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What does it mean that Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4)?

Christ is the end of the law

In Romans 10:4, the apostle Paul writes, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (ESV). The Greek word translated as “end” means “aim or purpose.” Christ is the aim and purpose of the law not because He abolished it but because He fulfilled it: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17, ESV). By fulfilling the law, Christ guarantees the imputation of His righteousness to everyone who believes.

Apart from Christ, no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). The prophet Isaiah bluntly says, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6, ESV). Unfortunately, Israel had deluded itself into believing that righteousness could be obtained through the law. Paul argues, however, that the law cannot make us righteous. He says, “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19–20, ESV). The law effectively reveals our sinfulness, but it cannot justify or make us right before God.

Elsewhere, Paul says, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:23–24, ESV). The law, then, was a promise of things to come. Nay, it was a promise of the One to come. Christ, in perfect obedience to the Father’s will (John 8:29), fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law and became the end of the law. Those who trust in Christ have received His righteousness; not because we have earned it, but because of His grace: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23–25, ESV). Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Israel should have known that the law pointed to Christ: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39, ESV). However, they were “ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:3, ESV). Here, we have a biblical definition of sin. It is failure to submit to God’s righteousness. This is a spiritual and moral failure rather than an intellectual one (see John 3:19–21). To overcome this failure, God “gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). In Christ, we graciously receive His righteousness, a righteousness that could not be obtained through our own law-keeping (2 Corinthians 5:21). In this way, Christ is the end of the law.

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What does it mean that Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4)?
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This page last updated: April 4, 2024