Jesus Fulfilled the Law
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 10:3a Because they disregarded the righteousness from God…
The Jews were zealous for God (Romans 10:2), but wrong in their understanding of how a person is made right with God. This is the worst error people make. It is a condemning mistake. We need a zeal harnessed by Scripture. Bible knowledge keeps us ever aware of our deed’s consequences.
In mistaken zeal, many people want to please God based on their own works. They refuse to acknowledge a righteousness received by faith. They willfully turn their backs on the method of salvation revealed in Jesus.
Of their own free will, they shut their eyes and choose to remain in darkness. There is no one as blind as the person who does not want to see, and no one as unenlightened as the one who does not want to learn.
People who believe in being saved by works can be adamant. Once convinced of their position, they often stubbornly refuse to acknowledge any need for the only kind of righteousness God has authored and accepted. It can be almost impossible to change their thinking.
Romans 10:3b …and attempted to establish their own righteousness,…
Rather than humbly receive righteousness from God by faith, many of Paul’s kin chose to try to establish their own brand of righteousness by works, to substitute works-righteousness for grace-righteousness.
“Establish” meant to set up by one’s own effort. Many people want to erect a righteousness that will be a monument to them rather than to God.
People who believe in works-righteousness fail to understand they offend God if they insist on standing on their own two feet. They are guilty of committing a religious person’s way of rebelling against God. Profligates rebel by floundering in sin; the religious rebel by floundering in pride.
Those who embrace salvation by works not only underestimate the importance of God’s righteousness; they also overestimate the importance of their own. God is so holy that angelic seraphim in His presence cover their faces and feet with wings. If God is this holy, what chance do we, who are covered with only a mere outward thin crust of goodness, have before Him?
The mistake of seeking to bypass grace is an error still made often. Many people desperately try to generate righteousness. This is impossible to do. We can learn from the foolish error of the ancient alchemists, who tried repeatedly in vain to find a way to make gold. Experiment after experiment failed, but many continued the useless effort. People make the same mistake, trying to create their own righteousness. They won’t admit it cannot be done.
People conscientiously deny themselves pleasures, longing to be right with God. They soar high and dive deep, seeking a way to earn salvation. All the while, the blessing they frantically seek is in close reach of everyone.
Romans 10:3c …they have not submitted themselves to God’s
Here is the real reason people reject grace-righteousness; they refuse to submit to God’s ways. This refusal to come under God’s authority is the condemning sin. “Submitted” was a military term, referring soldiers being willing to yield to a commanding officer. It meant putting one’s self under orders from another. A person’s salvation requires a submissive spirit. We must be willing to yield. There has to be a decision to do things God’s way.
Most people refuse to do this. Wanting nothing to do with being humbled, they reject salvation that calls for repentance. Having no intent to accept a crucified Redeemer, they refuse to yield to the Gospel’s terms.
Sinners usually want neither to submit to the merit of Christ nor to be obligated to God. They zealously choose to depend on their own goodness.
A preacher was once emphasizing the fact a person’s first duty toward God is to abandon sin. A listener replied, “There is a prior duty; to abandon the trust in our own righteousness.” Wise words. People must come to the place they feel even their best deeds are but filthy rags in God’s eyes. Only then will a person decide to give them up and seek better spiritual clothing.
Romans 10:4a For Christ is the end of the law…
“End” does not mean termination. It refers to fulfillment, to what a thing points and leads. We could rightly say here, Jesus is the aim of the law.
The law, the life-rules God prescribed for us, was never meant to be an end in itself. It never brought salvation to anyone. God’s righteousness was never achieved by keeping the law. Salvation has always been by grace through faith. In Romans 4, Paul used Abraham and David to illustrate this.
Law was given to take us by the hand and lead us to where salvation can be found. Jesus is this refuge, the end of the law: its aim, its goal.
The only thing about law Jesus tried to totally terminate was people’s wrong thinking about it. The moment we receive salvation by grace through faith we cast away all efforts to be saved by keeping the law. To believers, trying to attain salvation by works is a vestige of a mistaken past. Christ terminates our wrong thinking about the law, but does not terminate the law.
Jesus fulfilled the law, not by setting it aside, but rather by satisfying its demands. There were essentially two types of Old Testament law.
One, Moral Law. These were the laws God gave to help us in our everyday lives be more pleasing to Him and to others. No one could keep them all. They were an ultimate reminder of people’s sinfulness and failure.
Two, Ceremonial Law. God gave these rules to give direction to our worship. People did have access to God, but it had to be regulated. Due to failure with moral law, we could come to God only in His way on His terms.
The very fact God gave ceremonial law shows that moral law was not enough. Moral law, at best, revealed the sickness; ceremonial law pointed to a remedy provided by God. Ceremonial law gave people hopes of mercy.
Jesus fulfilled both the moral and ceremonial law. He fulfilled the moral law by enduring its curse for us at the cross. Broken laws demanded punishment. Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself provided this for us.
Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law by becoming the means of access to the Father that all the Old Testament types and shadows had pictured. Jesus became the High Priest, the intercessor, the offering. By providing the necessary blood and sacrifice, He became the God-ordained remedy for sin.
Christ fulfilling the moral and ceremonial law does not mean they are finished in the sense of being destroyed. The moral law is not terminated; it still does what it was always meant to do. It convinces people of their sin.
Ceremonial law still has a role to play. It is true we no longer need to act out the requirements it stipulated. Jesus became the real thing; there is no need to go through the motions of enacting shadows and types.
Nevertheless, the precepts of the ceremonial law are still retained in Holy Writ. Though they are no longer enacted, they still point people to Jesus. In the Tabernacle and its ritual, we read powerful object lessons regarding the purpose and meaning of Jesus’ work and ministry.
In my pastorates, some of the most blessed lessons regarding Jesus I have taught have come from the Old Testament types and figures of Him. It is in this sense the ceremonial law still lives.
The moral law reveals people deserve condemnation; Jesus has borne this curse. The ceremonial law reveals that God wants to make access to Him possible; Jesus is the way to the Father (John 14:6). Thus we can say Jesus truly is the end—that is, the fulfillment and the aim—of the law.