Christ Is the End of the Law (Romans Sermon 73 of 120)
July 17, 2005 | Andy Davis
The Law of God, Prayer, Providence and Sovereignty of God
Introduction: Functioning in a World of Mystery
In Romans 10:1-4 we come to the connection between Romans 9 and Romans 10. We come immediately at verse 1, to a mystery in the Christian life, and we should be used to that. We live in a world filled with mysteries that we just accept everyday. Most cell phone users don't have the first idea what happens to their voice when they speak into it, and it's heard by somebody on the other side of the world, but that doesn't stop them from using cell phones. I can assure you it doesn't stop them. And most people who try to reheat a meal using a microwave aren't troubled by the fact that they do not fully understand microwave technology, they push the start button and they eat the meal a couple of minutes later, it's not a problem for them.
Have you ever stopped to ponder the remote on the TV and say, "I'm not going to use this until I understand fully what's happening with this and with the TV as well, and until I understand it I'm not watching." Now that might be a good pledge for some of you to make, because there's not a lot worth watching. But we are surrounded by mysteries that we just accept. Those are all technological mysteries, but there have been mysteries all along. Most people do not fully understand what happens when a seed is stuck into the ground. Jesus said, "Day and night, it grows so the farmer doesn't know how." He can't give an explanation, a full explanation of how it goes from seed to harvest. Only God knows that and yet he's not hindered from putting the seed in the ground, and he's not hindered from harvesting when the time comes. And so it is when we come to chapter 10 and meet right away a mystery, we realize we cannot be hindered by the fact that we can't fully comprehend how these two things go together. What are they?
Romans 9 has been portraying a picture of salvation that it comes from the sovereign will of God, that our God is a king. He rules over all things. And so, we've been wrestling with very deep statements in Romans Chapter 9, things that talk about unconditional election, Jacob and Esau, "before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose in election might stand…" We had already learned that it was before the foundation of the world, this election, this predestination. We've seen that salvation does not depend ultimately on man, a man's desire effort, but on God who has mercy, Romans 9:16. We've seen that God in Romans 9:18 has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
And yet, here we go, in chapter 10:1 and we get Paul saying, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved."
Now, hold on a minute, Paul. If it's all been set before the foundation of the world, then why pray for it? I don't understand, this is a mystery. And so, we have eternal predestination, and energetic prayer, and they're side by side in the very one who taught it. Later in Romans 10, we're going to get eternal predestination and energetic preaching around the world. How can they believe in the one that they've not heard of? "And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" Again a mystery, but to Paul, you see in his life energetic prayer for the lost, and we see also this energetic preaching to the ends of the earth that the lost may be saved. Now, this is mystery and I cannot explain it fully, too, because I don't understand it myself. I don't know that the apostle Paul could have plumbed all the depths and fully understood it all, but he knew this, God was sovereign over salvation and we need to pray for the lost.
God was sovereign over salvation and we need to preach to the lost that they may be saved, and he knew that.
I. Paul’s Heart-felt Prayer for Israel
And so we come here in verse 1, To Paul's heartfelt prayer for Israel. Look at it verse 1, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved." Now, here we have Paul's amazing and astonishing love for his persecutors. The Jews were constantly opposing him at every turn. They would listen for a while and then at some point, he would say something that would offend them, and they would turn on him, and eventually in many places at least, start a riot. When was the last time you started a riot? Wouldn't that have made you feel bad? Wouldn't you say, "This was not one of my best days? I didn't wake up this morning hoping to start a riot." Well, Paul started at least three of them. This was a man who stirred up deep passions, and it was the Christ-rejecting Jews that were at the heart of all of them. They would pursue Paul from place to place. They weren't content just to hear him and let him go, drive him out of their town. They'd find out where he was going next and they chased him there and they'd start trouble there.
Now, Christ had predicted this aggressive Jewish persecution of the gospel when he said in Matthew 23:34, "Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues, [listen] and pursue from town to town." Isn't that what happened with Paul?
