Derek Prince - Christ Is The End Of The Law
This is the third session of our series on Romans chapters 9–11. It embarrasses me to think that I haven’t really got to the end of chapter 9 yet, and I’m left wondering just exactly what’s going to follow. But I have to go back to the latter part of chapter 9 because I went over it so quickly that I don’t think some of you have got all that was there for it. Going back to Romans 9 verse 27, Paul says: Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea It is the remnant that will be saved. For the Lord will execute His word upon the earth thoroughly and quickly. And just as Isaiah foretold, except the Lord of Sabaoth [or the Lord of Hosts] Had left to us a posterity [a seed], We would have become as Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.
So those prophecies of Isaiah indicate very clearly that it’s only a chosen remnant of Israel that will ultimately come into the fulfillment of God’s purposes. In verse 27 it says the remnant. Not a remnant which is the old version of the Old King James, but the remnant, the chosen foreknown remnant. You understand this theme of God’s choice and God’s foreknowledge goes all through these chapters. And unless we can grasp that, we won’t really get the message. And then Paul tries to explain why Israel missed it. And I think it’s important for all of us because it could happen to you and me. You need to understand that in Paul’s perspective, 19 centuries ago, it was still an amazing thing that the Jewish people rejected their Messiah. We’ve got so used to the fact 19 centuries later, that it doesn’t surprise us. But it takes Paul a great deal of explanation and a great deal of quotation from the Old Testament to convince, first of all, himself, I think, and then those who read that really, this was the way it was going to be.
See, we look back on nearly 2,000 years when, in a certain sense, the Jews had been displaced from their position. We’re so used to it we don’t really expect an explanation. But, you have to go back to Paul’s time and realize for him and for many others like him, it was a baffling mystery, that he had to go to the Scriptures to find an answer. And, this is his answer, though Israel be multiplied and become exceedingly numerous, it’s only the remnant that ultimately will be saved. When we come to the end of chapter 11, it says all Israel will be saved. But we have to put those two Scriptures together; all Israel by then will be the chosen remnant.
So, those two Scriptures explain one another. And then he says, "Why did this happen? The Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness even the righteousness which is on the basis of faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why?" Here’s a burning question for Paul. Why? Because they did not pursue it on the basis of faith, but as though it were on the basis of works. They tried to earn God’s righteousness. But God’s righteousness, on the standard in which He offers it can only be received by faith. Because they tried to earn it, they didn’t receive it by faith. You see, the same applies to many church going Christians. They still think they’ve got to earn God’s righteousness. And if you think you’ve got to earn it, you won’t receive it by faith. Do you see? Because they’re mutually exclusive.
If you’ve got it by earning it, you don’t need it by faith. If you’ve got it by faith, it’s because you couldn’t earn it. Of this, Israel is the pattern, but it’s developed the same way in the church. I think probably the majority of professing Christians think they’ve got to do something to earn God’s righteousness. The truth is, it cannot be earned. And then he comes to the closing verse, verse 33 just as it is written, and again, it’s a quotation from Isaiah. Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense And he who believes in Him will not be put to shame. is a much better translation than disappointed. So the stumbling block over which the Jewish people fell was the Messiah.
In Isaiah 8 verse 14, that also was predicted. Isaiah 8:14: speaking about the Lord, the Messiah: Then he shall become a sanctuary for those who believe, but to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. So, Jesus is either a sanctuary if you believe and receive by faith, or He’s a stone that you stumble over and fall. That’s still true today. He’s always that way. Either you enter by faith into the sanctuary or you stumble over the stumbling stone. And the real essence of the stumbling block or stumbling stone is you cannot achieve God’s righteousness by your own effort. And that never suits religious people. Religious people never really want to hear that because somehow we think we can do something to earn it. There are two other Scriptures which we could look at.
1 Corinthians chapter 1 and verse 23. 1 Corinthians 1:23 Paul is speaking about his message: But we preach Christ [or the Messiah] crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness. So again you see the crucified Messiah is the stumbling block. And just one other Scripture along that line, Galatians 3:11 Galatians 3:11 I am sorry 5: 11 Galatians 5:11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In other words, if I preach you’ve got to do something that you can earn it, then I won’t be persecuted. Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. Always bear in mind the cross is always a stumbling block. Because, it abases all human pride and self righteousness. It leaves us with no claim of our own but only to trust in the undeserved mercy of God. And it’s not sufficient to make that decision once when you get saved. Really, we need to make the decision afresh every day. I am trusting in God’s undeserved mercy. My righteousness does not come from what I do, it comes by faith from God.
Now we’ll move on to chapter 10, of which the theme really is, and follows naturally on, Righteousness based on faith versus righteousness based on law. Paul begins by a plea for Israel’s salvation. And we need to bear this in mind, although it’s very exciting, what is going on in the land of Israel today and the many prophecies that are being fulfilled, let us bear in mind that the one thing that can meet the need of Israel is salvation. Without that, the land and all the other exciting things are ultimately valueless.
