The verse that stood out for the Day 166 reading was Romans 10:4 (ESV), which reads:
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Citing Romans 10:4, some people advocate that Christians do not have to obey the moral requirements of the law. As an example, The Reformation Project, which appears to be a pro-LGBTQ group, writes at their website (emphasis added):
Leviticus 18:22 prohibits male same-sex intercourse, and Leviticus 20:13 prescribes the death penalty for violators. But Christians have never lived under the Old Testament law.
The Old Testament contains 613 commandments for God’s people to follow. Leviticus includes rules about offerings, clean and unclean foods, diseases, bodily discharges, sexual taboos, and priestly conduct.
But the New Testament teaches that Christ’s death and resurrection fulfilled the law, which is why its many rules and regulations have never applied to Christians. Romans 10:4 says, “Christ is the end of the law.” Colossians 2:13-14 says that God “forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
Does Romans 10:4 eliminate the moral requirements of the law for 21st Christ-followers? The answer is “NO!” for at least three basic reasons. Namely, the text itself, the record in Matthew of Jesus teachings, and Paul’s other writings in Romans. Please keep in mind that (1) Jesus is God the Son so what He says is authoritative, (2) what Paul and Matthew wrote came from God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and (3) God is not inconsistent so that there must harmony between these passages.
Looking at the text itself, verse 4 is contained in the block of text comprising Romans 10:1-13 (ESV) which reads:
1 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. 4 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.”
To better understand verse 4, I “phrased” verses 1-13. What I found was that Paul begins this block of text by revealing his desire that the Jews would be saved. Even though they have religious zeal, they were on the wrong road because they were trying to save themselves by law-keeping. Verse 5 describes law-keeping as the teaching that “the person who does the commandments [of the law] shall live by them.” A theology of salvation through law-keeping equates to a rejection of “the righteousness of God” or “God’s righteousness.” These terms “the righteousness of God” or “God’s righteousness” mean the right standing that comes from God. It is clear that the Jews were missing heaven because they were seeking salvation on their own.
Verses 6-7 explains what “righteousness based on faith” does not say, i.e., personal works cannot save a person. More specifically, the “who” (i.e., a person) cannot ascend into heaven and bring Christ down from heaven. Jesus Christ the Son of God came down to earth because He was sent by God the Father. His incarnation was not the working of man. The “who” (i.e., a person) cannot descend into the abyss (i.e., hell) and bring Christ up from the dead. Jesus’ physical bodily resurrection was through the power of God and was not something performed by man. Also, the incarnation and the resurrection had already been accomplished so that it would have been impossible to do them again.
Verses 8-13 then explain what is “righteousness based on faith.” It is beyond the scope of this article to fully exegete this entire passage. Yet, we see that salvation has nothing to do with law, but is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But note that there is no teaching in the verses (i.e., 1-3 and 5-13) surrounding verse 4 that abrogate the moral requirements of the law.
Referring to verse 4, the ESV translates the Greek conjunction gar as the first occurrence of “for.” One commentator explains the function of gar:
Verses 2, 3, 4, and 5 all begin with the particle gar, a word that usually introduces an explanation, a confirmation, or a reason for what precedes. (The NIV translates it only in v. 2). Thus the point is that something in the previous verse or context is true, because v. 4 is true.
Cottrell, J. (1996). Romans (Vol. 2, Ro 10:4). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.
The ESV translates the Greek preposition eis as the second occurrence of “for.” Cottrell describes one way to interpret eis:
According to the other interpretation, eis should be connected only with the word “law,” introducing a simple prepositional phrase (εἰς δικαιοσύνην, eis dikaiosynēn) that modifies that word alone. Thus the verse would be saying that Christ is the end of “law for righteousness” or law “as a means toward righteousness” (Dunn, 2:596). This is how the NASB translates it: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
This interpretation of eis results in an understanding of Romans 10:4 that reads:
“Christ is the end of the law as a way to righteousness for everyone who has faith” [Morris]
“Christ is the termination of the law-system as a way of righteousness for each individual who puts his trust in God’s gracious promises.” [Cottrell]
In view of the context of Romans 10:1-13, it is my view that Paul intended to say to his intended audience that Christ is the end of the law-keeping way for salvation for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. As Morris writes [boldfacing added]:
But here Paul is saying rather that Christ is the end to law as a way of attaining righteousness. This does not mean the abolishing of the law, for Paul claims that he is establishing it (3:31), and he claims value for it (e.g., 7:7). What Paul is emphasizing is the decisive end to all such claims as those of the Jews (cf. 6:14; 7:4, 6; Eph. 2:15). The saving work of Christ has brought to a close any attempt to attain righteousness by way of law.