And Jesus had predicted it in Matthew 23, and yet here we have in verse 1 tremendous compassion by the apostle Paul for the sake of his persecutors, "brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved." We see here a Christlike compassion don't we. Just like Jesus when he says in Matthew 5:44, "I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Oh, is that hard to do. I mean, genuinely to love your enemies, to yearn for the best for them while they're beating on you, to yearn that they might be saved, to pray for those who persecute you, that's what Jesus commanded, and yet Paul is actually doing it. It's the very thing that Jesus did on the cross. In Luke 23:34, Jesus said, "Father forgive them, they don't know what they are doing."
And so we see Paul's astonishing love for his persecutors. And we see Paul's response, his heartfelt prayer: "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved." It's a genuine yearning he has for their salvation. He wants to see them saved. Thomas Brooks a puritan pastor said this, he said, "Cold prayers always freeze before they reach heaven." That's a heartless prayer, a prayer that you pray and you have no interest in the outcome. John Bunyan put it this way, "When you pray, rather let thy heart be without words, than thy words be without a heart." Sometimes, you can pray without words, you... I don't know what to say. The Lord is reading your heart, he knows what to do in that situation.
Another Puritan pastor said, "Many a mute beggar stood at the gate mute and got what he needed from God." So, it's not ornate words, it's the heart, it's the passion behind the prayer. He says, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is their salvation." I believe part of the purpose of prayer is to turn us from the kind of people who really don't care about our neighbor, who really don't care what's happening with those around us, to people who really do care. As we've talked about many times before, that attitude of Cain saying, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Well, Paul didn't feel that way. He felt that he needed to intercede for people who are persecuting him, and so he prayed for them, my heart's desire and prayer. Now, there are serious theological and spiritual implications. As I've already pointed out, Romans 9, I believe, is the greatest chapter in all the Bible on the absolute sovereignty of God over human salvation.
I think it really leaves us no wiggle room. I think ultimately it's very clear as you follow the verses you say, "God is the ultimate end of salvation." It comes down to the will of God, ultimately. But then, here in Romans 10, you have these two aspects of a clear teaching on human responsibility toward the lost. We should pray for them, we should preach to them, we should do missions. Later on we're going to commission the Kazakh mission team, you got another team that's going out on a short-term mission trip. I am so excited by the development, the flowering of short-term missions in this church, one of the greatest things that's happened since I've been here, it's a delight to see.
And so, we are commanded in Romans 10, we'll get to it later on in the preaching as God permits, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, to be those feet, the beautiful feet that travel across the mountains and rivers to bring the message to those who haven't heard. And so we have these mysteries, the absolute sovereignty of God and the human responsibility toward the lost. How do you put it together?
Putting Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility Together
Well, in history, in church history, some have put it together wrongly, some have emphasized the one and denied the other. For example, some called Hyper-Calvinists, they call them, were said to William Carey, "Look, if God wants to save the heathen, he can do it in his own time, in his own way without any help from us." And William Carey, who believed in the absolute sovereignty of God in Romans 9 said, "I think God's ordained that I go as the means to the end." And he went, but the naysayers had that extreme view, they had denied chapter 10, that we need to go and preach and that we need to be praying. But then others flip it around saying, clearly we need to witness, clearly we need to be praying for the lost. And so the truths that are there in Romans 9 just can't be true. Whatever it is you are saying about them, they can't be true. Well, it's right there, what we're saying. God is absolutely sovereign, does not depend on man's desire effort.
Can we put these things finally together? I don't think so, but I know this, I want to pray for the lost the way Paul does here in verse 1. I want to pray for them, I want to have a heart of compassion for lost people around me and pray for them that they may be saved. There are so many incredible examples of people who poured out their heart in prayer for the lost and saw them saved. One of the great examples is that of Monica, Saint Augustine's mother, who prayed and wept for her errant son for years before he finally came to Christ and became one of the greatest fountains of theological truth the Lord ever raised up in church history. But it took a long time, he was an immoral young man, he was leading the life of the prodigal son. Wine, women, and song all the time, and then eventually when he started getting awakened to the need for more, he turned to human philosophy, into religious cults, not to Christ. And all along, there is Monica dying a thousand deaths in prayer every day, praying and praying, and he, Augustine told the story about his mother's intercessory prayer life on his behalf in his great book confessions. Confession's like a long testimony of how he came to faith in Christ. But it's written in the second person written to God. "And then you, Lord did this and then you taught me that."