And so Paul goes on: Brethren my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them [that is for Israel] is for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. You can realize if you know the Jewish people, how unpopular that statement would make you with them. If there’s one thing they don’t want to hear, it’s that they don’t know, do you see? But you can understand why Paul was not always persona non grata with all of them. For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. Notice that phrase They did not subject themselves.
What was the problem that that phrase indicates? Pride, that’s right. But don’t just point at the Jews and say they’re problem was pride, because for every one of us it’s a very humbling thing to have to acknowledge. I have no claim on God except His undeserved mercy and the fact that Jesus took my place and died on the cross. Do you See, that is the problem. Now we come to a very significant statement in Romans 10 verse 4: For Christ [I prefer to say the Messiah in this context], is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes. That statement applies to all believers, Jew or Gentile, Catholic or Protestant, Baptist or Methodist, it makes no difference.
Now where this translation that I read says the law, the word the is put in, as they acknowledge in my particular text. For Christ is the end of law for righteousness to every one who believes. Primarily it speaks about the law of Moses, the Law. But the law of Moses is merely a pattern of any law. Christ is the end of law as a means of achieving righteousness for every one who believes. That’s a very far reaching statement. If you believe in Jesus, then the death of Christ on the cross has terminated law as a means of achieving righteousness with God. Again, everything religious in us revolts against that statement. You mean I can’t do anything? The answer is absolutely nothing but believe and trust God. Rely upon His mercy.
Now... I want to take a few moments to consider this statement because it’s extremely important and becoming more and more important as more and more Jewish people are turning to their Messiah. And I don’t know whether you’re aware of this but a number of Jewish people who are turning to Jesus as Messiah is increasing every month. Not only in the United States, but even in Israel Although it’s not a large movement, it’s very significant. And certain questions come up which are dealt with in Romans, partly in this part, partly in the next part of Romans. Some people will tell you that Christ is the goal of the law but not the end, because of the meaning of the word that’s translated end.
I believe in finding out the way a word is used in the Bible, because that’s the best guide to what it means. And I’ll give you benefits of a little research. The Greek word, for those who are interested, is telos. And it occurs altogether 37 times in the New Testament. And... It’s used as end only 11 times, as goal only 3 times, and as end and goal 23 times. So, out of 37 times it’s used as goal only 3 times, which is less than 8 percent. In other words, and again we come to this principle, if you want to translate it goal only, you’ve got to have very strong objective outside reasons, because it’s not the normal translation of the word. Actually, in this case I personally believe it’s both. Christ the Messiah is both the goal and the end of the law as a means of achieving righteousness. The whole law looked forward to Jesus, He is the only one who kept the law perfectly. In Him the law was perfectly fulfilled and in Him the claims of the law were settled so that we can be free from those claims through His substitutionary, sacrificial death on our behalf.
However, it is very, very important to understand that that’s the end of the law only on that particular issue. And, I want to give you seven other purposes of the law which still apply for you and me today. I’m not going to dwell on this at length but it’s very important to see. I will just go down; they’re in your outline if you want to follow. First of all, the law, or what is called in Hebrew, Torah, uniquely reveals God’s righteousness, holiness, wisdom and justice. It’s a unique revelation, there’s nothing else that can be set beside it. And interestingly enough, when I want to teach on holiness, the place I always go to is the tabernacle of Moses. For me, the tabernacle of Moses is the most challenging, compelling call to holiness there is. I can’t take time to explain that, I can recommend you to my tapes on the subject but I just mention that. It’s unique, there’s nothing else anywhere in the world that has the same challenge to holiness and righteousness and justice as the law.
Secondly, the law diagnoses man’s basic problem, which is sin. Apart from the law we really don’t know sin. Romans 3:20 says: By the law is the knowledge of sin. And Romans 7: 7 says: If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. You see, when you go to the doctor, the first thing he does it is not pull out certain pills and give them to you. He sticks a thermometer in your mouth and puts you through all sorts of elaborate tests to find out what your problem is. Only when he’s discovered your problem does he seek to cure it. The same is true of God’s dealing with humanity. The first thing we need to know is what is our basic problem. The answer is sin. But the only thing that diagnoses that problem adequately is the law. It’s only when we’re confronted with the law that we discover our problem is sin.
I could say this on the basis of studies in philosophy because all sorts of philosophers have tried to analyze man’s problems and find the solution, but without the revelation of Scripture they never arrive at the diagnosis of sin. The Scripture is the only source of diagnosis. Thirdly, the law reveals man’s inability to save himself. At the end of Romans chapter 7, which deals exclusively with the law, Paul cries out: Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me? He’s come to the realization he cannot deliver himself. Fourthly, the law predicted and prefigured the Messiah. Not only did it diagnose the problem, it pointed us to the remedy. The remedy is not in ourselves, it’s in another. It’s in Jesus the Messiah, and His sacrificial atoning death.
