Romans 10:4: responding to “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”



Pastor: Romans 10:4: Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

“For Messiah is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

reproduced from The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION

Many people read Romans 10:4, as it appears in most English Bible versions, and view it as being definitive evidence that the Torah is no longer relevant to be followed.[1] The claim that “Christ is the end of the law…” is quite frequent in discussion between Christians, Messianics, and Jews relating to the position that the Law of Moses plays, or does not play, in the lives of God’s people today. Is the claim of Romans 10:4 so absolute, meaning that the Messiah is the termination of the Torah? Or, might there be more that many Bible readers have overlooked? Not enough probably understand that Romans 10:4 should never be read so simplistically.

In Romans 10:1-3 preceding, readers have seen that the larger issue at work is how the Apostle Paul was totally distraught over how many of his Jewish brethren have rejected the Messiah Yeshua, trying to find a righteousness via their own status, actions, and deeds:

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”

The answer to the dilemma of establishing one’s own righteousness is undeniably Yeshua the Messiah. Romans 10:4, in an English version like the NASU, communicates, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” In what way is the Savior Yeshua the answer to the problem of establishing one’s own righteousness, if He is the “end,” viewed as being a nullification or abolishment of the Mosaic Law? If the Messiah really is the termination of Moses’ Teaching, would this not contradict His own words about the Torah not passing away (Matthew 5:17-19)?

The Contemporary English Version renders Romans 10:4 with, “But Christ makes the Law no longer necessary.” Is this what the Apostle Paul is really saying? Is the man who in Romans 3:31 says that Messiah followers are to “establish” or “uphold the law” (RSV/NIV), and who in Romans 7:12 could communicate that “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” and in Romans 7:14 that “the Law is spiritual,” and who even could claim in Romans 7:22 “I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man”—suddenly saying that the Law of Moses is of no value?[2] If God’s Torah is valid in these preceding verses, then some further examination on what Romans 10:4 actually communicates is imperative.

If one were to only examine the English text of this verse, it could seem that there might be legitimate claim against those who believe that the Torah or Law of Moses should be heeded and followed as valid instruction. Many of today’s Christians will eagerly point out the word “end” in Romans 10:4 and simply say, “Jesus Christ terminated the Law of Moses.” But how many English speakers are aware of the fact that this is a stretch for the English language? Webster’s New World Dictionary and Thesaurus, for example, does define the English word “end” with the definition “an outcome; result.”[3] Perhaps a little more elementary would be how in Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary, designed as clearly printed on its cover “for young teenagers,” appears a critical definition for “end” that can get overlooked even by some of the most well-trained seminary professors: “the goal toward which an agent acts or should act.”[4] In the English language alone is an available definition of “end” that does not mean “termination” or “abolishment.” The English sentence, “the end of all of NASA’s work is the putting of a man on the moon” (Hegg),[5] clearly does not mean that once Apollo 11 landed on the lunar surface that the existence of NASA and the exploration and study of space all of a sudden became irrelevant. Although in some popular speech the English word “end” is not always akin to “goal,” it can legitimately be used this way.[6]

For Romans 10:4, our appeal must be principally made to the source text, which asserts telos gar nomou Christos. Among Greek lexicons, we should not be surprised to see that the word telos[7] too has a wider connotation of definitions not limited to “end.” A critical definition of telos provided by BDAG includes, “the goal toward which a movement is being directed, end, goal, outcome[8]; Thayer offers the definition, “The end to which all things relate, the aim, purpose[9]; Vine says that it can mean “‘the aim or purpose’ of a thing”[10]; and CGEDNT provides the definition “outcome, result, goal, aim, fulfillment.”[11] Perhaps most importantly, AMG remarks that telos “does not, as is often supposed, mean the extinction, end or termination…It simply means the goal reached.”[12]

English Bible readers, encountering Romans 10:4 among a variety of English Bible versions, will see some (significant) variance as to how the Greek term telos is approached and translated:




telos gar nomou Christos eis dikaiosunēn panti tō pisteuonti “For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified” (RSV).

