Full Text for Romans- Volume 33 - The End of the Law? Romans 10:4 (Video)

No. 33. >> What does Paul mean when he says that Christ is the end of the law in Romans 10 Verse 4? I thought in Matthew 5 Verse 18 Jesus himself said that the law would remain until all was fulfilled. How should we understand Romans 10 Verse 4? >>PROFESSOR DAVID I. M. LEWIS: Eric, you ask a very difficult and challenging question when you focus upon Romans 10 Verse 4 and Paul's statement: Christ is the end of the law. This is another one of those famous verses from Romans like 8:28 that people can often take out of context and then sort of apply any way they want to. But this is a difficult and challenging question even looking at this verse in context for several reasons. First there are varied interpretations and translations that are offered for this particular verse. And each of these interpretations and translations is struggling in particular with various aspects of the verse. Certain words such as what is meant by end? What is meant by law? And what is meant by for righteousness? And there's two standard lines of interpreting the verse where each of these things is taken in a different way. One other challenge presented by this verse is Martin Luther's understanding of this verse in his theology in understanding the place of the law in the life of a Christian. And Luther's response to this day is still controversial. The and we should discuss that, as well. And then finally, Eric, as you pointed out, there's the connection between what Paul says here that Christ is the end of the law and then Jesus' words himself in Matthew 5:18 that not one tittle of the law shall be taken away until all shall be fulfilled. Does Paul contradict Jesus? Well, some people say yes. But we'll look at that, as well. Well, first Eric, though, let's read Romans 10 Verse 4 in the context of the first four verses of Romans. This is usually identified as a paragraph under itself. And we begin in Verse 1 where Paul says: Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them -- namely, for the Jewish people -- is that they may be saved. I bare them witness that they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. I'm reading from the ESV. And this is one way of taking Verse 4. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Now, what Paul is saying here is that part of his longing for the Jewish people that they would be saved comes from the fact that he knows firsthand that they are very zealous. However, their zeal is misplaced. Rather than recognizing the righteousness of God and we know now that this is the righteousness of God that has been revealed in the Gospel, a righteousness that is apart from the law. And this would be God's declaring just or righteous those who have faith in Jesus. And Jesus was the means of redemption. He was the atoning sacrifice that God offered. Well, this is where God is working. He's working in Jesus Christ. And the problem with the Jewish people in the First Century AD and 57 AD when Paul is writing the epistle to the Romans, their problem is is that they are missing that righteousness of God. They are seeking to establish a righteousness of their own. And of course this would be the righteousness that is held in distinction from the Gospel. This would be the righteousness of the law. In other words, they are trying to establish a righteousness on their own terms by keeping the mosaic code. And of course we see that this has been a theme throughout the epistle to the Romans. And this is what Paul says is happening now way back in 57 AD when so many Jewish people are missing the Gospel, rejecting Jesus. He says the base cause is they are trying to establish a righteousness on their own by keeping the mosaic code. And so they are missing the righteousness of God that we've been talking about that is revealed in the Gospel. And this is a righteousness in connection with Jesus. So in a sense the Jewish people because of their loyalty to the mosaic code and because they believe they can establish their righteousness based upon the mosaic code, they are rejecting their Messiah, Jesus. They are rejecting the promised one, Jesus. And they are missing out where God really is working to bring salvation, in his Son, Jesus. So then the final sentence in that paragraph, 10 Verse 4 is Christ is the end of the law. And in this context then we can see that what Paul means by this is that their attempts to establish a righteousness of their own by observing the mosaic code, that's not the way things work anymore. Christ is the end of that. And Christ is the end of that in order that there would be righteousness now in this time for those who believe in Jesus Christ. And so we see here that again, it's just the basic Gospel that is at stake. We're not saved by works of the law but by faith in Jesus. And what he has done. Okay. Now that we've established the context, I would like to talk through the various interpretations and some of the challenges us that face us in reading Romans 10 Verse 4. Okay. So first the issue of interpreting Romans 10 Verse 4 is raised. And there are several issues. One issue is: What does Paul mean by the word law here in Romans 10 Verse 4? And there's two main answers that are given. Some people believe that Paul simply means the ceremonial law. In other words, I think, Eric, you may be aware of that classic three-fold distinction of the mosaic