For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Some debate exists whether by ‘end’ Paul means ‘goal’ or ‘terminus’. Which it is, in the final, analysis, probably doesn’t greatly matter. Both are true. However, that being said, in my opinion in this text Paul’s focus is on the law as a terminus rather than goal. He is not focussing on the prophetic nature of the law (3:21) but on its explicit principle; the law as a means of righteousness (v4) or life (v5).
With the arrival of Christ any possibility of life or righteousness by the law (always a hope doomed to failure anyway) was now past. With the arrival of Christ God’s righteousness and life are located in Him. The law is now redundant. No longer is it offered by works, as in the OC, since it is now revealed as available only by faith, in the NC; and what was immeasurably beyond reach on the principle of works is now within easy grasp on the principle of faith.
This is precisely the point in 10:6-13.
At first blush this text throws up some problems for the OT text that undergirds these verses is Deut 30 and appears to apply to the OT law.
11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
We seem to have a double conundrum.
Firstly, Moses appears to be saying that keeping the law is a relatively easy matter, a view with which both Old and New Testaments are at odds. Secondly, Paul, in Romans 10, clearly understands this Deut 30 text to refer to the gospel and not the law?
What is the solution to these difficulties?
The solution lies in doing what we must always do when we see the Old Testament cited in the New – we must look carefully at the context of the OT citation.
In Deut 29, 30, immediately prior to the above text Moses gives a prophetic history of Israel. The nation will sin grievously under the OC. It will prove a covenant impossible to keep. As a result of their sin, Israel will be exiled from the land. In exile God will begin to turn the hearts of the people to himself (there they had no law and so could not look to it for righteousness; they were entirely dependent on God’s promised Deliverer) and in time he will deliver them from exile, give them a new heart, and bless them.
6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. 7 And the Lord your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. 8 And you shall again obey the voice of the Lord and keep all his commandments that I command you today. 9 The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Moses is describing the NC. He is describing in OT language the gospel age, the age when God Himself would do for Israel what they could not do for themselves. The impossible, acquiring righteousness and life, would no longer be an unrealistic pipe dream, for God in Christ would achieve it. They would not need to try to reach into heaven in obedience (a metaphor for the impossible) for heaven would come down to them in Christ. Nor would their pursuit of righteousness take them into the depths of the sea, the abyss, for Christ has descended there and risen from it in glorious redemptive power.
Instead of demanding the impossible, superhuman works, the NC of grace would be a near word, within easy reach, a word in their mouth and heart…. as they confess with their mouth Jesus as Lord and believe on their heart God raised him from the dead. It would be a word of faith in all that God achieved in Christ. Faith proved to be sincere by confessed allegiance to him.
And thus the law for righteousness came to an end for a righteousness of God (not of man) was revealed, a righteousness that is by faith in Christ, unto all, but only upon all who believe. For those thirled to law-righteousness, as Isaiah predicted, Christ would be a rejected stone over which they would stumble, but for those who believe he is the foundation stone of all God’s promised security and blessing. Either way, his arrival signalled the end of the law with its premise of ‘this do and live’.
This Gospel Word, is the heart of the NC, a covenant not limited to the nation of Israel but one that invites in gentiles too, for ‘all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’.
In this way, by the introduction of God’s righteousness in Christ heralding the redundancy of law-righteousness, it seems clear that ‘end’ refers principally to ‘terminus’, however, for those who insist in squeezing in ‘goal’ I shall not demur.