Romans 10:3-4. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, [the Jews] did not submit to God’s righteousness.4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
The greatest, most dangerous sin in your heart and in my heart today is self-righteousness. Or as Paul puts it here in Romans 10 – seeking to establish your own righteousness. Self-righteousness was the original sin of the original sinners. Adam and Eve wanted to be able to know right and wrong for themselves and therefore establish their own systems of righteousness. And every single one of us has been doing the same thing ever since – building legal systems of standards and expectations, that will guide us into righteousness.
Then God gave us a his own legal system to follow – the Mosaic Law. His system of standards and expectation, rules and commandments, to reveal to us what true righteousness really is. To show us what real love and justice look like. To produce real life.
But here’s the plot twist – the law was never able to give life. It was never able to produce holiness. The law could never empower the very thing it demanded – righteousness. The law was only able to reveal, expose, and convict of sin. You see, we’ve never been ignorant of righteousness in terms of what it is – its nature. We’ve been ignorant of how to obtain righteousness. We’ve always ignorantly believed that we can obtain righteousness through law keeping. But we simply can’t. No person could be that perfect.
Or could they?
Christ is the end of the law. Paul’s declaration here would challenge everything the Jewish people thought they knew. The only way they’ve ever known to be declared righteous by God has ended? Not because Jesus destroyed or cancelled the law (that would make God unrighteous), but because Jesus fulfilled the law. How? What does that mean? It means at least three things:
First, all of the law pointed to Christ and his redemption. We no longer need the “shadow” of the law because we have the reality, Christ himself.
Second, Christ ended the law by fulfilling all of its demands. Righteousness has been satisfied.
Third, despite obeying the law perfectly, on the cross Jesus took the curse of the law deserved by humanity. Justice has been satisfied.
Hopefully you read these three things and think, “Wow, that’s good news.” But sadly many people don’t see it that way at all. And they definitely don’t live that way. Christ the end of the law for righteousness is a huge stumbling block to us still. Why? Because we would much rather have to earn our right standing with God ourselves. Righteousness as a free gift of grace by faith just doesn’t compute.
The biggest trap for Christians is thinking that now that we are saved we can somehow fulfill the law’s demands. That the law is now our “rule for life.” We might call it something different, like “Christian principles,” or “guidelines,” or “best practices,” but it’s all just the same old legalism. It’s easy to think that if we have the right rules, then we can somehow get the right life. But this is to deny the law’s purpose in the first place. The law was always meant to accuse of unrighteousness, never produce righteousness. It was meant to “terrify the conscience” as Martin Luther said. To think that we can keep the law is to deny its perfection, and thus God’s perfection.
Let’s just make this very practical shall we? Spend today trying to be perfect. Try, for example, to go the whole day without coveting. And then tell me what kind of terrible, awful, no good, very bad day you had. Spend today not defending yourself or justifying what you do every moment. And then report back to me how much you love being under law.
There’s a better way to live. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. Are you in Christ? If you are, then the law can never again condemn you, or enslave you. It should never again produce despair in your heart. That is no longer its job. Its only job is to send you desperately reaching for the hope of the grace that is found in Christ and his cross. He alone is our righteousness.
Christian, you can’t get any more righteous than you already are in Jesus. And still, at the same time, you are an ungodly sinner (“God counts the ungodly as righteous” – Romans 4:5). As ungodly saints we pursue Christ. We trust Christ. We submit to Christ. We desire his life, his character, his love. His life becomes our law – the “law of Christ.” Not a law we must live up to, but a law that is alive in us. That’s “to live is Christ.”
In what ways are you still self-righteous?
You in Christ
How does knowing that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness bring you hope?
Christ in you
How can you let the law of Christ’s love flow out from your freedom today?