Summary: Righteousness by law versus righteousness by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
CHRIST THE END OF THE LAW
Jesus is the fulfilment of all that the law signified, and met all its righteous demands against ourselves. He is the end of the law as a possible means of our becoming righteousness. In Romans 10:4, the Apostle Paul says (literally): ‘For the end of law Christ (is) for righteousness to everyone who believes.’
Breaking it down:
(i) Christ is the end of the law;
(ii) Christ is the end of the law (as a means) for righteousness;
(iii) Christ is (the only means for) righteousness to everyone who believes.
# The word ‘telos’ (= ‘end’) which the Apostle uses in Romans 10:4, signifies not only the law’s terminus, but also its abrogation as a possible (or perhaps impossible) means of salvation.
In our main passage, Paul alludes to what the LORD said at the mouth of Moses: ‘You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I (am) the LORD’ (Leviticus 18:5). This the Apostle calls, “the righteousness which is of the law” (Romans 10:5).
Under the law, says Paul elsewhere, we are all found to be sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All that the law had accomplished was an awakening of our consciousness of sin (Romans 7:7). The law as a means of righteousness had failed, and was to be superseded by justification by faith (Galatians 3:10-11).
The idea of men trying to reach God through their own efforts is typified in the Tower of Babel. Even our best efforts at keeping the law have failed. But - praise be to God - God has already come down in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Moses speaks of the law not being beyond the sea (Deuteronomy 30:13). In the Greek, Paul interprets this as “the abyss” (Romans 10:7) - a possible pseudonym for Hades (cf. Acts 2:31). We don’t need to search for salvation there, for Jesus ‘is not dead, but risen’ (Matthew 28:6).
For Moses, the word was ‘nigh thee, in your mouth and in your heart, THAT YOU MAY DO IT’ (Deuteronomy 30:14). The Apostle Paul makes a new application of this as “the word of FAITH which we proclaim” (Romans 10:8). This is not a word that we ‘do’ as was the law, but a word that we “BELIEVE”, as Paul goes on to expound.
‘In your mouth and in your heart’ (Romans 10:8) finds its match in Romans 10:9, where the Apostle pronounces: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God Him raised from the dead, you shall be saved.”
Paul then turns this the right way up as to our experience. First, man believes with the heart “unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10). This is not the same as head belief, of which another New Testament writer says that ‘the devils believe, and tremble’ (James 2:19). Secondly, heart belief goes further, and gives voice to its salvific conviction that JESUS, not Caesar, is Lord!
This belief is more akin to “trust” than the mere assent to a Creed. “Whosoever” puts his trust in Him will not be put to shame (Romans 10:11 cf. Isaiah 28:16). This “whosoever” consists of both Jews and Gentiles, and the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him (Romans 10:12).
The Apostle Paul’s next citation comes from the minor Prophets. ‘Whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32) becomes “Whosever shall call upon the name of the Lord (meaning Jesus, as in Acts 2:21) shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). That is who we are: ‘those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:2).
Paul poses a few questions.
1. How can anyone call upon Jesus without heart belief?
2. “And how can they believe in the One whom they have not heard?” (notice, it is not hearing ‘of’ Him so much as hearing ‘from’ Him through His preachers).
3. “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).
4. Finally, how shall the preachers preach unless they are commissioned - by Jesus Himself, no less?
The Apostle joins with the Prophet of old - and with us - to sing:
‘How lovely on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news’
Let us therefore pray that ‘the Lord of the harvest’ will send forth labourers into His ripe harvest field to gather souls for Christ (Matthew 9:38).