Christ and the Law – Romans 10:4-8


Father, as we come now to the study of Your Word, we recognize we are totally, completely dependent upon the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us into the understanding of Your Word, as well as to be challenged by the Spirit to put it into practice in our own lives. I pray that You will use me really just as a secondary teacher to help explain this text, but we pray the Spirit would be the great Illuminator and Enlightener. Open our eyes that we may behold Your Word. Lord, I thank you for these men. I pray that you will, this summer, just continue to mature them in the Lord and grow them in the grace and knowledge of Christ. I pray that You would now fill me with Your Spirit and stir up within me the gift you’ve put within me so that we can dig into this text and understand and apply what it says. Father, we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.


Okay men, we are in Romans 10, Romans chapter 10, and I want to read verses 4 through 8. I hope we can get to all of these truths. The title of this is “Christ and the Law,” Christ and the Law. Beginning in verse 4,


“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, bring Christ down), or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).’ But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching.”      


Admittedly these verses are somewhat difficult to understand what they mean as we give an initial, cursory reading of them. And whenever we begin to study a passage of Scripture, we always need to find the big idea – what is the central theme, what is the dominant thrust in a passage – and it often is discovered by what is the key theological word in that passage or what is a repeating word.


In this case, it’s actually both. The central theme is found in the theological word “righteousness,” which is repeated. It’s found four times in this passage. Once in verse 4, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness,” twice in verse 5, and once in verse 6. So that’s really kind of the pillars that uphold the highway that runs through this text. This text is about righteousness, the righteousness that Christ has secured, the righteousness that you and I need, the righteousness that we cannot earn, and the righteousness that we receive by faith.


So in many ways, the word “righteousness” is even the key to the whole book of Romans. The key passage in the entire book of Romans is Romans 1 verse 17, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.'” So the number one key word in the entire book of Romans is “righteousness,” and so here we find it four times in this passage.


The word “righteousness” literally means “perfect justice” or “perfect equity.” And the best illustration that I can think of is the statue of Lady Justice, who is often found as a statue in our courts of law. Lady Justice is an allegorical figure drawn from ancient Greek, and she’s really the personification of justice. And as I describe the statue, you’ll immediately recognize Lady Justice. She is a woman standing with blindfolds on, which indicates that justice is to be impartial. It should show no regard to wealth or to status or to power, and so she has blindfolds on so that she would administer equal justice under the law to all.


And then, in her right hand, are a pair of scales, and the scales actually are perfectly level, they’re perfectly balanced, and they’re suspended in midair, they’re not resting on anything. And this is intended to indicate that she is weighing the evidence in the balance, and whatever is put on one side of the scales in evidence, the other side of the scales is the verdict and they’re not out of sync. In other words, this is really in Leviticus, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” that the punishment fits the crime. And whatever the evidence says, there will be either the retribution or there will be an acquittal. And the fact that they are level is really what the word “righteousness” means. It’s perfect justice, perfect equity.


And in her left hand she actually has a sword, and the sword is to indicate that the justice that she administrates is done swiftly and there cannot be an override, it’s the final word. And she speaks with authority, and she speaks with power as indicated by the sword. And as she’s holding the scales, they’re suspended in mid-air and it is that it’s not resting upon any mere human opinion, but purely on weighing the evidence and then rendering the verdict.


The word “righteousness,” the reason I tell you all this is that it’s represented in these scales, because for you and me, we are weighed in the balances by God. And our entire life, every deed, every thought, every word, everything that we did, everything we didn’t do, the entirety of our life is put on one side of the scales. And we are being weighed in the balances by God, and that’s true. And on the other side of the scales is the perfect holiness of Almighty God. And we are measured, not against the corporate average of humanity concerning its morality, we’re not being graded on the curve. There is no grace with justice. And we are weighed and compared against the perfect spotless, without blemish, holiness of God, flawless. And of course, we fall short of the glory of God. And the wages of sin is death, and God does not grade on the curve, or God would cease to be a perfectly just God.


