Jesus Christ: The “Goal” of God’s Law
The wrong understanding and application of the Greek word telos can have a tragic effect on getting to know Jesus Christ’s role for “everyone who believes.”
What did the apostle Paul mean when he wrote “Christ is the end of the law” (Romans 10:4, emphasis added throughout)?
To understand, we must consider the Greek word translated “end” here: telos. It appears in the Greek New Testament 42 times. In most cases, it is translated into the English word end in the King James Version. This one tiny word contributes to a monumental doctrinal difference between the traditional beliefs of many churches and what Paul actually meant.
We need to know what point Paul is making; our eternal life depends on it. A failure to understand the words of Jesus Christ and His disciples has led to a difference of opinion about God’s law and whether it came to an end when Christ died.
Christ the fulfillment
Perhaps the foremost New Testament verse used to support the concept that the law has ended is Romans 10:4: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” In truth, the word end in this verse is not a mistranslation of telos; but a study of it reveals that the word has been misinterpreted by many.
To maintain Paul’s original meaning, the word end would be better translated end result, end product, outcome, aim or goal. Christ actually said that He came to fulfill rather than to bring an end to the law. “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Fulfill is translated from the Greek pleroo and can mean “fill up.”
Disbelieving this verse—thinking that Christ did come to destroy the law—prevents us from getting to know Jesus Christ and the hope He gives all believers. Likewise, how can we get to know His Father if we set our hearts to believe the opposite of what His Word actually means?
Objective of the scripture
The objective of Romans 10:4 is not to proclaim the end of the law. There are various other English words that could just as reasonably be translations of telos, but in no way could they be used to describe the ending of anything. They include goal, objective, aspiration, purpose, outcome, result, reason, intention, aim, etc.
What do you mean “end”?
Translating telos as “end” is not wrong. It just depends on what you mean by “end.” For example, you might mean end to be the finishing point of a train journey or as in the purpose for a train journey.
For an example of how telos can be translated, consider 1 Timothy 1:5. In the King James Version it says, “Now the end of the commandment is charity.” But the New King James Version says, “Now the purpose of the commandment is love.”
Romans 10:4 does not put Christ’s teachings in place of God’s law; rather it puts His teachings in place within the law. Jesus Christ and His teachings are very much an integral part of God’s law. They enhance it! Jesus Christ says that He came to fulfill the law of God, giving the far more demanding spiritual application (see Matthew 5:20-48, where the intent of the law is expounded).
What does telos tell us?
As The Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern says concerning Romans 10:4, “The goal at which the Torah (Law) aims is the Messiah, who offers the Torah’s righteousness … to everyone who trusts” (p. 396, paperback).
The word telos tells us that Christ is the fulfillment, purpose or aim of the law. As He Himself said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law” (Matthew 5:17). Do you believe Him?
If you do believe Jesus Christ’s words, you are at least beginning to know His Father’s purpose in sending Him to this earth. Those who do not believe Him will have to wait to get to know Him and achieve His hope for us—to be part of His Kingdom for all eternity.
We have other articles that address this topic. For more information, see “Christ Is the End of the Law? How?” and “Jesus and the Law.”