And here he talks to God directly about Monica's prayer for him. This is what he says,
"And now, you did stretch forth your hand from above and drew up my soul out of that profound darkness, because my mother, your faithful one wept to you on my behalf more than mothers are accustomed to weep for the bodily deaths of their children. For by the light of the faith and spirit which she received from you, she saw that I was dead, and you heard her, o Lord, you heard her and despised not her tears, when pouring down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed. You did truly hear her. Nearly nine years passed in which I wallowed in the mud of that deep pit and in the darkness of falsehood striving off and arise, but being all the more heavily dashed down. But all that time, this chaste, pious, and sober widow such as you love was now more buoyed up with hope though no less zealous in her weeping and mourning, and she did not cease to bewail my case before you. In all the hours of her supplication, her prayers entered your presence and yet you allowed me still to tumble and toss around in that darkness."
Well, Monica became so discouraged as she saw Augustine finally turning away somewhat from the immorality at least at one level, to turning to deeper thoughts, but then he gets involved in Manichaeism which was a cult, a pseudo-christian cult, and she'd about had it.
She'd been praying for the son all of these years, she goes to this bishop and she talks to the bishop about the fact that Augustine was now wrapped up in this false doctrine and he said, "Well, God will lead him out of it, we've seen God leads so many out," she's not satisfied by that at all. She won't leave the bishop's office. She's not satisfied. Augustine wrote about it like this.
"When he had said this, she was still not satisfied but repeated more earnestly her entreaties and shed copious tears still besieging him to see and talk with me. Finally, the bishop a little vexed at her persistence exclaimed, "Go your way, as you live. It cannot be that the son of such tears should perish."
When she heard that, she took it as a prophecy from heaven that Augustine would in fact be saved. Augustine wrote this, "As she often told me afterwards, she accepted this answer as though it was a voice from on high." When at last, Augustine was converted to the true faith, Monica felt that her purpose in life was now finished and she died eight days later. It's an incredible story of persistent love in prayer.
There are others, there's Hudson Taylor, who poured out his heart day after day for the inland regions of China where he knew that there were no Christians at all. As far as he knew, totally unreached, the teeming millions of the inland regions of China. Yes, the coast line, there were missionaries, but they weren't doing that great a work either. And he just began burden and burden to pray and he prayed until China inland mission came to be.
And then there's John Hyde, the Presbyterian missionary to India, in the 19th century, he was nicknamed Praying Hyde. And with periods of outright persecution by Indian natives and few, if any conversions, Hyde began leading his fellow missionaries to pray to intercessory prayer for Indians so deep was it was called a prayer that in 1899, he began spending entire nights, face down before God. And he wrote a letter to his college, he wrote this, "Have felt led to pray for others this winter as never before. I never before knew what it was to work all day and then pray all night before God for another…In college or at parties at home, I used to keep such hours for myself for pleasure. And can I not do as much for God and for souls?"
So he began praying, By 1908, John Hyde dared to pray, what was to many at the missionary convention that met every year, an impossible goal. That during the upcoming year in India, one soul would be saved every day. 365 people converted, baptized, and publicly confessing Jesus as their savior. Impossible they said, yet it happened. He saw it happen through prayer. Before the next convention of missionaries, John Hyde had prayed more than 400 people into God's kingdom, and when the prayer union gathered again, he doubled his goal to two souls a day. Do not stop him. 800 conversions were recorded in the following year, and still Hyde showed an unquenchable passion for souls. At the 1910 convention, those around Hyde marveled at his faith, as they witnessed his near violent supplications, "Give me souls, oh God, or I die!" That's the way he would pray. Imagine praying with a man like that, it's going to be convicting, but it might heat you up a bit to just be in his presence.
"Give me souls or I die." Before the meeting ended, John Hyde revealed that he was again doubling his goal for the coming year, four souls a day and nothing less. And during the next 12 months, he traveled all over, that's when they gave him the nickname Praying Hyde. He led revival after revival. And one day, he didn't know of four people that were converted, he would spend the night in prayer for them. And the number of converts multiplied and the goal was met that year. Incredible, faithful prayer.