And so, the only way to bring these scales into perfect conformity, to be level, is for someone to live a perfect life, for someone to be born under the law and to live in our place, and to live a perfect life, and for their life to be interposed in our place. And so, for our life to be taken off the one side of the scales and for the perfect life to be put on the other side of the scales, and now it’s in perfect conformity. And that is what is called “righteousness,” perfect equity, perfect justice. And of course, we know who that is, there’s only been one person who’s lived a perfect life under the law of God, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, that really is the meaning of the word “righteousness.”


To put it another way, it means “conformity to a standard,” and that standard is the character of God, the perfect holy character of God. And the Bible even says that just even one sin is sufficient to bring the verdict of eternal death and the second death against us. Well, that happened over six thousand years ago, when Adam sinned his sin was charged to our account, and that alone was sufficient to condemn us before a holy God in heaven.


And so, God in His mercy and God in His grace has intervened and done something for us that we could never do, because we cannot reverse our life and start all over and try to live a sinless life, and even if we could, we still could not meet the standard that God has, which is absolute perfection. Matthew 5 verse 48, Jesus said, “You shall be perfect, for My heavenly Father is perfect.” In Leviticus 11:44, “You shall be holy, as the Lord God is holy,” and that’s in Leviticus 19:2 as well.


So as we are looking at this passage and we see this word “righteousness,” what that means is for our life to be in perfect conformity to the holiness of God. Well, as you and I know, our lives are not in perfect conformity to the holiness of God, and quite frankly that’s bad news. The good news is that God has sent His Son not only to die for us, but to live for us as well. And it’s His perfect life lived in obedience to the entirety of the law of God that is put on the side of the scales, where our life once was, when we believe in Jesus Christ. So, I hope you can follow the analogy for this word “righteousness.”


So, let’s look at this text and walk through this passage. And starting in verse 4, I want you to see “Righteousness Fulfilled.” Righteousness fulfilled, in verse 4, let me read this verse again. This is a critically important verse. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness,” in other words, for the attaining of righteousness, “to everyone who believes.” So, what this is saying is that Jesus Christ, in His sinless life and in His substitutionary death, is the end of the law for the achieving of righteousness.


Now, what does this mean, “the end of the law”? Well, this does not mean that the moral law of God, when I say “the moral law of God,” I mean that which is succinctly summarized in the Ten Commandments. This does not mean that the moral law of God is now annulled or canceled. And I want to just very quickly show you why we know that is not the case.


And if you’ll turn back to Romans 7 just very quickly, Romans 7, and I’m just going to have to do this pretty quickly, on the fly. In Romans 7, beginning in verse 4, Paul speaks of the law as still having binding authority and binding effect in our lives and in his life. And so in verse 4, for example, “You were made to die to the Law.” It doesn’t say the law died; we died to the law. In verse 5, “The sinful passions were aroused by the Law,” this is in New Testament times.


Verse 6, “We now have been released from the Law, having died to that,” which simply means released from the condemnation of the law when we put our faith in Christ. In verse 8, “For apart from the Law, sin is dead.” Verse 12, “The Law is,” present tense, “holy, and the commandment,” which is a synonym for the law, “is,” present tense, “holy and righteous and good,” even in Paul’s day. Verse 14, “For we know that the Law is spiritual,” present tense. Verse 16, “I agree with the Law,” present tense, “confessing that the Law is good,” present tense.


And now come to Romans 13, very quickly, I just want you to see this in your own Bible, Romans 13 verse 8, as Paul gets into the practicality of living the Christian life, which will start in Romans 12. But in Romans 13 verse 8, ” Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law.” Verse 9, “For this,” and now he quotes the law, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Verse 10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law,” present tense.


