“Christ is the end of the law” – meaning?

We’ve got a contradiction. In Romans 8:3-4, Christ “condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULLY MET IN US.” But in Romans 10:4, “Christ is THE END OF THE LAW.” So on the one hand Christ puts an end to the law, but on the other hand he died to make it possible for us to fully keep it.

So why would Christ make it possible for us to obey a law that we don’t actually need to obey because he’d put an end to it? But why would Christ put an end to the law when Paul said “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” in Romans 7:12?

Clearly, then, Christ did not put an end to the law. How could he when it’s he who made it “holy, righteous and good” in the first place? So what on earth does “Christ is the end of the law” mean instead?

In the context of Romans 10 it’s simple. Paul is talking about his fellow Jews who “did not know the righteousness that comes from God,” Romans 10:3. They didn’t understand how God makes people righteous, or how a person is made righteous. They thought the law made them righteous, and if they were “zealous for God” (10:2) in “pursuing a law of righteousness” (9:31) they could “establish their own (righteousness)” (10:3). In other words, they were relying totally on their own diligent keeping of the law to make themselves righteous.

But for all that diligent keeping of the law to make themselves righteous, they never “attained it” (9:31). Why not? Because “righteousness comes from God” (10:3) not from human effort, no matter how zealous a person is. Human zeal does not make a person righteous. Keeping the law does not make a person righteous. So what does make a person righteous? God does. Righteousness can only come from him.

Relying on the law, then, to make oneself righteous in God’s sight was “not based on knowledge” (10:2). What knowledge? The knowledge that only God can make a person righteous. So, Paul says, stop all that relying on the law to make yourself righteous and rely on God to make you righteous instead, which is exactly what the Gentile Christians were doing in Romans 9:30.

And then comes Romans 10:4 saying Christ is the end of the law. What it means, in context, is that Christ is the end of DEPENDING on the law for righteousness. Christ put an end to that, because depending on him would do the job instead – “so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” – IN HIM.

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