And then there's George Muller, one of my favorites, who had in his Prussian discipline this list of unconverted people that he prayed for every single day without an intermission. He prayed for some of them for one year, for two years, for six years, 10 years, some of them for over 20 years, some of them he prayed for until he died, and still the answer had not been given concerning them. I know of one case A. T. Pierson, his biography wrote of one case of somebody who converted after he died, two weeks after he died. He'd prayed for this guy for 40 years, every day, every day for 40 years, prayed for this lost person.
And Muller said this, "I have not a doubt that I shall meet them both in heaven for my heavenly father would not lay upon my heart a burden of prayer for them for over three score years if he had not concerning them the purposes of mercy." Now, that's the best I can do to put them together.
Is it natural for a human being to care that much about another human being that they would pray that long every day? I say it's not, I say it's super natural. And so, Muller said, they must be elect. God is working, he believed in predestination. God has called on me to pray and I'm not going to stop praying until it happens. Therefore, it is in some way, a means to an end. I cannot fully understand that but I know I want to be like this. I want to pray like praying Hyde, I want to pray like George Muller, I want to pray like Monica. Let me just stop right here in the middle of the message and just do some application.
Are You Praying for the Lost?
Do you have some lost relatives? And are you beseeching Lord daily for their salvation? Parents, do you have some lost children who are wandering from the fold? They could be fully grown, they might be teenagers or perhaps they're still little and they haven't yet come into a full understanding of the Gospel. Are you praying for them every day the way that Monica prayed for her son, Augustine? Spouses, do you have a lost husband, a lost wife?
Are you praying for them every day, that they would be converted? Romans 10:1, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved." Neighbors, are you constantly lifting lost neighbors up? Do you know the names of some neighbors that are not saved, and you're praying for them? Coworkers? When I worked as an engineer, I made a list of all the people in my immediate department and I prayed for them daily, and I prayed also that I would personally have an opportunity to share the gospel in the four-part outline, God man Christ response the full Gospel, at least some time while I was there. I saw God answer those prayers again and again. It wasn't 100%, but I had over 90%. I had a little list, woe to me if they ever found it. But I kept it hidden, and I was praying that I would have an opportunity to witness to each one of them. To witness, it was up to the Lord to convert them, but I wanted to pray for them, and to witness for them. Are you praying for your coworkers?
Recently, I was speaking to the pastor at Providence Baptist Church, David Horner, and they have a three by three program in which basically just groups of three covenant together to pray each of them for three lost people and to pray for their partners, lost people as well. So you'd be praying daily for nine lost people, every day for nine lost people.
And along with the prayer comes a kind of a subtle pressure I guess. "Hey, did you get a chance to invite him to church? Did you get a chance to say anything about the Lord to them?" that kind of thing, or even some have been more aggressive and say the three of us, let's go to each of the nine. And they would set up times and say what we do is we want to talk to you about the Lord. And they would be very intentional about witnessing to these nine folks. And when all nine had heard the Gospel, maybe they would get some new ones, and when they converted, they would start all over again. So you've got in your bulletin a little pamphlet about what we'd like to do here, three by three, and you're going to hear about it more. I don't have the time to go into it right now, but you understand the concept, find two others and do it. You don't need the ministerial staff to do any more than what you've just heard in the last six minutes. You understand, go find two other faith-filled people, and start praying for nine people. Pray for them that they would be saved.
There's a lot of things you can do. You can also adopt an unreached people group and pray for them until you see them come to faith in Christ. The Joshua project on the internet has lists of unreached people groups, you can just adopt one. Just because we don't understand how eternal sovereignty and human responsibility fits together, we can't reject it. Let's be like Paul. Let's trust in a sovereign God. And by the way, we're always trusting a sovereign God when we go to Him in prayer, aren't we? Are we going to somebody to God saying, "You think you can do something about this?" We believe that God is sovereign over salvation so we go. And do you think the Lord is going to say, "Don't come to me, that's not my department, I don't save people." Of course he saves people. That's what he's doing, so we go into the throne room and say, "Save him, save her." We keep praying for them. So let's be faith-filled and be like the apostle Paul in prayer.