So, the moral law of God is still binding on our lives. The Ten Commandments have every bit the right to command our lives and direct our lives, and the only one I would tweak is the Sabbath, and we’ll save that for another discussion. But when we read in Romans 10 verse 4 that Christ is the end of the law, I do not want any of us to have the wrong perception that now we can live a lawless Christian life. The Ten Commandments are still binding. I could take us to multiple other passages to demonstrate this.


So, what this is saying is a couple of things. Number one, Jesus is the only one who kept the moral law of God and perfectly obeyed it. And it is His perfect obedience to the law of God that has fulfilled all righteousness and has secured righteousness for us. In the act of justification, when we believe upon Christ, God credits righteousness to our account, God imputes righteousness to our account. We all know that in this room, sola fide. So the question is, “Where did this righteousness come from?” Well, God doesn’t just create it ex nihilo, out of thin air, it is a righteousness that Christ obtained for us through His sinless life, and that is the righteousness that is put into our account by Christ’s obedience, His perfect obedience to the law of God. So, that’s the initial understanding that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. It’s a Greek word, telos, that means “fulfillment” or “realization.”


Now, there is also another dimension to this. The law of God is divided into three segments as it’s found in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, the moral law, but there’s still two other segments. There is the ceremonial law, which is the priest, the priesthood, the sacrifices that would be brought as a type, or a picture, of the Lamb of God who would one day take away the sin of the world, all of those priestly sacrifices. Christ is the end of the ceremonial law in that He was the one true, perfect sacrifice offered upon the altar of Calvary’s cross. And in the shedding of His blood He made the perfect blood atonement, as He our great high priest offered Himself up upon the cross.


And so, there is now no need to bring an animal sacrifice into a worship service. Christ is the termination and the cancellation, the annulment of the ceremonial law and the entire sacrificial system of offering a goat or a lamb as a sin offering on our behalf. So that is why we do not practice the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16, because Christ is that one final, great atonement. And that is why also we are so opposed to the Catholic Mass, which says that Christ’s atonement on the cross was insufficient to save us, and there must be a continual flowing of the blood of Christ from heaven into a communion cup or into a cup, and that is the real blood of Christ and the real body of Christ. Well, that is a total defiance of even this text that Christ is the end of the ceremonial law. There is no further sacrifice of Jesus Christ in heaven.


So, what this is saying is that Christ is the fulfillment or realization of the moral law, and He is the end of the ceremonial law to obtain righteousness…for the obtaining of righteousness. Now this is what you and I desperately need. We’ve talked about this before, I’m not going to elaborate on it, we need more than forgiveness of sin. If all you have is forgiveness of sin, you’re not ready for heaven. If all you have is forgiveness of sin, all you have is the removal of sin that has been washed away by the blood of Christ. But all that does is bring you back to zero. You must have a positive righteousness in order to stand approved by God in heaven, and so we desperately need this righteousness to be credited to our account. If all we have is the washing away of our sin, we just stand naked before God. We must be clothed with this perfect righteousness that was obtained for us by Christ in His active and passive obedience to the law of God and to the will of God.


So, let me just give you two quick cross-references which are really worth noting at this point. 1 Corinthians 1 verse 30, “Christ Jesus became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” Jesus became righteousness for us. Again, through His sinless life, living a perfect life, His final act of obedience was to give His life upon the cross. That perfect life is what is placed on the other side of the scales that meets the requirement of the law of God on our behalf.


