direction. He turns to Moses and quotes from Leviticus, then from a sequence of verses from Deuteronomy. The Leviticus passage is similar to several New Testament statements on the force of the law. Either you kept the entire law, or, you failed (James 2:10). The Jews, by binding themselves to the law, were bound to the consequences of breaking the law. And, since the Jews broke the law as is clear from Jesus pronouncements as to the true meaning of the law, the Jews would not find righteousness. 

The three successive quotes from Deuteronomy set the stage for a clear understanding of justification by faith. Paul wants his Jewish brethren to understand they have always possessed the true answer for finding God -- they just failed to follow it. To bring Christ down from above would be to repeat things already accomplished. Jesus has already been to the Cross. There is no need to re-offer the sacrifice to appease God. But, by continuing to follow the law and seek righteousness by works, the Jews are, effectively, still offering sacrifices when none are needed, required or desired. Paul is attempting to make it clear God demonstrated His grace to the Jews in establishing a relationship with them initially.

In these verses Paul attempts to display two sets of train tracks that run parallel to each other. One is the Law. The other is Grace. Both came from God, but grace is an express track and the train runs straight to salvation. The other is the local track. Its sole purpose is to point people to grace, but the track ends at the station. It does not continue on to salvation. Having discovered grace by the law, the believer must change tracks, must place his faith and trust in Christ, in order to be saved.

What makes this somewhat difficult is that in these verses Paul is pitting Moses against himself. Moses writes about the negative side of righteousness in Leviticus, and then writes about the positive side of righteousness in Deuteronomy. These parallels become the proof of grace and faith as men’s sole path to salvation. To attempt and recreate the path is something men cannot accomplish, for God has already created the path Himself. The implications of Moses’ teachings is that the man who attempts to “ascend” or “descend” is a state of unbelief. Jesus has done these things, so to attempt to recreate them is to not believe in the Works of Christ.

To bring Christ up from the dead is the equivalent of repeating the Resurrection. Just as Christ has already been to the Cross, so, too, He has already risen from the dead. God has demonstrated His power over death, sin and Satan. God has proven to us that the path to righteousness is Jesus. This need not be repeated again. Yet, when one follows works as a pathway, the events must be repeated time and again.

 But, says Paul, notice that Moses, writing to the Jewish ancestors some 1500 years before the Cross, explained justification by faith to the nation. The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart! This “word” is the word of faith. This word that should be in the mouth and hearts of the Jews is the same word Paul is preaching!

Scripture is from the NKJV, unless noted

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