Romans 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Why did so many first-century Jews not receive Jesus as their Messiah? From a divine perspective, it was because God has chosen only some Jews for salvation, just as He has chosen to redeem only some Gentiles (Rom. 9:1-29). On the human level, which is established by the divine decree and does not operate apart from the Lord’s sovereign ordination, the Jews rejected Christ because they followed the Mosaic law as if it were based on works, not faith (9:30-10:13). These Jews had God’s inscripturated law as the clear revelation of His righteousness, and from the law’s sacrificial system and Moses’ prophecy, they should have known that they could not keep the commandments with the perfection required for justification (Lev. 16; Deut. 31:16-18). But they missed that truth and turned God’s law into a system of works-righteousness. Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary Romans: “God did not give the law as a way for us to attain status in his family. The law was given to show us the righteousness of God. It was given so that we can see the perfect righteousness of God and by comparison see ourselves, warts and all, and despair of our own righteousness. The law sends us rushing to the cross and running for grace.”
Comparatively speaking, the Gentiles did not fail so miserably. While not all of them believed, many did, and this was remarkable because the Gentiles did not pursue righteousness (Rom. 9:30-33). The Apostle does not mean that the Gentiles did not strive to live ethically based on God’s law in nature; rather, Paul is indicating that the Gentiles did not have the clear standards of righteousness revealed in the Mosaic law. Therefore, no matter how hard they tried, they could never truly pursue the kind of righteousness the Lord requires. Although they were not even looking for it, they found it. When the Apostles preached the righteousness of God to the Gentiles from the Mosaic law, they saw that they could not meet His standard and by faith they rested only in Christ (Acts 28:23-28).
By God’s grace, the Gentiles saw what Paul teaches in today’s passage, namely, that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4). The word end is better translated as goal, for the Apostle does not mean that Jesus makes the Mosaic law irrelevant but that the law points beyond itself to Christ. God’s law is not an end in itself, but is designed to lead us to the One who can give us the righteousness demanded in the law—Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Cor. 1:30).
The early church father Irenaeus writes: “How is Christ the end of the law if he is not also the cause of it? For he who has brought in the end also created the beginning.” The Son of God gave us the Mosaic law, through His Holy Spirit, so to search for Jesus in the law is to fulfill the purpose for which He gave it. As we read the law and see our need for the righteousness only God can provide in Christ, we are using His law rightly and being brought to its true goal.