I think if there has ever been a Dark Age in Christianity we are in it. If you think about it, Christ wasn’t concerned with a bunch of “ism’s.” He continually warned about the traditions of men. I only now understand how powerful that is. I have been a Christian since 1983, and since then I have been functioning as a Christian on rudimentary information. And often in my life, it has shown. And the following is frightening: I was often considered to be an annoying zealot who dared to proclaim that he knew something.
Contemporary Christianity functions on the traditions of men. When people write me to make a theological case, it is made with a long list of quotations from men. “Orthodoxy” is a word that has become synonymous with truth itself. How can this be when orthodoxy is the creeds, confessions, and catechisms written by men? One advertisement for a Seminary boasts that they are “confessional.” We refer to it as “subordinate truth” to the Bible while we wait with bated breath for its next contemporary addition to be available at the Christian book store. While there, we will often pick up a little plaque or bumper sticker to add to our orthodoxy. “What! What do mean when you say that ‘Footsteps in the Sand’ is not in the Bible? That’s blaspheme!”
Truthfully, even though I have learned more in the past six months than my whole Christian life, I now see that I am really just beginning to learn, this is all new to me and I am rethinking everything. But this I do know: Christians in our culture really struggle with a biblical understanding of law. And here we are, Romans 10:4;
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
This is what is really difficult for us to understand. I had to learn it on my own with the help of the Holy Spirit. I went to Bible college—they didn’t teach it to me. I went to Seminary—never learned it there either. I have been to countless Bible conferences—ditto. No wonder that John said that we have no need for anyone to teach us; that is a good thing, because apparently, they aren’t going to do that anyway. But here it is:
For the believer, law and righteousness are mutually exclusive. Shock and dismay now equals traditions of men. This verse states that the law had to end in order for us to be declared righteous. The law “ended” “for” righteousness. This is to everyone who believes in Christ—that’s why Paul states that He is the end of the law.
As Christians, we don’t obey the law perfectly. That’s unfortunate, but in regard to our just position and present righteousness—it doesn’t matter. The law can no longer condemn us or judge us. Our salvation is lawless. The law doesn’t exist, so there is no sin (ROM 5:13), and it has nothing that it can say to us (ROM 3:19).
Because the apostle Paul knew that law being a standard for our justification would completely sap our salvation power in sanctification, he drives the point home in many different ways. Let’s start with Christ. Turn to Romans chapter seven and we will begin reading in verse one:
Romans 7:1- “Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
Who is the spouse that died in this case so that we are no longer under the law? Christ, and we died with Him. We are also the other spouse who was resurrected with Christ and is now free to remarry another so that we can serve in the new way of the Spirit. Christ bore our sin on the cross (imputation) so that we could die with Him and be resurrected with Him in the new way of the Spirit—not the old marriage covenant. The old us died with Christ, and our sin died with Him. The new us is no longer under that covenant—the covenant of the law. If we remarry, that law cannot condemn us. The dead are never prosecuted and brought to court. If a cold case is solved and the suspect is dead, he is not indicted by a grand jury. The dead are not exhumed and brought to court. Do you believe that a perfect keeping of the law is required in your Christian life for your just standing? Then the old you is still alive and you are an adulteress.
Paul explains this another way. The law was a will.
Hebrews 9:15 – “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.”
The law was a will, and like any other will it promised an inheritance. Like any other will, those named in the will are partakers in that promissory note. And before Christ went to the cross all who believed in Him were heirs of the promise. It was a covenant inaugurated with blood because all of the sins of those who believed on Christ were imputed to that covenant. This is yet another thing that I have never been taught before in regard to the subject of imputation. There is the imputation of the Father’s righteousness to us, the imputation of our sin to Christ, and the imputation of the believer’s sins prior to the cross. Our sins were imputed to that covenant/will with the promise of the inheritance upon the death of the testator, forgiveness of sins and eternal life. I am convinced that Old Testament believers were completely aware of this and understood it. Undoubtedly, this fact also opens up an additional wealth of understanding while reading the Old Testament with this in mind.
Let’s look at this a little deeper. Please go with me to Galatians chapter three and let’s start at verse 19:
“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Notice that Paul said that sin was imprisoned in the Scriptures. As we have discussed before, the law is the same thing as the Bible. Again, we see that here in verse 22. Many teach in our day that this passage means that the law continually shows us our need for Christ and a perpetual forgiveness. The law is a “schoolmaster” that continually leads us to Christ. That’s not what this passage means at all. Ironically, the ESV has this right: the old covenant was a “guardian” that kept us safe from the eternal consequences of sin until the death of the testator. The full inheritance was received when Christ died. Now the law serves a different purpose which we will look at later.
But herein lays the Achilles heel of the Reformed gospel. Herein lays the reason that Calvin’s gospel is a doctrine of demons. It teaches that Christ fulfilled the law for us so that we could be declared righteous. It teaches that Christ is the end of the law in regard to us keeping it. Hence, there is really no END to the law. But worse yet, let’s compare this reasoning with a few texts in the same vicinity of where we are presently:
Galatians 3:10 – “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
To believe that Christ fulfilled the law for us is to also contradict what our beloved brother has said here in the following ways:
1. It relies on the works of the law; who does the perfect work is not the point. If Christ fulfilled the will perfectly, and we could have received the promised inheritance by His fulfilling of the law, why did He have to die? That’s the Hebrew writer’s point: IT’S A WILL—somebody had to die.
