CHRIST THE END OF THE LAW?
What relationshlp do the Ten Commandments have to our standing
before God? Can we satisfy God's moral requirements by obeying
them? How me they related to faith? These and questions like them
puzzle many Christians. If we are to gain the benefit of the law
described in Psalm 1, we need to know answers.
by Vincent Schmieder
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ARE PART OF SCRIPTURE AND ARE THEREFORE
HOLY, righteous, and just (Ro.7:12). They are a perfect blueprint
for interpersonal relationships. But as part of the "law" they
have three other purposes in Scripture. They show man his sinful
condition. They show man that he is totally helpless to deal with
his sin by himself. They point the way to God's plan of salvation
through Jesus Christ.
The way to become righteous or just in God's sight is by a
gift of grace by God. We cannot work for the gift, but can only
receive it through faith in what Jesus did for us. Once we have
received the gift of righteousness and have been made just, we
must continue in faith. We must not try to keep the Ten
Commandments as a way to maintain our righteousness before God.
Nevertheless, as Christians who walk by faith we act out our
faith, for "faith without deeds is useless" (Jas.2:20). We act in
love because faith expresses itself "through love" (Gal.5:6). We
also obey and keep the words and commandments of Jesus
(Jn.14:21-23). Thus we want to fulfill the Ten Commandments
perfectly in the way God intended.
Paul tells us, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness"
(2 Tim.3:16). He tells us the purpose of Scripture in verse 17:
"so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good
work." We need to study and understand the Ten Commandments
properly if they are to be used by God to teach, rebuke, correct,
and train us in righteousness.
In the New Testament the law frequently is contrasted with
grace. It is associated with Moses. Grace comes by Jesus Christ
(Jn.1:17). Because of Christ we are not under the law but under
It seems at first that all we have to do to be right with
God and to have perfect relationships with others is to obey the
Ten Commandments. But both Scripture and human experience tell us
that we are unable to do what God wrote. We cannot follow all of
His holy commandments all of the time (Ro.3:20; 7:7).
Paul summarizes the purposes of the commandments in Ro.
3:20-22: "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his
sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become
conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from
law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets
testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus
Christ to all who believe."
If righteousness before God comes by faith, what are we to
do about the Ten Commandments? Are we to neglect them? No, but we
must realize that there are right and wrong uses of them.
The moral law seals our fate in sin, binding us over to
death and sentencing us to God's wrath (Ro.4:15; 5:13) - So it
brings us death (1 Cor.15:56; Ro.8:2).
But how can holy, righteous commandments in God's perfect
law cause our condemnation and seal our bondage in sin? The law
is unable to deal with man's sinful nature. The Ten Commandments
reveal but do not deal with sin. We know the law is right but our
sin and old nature make us go the opposite way. Only death can
destroy the bond between our sin and the law (Ro.7:1-6). In fact
the entire message of Romans 7 is that even Christians cannot
lead a free life until the law has been dealt with.
How is the law dealt with? "Christ is the end of the law so
that there may be righteousness foreveryone who believes" (Ro.
10:4). How did Jesus become the "end of the law?" He did so
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross paid the death
penalty for the broken law in our stead and thus liberated us
from the law. The Living Bible describes our freedom from the
condemnation of the law this way: "In my mind I want to be God's
willing servant but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.
So you see how it is; my new life tells me to do right, but the
old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a
terrible predicament I'm in! Who will free me from my slavery to
this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus
Christ our Lord. He has set me free" (Ro.7:24-25).
It is thus a basic Christian doctrine that no one can be
saved or made just or right with God by obeying the Ten
Commandments. The only way to come to God is by receiving the
gift of God's grace by faith.
How Do We Live?
But after we have been justified by grace through faith how
do we maintain right human relationships? Should we say, "Praise
the Lord for my salvation, and now I can go and keep the Ten
Commandments?" Or should we say, "I'll continue by faith and
allow the grace of God to work through me, which will result in
the Ten Commandments being fulfilled in my life?"
The Bible gives a very clear answer: "...the righteous will
live by his faith" (Hab.2:4; cf. Ro.1:17; Heb.10:38; Gal.3:11).
The passage applies not only to how we are saved, but also to how
we are to live as Christians day by day. In Gal.3:11, living by
works of law and living by faith are directly contrasted:
"Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, 'The
righteous will live by faith.'"
Surely here is a point of tension. We face two questions.
First, faith sounds good, but it is vague and gives no clear
guidelines; what then are we to do?
Second, if we are not to follow the Ten Commandments, what
does guide our living?
The answer to both questions is that faith comes by hearing
and hearing by God's Word (Ro.10:17). God will always speak in an
understandable way to those who will listen to Him. "He who
belongs to God hears what God says;" Jesus tells us (Jn.8:47). He
adds, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow
Faith means listening to God's voice - it requires taking
time to be quiet and to listen with a humble attitude. It
involves asking God what His Word means as we study it.
It also requires doing what we hear God telling us to do.
The parable of the two houses at the end of Matthew 7 reveals
that the man who hears but does not obey will fall, but the man
who does what he hears is built on the rock and does not fall.
James declares therefore that "faith without deeds is useless"
God speaks to us through His Holy Spirit, the Author of
God's Word (2 Tim.3:16). God cannot contradict Himself (Mt.
12:25-28). Therefore the Holy Spirit never contradicts the
written Word of God. What does this have to do with the Ten
It means that while we do not use obedience to the Ten
Commandments as our means to salvation, still if we live by faith
and do what God, through the Spirit, tells us to do, we will
never violate them, but instead will fulfill them. We will want
to obey God's Word (Jn.14:23), and thereby to prove that we love
Him. We will walk in love because faith works through love (Gal.
5:6), and walking in love is the fulfilling of all of the Ten
Thus the "righteous requirements of the law" are "fully met
in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but
according to the Spirit" (Ro.8:4). We do not "nullify the law by
this faith" but, "Rather, we uphold the law" (Ro.3:31).
At the time this article was published in the "Discipleship
Journal" (issue 21 - 1984) VINCENT SCHMIEDER was a Lutheran
minister, a lawyer, and a professor of law at the Simon Geen-
leaf School of Law, Orange, California.
The phrase "end of the law" as explained in other studies on this
Website means, the "purpose" the "goal" the "aim" - the aim and
purpose of the law is to show and lead us to a PERFECT, and HOLY,
and RIGHTEOUS, Jesus Christ. As we meditate on the law of God as
King David did and as he taught us to do (Psalm 1), we will see
the PERFECT HOLINESS, the PERFECT SINLESSNESS of both God the
Father and His Son Christ Jesus.
It is not hard to understand LAW AND GRACE. Even children reading
the Bible can understand it. It blows my mind to a million
pieces, that SOME in the North America "fundamental/evangelical"
world of Christianity, have not been able to understand it, and
have taught and preached a false Gospel. It surely was that way
with many of those fellows back in the 1960s when I was listening
and studying all that North American "fundamental" Christianity
was teaching on the radio and in literature. Maybe some have
learnt their errors since them, but do not be surprised if you
still hear taught that false Gospel. Deception is still very much
alive and well.
You have seen in this series of studies SOME in the distant past
and some in the present of the last 50 years, DO UNDERSTAND LAW
SO CAN YOU! Just read ALL the Bible, ALL the New Testament, be as
a child in your spirit of mind and attitude, and you will KNOW
THE TRUTH, and the TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE! Jesus PROMISED it!
Entered on this Website March 2008