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Insights #7 May 17, 2014
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Second Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Christ, the End of the Law
For the week of May 17, 2014
 
In Psalm 119:172 we read: “All Your commandments are righteousness.” God’s righteousness is mirrored in the Ten Commandments. It is this law of righteousness that is the standard by which all doctrines, including justification by faith, must be tested. In Romans 3:20 Paul wrote that no one can be justified by the deeds of the law. However, he goes on to say, in the next two verses that the same law testifies in behalf of God’s righteousness which we receive through the faith of Jesus. The law witnesses to that righteousness, showing that it is the righteousness of the law. Any teaching of justification by faith that does not line up with the righteousness of the law is false. Justification by faith carries the law up front. It establishes the law (Romans 3:31). Isaiah said the Lord would “magnify the law, and make it honorable” (Isaiah 42:21). This is what justification by faith does – it magnifies the law and reveals its honorableness.

The law of God was in Christ's own heart as He Himself prophesied: “Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.’ ” (Psalm 40:7, 8). So our lesson for this week is most certainly not about doing away with the law as some opine.

The title of our lesson for this week: “Christ, the End of the Law” is not complete. He “is the end of the law for righteousness.” The context reveals Jews were attempting to gain righteousness by the deeds of the law, in opposition to Christ over whom they stumbled (See Romans 9:31-10:3).

The law is righteousness and that is its exact demand. But it cannot give the righteousness it demands. This is because man sinned and continues to fall short of the requirements of the law. Christ is the only one who met the demands of the law by living a perfect life of righteousness and then died in order to exhaust the penalty of the transgressed law which rightly belongs to the human race. In behalf of mankind Jesus both lived and died, thus fulfilling the just requirements of the law.

The word “end” does not necessarily mean “termination.” It is often used in the sense of design, object, or purpose as in 1 Tim 1:5 where the NKJV translates the same word “end” as “purpose”: “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.” So, in our lesson for this week, the purpose of the law is the righteousness of God in Christ. Christ as our righteousness is the object of the law. He is the One to whom the law points. In Galatians 3:22-24 (KJV) Paul uses strong language regarding the law’s purpose:

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before [lit.: the] faith [of Jesus] came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith [of Jesus] which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith [of Jesus].”

The law captures us, hems us in, imprisons and confines us to the prison house of sin and guards us from escaping. When the end, or purpose, of the law is met through the faith of Christ, the sinner is released from the prison of sin. The “object” the “end,” the “purpose” of the law as it is written by Paul in his letter to the Galatians is to “bring us to Christ” in order for Him to “justify [us] by faith.” So, in perfect agreement with Galatians 3:22-24, Romans 10:4 means exactly what it says: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” The necessary implication is that Jesus is not the end of the law to those who refuse to believe. They remain condemned, in prison and under guard because of sin.

Nevertheless, unknown to the sinner even while in prison, grace abounds. And it abounds much more than the abounding sin that holds the sinner captive. The three English words – “abounded much more” – in Romans 5:20, referring to grace, is only one word in the original language. Its meaning is to “superabound” “to supply lavishly.” God’s grace is always present in much greater abundance “on a scale of amount…in great excess” to the sin that abounds. (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, under the word: huperperisseuo).

In contrasting the results of the accomplishments of the two Adams, regarding sin and grace, Paul in Romans 5:15 reveals that grace is so out of proportion to sin that it cannot be measured. The New English Bible sets forth this truth in the following way:

“God’s act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam’s wrongdoing. For if the wrongdoing of that one man brought death upon so many, its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.”

Grace is against sin; never against the law. Grace does not abolish the law of God nor diminish its claims. The law tells us how crooked we are, but grace straitens us out. Grace always brings the believer into harmony with His moral law. Grace never frees the believer from the obligation to keep the law. If this were the case grace would make Christ the minister of sin and not one who administers righteousness. This is what Paul warned the Galatians against (Galatians 2:17-18). It is only by God’s grace, through faith in Christ alone, that the law can be obeyed.

Grace frees us from the prison house of sin where we were held under the penalty of the law. Sin is not to have dominion over us. “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). To be under the law here means to be under its jurisdiction in the prison of sin. Grace releases us from sin to the righteousness of Christ when we believe in Him alone for salvation. When we are freed or justified we are brought into harmony with the law. The law then testifies, in the court in heaven, to this fact.
Romans 8:3-4 puts the law and its righteousness in proper perspective to Christ and to man:

“What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
 
The law is not weak; sinful human nature is. Because the law cannot give righteousness to us, God did by sending Jesus to condemn sin in our sinful flesh. Jesus condemned sin in that He never gave in to it. Had He yielded to sin He would have justified it. Because He condemned sin in the flesh, the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer. In Christ the purpose of the law is fulfilled. Righteousness by faith is the object of the law.

Righteousness by faith is not a formula. It is a Person. Righteousness can never be separated from Christ. Receiving Him we receive the righteousness of God and consequently the righteousness of the law testifies, in the court of the universe, to this fact (Romans 3:21).
Contrary to what some professing Christians think, the law has never been abolished. These Christians advocate the view that God’s law has been abolished and consequently its claims are no longer binding upon mankind, especially upon the believer! They profess to find Scriptural warrant for their belief. In reading that we “are not under the law, but under grace,” and also that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 6:14; 10:4), and from similar texts they draw the inference that the Ten Commandments are no longer the standard of righteous living. Because of this we observe the degradation that is not only in the world, but within Christianity itself.

It is evident that these texts cannot be pressed into antinomian service except by mutilating them. To be “under grace” and thus “not under the law” clearly means to be controlled by grace and not by sin. Sin brings a person under the law’s condemnation. Christ came to redeem us because we were under the condemnation of the law. Never does Scripture say that He came to abolish His eternal law of righteousness.
To the extent of leaving out, from Romans 10:4, the statement that Christ is the end of the law “to everyone who believes” Christ is denied as the fulfillment of the righteousness of the law for the believer which is its purpose or object.

In closing: the message God commanded to be given (and must be taken) to the world regarding justification by faith, the righteousness of Christ and consequent manifested obedience to the law is reveled in the following communication by Mrs White:

“The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world.  It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.” (Testimonies to Ministers, 91-92).
-Jerry Finneman