TRULY THE BEGINNING AND END
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom.10:4)
“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness”:
What does that mean?
Religious people, and I use the term deliberately, often believe, and hold forth a doctrine which is proclaimed as truth, yet without proof. Have you noticed that?
We could use any number of current secular discussions as a good illustration. I'll leave that to your wise counsel.
One such doctrine is contained in our passage above, “Christ is the end of the law”, and which, by itself, seems to contradict the historic use by most Reformed Theology, of what is called “The Third Use of the Law”, but, concurrently speaks one of the qualities of New Covenant Theology.
Reformed theology has maintained that there are three uses of the law:
1.Use of the law to convict men of sin,
2. Use of the law to restrain evil, and
3. Use of the law as the biblical (and eternal) standard for Christian behavior.
Take the time to search and you will find authoritative Reformed documents, affirming the three uses. At the same time we would find different opinions among those who follow New Covenant Theology, which,generally does not support the third use of the law as being supported from Scripture.
Regarding the above passage,Vincents Word Studies says:
The end of the law (telov nomou). First in the sentence as the emphatic point of thought. Expositors differ as to the sense.
- 1. The aim. Either that the intent of the law was to make men righteous, which was accomplished in Christ, or that the law led to Him as a pedagogue (Gal. iii. 24).2. The fulfillment, as Matt. v. 17.3. The termination. To believers in Christ the law has no longer legislative authority to say, "Do this and live; do this or die" (Morison).The last is preferable. Paul is discussing two materially exclusive systems, the one based on doing, the other on believing. The system of faith, represented by Christ, brings to an end and excludes the system of law; and the Jews, in holding by the system of law, fail of the righteousness which is by faith. Compare Gal. ii. 16; iii. 2-14.
There is no doubt in my mind that the last is the correct way to understand it!
A greater, much wiser man than I agrees. C.H.Spurgeon:
Now, what has our Lord to do with the law? He has everything to do with it, for he is its end for the noblest object, namely, for righteousness. He is the "end of the law." What does this mean? I think it signifies three things: first, that Christ is the purpose and object of the law; secondly, that he is the fulfillment of it; and thirdly, that he is the termination of it.
If this is so, and I believe with all my heart it is; why do so many preachers, of every persuasion, continue to put their congregations under the burden of the law, Old Covenant as well as their own legal inventions?
Can it be that they, themselves, haven't yet understood the full import of what Christ has done?
John Calvin says:
For the end of the law is Christ, etc. The word completion, seems not to me unsuitable in this place; and Erasmus has rendered it perfection: but as the other reading is almost universally approved, and is not inappropriate, readers, for my part, may retain it.
The Apostle obviates here an objection which might have been made against him; for the Jews might have appeared to have kept the right way by depending on the righteousness of the law. It was necessary for him to disprove this false opinion; and this is what he does here. He shows that he is a false interpreter of the law, who seeks to be justified by his own works; because the law had been given for this end, — to lead us as by the hand to another righteousness: nay, whatever the law teaches, whatever it commands, whatever it promises, has always a reference to Christ as its main object; and hence all its parts ought to be applied to him. But this cannot be done, except we, being stripped of all righteousness, and confounded with the knowledge of our sin, seek gratuitous righteousness from him alone.
What is it that causes such preachers to want, in essence, to be Jews spiritually?
In his book "The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal", pp. 56-57, NCT pastor Blake White puts it well,
"Although this tripartite distinction is historically rooted and held by many men more respectable and learned than the present writer, it must be rejected. this distinction simply will not hold up to exegesis. It is a theological construction imposed on the Text of Scripture. For Paul to accept circumcision is to obligate oneself to keep the whole law (Gal. 5:3). for James, to fail in one point of the law is to become accountable for all of it (Ja. 2:10). Everything God demanded from Israel was moral. The law is a unit."
By the time the second letter to the Corinthians is written, the church had a problem with Judaizers.
This congregation, mainly Gentile, with little understanding of grace, if any, would not be thought to have a problem with the matter of rules and regulations? Yet! This is what Paul is seeking to deal with in chapter two (near the end) and with chapter three.
What makes it possible for the legalism of Judaism to get a foot in the door in this community of people? Sin! Sin had raised its ugly head.
How do you think the human heart and mind, one unchanged by God's grace, comes up with an answer to such a problem? What does such a mind, quite naturally, think of to fix such a problem, or any problem regarding sin?
The answer: The power of control! Make it illegal according to law, and, impose that law on the people who are the church, such as this one at Corinth!
Can you think of a better way for the Judaizers to contradict Paul's words, whilst, at the same time, ignoring the rest of what he said, "all things are lawful" ?
Such thinking says to itself," Let's just add a few codicils!" ( a testamentary instrument intended to alter an already executed will) added to the last will and testament of God.