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (ESV).

“Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (NIV).

“Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (TNIV).

“For Christ ends the law and brings righteousness to everyone who has faith” (NEB).

“Christ is the fulfillment of the law and means righteousness for everyone who has faith” (Lattimore).

“For the termination of the law is Christ for righteousness to everyone who believes” (The New Testament—An Expanded Translation, Wuest).

“For Christ marks the termination of law, so that now anyone who has faith may attain uprightness” (Goodspeed).

“Christ is the goal of the Law, which leads to righteousness for all who have faith in God” (Common English Bible).

“The Messiah, you see, is the goal of the law, so that covenant membership may be available for all who believe” (Kingdom New Testament).

“You see, God’s purpose for the law reaches its climax when the Anointed One arrives; now all who trust in Him can have their lives made right with God” (The Voice).

Among the two major Messianic versions, the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) and Tree of Life Family Bible (TLV), it should not be surprising to encounter how telos is translated as “goal”:

“For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts” (CJB/CJSB).

“For Messiah is the goal of the Torah as a means to righteousness for everyone who keeps trusting” (TLV).

It cannot go unnoticed, how earlier in Romans 6:22, telos is used previously to describe the “outcome” of a Believer’s being set free from sin: “now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life [to de telos zōēn aiōnion]” (NASU). The argument as to what telos means in Romans 10:4 does need to take into consideration various linguistic factors, the least of which concern how telos is used in the Epistle to the Romans. N.T. Wright describes how “The…problem with the mainstream reading is Paul’s use of the word telos and its cognates elsewhere, not least in Romans itself. The only other occurrences of the noun in this letter come in 6:21-22: ‘the end of those things is death[13]…the fruit you have is unto sanctification, and its end is eternal life[14].’ By itself, we might be misled into reading the first of these as meaning ‘termination,’ but the second makes it clear what Paul means is ‘goal.’ Sanctification leads to, points toward, eternal life, and is consummated and completed thereby.”[15]

C.E.B. Cranfield directs us on how, “The interpretation of this verse has been much debated down the centuries.”[16] A typical perspective that one will find today, in a general evangelical Christian resource like the ESV Study Bible, is summarized by Thomas R. Schreiner:

End probably includes the idea of both goal and termination. The Mosaic law has reached its goal in Christ (it looked forward to and anticipated him), and the law is no longer binding upon Christians…Since Christ is the goal and end of the law, righteousness belongs to all who trust in Christ.”[17]

How one chooses to approach the word telos (te,loj) is certainly dependent on one’s presuppositional bias. If one’s theological commitment is to the idea that Jesus Christ abolished the Law of Moses, then Romans 10:4 will be translated along the lines of termination. If one’s theological commitment is to the idea that Jesus Christ is the goal, purpose, or aim of the Law of Moses, then Romans 10:4 will at least be understood with “end” meaning this, and with “goal” as a preferred rendering. Recognizing the Messiah as the telos of the Mosaic Torah from this latter perspective has been acknowledged by many important Christian voices since the Protestant Reformation.

Martin Luther, surprisingly, approached Romans 10:4 from the perspective of the Tanach or Old Testament Scriptures pointing to the Messiah:

“The apostle, moved by the Spirit, out of his incomparably clear insight, reveals their {words of Moses} real meaning, instructing us, as it were by an important proof, that the whole Bible everywhere speaks alone of Christ when we regard its real meaning, even when the words, outwardly considered as a picture and image, may sound differently. For this reason we also read: ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness’ (10:4); that is, everything (in Scripture) points to Christ.”[18]

John Calvin also asserted how everything in the Tanach or Old Testament Scriptures was to point to the Messiah, and to the righteousness He provides:

