“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness,” writes Paul, “to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4). The word translated “end” here is telos, and it means “goal” rather than “termination.” Many Jews in Paul’s day tried to keep God’s laws so well and so thoroughly that God would examine their record of obedience and pronounce them “righteous” (Rom. 9:31-32; 10:2-3). Their goal to be found right with God was commendable but they were ignorant of the way to attain it.
Their approach would never work, according to Paul, because no human besides Jesus ever obeys God’s laws perfectly. The problem with the “trying” approach is not in the Law but in the people trying to keep it (Rom. 8:3). Meanwhile, says Paul, God was pronouncing believing Gentiles “righteous” — acquitted of guilt in his sight — who were not even trying to obtain such a result by their own performance (Rom. 9:30).
Moses described righteousness-by-law, says the Apostle, as he quotes from Deuteronomy. No one has to climb up to heaven and bring down God’s laws, said Moses, and no one has to go to the underworld to find the divine rules to keep them. No, the great Lawgiver explained, God’s commands are right here in front of you, ready for you to hear and do and keep (Rom. 10:5; Deut. 30:11-14). Indeed, that is the what it takes to obtain God’s favor by the approach of personal obedience. One must keep God’s laws. Not merely memorize them or admire them, or explain them. Keep them — all of them, all the way, all the time (Rom. 10:5). And this is what the best of the Jews were desperately trying to do (Rom. 10:1-3). Sadly, it is what many weary Christians are trying to do today as well.