The other verse is Philippians 3 verse 9, as Paul gives his own personal testimony. And it says, “And may be found in Him,” referring to Christ, it’s first a negative then a positive, “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law,” Paul is saying I could not obtain this righteousness for myself. I can’t live a perfect life. He then says, “but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” So we must have a righteousness that is given to us, and this is the beauty of the gospel. Listen to this, the righteousness that God requires, God provides. And God gives freely to sinners who have no righteousness of their own. And it is a righteousness that God gives to us that has been obtained by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Let me give you one more verse, 2 Corinthians 5:21, twenty-one words in the Greek language. “He,” God the Father, “He made Him,” God the Son, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” close quote. So, Christ has obtained this righteousness on our behalf. Christ has met the standard of the law of God on our behalf. And God the Father takes the perfect righteousness of Christ and gives it to us, and this is really what we call “the great exchange” at the cross, the great exchange. The worst about us, our sin, was laid upon Christ. And the best about Him, His perfect righteousness, laid upon us. This is the grace of God and the mercy of God that our sins are taken off of us and laid on Christ, and He became our sin bearer.


1 Peter 2:24 says, “He bore our sins in His body upon the cross.” “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on behalf,” again, 2 Corinthians 5:21. So our sins transferred to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that was all symbolized on the Day of Atonement when the high priest would lay his hands on the scapegoat, and it symbolized the transfer of our sins to the innocent sacrifice, and the scapegoat was then released into the wilderness to take our sins far, far away. But the Father must also lay His hands upon us and transfer to us the righteousness of this Lamb of God, the righteousness obtained or secured by the obedience of Jesus Christ on our behalf. So, the Father has laid His hands upon Christ, transferred our sins to Christ. And when we believe upon Christ, He lays His hands upon us and transfers Christ’s perfect righteousness to us.


So, in Romans 10 and verse 4, there is a wealth of theology that is really standing behind this verse. This is the tip of the iceberg of a vast knowledge of sound doctrine concerning our salvation. Now, that leads us to the second heading. We’ve talked about “Righteousness Rulfilled.” I want you to see “Righteousness Received,” and that’s at the end of verse 4. There’s a qualifier. Everyone in the world is not made automatically righteous because of the atonement of Christ. It is qualified by this. It says, “To everyone who believes,” to everyone who believes. Now, “everyone” here is open-ended, this is the “whosoever” of the gospel, whoever you are, whether Jew or Gentile, whether male or female, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, to everyone.


And this again indicates that there is not one way of salvation for the Jew and a different way of salvation for the Gentile. No, no, no, everyone who believes indicates the exclusivity of this righteousness being received by faith alone in Christ alone. And there’s not another way for someone who is in another religion to have this righteousness. It does not come through Mohammed, it does not come through Buddha, it does not come through Brigham Young, it does not come through anyone else or anything else. This righteousness comes from God through Christ alone, and it is received by faith alone in Christ alone. That’s the clear teaching of this.


Now, let me remind us what “believe” means, “to believe.” It’s a Greek word pisteuo, and it means, and this is worth restating. It means “to trust in,” it means “to rely upon,” it means “to have faith in,” it means “to commit to,” it means “to submit to” and “to surrender to.” Those are all synonymous statements. Those are all just restating with different words that emphasize different aspects of true saving faith.


In other words, it’s not enough just to have mental assent in the mind and in the heart. It’s not enough just to know the facts of the gospel. Saving faith requires a decisive choice of the will to entrust your life to Jesus Christ. It means to come to Christ, not with your legs, but with your heart, and to come all the way to saving faith in Christ. And it is a faith that is not a blasé faire, casual, nonchalant faith. It really involves a crisis, whereby you turn away from all your own self efforts, and you confess your own sin, and you actually commit all that you are to the Lord Jesus Christ.


The best analogy is in a wedding ceremony, where the husband commits…the groom commits all that he is to this woman, and he is forsaking all other relationships, forsaking all other women, exclusively now committing his life to her in sickness and in health till death do me part. And she then reciprocates and makes the same commitment. Saving faith is not less than the commitment you’ve made to your wife, I can assure you that. It is an even far greater commitment than what you have made to your spouse, as you entrust your life and with a surrender and a sacrifice of your life to Christ.