“The word completion, or perfection, as Erasmus has translated it, is, I think, quite appropriate in this passage. Since, however, the other reading [end] has received almost universal approval, and is also quite suitable, I leave it to my readers to retain it….Indeed, every doctrine of the law, every command, every promise, always points to Christ. We are, therefore, to apply all its parts to Him. But we cannot do this, unless we are stripped of all righteousness, are overwhelmed by the knowledge of our sin, and seek unmerited righteousness from him alone.”[19]

From my own evangelical Christian background, John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament offered these comments on Romans 10:4:

For Christ is the end of the law—The scope and aim of it. It is the very design of the law, to bring men to believe in Christ to justification and salvation. And He alone gives that pardon and life which the law shows the want of, but cannot give.”[20]

Some of today’s Messianic people might wonder, given the strong evidence in favor of telos meaning something along the lines of goal, purpose, aim, or even culmination—why more of today’s English Bibles have not represented a more pro-Torah position on Romans 10:4. Not very many laypersons are aware of the considerable amount of ink spilled in contemporary Romans commentaries and theological resources over this verse. Surveying a small selection of publications released over the past half-century, a majority still seems to favor telos being some kind of a termination of the Mosaic Torah, with a minority favoring telos as the Messiah being the goal of the Torah. The following chart has laid out some of views of Romans commentators on 10:4:




“[P]rior to Christ, God’s purpose had worked with particular reference to Israel (9:6-18), and the righteousness of God had been more or less confined to Israel—so that a closer correlation between God’s righteousness and Israel’s practice of the law could be readily assumed. But now with Christ a new stage in God’s dealings with humankind has been reached (3:21). Christ is the end of the old epoch and of Israel’s exclusive privileges with it….The word ‘end’ therefore is probably intended in the primary sense of ‘termination, cessation.’”[21]
James D.G. Dunn
“[I]n this passage Paul is concerned to show that Israel has misunderstood the law. At this point a statement that Christ is the goal to which all along the law has been directed, its true intention and meaning, is altogether apposite. Israel has misunderstood the law, because it failed to recognize what it was all about…So we conclude that [telos] should be understood in the sense…Christ is the goal, the aim, the intention of the law—apart from Him it cannot be properly understood at all….We conclude that the verse as a whole means: For Christ is the goal of the law, and it follows that a status of righteousness is available to every one who believes.”[22]
C.E.B. Cranfield
Telos could mean ‘end’ in the sense of ‘goal’ or ‘completion’, indicating that the law pointed to Christ and that he fulfilled it. Or it could mean ‘end’ in the sense of ‘termination’ or ‘conclusion’, indicating that Christ has abrogated the law. Paul must surely mean the latter. But the abrogation of the law gives no legitimacy either to antinomians, who claim that they can sin as they please because they are not ‘under the law but under grace’ (6:1, 15), or to those who maintain that the very category of ‘law’ has been abolished by Christ and that the only absolute left is to love.”[23]
John R.W. Stott
Christ is the end of the law. This means that Christ has become the culmination or climax of the law in the sense that it has pointed to him and has been finalized in him. The law has not ceased to have any value; in 7:12, 14 Paul says the law is ‘holy, righteous, good’ and ‘spiritual.’ As part of Scripture, it is also ‘profitable’…So Christ has not abolished the law (cf. Mt. 5:17-20) but has replaced it as the standard for righteousness. In this sense he has culminated the law as the focal point of its purpose.”[24]
Grant R. Osborne

“V. 4…reads literally ‘for end/termination/purpose/goal of the Law [is] Christ for righteousness to all those believing.’ This is one of the most debated verses in the Pauline corpus…Telos, ‘end,’ can indeed have several possible meanings. End as completion or termination does not exclude end as goal. But in Paul’s writings telos seems to always include the notion of termination, whatever other nuances it may have (cf. 1 Cor. 1.8; 10.11; 15.24; 2 Cor. 11.15; Phil. 3.19).”[25]
Ben Witherington III