II. Israel’s Ignorant Zeal
Now Paul prayed for the Israelites. He says, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved." In Verse Two, he says, "For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge." Now I'm not quite sure the connection between verse one and two, I think it's... He's thinking, they are so zealous, they're so powerful in their lives, think what they could be for Christ if they would be converted. Look what the Apostle Paul was, he was zealous for the traditions of the fathers, then he became zealous for the Gospel. "Wouldn't it be incredible," he's thinking, I think, "if they would be converted, for I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge."
Now, what is zeal? It's a burning desire, a relentless drive to accomplish something. We're surrounded by zealous people. There are people that are zealous for their business. Their secular zeal is to establish their business and be successful. You can get zealous day traders on Wall Street that spend basically every waking hour and many hours they should be asleep awake looking after stocks and bonds and other things. They're zealous to make money. Olympic athletes, zealous every day disciplining themselves so that they can compete in the Olympics. I've always said it's interesting, the American race walkers, the 50K race walking, do you know a single American race walker? I don't. But these folks every day are training and preparing themselves so they can just compete and finish 23rd place at the next Olympics, but they're totally zealous for their sport. They're dedicated so that they might achieve the best they can. There are political activists that are zealous for their view of politics. They are making phone calls, they're writing letters, they're down where they need to be every day, pursuing their goals, whatever they are. That's secular zeal.
There's also religious zeal, friends. We're seeing it just about every day in fundamentalist Islam, aren't we? Radical Islam, some of these people are willing to strap a bomb on their bodies and blow themselves up for their ends. But can I tell you something? Zeal does not save souls. This zeal that Paul's mentioning here, didn't save them, didn't save the Israelites. There is a zeal without knowledge, and that's what we've been talking about. Paul's own life was an avid witness, he was, as I mentioned, zealous for the traditions of the Elders. He was willing to travel long journeys to fight heresy. He was willing to harden his heart against the cries of wives and husbands and children as he broke apart families and arrested Christians. Paul's zeal for Israel and for the traditions of the Rabbis was like a raging furnace. He knew what this was about. The Jews as a nation burned for zeal, burned with zeal for God.
Pontius Pilate had a belly full of this. When he brought the legions in and the Legions established their little icons of Caesar and put them in the walls of the temple, the Jews went crazy, they rioted and they would rather die than have those Roman idols in the temple. They were willing, all of them, to die that day. A generation after Christ, what was left of the Jewish Zealots gathered at a place called Masada, and all of them died rather than give in to the Romans. Their zeal was unmatched. That same zeal led them to scream for Christ's crucifixion. They were willing both to be killed and to kill for their view of the glory of God.
Christ testified to this zeal for the law that they had. Matthew 23:15, he said, "Woe to you teachers of law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You travel over land and sea to win a single convert and then when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." He's talking about zeal there, but it's a zeal, as Paul says, without knowledge.
Now, what do I mean by that? What did Paul mean by "zeal without knowledge"? Well I think, in context, it's without knowing the righteousness that comes from God. But let's start with this. They didn't know God. So if they didn't know God, how could they know the righteousness that comes from God? They did not know the God they professed to serve and worship. Jesus said this again and again in John 16:2-3, he said this, "They will put you out of the synagogue. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think that he is rendering service to God. They will do such things, [listen] "because they have not known the Father or me." That's zeal without knowledge, friends. They didn't know God the Father, and they didn't know Christ.
And Jesus said this again and again, in John 8:19, "They asked him, 'Where is your father?' Jesus answered, 'You do not know me or my father. If you knew me, you would know my Father, as well.'" He said later in that same chapter, Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My father, whom you claim as your God is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not know him, I would be a liar like you." So the Jews didn't know God. Isn't that amazing? The Jews burned with a zeal for a God they did not know, therefore the God they were serving was actually an idol of their own making, was not the true God of the Bible. And so in rejecting Christ, they rejected any possibility of a true knowledge of God.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:27, "No one knows the son except the Father, and no one knows the Father, except the son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." So in rejecting Christ, they rejected any possibility of knowing the true God. Now, if they had known God, Jesus said, they would have welcomed Christ because Christ came from God. Instead, they sought to kill him. So therefore, any zeal the Jews displayed was zeal without knowledge because they did not know God. Now that made them ignorant. They were ignorant of the true God. They were ignorant of God's way of salvation. They were ignorant of the Gospel.