So, that’s what it means to believe, and it means to acknowledge that your own efforts cannot meet the standard. Your own self-righteousness is really, according to Isaiah 64 verse 4, as filthy rags in the sight of God. And those “filthy rags” out of the Hebrew literally means “a woman’s menstrual rags” that are unclean under the law of God. That’s the best that you have to bring to the table. God says, “Filthy rags in my sight.” So that’s why the hymn says, “In my hands no price I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” So it’s received exclusively by faith.


So, before I move any further, I trust that you have received this righteousness that Christ has secured on your behalf. And there is no other basis to find acceptance with God in heaven than to receive this perfect righteousness, and it is received by faith alone, not faith and works, but by faith alone. And if you do not have this righteousness, one day when you stand before God, you will be weighed in the balances, and you will be found extremely wanting, and you will be without any perfect righteousness, and the righteousness that you will have to offer to God are nothing more than filthy rags, bloody rags in His sight that are loathsome in His sight. And that is the best you have offer. That’s not even your sin, that’s a whole another mountain range that’s added to that side of the scales.


And so, we are hopeless and helpless if we trust in ourselves and rely upon our own righteousness to bring the scales into balance when we are measured by God on the last day. We must have someone who has lived a perfect life stand in our place and His perfect life and His perfect death put on this other side of the scales that meets the requirement, and as those scales are held God sees that we are righteous and we now have a right standing before God. And there is nothing that we can contribute to this side of the scales, not even one fleck of morality or church attendance or prayers or service to others adds even one fleck of dust, one particle of dust to this side of the scales. Christ has done it all. Christ has secured it all on our behalf. So that’s verse 4.


Let’s look at one more verse, and verse 5. This is “Righteousness Failed,” righteousness failed. In verse 5, it begins with the word “for,” which is an explanation of verse 4. “For Moses writes,” and so Paul who has mastered the Old Testament, he mastered the Old Testament even when he was an unconverted Pharisee. He can just pull out of the back of his mind Old Testament citations. And now as he writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, there is a quickening of his mind as he writes. And so he says, “Moses writes,” he doesn’t tell us immediately, but it’s Leviticus 18:5 and Nehemiah 9:29, for you my excellent note takers, and Ezekiel 18:9. And for those of you really at the head of the class in note taking, Ezekiel 20 verse 11. I can’t waive that one off. The nail has already been driven into the board, okay? Alright, so “Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness based on law shall live by that righteousness.”


Now that looks innocent enough, like, well sure, we should all practice righteousness, we should all live by righteousness. I mean, none of us would disagree with that at the initial reading of this verse. I mean, Paul’s not going to say, “I really want you to live unrighteously,” okay? So, but there’s more than what initially meets the eye, and we know that because of the beginning of verse 6 that starts with the word “but,” which is a total contrast. “But the righteousness based on faith,” that’s verses 6, 7, and 8.


So verse 5, this righteousness is really an attempt at self-righteousness in total contrast to a righteousness received by faith in verse 6. So what verse 5 is saying is that everyone who relies on their own righteousness will be held accountable by God to meet that standard. If you want to get on that treadmill and say, “Okay, I’m going to practice righteousness, I’m going to live by righteousness, and I’m going to meet this standard,” then you are never going to meet the standard. We know that. We know that earlier from Romans 3 verse 23, “We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” we know that. So verse 5 is really “Righteousness Failed,” that’s why I’ve given it that heading, that no amount of our trying to practice the law and live by the law can meet the standard of the law, and our self-righteousness is completely futile. And this is an example of interpreting a passage within context.


So, we come now to verse 6, which is number four, “Righteousness Found.” And verse 6 begins with, you know, the contrastive conjunction “but,” which means “by total contrast,” “stark contrast,” on the total other hand of what verse 5 was saying, okay? The righteousness based on faith. So what was in verse 5 was not a righteousness based on faith, was a righteousness based on works, one’s own self efforts. But the righteousness based on faith, and the word “faith” is the same as the word “believes” at the end of verse 4, “but the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows,” now here’s a figure of speech for you, who is the speaker? The speaker is righteousness. And this is a figure of speech known as personification, where an inanimate object is revealed as speaking.