“Paul argues [that] Christ is the ‘end’ (telos) of the law for righteousness from the standpoint of faith. The Greek term for ‘end’ can involve either ‘goal’ or ‘termination.’ ‘Goal’ seems the likelier primary nuance, but the context (which defines the sense in which the law ends or climaxes) clarifies the sense of the statement in any case. Israel failed to attain the law of righteousness because they pursued it by works rather than by faith (9:31-32); Gentiles conversely attained righteousness by faith (9:30). The problem thus is not the law, but the wrong approach to the law (as Paul will further clarify in 10:5-8). Like faith (3:31), Christ is the goal of the law, what the law points to for those with the perspective of faith. But if the law is approached as a ‘law of works’ (3:27), as in 10:5, recognizing the reality of Christ should finish off that approach; those who ‘believe’ (10:4) will not take this approach.”[26]
Craig S. Keener

Messianics who have written on Romans 10:4, most understandably, strongly tend to favor telos meaning “goal.” Noting the BAGD (edition prior to BDAG) definition of telos, David H. Stern states in his Jewish New Testament Commentary,

“[I]n the great majority of cases its meaning its either (1) ‘aim, purpose, goal’ toward which a movement is being directed…or (2) ‘outcome, result, consummation, last part’ of a process not obviously being directed and which may or may not terminate…These meanings are reflected in the English word ‘teleology,’ the branch of philosophy dealing with goals and purposes.”[27]

Hegg details some of the spiritual importance of telos being approached as meaning “goal”:

“By stating that the word ‘end’ (telos) means ‘goal’ here, I mean that Yeshua is the aim or intention of the Torah, and that the full meaning and function of the Torah cannot be realized apart from Him….[T]he one who, seeing in the Torah the coming, suffering Messiah, realizes that his sin is far greater than he had previously considered. That the Messiah, foreshadowed in the slaughter of the perfect sacrificial animal, should have to undergo the agony of death to expunge my sins, that He should need to carry the weight of my guilt because I could not carry it myself—in this the Torah brings me to my knees in repentance, seeking the grace and mercy of God without which I have no hope.”[28]

Some commentators, who are unfavorable to the continued validity of the Torah or Law of Moses in the post-resurrection era, recognize how “end” as akin to “termination” can be seen as being a bit disrespectful to God’s (previous) revelation in the Mosaic Law, and have opted for some combination of applications for the term telos. Moo thinks,

“[W]ith the coming of Christ the authority of the law of Moses is, in some basic sense, at an end. At the same time, a teleological nuance is also present. This is suggested not only by the contextual factors…but also by the fact that similar NT uses of telos generally preserve some sense of direction or goal. In other words, the ‘end’ that telos usually denotes is an end that is the natural or inevitable result of something else. The analogy of a race course (which many scholars think telos is meant to convey) is helpful: the finish line is both the ‘termination’ of the race (the race is over when it is reached) and the ‘goal’ of the race (the race is run for the sake of reaching the finish line)…The English word ‘end’ perfectly captures this nuance; but, if it is thought that it implies too temporal a meaning, we might also use the words ‘culmination,’ ‘consummation,’ or ‘climax.’”[29]

Moo, who does not believe in the continued validity of the Mosaic Law in the post-resurrection era, argues that telos regards the Messiah being the “goal” of the Torah along the lines of someone crossing the finish line of a race, which would then terminate the race. Yet the Messiah Himself actually directs those who have found Him, to uphold the continued authority of Moses’ Teaching, instructing its commandments to others (Matthew 5:19). To his credit, though, Moo offers an array of alternative translations for telos like culmination, consummation, and climax that those who favor the continued validity of the Torah in the post-resurrection era should welcome in modern English translations (like the TNIV), as these English terms draw the attention of the reader to how the Torah is to point to the Messiah.