Peter spoke of that ignorance in Acts 3, it says, "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers has glorified His Servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed. You disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the holy and righteous one, and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance as did your leaders." You didn't know what you were doing. They didn't know it was Christ, they didn't know he was God in the flesh.
Paul said the same was true of himself. He didn't know. 1 Timothy 1:13, "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor, and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted, [listen] in ignorance and unbelief." I didn't know. Well, one morning on the road to Damascus, Jesus introduced himself to Paul for the first time in His resurrection glory. Well, that's who you are. "Who are you, Lord?" He said. That's ignorance, but he knew he was the Lord, it was Jesus. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." They have a zeal, Paul says, but it's a zeal without knowledge.
Now, there is a zeal that saves souls. There is a zeal that saves souls. But it's not our zeal, it's Christ's zeal. In John 2 Jesus made a whip. You remember the story? Wove together a whip and took that whip and cleaned the temple, drove out all the cattle and sheep and doves, overturned the tables of the money changers, "Get these out of here. How dare you turn my Father's house into a market?" Did Jesus not know that Annas, the high priest, in his whole click there was connected financially to these? He knew. Did he not know that they would take it personally, especially when he does it twice? Oh, he knew. Did he not know that Annas would be motivated to kill him for what he had done? Oh, he knew. But his zeal for his father's house burned him from within. And so it said in John 2:17, "His disciples remembered that is written, 'Zeal for your house will consume me.'"
Now, the word consume there in John 2:17, is literally "eat me alive", "Eat me up." Christ's zeal for the glory of God, his zeal that the temple of God be pure, his zeal for God's holiness was so strong it led to the cross. So also his zeal for your salvation, his zeal for your righteousness, his zeal to bring you and God together, to be the mediator between sinners and a holy God, his zeal brought him to the cross, and that is a zeal with knowledge, a zeal that saves our souls. Isn't that magnificent? And Christ's zeal for you has not reduced at all from the moment he saved you. It still burns as brightly as the sun and he's never going to stop until you are done being saved. That's the zeal that saves.
III. Israel’s Central Failure: Rejecting God’s Righteousness
But the zeal that doesn't save is in verse 3. It is a zeal to establish your own righteousness. And that's what the Jews had every day. Look at verse 3, "Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness." They didn't know the righteousness of God. This could mean they didn't know how righteous God is, and I think that's true. They think that God kind of grades on the curve, you know what I'm saying? That God can kind of coexist with pseudo-righteous people. He can't. His eyes are too pure to look on evil. You have to have a perfect righteousness. And so they underestimated how holy and righteous God is.
But I don't think that's what Paul's meaning here. They didn't know the righteousness that God gives as a gift. That's what they didn't know. They didn't know that Christ came to give you a righteousness you can survive in on judgement day. They didn't know that. It's what Paul's been talking about over and over in Romans. Look what he says, you don't have to look but listen, in Romans 1:16-17, it says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; for in the Gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, from faith to faith, as it is written, 'The righteous will live by faith,'" There is a given righteousness, a gift of righteousness that comes by simply believing the Gospel message. They didn't know it. They didn't know it and they didn't submit to it once they heard about it.
Paul spoke later about that same righteousness in Romans 3:21 and following. It says, "But now, a righteousness from God apart from law has been made known to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace, by the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Jesus died on the cross to take your sins and mine on himself and to extinguish the wrath of God, the penalty against us. He also gives to us the perfect righteousness that he lived in at every moment. It is in that righteousness that we'd stand on Judgment Day.
But Israel did not know that righteousness. They didn't submit to it and they sought to establish their own. That means that every day they were seeking to make a building of self-righteousness. They would wake up in the morning and try to establish their own righteousness through good works, through achievements, through religious actions. Everything they did, their sacrifices that they offered, the animal sacrifices, their ritual washings, the way they carried on their business according to the Rabbinic traditions, the way that they did every little thing in life down to giving a tithe of their spices, every little part of their life was for righteousness sake, that they would be able to establish their own righteousness.