In Luke 24, after His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples that everything that was written in the law of Moses, in the prophets and in the Psalms had been fulfilled in Him. So He is the fulfillment of the types and shadows and predictions of the law of Moses. They all pointed to him. In fact, I would venture to say every sacrifice in the law reveals something about Jesus, it’s some aspect of Jesus. Fifthly, the law kept the Jewish people shut up to Messiah. I think we better look at that Scripture it’s in Galatians 3 and verse 23: Galatians 3: 23 But before faith came, we [that’s the Jewish people] were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. So the law kept the Jewish people for nearly 15 centuries shut up to the revelation of the gospel which was to come.
This became so vivid to me when I was talking to a large congregation of probably two or three thousand Chinese in Singapore. And as I looked at them, I thought to myself, There’s hardly one person here who doesn’t have ancestors that were idol worshippers. And very often, it’s the father or the grandfather. Then I thought to myself, Jesus could never have come to the Chinese people because if He’d obeyed His parents, He would have had to been an idolater. That was a staggering realization. I thought to myself, It took God a long while to produce a people to whom He could trust His son Jesus, so that He was right in His relationship with His parents, right in His relationship with the authorities, and right in the relationship with God. There never has been another people in human history of whom that was true.
All right, the next is the law is the basis of righteous legislation for many nations, including both Britain and the United States. Just one Scripture in a prayer of Nehemiah, chapter 9. Nehemiah the 9th chapter the 13th verse: praying to God He says: Then thou didst come down on Mount Sinai and didst speak with them from heaven, thou didst give to them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments [just ordinances and true laws] See, there’s never been another set of such laws ever offered to humanity anywhere. And basically, as a general statement, the nations that have lived by those laws have prospered and risen to the top. And nations that have begun to reject those laws have begun to slide down again. Unfortunately, that’s true both of the United States and Great Britain, and the Scandinavian nations and other nations.
So, we can never measure the benefit to humanity of those pattern laws that God gave through Moses. And finally, and in some sense one of the most exciting, is the law is an endless theme for edifying meditation. Turn to Psalm 1 Psalm 1: How many of you know Psalm 1 by heart? Blessed is the man who does not walk in the way of sinners I am used to another translation this one confuses me. Anyhow How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! So there’s three negatives that you’ve got to lay hold of if you want to be blessed. You must not walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.
And notice, it’s a slowing down process. First of all, you’re walking, then you’re standing, and then you’re sitting. That’s when you are in danger. But, the person whom God blesses his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. You can never spend too much time meditating on the revelation of the Lord. But, when the meditation of the Lord becomes really effective is when you know the Messiah, because then everything in it, in one way or another, points to Jesus.
So, let me recapitulate those seven purposes of the law which still stand. It uniquely reveals God’s righteousness, justice, wisdom and holiness. It diagnoses man’s basic problem: sin. It reveals man’s inability to save himself. It predicted and prefigured the Messiah. It kept the Jewish people shut up to the Messiah. It’s the basis of righteous legislation for many nations. And, it’s an endless theme or edifying meditation. There’s just one thing for which it is no longer acceptable and that is as a means of achieving righteousness with God. The death of Jesus on the cross set that aside.
Now let’s look at a contrast, going back to Romans 10, a contrast between righteousness that depends on law and righteousness that depends on faith. Romans 10:5–7 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. If you keep the whole law entirely all the time, you don’t need any other righteousness. But the fact of the matter is no one ever has. So we can’t depend on that. And James says if you break one commandment, you’re guilty of the whole law. You can’t split the law up into little sections and say, "Well, I’ll keep this part, but not that part" because it’s one single system. You either observe it all, all the time or you do not achieve righteousness by it.
And then he goes on: But the righteousness based on faith speaks thus, now he’s quoting from Deuteronomy, but rather freely, and he says Do not say in your heart, who will ascend into heaven? [that is, to bring Christ down], or Who will descend into the abyss? [that is, to bring Christ up from the dead]. So, what Moses said and what Paul takes up is that the righteousness of faith depends not on something that’s got to be done, but on something that has been already done.
You don’t have to go up to heaven, you don’t have to descend into the abyss. Christ came from heaven, He went down into hell, He’s finished the atonement, it’s settled, you don’t have to do it. And it doesn’t have to be done again. And then Paul goes on, how then do we receive this righteousness on the basis of faith? And these are some of the most important verses in the New Testament. As I pointed out, it’s ridiculous to call these three chapters a digression when the key to achieving righteousness by faith is right in the middle of the middle chapter.