Another interpreter, James R. Edwards, is rather tentative about what telos means in Romans 10:4. He recognizes the challenges present in approaching telos from the perspective of “end” akin to “termination,” but then notes some of his difficulties with reconciling it to his interpretation of other passages in Romans (“under the law” in Romans 6:14 and “released from the Law” in Romans 7:6):

“The dogmatic distinction in theology between law (OT) and grace (NT), which is particularly common in Protestantism and Orthodoxy, normally interprets verse 4 in the…sense…that Christ annuls the law…In reaction to this position, and in a desire to avoid anti-Semitic overtones, recent scholarship usually favors the first view that Christ is the goal and fulfillment of the law…This interpretation is supported by the fact that in Romans end (Gk. telos) normally signifies the completion of a process rather than its termination (e.g., 2:27; 6:21-22). Nevertheless, the latter interpretation is vulnerable to passages like 6:14 and 7:6, which imply a supersession of the law by grace.”[30]

When the Apostle Paul communicates later to his disciple Timothy, about telos tēs parangelias, this is not at all to be understood as “the termination of our instruction,”[31] but instead “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, NASU). Other valid renderings include “the aim of our charge” (RSV), “The whole point of what we’re urging” (The Message), or even “the purpose of the commandment” (NKJV). Telos regards the purpose or the focus of someone’s instruction in the faith, and as it regards Romans 10:4, such an educational goal or purpose for understanding the Messiah would be most appropriate to add to the positive components intended by telos. In Wright’s valid estimation, though, he approaches telos in Romans 10:4 from the perspective of Yeshua being the Torah’s climax:

“I conclude that in 10:4 Paul does not intend to declare the law’s abrogation in favor of a different ‘system,’ but rather to announce that the Messiah is himself the climax of the long story of God and Israel, the story Torah tells and in which it plays a vital though puzzling part. God’s purposes in Torah, purposes both negative and positive, have reached their goal in the Messiah, and the result of that is the accessibility and availability of ‘righteousness’ for all who believe.[32]

Theologically, it is most imperative that telos in Romans 10:4 be approached from the perspective of goal, aim, purpose, or even climax—and not termination. What is the Apostle Paul really trying to communicate? Is he not trying to say that his own fellow Jews have largely missed the point of the Torah? Does he not express the frustration, “since they are unaware of God’s way of making people righteous and instead seek to set up their own, they have not submitted themselves to God’s way of making people righteous” (Romans 10:3, CJB/CJSB)? If God’s Torah were approached properly, then whether it be First Century Jews who were unable to see Yeshua as the Deliverer or modern Christians who need greater clarification in the ways of holiness and obedience—then the Torah could rightly serve as the foundation of one’s understanding of salvation history. Without Moses’ Teaching, you cannot fully appreciate the arrival of the Messiah onto the stage of not only redemption for all humanity—but yourself personally. The common mortal inability to obey the commandments in the Law, for example, is to clearly point us to the need we all have for a Divine Savior!

Within Romans 10:4, the Apostle Paul is by no means communicating that Yeshua the Messiah is the abolition of the Mosaic Torah; in being the telos nomou Yeshua the Messiah is the Torah’s goal, its climax, its inevitable outcome, or even its dénouement. Arriving at saving faith in the Messiah of Israel is the resultant end, with Him being the consummation to whom the Torah points.

Paul does not say that Yeshua the Messiah terminated the validity and relevance of the Law of Moses, as Romans 10:4 is so commonly misinterpreted. The purpose of the Torah—and indeed all of Holy Scripture—is that it must point to our innate human need for a Savior. If we can realize how “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20b), then we can also realize how “Messiah is the goal of the Torah for righteousness to everyone who believes” (PME). Recognizing that we all fall short of His high standard (Romans 3:23), each man and woman must be convicted of sin, cry out in repentance before the Father, and receive the forgiveness that He offers in His Son. The Torah is to always show us the need for a Redeemer, and the fact that we need salvation.