It's like they were building some kind of tower of righteousness, or maybe a stairway of righteousness through which they hoped to ascend to heaven. And every brick was a good deed, and the mortar that held every brick together was pride. And it stunk to high heavens. As a matter of fact, just like the Tower of Babel, God thought or was as displeased with the spiritual tower of self-righteousness the Jews were building every day as he was with the pagan tower that the Gentiles had sought to build to make a name for themselves. It says in Genesis 11, they built the tower of Babel to make a name for themselves. So also the Jews are trying to establish their own righteousness. And God would not accept it. On judgment day, He would humble them.
IV. Christ is the End of the Law for Believers
And so in verse 4 it says, "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." Israel misunderstood the role of the law. The law was not to save anybody, the law didn't save sinners, it couldn't. As we mentioned last week, the law is like a CAT scan or an MRI to tell you that you have a tumor. It does not do anything about the tumor, it doesn't heal you at all. Instead, it says, "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."
What does it mean, "Christ is the end of the law"? Well, the Greek word end, "telos", has three possible meanings, all three of them are poignant. First, Christ is the end of the final stage of the ceremonial law. You don't need circumcision anymore, you don't need the ritual life of Moses anymore, you don't need animal sacrifice anymore. All of that's finished because Christ has come and He is our righteousness. And so we're not under the law anymore, in that way. But better, secondly, Christ is the end goal of the law. When you get on a train station, a local train, get on a train at a train station, there's a local train with a lot of stops. And you ask what is the terminal stop? What's the final one?
I took a train when I was a missionary in Japan from Kobe to Osaka, Osaka was the final stop. I will never forget that train ride as long as I live. When I got on, I thought the train was full. We had ten more stops to go, and the same number of people got on at each stop. I've never seen anything like it in all my life. I survived but I don't know how, the breathing got tough. I got well acquainted with people I'd never met before in my life. The terminal stop was Osaka, that was it, everybody off. Praise God! And so we got off at Osaka, all of us did.
The terminal stop of the law was Christ. The law was bringing people to Christ. It was a tutor, it says in the Book of Galatians, to bring you to Christ. How so? Because you would learn through the law, you could never establish your own righteousness, you can't do it. You can't love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You can't love your neighbor as yourself. So Christ is the terminal stop of the law. Or you could look at it the ultimate goal of the law, that's why the law was given, to bring you to Christ, so that you would find in Christ, your righteousness, the end of the law.
But finally, and perhaps best, Christ is the "telos", the perfection of the law. He's the perfect embodiment of the law. The law reveals the righteousness of God, Christ reveals God's righteousness even better. Christ kept every jot and tittle of the law perfectly in his life. Christ is the perfection of a law abiding life. And thanks be to God, that perfect robe of righteousness Jesus wove every day of his law-abiding life, he gives to you as a simple gift. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for believers, for all of us who believe.
Now, what application can we take from these verses that we've looked at? Well, let's go back to the one I made earlier. Will you please do that three by three? Will you just find two other people you want to pray with and start praying for some lost people? Romans 10:1, will you start praying for your lost neighbors, and coworkers and fellow students, if you're a student? Some people you may know that come to church, even that don't know Christ yet. Will you get together with two other people and pray for those nine folks? Pray for the lost that they would have a heart for truth, that God would send witnesses, (that's a tricky prayer, you know). "Oh Lord, please send a witness to this person that they might hear the gospel." You know what's going to happen if you pray that enough.
"Here am I, send me," you're going to say. After a while, you'll say, "Why not me? Why can't I go?" And you will. And so, you might lead somebody to Christ this year, wouldn't that be incredible. Pray that those folks would have a conviction of sin, that they would see in Christ the righteousness that they need. And the final application before we go to the Lord's table is this, just understand that Christ is the goal, the end of the law. We're not under law, we're children of God. We're not standing in a legal righteousness every day, we don't crank it out every day. That's not Christianity, friends. We're already perfect in Christ's righteousness and we're just called to live in the righteousness that Christ came to give us. Christ is the end of the law so that there's no legalism anymore. We're not going to be like the Jews building a stairway to heaven brick by brick. Neither is Christ the end of the law so that there may be license. Rather Christ fulfills the law and writes it in your heart and your mind so that you can live it by the Spirit. Close with me, if you would, in prayer.