So this is righteousness speaking to us, “speaks as follows,” and Paul now quotes Deuteronomy 30 verse 12, “Do not say in your heart.” Now here’s what’s behind this. So where are we going to find this righteousness? How do I obtain this righteousness? “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ Question mark, parentheses, “that is,” comma, “to bring Christ down?” Question mark, close parentheses. And you may say, “What in the world does that mean?” Well, if Christ is the only obtaining of righteousness for us, and if I need this righteousness, do I have to ascend to heaven where Jesus is in order to receive this righteousness? And do I have to bring Christ back down to the earth in order to have this righteousness? That’s the thinking of Paul really quoting Moses in Deuteronomy.


Then in verse 7, “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ and bring Christ up from the dead.” That’s not really referring to hell, it’s just referring to the subterrain parts of the earth. I mean, the depths of the ocean and the sea. Do I have to go down into the deepest valleys of the earth and find Christ someplace and bring Him back up so that I can receive righteousness from Him? And so the presupposition is, Christ does have this righteousness. He did secure this righteousness. How do I get this righteousness from Christ? Do I have to go up to heaven where He is and bring Him down to have it? Do I have to go down to lowest parts of the earth, bring Him up in order to get it from Him?


Verse 8, “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you,'” and so he quotes Deuteronomy 30 verse 14. In other words, the answer is right in front you. It couldn’t be any more near. It’s staring you in the eyes. In fact, it’s even closer than that. He says, “In your mouth,” do you see it? You have already given the answer. You’ve already spoken the answer, it’s come out of your own mouth, it’s on the tip of your tongue. “When you confessed Christ,” that was the answer. And if you’ll look in verse 9, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved.”


Look at verse 10, at the end of verse 10, “with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” The answer to where you will find this righteousness, you’ve already confessed it, you’ve already said it. Now remember, Paul’s writing this to believers in the church at Rome. At this point, this is not an evangelistic appeal. “It’s in your mouth,” and then he goes further and he says, “and in your heart.” You already possess it, you already own it internally, and it’s in your heart, and that’s what he will say in verse 9, we’ll look at this later, “And believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.” So this righteousness, you don’t have to go look for it. You don’t have to go to heaven and bring Christ down. You don’t have to descend to the lower parts of the earth and bring Christ up to have it. It’s near you. How near is it to you? It’s already on the tip of your tongue, it’s in your mouth, it’s already in your heart. You’ve already believed, and it’s in your heart.


And then he gives the synonymous qualifier, “that is, the word of faith.” And “the word of faith” is just simply the gospel message that in it the righteousness of God is revealed by faith, Romans 1 verse 17. So, this righteousness, it’s in your mouth, it’s in your heart, it’s in the Word of God, it’s in the word of faith, and then he adds at the end of verse 8, “which we are preaching.”


And just to underscore this, the primary means for getting this message out is by the verbal preaching of the Word of God. First and foremost, the message is to go forth from a human being who opens his mouth and who speaks forth the Word of God. It is not intended to be visually presented; it is intended to be verbally presented. And by the way, that’s why the best preachers are not on television; they’re on the radio. It is to be verbally presented. There are some good ones on television, but the worst are on television. I’ll withhold names to protect the guilty. It is intended to be preached. Old Testament prophets, Christ, a preacher, apostles, preachers. God has appointed teachers and preachers and evangelists.


So there we have it, men. Where are you going to get this righteousness? It’s already on your mouth, it’s in your mouth, it’s in your heart, it’s near to you. You have believed in Jesus Christ, and you have received this righteousness that Jesus secured on your behalf through His sinless life and through His substitutionary death.


Okay, it’s a miracle. I got through it. Okay, I did it. Well, you’ll want T-shirts, “I survived Romans 10, 4 through 8.”