2. The law cannot justify because it is not of faith. It doesn’t matter who keeps it. “The law is not of faith.” If Christ fulfilled the law, that fulfillment makes us righteous and we are then indeed justified by the law. Christ’s perfect obedience is transferred to us and then we are in fact justified by its perfect keeping. By the way, this is exactly what Luther himself propagated. He stated that Christ’s obedience becomes our obedience and that obedience is transferred to us by faith alone. It’s backdoor law-keeping. Said Luther,
Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . .(Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955), Vol. xxxi, pp.297,298).
This makes an imputation of law-keeping the standard for righteousness. The law is therefore not ENDED. For all practical purposes, we are credited with keeping it for our justification albeit by faith in Christ.
3. Furthermore, if the fulfilling of the law by Christ brings righteousness, that means that the law has life. Note verse 21:
“For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.”
This brings us yet to another way that our brother Paul wants us to get this; OFFSPRING. If the law could give life, there is more than one offspring:
Galatians 3:15 –“To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.”
This is also why the promise could not come through Ishmael; it had to come through Isaac because the promise concerned Sarah and not Hagar. Hagar represents the Mt. Sinai law, and Sarah represented the promise:
Galatians 4:21 – “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
‘Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.’
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.”
Pray tell, why would Christ come to fulfill a covenant with Hagar so that we could be righteous? Christ is the end of that covenant. He came to ABOLISH it—not to fulfill it:
Ephesians 2:11 – “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
“But Paul, what then was Christ talking about in the Sermon on the Mount when He said He didn’t come to abolish the law?” Well, he wasn’t talking about that law, He was talking about the law of love. Same words, different law. Hence:
Galatians 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
Now, look at what he says in the very next verse:
Galatians 5:7 – “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”
So, what are we to conclude? We are to conclude that faith working through love….
- Works (“working”).
- Is guided by an objective truth.
- Defines love as truth (2Thessilonoians 2:10).
- Can be hindered from obeying the truth.
This gives new meaning to Christ’s words, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” In Matthew 5:18 Christ isn’t talking about the Mosaic Law, He’s talking about the law of love. He didn’t say that our righteousness needed to surpass that of Pharisees as a challenge for us to let Him fulfill the Mosaic Law for us because the Pharisees were really, really good at obeying the Mosaic Law, why would He do that? That’s of Hagar and not Sarah; it’s a law that has no life. He fulfilled that law perfectly by virtue of who He is, but not for the purpose of justifying us because after its inherent fulfillment there is still nothing but the dead letters of that law. His problem with the Pharisees is that they sought righteousness in the law rather than in Him. This is why Paul wrote the following just prior to our text at hand:
Romans 10:1-3 – “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”
Christ’s indictment against the Pharisees was that they sought the Mosaic Law rather than faith working through love. They put faith in the Mosaic Law instead of Christ (JN 5:39). Said another way: they sought the Mosaic Law rather than the law of love. And since love fulfills the law (GAL 5:14, ROM 13:10, EPH 3:14-21, DUE 6:5, LEV 19:18), that is the righteousness that surpasses the righteousness of the Pharisees. It is a righteousness APART from the law (ROM 3:21).
So in what way did Christ come to fulfill the law of love? Not by fulfilling the Mosaic Law—that is certain. It has no life! He came to fulfill the law of love. I would say His death on the cross would be a description of that. But the idea here is a constant fulfilling of the law. As Susan brilliantly pointed out two Sundays ago, the law is not completely fulfilled because of all of the things in the law that haven’t happened yet. Not only that, all of the references in the Bible that pertain to the fulfilling of the law by single acts of truthful love are in the present tense. If Christ fulfilled the law completely, how is that possible? (GAL 5:14, ROM 13:10, EPH 3:14-21, DUE 6:5, LEV 19:18).
Romans 8:3,4 makes it absolutely clear how Christ is fulfilling the law; He is fulfilling it through us as we walk in love. To say otherwise deprives us of our ability to love Christ and others and creates cold-heartedness in the vacuum. Wherever anti-law of love reins, cold-heartedness makes its abode (PS 119:70, MATT 24:12).
Anyone who uses the imperfect law-keeping of the Christian to prove that the law is still the standard for our justification also proves that they believe in a vicarious law keeping of a law that has no life for our salvation. It teaches salvation on Mt. Sinai rather than salvation at Galgotha. Christ was the end of that law because he put it to death along with the sin that held us captive to it (GAL 3:23). He did not end it by fulfilling it. He abolished it on the cross and raised us to a new life that is sanctified by obedience to the perfect law of liberty. Be careful to note James 1:25 on that. The blessings are in the “doing,” not meditation on Christ’s obedience to the dead letter of the law. The standard for that law is a perfect keeping of every letter (GAL 5:3, ROM 10:5) while the Christian fulfills the whole law perfectly with every act of obedience. We are blameless before Him in love (EPH 1:4).
Our Lord’s yoke is a light one for the impossible demands of Mt. Sinai do not terrorize us. We are free to love God aggressively. We bemoan our sin, but the old us who would be judged by that failure according to justification died with Christ (ROM 7:20), and the new us is under grace and not under law (ROM 6:14). There are relational consequences, but not eternal ones.
This is my prayer for the Potter’s House: as we strive to walk in loving obedience to Christ more and more, that our brother Paul’s prayer would be answered:
Ephesians 1:16 – “I do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”