We should not overlook the importance of for everyone who believes. This is not a way for the Jews only or for the Gentiles only; it applies to everyone. But we are not to interpret this as meaning that everyone without exception attains the righteousness in question; it is everyone who believes. Faith is absolutely necessary, and without it no one obtains the righteousness of which Paul writes.
The text itself shows that the availability of salvation through Jesus Christ did not abolish the moral requirements of the law for a 21st Century Christ-follower.
Second, Jesus’ teachings are authoritative and He did not abolish the moral requirements of the law. For example, as recorded in Matthew 5:17 (ESV), Jesus said:
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
This statement is clear on its face.
Notice that immediately after the above statement, Jesus presented examples of where He actually increased the requirements of the moral law. Two fundamental commands of the Ten Commandments are spelled out Exodus 20:13–14 (ESV):
13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery.
In reference to murder, as recorded in Matthew 5:21–22 (ESV), Jesus taught:
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Jesus upped the standard from the actual taking of a life to anger and insults.
In reference to the act of adultery, Matthew 5:27–30 (ESV) records how Jesus raised the bar for sexual morals:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Jesus’ teachings very clearly show that His coming did not remove the moral law of the Old Testament for the 21st Century Christ-follower.
The third basic reason is that elsewhere in Romans, Paul made it clear that the moral law still remains. In Romans 3:31 (ESV), Paul wrote:
31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
Newman et al. (Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1973). A handbook on Paul’s letter to the Romans (p. 72). New York: United Bible Societies) write:
In verse 31 Paul uses the Law as a reference to the total religious system of Judaism, which finds its visible embodiment in the Old Testament. So Paul now turns to the Old Testament itself to prove that faith does not do away with the Law but rather upholds it. There is no other incident in the Old Testament likely to have more appeal to the Jews than the account of God’s making the covenant with Abraham, and so in the following chapter Paul uses this passage in particular to establish his point.
In Romans 7:7 (ESV), Paul writes that the law defines sin:
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
Boa et al. (Boa, K., & Kruidenier, W. (2000). Romans (Vol. 6, p. 222). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers) write:
7:7. Paul sets out first to demonstrate the value of the law. Granted, it is “the old way” (v. 6), but his fictional questioner would have us believe that the law is sin. Paul brings his typical energy to bear on the response: the law is certainly not sin (see notes on Rom. 6:2, me genoito). He then details the first of five ways that the law is valuable. Just as a black speck is made “visible” against a pure white background, so is sin made visible by the purity of the law. The law reveals what was there all along, but was “invisible” since everything around it was the same. In a world of “black” sins, individual acts of sin are unknown until a pure white standard is introduced. Immediately all the individual acts of sin become visible.
For the above reasons, Romans 10:4 does not give license to practice sin in contradiction to the moral law of the Old Testament. The contention at The Reformation Project website that says “But the New Testament teaches that Christ’s death and resurrection fulfilled the law, which is why its many rules and regulations have never applied to Christians” is wrong.
If you are reading this post and are not a Christian, unless God intervenes, your eternal destination is hell. But, your destiny can change. Today can be the day of your salvation. Please see my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/04/20/for-god-so-loves-you-2/) for a description of how you can be saved.
The Professor Grant Horner Bible Reading System is a great 500 day Bible reading plan. The following link presents a description of the plan ( https://sohmer.net/media/professor_grant_horners_bible_reading_system.pdf). My goal is to briefly share my thoughts on the passage that stands out the most for me each day.
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Hi Steve. It would also be good to directly mention that NT moral rules are much stronger than those of the OT, e.g., the Decalogue. As you say, Jesus makes that clear in the Sermon on the Mount: adultery in the heart is as bad as the physical act; calling someone a fool is as bad as murder. NT morality has moved to our inside motivations, not just outside actions. So this oft-heard declaration about not living under the OT is hogwash. Anyone who says it is looking to get out of something, has never repented, and wants a get-out-of-jail-free card.