4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
1901 ASV Translation:
4 For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth.
I. The "End" of Law.
A. The issue of an "end" is the issue of a matter being brought to the conclusion of its application to a process. There are multiple processes which utilize "law" and some of them are still extant. The paean of the "Law" found in the psaltry (Psalm 119) reveals some of these processes and many of them are still being utilized. For instance, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law" (119:18) is an appeal that continues to be legitimate as long as divine revelation in the Law continues to reveal unknown realities.
B. The "end" of which Paul wrote in our current text is not even an end sanctioned by God. It is an integral part of Paul's theology that "...by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight..." (Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16). This is a "bottom line" doctrine regarding the Jewish distortion of a proper understanding of the various "ends" of "Law". Thus, Paul wrote that they, "being ignorant", set about to use God's "Law" for an "end" that He not only never sanctioned, but actually directly contradicted.
II. The "Issue" at Stake: Righteousness.
A. This is the term in Paul's statement that provides the definition of, and parameters for, what he meant by "the end".
B. This issue is not whether submission to "Law" produces "righteous" behavior (by whatever means that submission is achieved).
C. This issue is one of "standing", or "status", before God.
1. Paul carefully addressed this in Romans 3 so that his readers would understand that "righteousness" is a conferred "state" wherein, because God hasgiven His righteousness to the one who believes (3:22), the recipient is considered by God to be qualified to be united to Him (5:1) and spared from any, and every, expression of His judicial wrath (5:9).
2. Though this grant is simultaneous to the new birth wherein a person is regenerated by the Spirit of God into a sinless state (1 John 3:9), it is not the same thing as regeneration.
a. Paul was very clear that regeneration occurs at the point when the "old man" is put to death and a new marriage occurs to a "new Man" (Romans 7:4) so that "we should bring forth fruit unto God", but this doctrine does not signal a cessation of sinning by the composite individual in whom regeneration has occurred.
b. Because "believers" still "sin" just as Paul explained in Romans 7:9, something more than regeneration had to take place. That "something more" is "justification" as a grace-grant from God to the individual who believes. This makes it possible for those who do not understand how to live apart from the Law to yet be acceptable to God.
1) As Paul said in Romans 4:8, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." This is not a statement that the man is "blessed" who does not sin, but that even when he does sin, the Lord refuses to "impute" it to him.
2) Now, though the Lord refuses to "impute" his sin to him, this does not mean that those who are justified can "sin with impunity"; it simply means that the "standing" one has in Christ -- as the "end" of the application of "Law" to the issue of such "standing" -- remains, regardless of the actual behavior of the composite person who is both "believer" and "son of Adam" as far as the reality of life before death and resurrection occur. In one physical body two realities coexist: there is the reality of the new, and very real, union of the person who believes to Christ which results in the ability to bear fruit unto God; and there is the reality of the continuing union of the person to his flesh (including his brain) wherein many patterns of Sin dominate. Thus, an immutable "standing" before God in His righteousness is necessary so that God can continue to work with those who yet sin, though regenerated. What this boils down to is one thing: total judicial acceptance by God of the person who has believed; no expression by Him of wrath toward them even though their behavior warrants it under justice. All of God's dealings with those who believe are those of a Father who is training His children to be His heirs; none of them are dealings of "Justice".
a) This may sound like we are splitting hairs because there is often no tangible difference between what "wrath" would impose upon a person for sins committed and what "Fatherly discipline" imposes upon children who are disobedient.
b) But, the hair-splitting is necessary, not at the level of what a person may "experience" as one who is sinning/has sinned, but at the level of how a person's "experience" may be transformed from that of a "sinner" to that of a faithful son. The biblical focus upon "faith" is, at this point, absolutely crucial. The only way a person's experience may be transformed is by this means. What a person believes is crucial beyond measure. Thus, it is absolutely necessary that one "believe" that God has suspended "Justice" in his case and imposed the "Father/son" reality in order for "Fatherly discipline" to be productive. It is by a lack of faith in this very reality that "Sin revives" in the sense of Romans 7:9. And it is for this very reason that Paul so heavily emphasized, at the beginnings of both chapters nine and ten, his true attitude toward his kinsmen. What one believes about the one from whom the actions that so directly affect him come is crucial to the issue of response. And the issue of response is crucial because it is a highly significant element in the processes of "Life", otherwise we would not be told at every turn how important it is for us to "believe" so that we may "respond" in a way that is conducive to "Life".