law. That there are the civil laws. Laws given to regulate the daily life of the nation Israel. There are the ceremonial laws, laws found in the Levitical code about how the Israelites should worship God, laws pertaining to circumcision and eating kosher and observing the Sabbath and the festivals. And then the moral law, which would be most clearly articulated in the Ten Commandments which is an expression of God's righteous moral will not only for Israel but for all people at all time. Well, this three-fold distinction, many people keep that in mind. And some would say when Christ is the end of the law, he's only talking about the ceremonial law. He's the end of circumcision and Sabbath regulations and eating kosher. These things that God gave Israel to really set them apart from everybody else. Some people say Christ is the end of the ceremonial law. Well, the other explanation that's given is actually Christ is the end of the entire mosaic code. Everything from Exodus 20 to Deuteronomy 34 where that code -- that law was given to Moses, that Christ is the end of all of that. And as we'll see later on, Martin Luther actually goes with Option 2 who believes that the entire mosaic code was in a sense culminated, terminated, by Jesus. And so the that the entire mosaic code no longer applies. But of course if you interpret this as ceremonial law, then the moral law still applies. And Christ is not the end of that. Okay. One issue is how do we interpret law? Another issue is what is meant by the word end? This is the Greek word telos. And telos could mean end in the sense of termination, culmination, abolishment. End in that now it's gone. It doesn't apply anymore. However, telos could also mean end in the sense of goal. Notice that these are kind of two different nuances of the word end. One would mean that the law is terminated. It no longer applies. The other interpretation would be that the law's goal is fulfilled in Jesus. And then the understanding there would be that Jesus by keeping the law perfectly in his life has fulfilled the law, brought it to its proper end. And then in his death upon the cross, he satisfied God's righteous will so that grace now can come to everybody through faith. And so Jesus is either the cancellation of the law or he's the goal of the law. And I think either of these options does not present us with any serious theological challenges. The question, of course, finally is: What does Paul mean by telos here? And then one third challenge in this verse is how are we to interpret the words: For righteousness? And there are two translations that come out of this. First the one that is most frequently used would represent what we find in the ESV and the NIV is that Christ is the end of the law in order that righteousness will be to all who believe. And this is understanding the words for righteousness to be a purpose. In other words, why is Christ the end of the law? He's the end of the law in order that righteousness will come to all who believe. And I think that this translation very well expresses what Paul has been saying in Romans thus far. But there's a minority view that would say that before righteousness is actually to be read in close connection with the word law so that the translation would be like this: Christ is the end of the law as a means for righteousness to all who believe. In other words, this statement is that Christ really isn't the end of the law per se. He's simply the end of the law as a means by which people establish their righteousness. So in a sense the law still stands. But what has happened in Jesus Christ is that no longer is the law a means by which people establish their righteousness. The idea being that there was once a time when people did establish their righteousness by living according to the mosaic code. But now with Christ, that time is over. And now the law still is here but it's no longer a means by which people establish their righteousness before God. Instead that righteousness is established through faith in Jesus Christ. Through faith in the declaration that God makes when he says: You are righteous. And again, you can consider either one of these views. And both of them could be theologically appropriate. Again, the question is what exactly does Paul mean when he says: Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to all who believe? Is he saying Christ is the goal of the law? Is he saying Christ is the termination of the law? Is he saying Christ is the termination of the ceremonial law? And is he saying that Christ is the end of the law in order that righteousness will come to those who believe? Or is he saying Christ is the end of the law as a means by which righteousness comes to those who believe? And a lot of ink has been spilled just interpreting the verse in this context. Well, Eric, I personally believe that this is a challenge. And I don't think we're going to settle this issue right here in this course. I'm simply presenting to you guys some of the options that are there. And there is a sense in which I think we can see the value in each of these interpretations. Now, Martin Fransman, when he comments on this verse, I think he kind of avoids a lot of these issues and kind of simply gets to the heart of the matter when he says: Christ came to do what the law was impotent to do. Christ came to do what the law was unable to do. The law was unable to establish