The End of the Law

Exegetical Analysis of Rom. 10:3-4 [from my research Paper on Paul and the Law]

Rom 10:3 says, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”4 Here in this text, there is a contrast between seeking to establish one’s own righteousness juxtaposed with submitting to God’s righteousness. Christ as “the end of the law” comes immediately after this contrast of establishing one’s own righteousness and submitting to God’s. Therefore, however one is to grapple with Paul’s intended message, it is vital that one does so with sensitivity to the context.
So, what are the possible interpretations of Christ as the “end of the law?” 1. The Law is completely abolished. This view is supported with Paul’s use of the law as an indivisible whole and with Paul’s statements that we are no longer under the law.5 However, the weakness of this view is “that other statements in Romans (2:26; 8:4; 13:8-10; cf. also 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal 5:14) indicate that Paul expected believers to obey the moral norms of the Mosaic law for example, in Rom 13:8-10 Paul lists some specific commands from the OT, and makes it clear that he expects believers to fulfill them.”6 2. Still many others believe Paul is referring to the law’s termination as a way of salvation. Proponents of this view believe that righteousness in the Old Testament came through “law-keeping.”7 These people believe that there are two ways of salvation. The problem with this interpretation is that Paul teaches the precedence of faith in Christ as the only means of attaining God’s righteousness by appealing to Abraham as proof that salvation has always been by faith (cf. Gen 15:6; Gal 3). 3. Another view is that “turning to Christ” puts an end to seeking to establish one’s own righteousness through works of the law. Schreiner’s interpretation is to the effect that those who turn to Christ will cease using the law as a means of establishing their own righteousness. This view is textually faithful and its only weakness is that it doesn’t touch the salvation-historical importance of Christ as the “end of the law.”8 4. The last and best view is to understand that with the coming of Christ “the authority of the law of Moses is, in some basic sense, at an end . . . there is also a teleological nuance that is also present. . . because the end of the Mosaic Law is a natural result of something else.”9 What Moo is saying, then, is that the law was designed to end and terminate with the arrival of Christ. Schreiner’s and Moo’s conclusion can be synthesized and this synthesis will offer a full understanding of the meaning of Christ as “the end of the Law.”10 Schreiner points out the experiential experience when people turn to Christ for righteousness; then, Schreiner says, they no longer seek to establish their own through the law. Schreiner understands it as a cause and effect relationship: turn to Christ and the effect is that all attempts to establish one’s own righteousness will cease as natural result. Moo says that the Law was designed to terminate with Christ and so the attempt to use it to establish one’s righteousness was a misunderstanding of its purpose. A proper understanding of the Law would have inevitably led to the recognition that the telos of the law had come. So, the reason the law has the experiential effect that Schreiner points out is because of the salvation-historical significance of the arrival of Christ. But, the Jew’s misunderstanding of the Law led to legalism and a rejection of the telos of the law. This misunderstanding demonstrated their ignorance of the “righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). So that, the attempt to establish their own righteousness resulted from their failure to recognize the salvation-historical importance of the arrival of Christ and the inauguration of the New Covenant; which failure was a result of their ignorance of the righteousness of God that is to be attained by believing God11 and not by “establishing one’s own through works of the law.”

[Moo is emphasizing Christ as the “end of the law” from a “historia salutis” perspective; whereas Schreiner is emphasizing Christ as the “end of the Law” from an “ordo salutis” perspective. Moo is closer to the point it seems, though Schreiner’s argument fits very nicely with the text. The synthesis, then, is that the “historia salutis” aspect of the end of the law has ramifications for the “ordo salutis” aspect of the end of the law. Using Schreiner’s terms, faith in Christ is the end of individual legalistic endeavors. The point is this: the reason Christ puts an end to legalistic endeavors is because of the salvation-historical impact his coming had on the law and believer’s relationship to it.]

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