Christ: The End of the Law
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Prior to entering the Promised Land, Moses reminds the people that it is not on account of their own righteousness or their accomplishments that they are entering the land. In fact, it was just the opposite. They were an obstinate people who continuously refused to obey; thus, Moses made it clear that it was solely God’s goodness, His grace, and His promise to their fathers that He was bringing them into the land: “understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy 9:6). Similarly, God has delivered us and has granted us passage through the narrow gate and along the narrow path, not by our own merit or righteousness, but by the mercy and grace bestowed upon us through Jesus Christ. It is through Christ that we are deemed righteous (right before God) or justified before Him in order to travel the narrow path, the path of life. When we stand at the trailhead of life, we understand that there is no other way to begin the journey but through Christ. How does one arrive at this realization? He looks intently into the royal law and realizes that because of his transgression against the law, there is no righteousness in him to appeal to, only sin and condemnation. In this sense, the law leads us to Christ, for His sacrifice is the only means of finding forgiveness and reconciliation. Once we have been granted these through faith, then our journey down the narrow path begins.
Many have fallen into error believing that once we begin this journey, that the law is no longer of use. In fact, many take Paul’s words in Romans 10 (and elsewhere) to mean that the law is not only obsolete but is now a curse to anyone who attempts to live by it. Is this what Paul meant when he said that Christ is the end of the law? Is this what Moses, the prophets, or even Christ taught us? Moses tells Israel that “the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe these commandments before the Lord our God, as He commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:24-25). Though Israel possessed no righteousness in and of themselves when God brought them out of Egypt and into the promised land, God brought them out of Egypt and into the wilderness for this reason–to train them up in righteousness. The same holds true today. God delivers us by His mercy, then leads us into the training grounds of the wilderness for this purpose: “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Even Jesus, who was righteous, had to undergo this process–being baptized and tested in the wilderness– in order to fulfill all manner of righteousness (Matthew 3:15). God wants to know what is in our hearts, to know if our resolve is to live righteously and be holy as He is holy. This is all part of our journey down the narrow path; this is what it means to be born into and grow up in the family of God.
1 John 2:29
“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.”
“For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for holiness.”
Our acceptance into life begins with Christ, and our journey down the narrow path ends with Christ. In other words, the purpose of our journey is to look and be like Christ. This has always been the end or the goal, and it is for this reason that Christ even traveled among Israel in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:3). This is what is meant by “Christ is the end of the Law.” Now the “end” itself has a sense of termination like, “we have reached the end of the road.” Or, when we speak of the end, we take it it to mean that something has ceased to exist. But is this what this means? Let us also consider that the Greek word also means the end in terms of a goal. In that sense, Christ is our goal, and He is the goal to which the Torah–and all instruction–leads. He is what God will produce in us through each and every one of His words and commands. This is why Christ said in both Deuteronomy and Matthew that man should live by EVERY word that comes from the mouth of God. It is for this purpose that, on path of life, God feeds us His Torah, so we become like Christ. Likewise, when we gaze into the mirror, or the “perfect law of liberty” as James calls it, the reflection we see is Christ. He is the image of righteousness that the Torah leads to and ought to produce. Why? Because He lived it perfectly, and now through God’s word and Spirit, He trains us up to do and be the same:
2 Timothy 3:16-17
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The Torah of God is not done away with, rather, it is fulfilling that for which it was designed: instruction in righteousness. Paul says that this instruction will make us complete, and what does complete look like? Like Christ. So, not only does the the law lead us to repentance in Christ and the outset of our journey, but it is further used by God to help us reach our goal which, according to Paul, is for us to “attain the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). The end of the law is when we reach the mature man and, and through His guidance, obtain the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Finally, it is for this reason that Jesus said that the law and the prophets are not destroyed or annulled, but have been fulfilled. Jesus came to fulfill the aspects of the law that have led to our redemption and reconciliation, but He has also come to model for us what a Torah-centered life looks like so it, through His grace and help, can be fulfilled in us–both physically and spiritually. The life of Jesus demonstrates how to go about completing the righteous training God requires, and that is to live by every word. It was Jesus who said, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). Why every commandment, even the least of them? Because every jot and tittle was given to us to fulfill God’s end in us: to be exactly like Christ.
1 John 2:6
“He who says He abides in Him ought also Himself to walk as He walked.”