righteousness for us in our keeping the law. And I think we've seen that clear in Romans 3:20. All the law does it makes us knowledgeable of sin. We see this in Romans 7:7 through 25. Paul's personal interaction with the law, it shows him his sin. And that's all it does. So what the law was unable to do, Christ did do. And so in this sense, Christ is the end of the law. And I think Fransman sort of gets to the heart of the matter. And in a lot of ways avoids a lot of those debates about what everything means in this passage. And I think really this is the heart of what we need to teach and preach to our people. Is that what is so important about Jesus? Well, through Jesus we get a righteousness. The righteousness of God in what he did. And in faith in what he did. And in faith in God's promises. And this is something that the law could never do for us. It was powerless to make us righteous. But Christ has done what the law could not do. And so in that sense, Christ is the end of the law. And I think this is a very basic message that Paul is giving to us. That I think we can preach and teach and apply to our people in their everyday lives. Now, because we're Lutherans, I feel the need to talk about how Luther read this verse. Luther in his work "How Christians Should Regard Moses" makes some very controversial claims about what Paul means here. And what Luther says that the whole mosaic law does not apply to Christians anymore. And this is what it means that Christ is the end of the law. And Luther is clear: It's not just the ceremonial code or the civil code. But even the moral code as it is found in the mosaic code. The moral laws as they are found in the mosaic code. That all of that has been ended and abolished with Jesus. And that is how the Christian should see it. And so Luther is so bold as to say nobody can come to a Christian and says: Moses says. Because Luther would say well we find out in Romans 10 Verse 4 that Christ is the end of Moses of the so Moses cannot speak to us anymore in this direct way. So then you might say: Well, is Luther antinomian? In other words, is Luther against the law at all and doesn't think the law has any place in our lives? Well, Luther's response was: Well, the mosaic code was given simply to the nation of Israel in Exodus 20 through Deuteronomy 34. However, there is a law outside the mosaic code and this is what Luther would call the natural law or the law of the created order. Paul actually refers to this in Romans 2 when he says that the Gentiles who do not have the law, the mosaic law, nevertheless, they show that the law was written on their hearts. Luther says that this natural law that existed at creation does continue to apply to the Christian today. And this natural law is reflected in the moral law of the mosaic code. And so Luther then says that the use of the mosaic code today in the Christian's life is not that we are under the mosaic code or obligated to it much but it serves a pedagogical purpose. Especially the Ten Commandments. Because they reflect God's natural law, they become an excellent tool by which we can teach ourselves and our children what God's moral will is. It's not because we're under Moses but because in grace we are now in the Spirit. And what would the Spirit have us do? Well, those moral things that have always been right and wrong from the beginning of creation until today. So this is considered a controversial view. Because Luther in a sense says that the whole law of Moses just doesn't apply to the Christian. But Luther is not an antinomian. He still says the law is there. And this is why the Ten Commandments are used in the Small Catechism. Because they are an excellent tool by which to teach children and to teach Christians what God's moral will is. This then explains one oddity about the Ten Commandments. I don't know, Eric, if you've ever noticed that Commandment 3 Luther reinterprets: Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God. That we do not despise preaching and God's Word but consider it holy and gladly hear and learn it. Notice that in interpreting the Sabbath commandment Luther doesn't say anything about a seventh day of the week about going to the synagogue on Saturday. Why? Well because Luther knows that the mosaic code no longer applies. So what does apply with the Sabbath code is that we ought to observe times of rest. And then when we do, we ought to go hear God's Word preached. Because the holiest thing that we as Christians have is the Word of God. So Luther reinterprets the Third Commandment. Why does he do that? Well, because Luther believes the mosaic code has been abolished by Jesus because Christ is the end of the mosaic code. It does not apply. But what does apply is God's moral will that existed from the beginning until the end of time. Now, one of the tough issues, though, that you raise up, Eric, is: How does what Paul says here in Romans 10 Verse 4 relate to what Jesus says in Matthew 5 Verse 18? And this is what Jesus says: 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. For truly I say to you until heaven and earth pass away, not a jot, not a tittle will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Now, on the basis of what Jesus has said here, there are some scholars who make the claim that what is going on is that Jesus and Paul had completely different views of the law in the life of the believer. Usually the statement is made