Legalists have never understood grace, and look at a church, such as the one at Corinth and focus on particular, more obvious sins, and think to themselves, “These people have far too much freedom. They need rules!”
In the case of the church in Corinth, the Judaizers opinion of Paul would be that he had been weak and allowed the Corinthian Christians too much freedom. This is utterly abhorrent to such spiritual sheriffs. He not only allowed them to think for themselves, he expected them to do so, as responsible members of God's family. Paul understood the difference between authoritative control, and teaching towards maturity!
To the spiritual sheriffs among us, the cure is obvious! Well? Isn't it?
These Corinthian Christians needed more law. They needed to have the moral demands of the law slammed into their brains. They needed a sheriff who could exercise authority, and demand obedience.
Sadly, such legalists do not have the heart and mind of the Apostle Paul, an expert in the law, who had heeded the inspiration of God's Spirit, and “saw” that the rule of religious law had been "brought to an end" (2 Cor. 3:11). These Corinthians, who were living in a law induced darkness, needed to “see”, needed light shed upon the situation.
Exactly as it is today, “the god of this world” (2 Cor.4:4), who, according to Paul, had kept the Corinthians from understanding the "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." (2 Cor. 4:4), is keeping people, even religious people, from “seeing” that marvelous light in all it's majesty..
Paul, of all people, knew what C.H Spurgeon calls our attention to, the basic precept that the only way to escape being conformed to the world, is to be transformed. The word Paul used is metamorphoo (Rom.12:2), meaning the transformation of an individual away from the customs of a society, even a religious one, which will inevitably, lead us away from God, unless, we are allowed to “see” by His great love and grace (such grace being our instructor according to Paul in Titus 2:12-13) in an exercise of His divine power.
Until this happens the world, including many who claim to be Christian, will never see the evidence of what the mind of God is, nor the power of His gracious work in us through Jesus Christ, by His Spirit.
This amazing transformation doesn't come through obeying the moral demands of the law, and the codicils introduced by spiritual sheriffs, can never do so. Transformation into the image of Jesus comes through the Holy Spirit giving grace to “see”, spiritually perceiving, “seeing” Jesus Christ for whom He is and in His work of Redeemer and Sacrificial Lamb , as Paul says in 2 Cor. 3:18,
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
By the power and working of the Holy Spirit!
This is why Paul is not proclaiming the Old Covenant, lord-ship of law, faded-glory, message, which the Judaizers were promoting. Paul had seen the risen living Lord, with his own eyes. He had also “seen” with spiritual eyes, "Jesus Christ as Lord" (2 Cor. 4:5).
This is the only message through which the people will receive life, and, this is the message which sustains that life, only in those who are genuine followers of Christ!
This is the message that causes the body of people Peter referred to as “living stones” to be the church which Jesus is building, and, becoming a demonstration of the gracious love of a Father to His own, and in which is revealed "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ".
What this means for those who really are Christian, is that the relationship with the law is in the past, prior to their receiving the truths of the Gospel! They have been redeemed (Gal. 4:5) or 'set free' (Rom. 7:6) from the law. In fact, as far as the law is concerned, they are deceased, they have died to the reach of the law (Rom. 7:4, 6, cf. Gal. 2:19).
Those who are dead are not, under any circumstance, 'under law' (Rom. 6:14-15; cf. 1 Cor. 9:20). The work of the Lord, Jesus Christ has brought an end to the law's jurisdiction over all, who are “in Christ”. Death doesn't only bring an end to parts of the law, but the entire law. When the demands of a law is fulfilled, that law has been starved, and becomes useless for its original purpose. Jesus Christ fulfilled all of the judicial requirements of the law to its greatest, and most far reaching extent on behalf of those who are truly “in Christ”, so they would be free from the dominion of law and its legitimate threat of punishment, or retribution.
Sadly, it isn't only in modern days that understanding the New Covenant promises and fulfillment in Jesus Christ, is labelled “Antinomian”. As Douglas Moo says,
"when the 'antinomian' implications of Paul's teaching were raised as an objection against that teaching, Paul responded not by introducing a 'new law' but by pointing to the Spirit (Gal. 5:16ff) and to union with Christ (Romans 6)...any approach that substitutes external commands for the Spirit as the basic norm for Christian living runs into serious difficulties with Paul." (Douglas Moo, pp. 217-218, in "Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments")
The Lord, Jesus Christ, is not only the fulfillment of the Law, but everything the Old Testament was about. He was the goal of the law, and from the very beginning, the Father's intention for it's end.
Christ is the extreme point, at both, beginning and end (Rev.1:8; 21:6; 22:13). Christ is the full and final communication of whom God is, (1 John 4:16) which, to the fullest extent possible, bears on our understanding of law and the New Covenant.