Those who believe that the Torah or Law of Moses has come to a total conclusion, often look to some independent “law of Christ” (based in an interpretation of Galatians 6:2), centered around the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chs. 5-7)—which ironically enough is predicated upon the Messiah’s assertion that Moses’ Teaching remains valid. Let us never think that all theologians and commentators who believe that the Torah has been abolished, are God-less and immoral people, who do not want Believers to follow any code of conduct. Moo’s view is,

“Paul is not saying that Christ has ended all ‘law’; the believer remains bound to God’s law as it now is mediated in and through Christ (see Gal. 6:2; 1 Cor. 9:19-21). Nor is he saying that the Mosaic law is no longer part of God’s revelation or of no more use to the believer. The Mosaic law, like all of Scripture, is ‘profitable’ for the believer (2 Tim. 3:16) and must continue to be read, pondered, and responded to by the faithful believer.”[33]

Unfortunately, with a contemporary Christian theology that advocates the widescale abolition of the Torah, Moo’s word about reading, studying, and pondering the Law are not going to be heeded by that many modern Christian people. While today’s Messianic movement can be accused of being a bit stagnant, at times, with its teaching regimen limited to the weekly Torah portion—the reverse error is a widescale dismissal of considering the Torah and Tanach, the Old Testament, in any sort of personal and corporate instruction. And indeed, a fair majority of modern Christians do not read the Old Testament, much less consider its purpose for Messiah followers.


[1] This entry has been adapted from the commentary Romans for the Practical Messianic.

[2] I would clarify that even if Paul is using the rhetorical device of prosopopeia in the latter passages of Romans 7:12, 14, 22—Paul speaking as an imaginary “I”—the sentiments of the Torah being of value are still very much Paul’s personal feelings.

[3] Webster’s New World Dictionary and Thesaurus, second edition (Cleveland: Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2002), 209.

[4] Webster’s Intermediate Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1977), 245.

Even the strongly fundamentalist The Christian Student Dictionary (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1982), 240 includes the definition “A purpose; goal” for the English word “end,” actually providing the explanatory sentence: “To what end are you doing all that work?

[5] Tim Hegg, Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: Chapters 9-16 (Tacoma, WA: TorahResource, 2007), 317.

[6] The 1993 German Elberfelder Bibel has “Denn Christus ist des Gesetzes Ende.” The term Ende primarily means “end; close; film etc.: ending; result, outcome” (Langenscheidts New College German Dictionary, German-English [Berlin and Munich: Langenscheidt KG, 1995], 181), which likewise, in a language most closely related to English, does not necessarily imply termination.

[7] Given the theological and spiritual importance of [telos], not only for Messianics in Romans 10:4, but how frequently you will see telos used in scholastic works, please be aware that it is properly pronounced as tĕlŏs, with both a short ĕ and short ŏ sound.

[8] BDAG, 998.

[9] Thayer, 620.

[10] Vine, 199.

[11] CGEDNT, 180.

[12] Zodhiates, Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, 1376.

[13] Grk. to gar telos ekeinōn thanatos; “For the outcome of those things is death” (NASU).

[14] Grk. to de telos zōēn aiōnion; “and the outcome, eternal life” (NASU).

[15] Wright, in NIB, 10:657.

[16] C.E.B. Cranfield, International Critical Commentary: Romans 9-16 (London: T&T Clark, 1979), 515; cf. Kruse, Romans, pp 402-405 for a relatively recent discussion in New Testament studies.

[17] Schreiner, ESV Study Bible, 2174.

[18] Luther, Romans, 147.

[19] Calvin, Romans, pp 221-222.

[20] John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, reprint (Peterborough, UK: Epworth Press, 2000), 561.

[21] James D.G. Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary: Romans, Vol. 38b. (Dallas: Word Books, 1988), pp 596-597.

[22] Cranfield, Romans 9-16, pp 519-520.

[23] Stott, Romans, pp 281-282.

[24] Osborne, Romans, 266.

[25] Witherington, Romans, pp 260-261.

[26] Keener, Romans, pp 124-125.

[27] Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, 396.

[28] Hegg, Romans 9-16, pp 317, 318.

[29] Moo, Romans, 641; also Kruse, Romans, 404.

[30] Edwards, Romans, pp 249-250.

[31] The KJV actually does have “the end of the commandment.”

[32] Wright, in NIB, 10:658.

[33] Moo, Romans, 642.