that Jesus himself was not quite as revolutionary as Paul was. And that Jesus when he was establishing his church said that the law still stood. And they would then distinguish the ceremonial codes, which we find in the gospels do not apply from the moral code, which we find in Matthew 5 Jesus actually takes the moral code and unpacks it even further. You might say extends the meaning so that we get the full sense of what God means when he says: Thou shall not murder. Thou shall not commit adultery. And in Jesus' teaching this moral code still stands. While Paul is actually more revolutionary than Jesus. He's like the next generation of Christianity who then goes further than Jesus and says the mosaic code does not apply at all. And so they would see a contradiction between Jesus and Paul which then I think we as people who believe that all Scripture is inspired and given by God, we would have trouble with that because we would think that Jesus and Paul could not contradict each other. Especially if Paul is an apostle of Jesus, chosen by him, speaking for him, they should agree. Well, Dr. James ***Velts in his hermeneutics text "What Does This Mean?", he treats this issue. And he notes of course when Jesus makes that statement about the law, Jesus himself says: Until all is fulfilled. In other words, the law will remain until all is fulfilled. And not one jot or one tittle will be taken away from the law until all is accomplished. Heavens and earth will not pass away before the law is abolished -- until all is accomplished however. And Dr. Velts asked the question: When does this fulfillment and accomplishment of the law take place? And he makes the case that in the gospels, this is very much connected with Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. That the fulfillment of the law, of the accomplishment of the law, is closely tied to what happens when Jesus dies upon the cross. So Dr. Velts would argue that the shaking of the heavens that takes place in Matthew when Jesus dies, the ripping of the veil in the temple. The resurrection of bodies in Matthew Chapter 27. All of this shows that in a proleptic sense -- and what that means, proleptic, is kind of ahead of the time. Before the heavens and the earth actually end, that in a sense this had already happened when Jesus died. That there was a proleptic fulfillment of the day of the Lord, the end of the world, that day when Jesus died. The shakings of the heavens and the earth, the ripping of the veil in the temple, the resurrection of bodies. That all of this signifies that this is when all has been fulfilled. This is when all has been accomplished. And with Dr. Velts' reading, we see that there really isn't a contradiction between Jesus and Paul. Jesus is teaching in the context of his ministry that not one jot or tittle of the law will pass away until all has been fulfilled. But then all was fulfilled in his death. And now Paul looking back at that event in Romans says Christ was the end of the law. Going back to Romans 8: The law was fulfilled when God -- when Jesus died in the flesh. When Jesus died, that was when the law's purposes were fulfilled. And so we can ask: Then what was Jesus doing in Matthew 5? If we look at the context, what Jesus is doing is establishing that the righteousness that was taught by the Pharisees and the scribes was kind of a hypocritical righteousness. Their righteousness of the torah Jesus is showing blank by blank that they actually fall short of God's pure righteous demands. They say thou shall not murder means you should not murder. And Jesus says you can't even be angry with your brother. You can't call him a fool or a moron or you break that law. They would say thou shall not commit adultery means you can't commit adultery. And Jesus says: No, you lust after a woman, you've committed adultery. So in a sense Jesus is establishing how that standard Jewish interpretation of righteousness actually fell way short of God's righteous demands. And so they are trying to establish a righteousness of their own in Jesus' day just as Paul says in Romans. And that righteousness is falling short because they don't even truly understand the full extent of God's righteous demands and his law. And so Jesus is establishing that fact. But is Jesus saying that these righteous demands are still binding upon Christians? Well, that's a matter of debate. I would agree with Dr. Velts that Jesus himself is aware that at his death all will be accomplished. All will be fulfilled. So that Jesus in Matthew and Paul in Romans 10 are actually in agreement. Jesus is looking forward to the cross. Paul is looking back at it. But they both see that Christ is the end of the law in order that there would be -- that the righteousness of God would come to those who believe. Not established in their keeping the torah. But established simply in their faith in Jesus who has kept the torah in their place and who has accomplished everything finally in his death upon the cross for us. Well, Eric, I thank you for your interesting and challenging question. And I hope that my discussion here has given you some of the various options for how Romans 10 is read and interpreted. And even more I hope I've shown that Jesus and Paul were not in contradiction with one another. That they were talking in their own way and in their own time about the important event that takes place in Jesus' death upon the cross.