One controversial question in Christianity is what obligations Christians have to the Old Testament (OT) Law. One objection brought up is that Christ’s death removed our obligation to the OT Law. Paul is often cited in support of such thinking due to statements that sound as though he’s either speaking negatively about the Law or speaking in ways that sound as though we no longer need to follow the Law. His statement in Romans 10:4 is one such example of this:
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Interpreting Paul’s words here, however, to mean that the OT Law is “no longer binding on Christians in any way” fails to capture Paul’s true intention. Earlier in the book, Paul has established certain truths that prove essential to understanding Paul’s words and the key phrase, “for righteousness”. In Romans 3, Paul explains that God’s righteousness has now been revealed apart from the law (3:21). God’s righteousness is shown in the fact that He has provided a way to be truly justified by having faith in Jesus Christ (3:22, 24). Paul then makes the famous statement “we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (3:28). The point not to miss here is that Paul’s use of the phrase “the righteousness of God” refers to what God did in creating a new way to be truly justified, and that the manner in which people receive that justification is through faith “apart from the works of the law”. Paul goes on in Romans 5 to show that being justified and becoming righteous are synonymous, in other words both refer to having a right standing with God (5:18 w/19). Just before Paul’s words in Romans 10, Paul reveals that he is not only dealing with the same question, but the Jews’ stubborn attempt to go back to the Law (9:30-33). Though the Jews had “a zeal for God” (10:2), they refused to submit to “God’s righteousness” (10:3). As we saw in Romans 3, God’s righteousness refers to God’s new way of becoming righteous: faith in Christ. It is in this sense that “Christ is the end of the law”, He is the “end” of the Law only for righteousness. Neither Jew nor Christian can be made righteous through the old “law for righteousness”, they now enter into a righteous standing through faith in Christ, the new “law for righteousness”.
The context of Romans 10 shows that Paul’s intention was to answer a limited question. From Romans 10:4, it’s just a short three chapters later where Paul commands his audience to live out their lives in accordance with the Law’s commands as the means to fulfilling our “debt” to love our neighbor (Rom 13:8-10 w/Ex 20:13-17 & Lev 19:18). Among other examples, Paul even uses the OT Law to tell the Corinthians that he has a right to get paid for his pastoral services (1Co 9:6-12). Paul cannot use the Law authoritatively unless the Law is still authoritative. To say otherwise puts Paul in the rather morally compromising position of extorting money from Christians using something that has no authority. Such a thing, surely, would be unconscionable for Paul. It is clear then that Paul’s reverence for the Law went beyond just its place in history, he instead was preoccupied with ensuring it was properly upheld, fulfilled, and obeyed in the lives of the New Covenant Christians (e.g. Rom 3:31; Act 21:20-26, 23:1-5). This is not to say that Paul believed Christians are under the Mosaic Covenant, or even that the Christian carrying out the Law looks exactly the same. But to say that Paul didn’t believe in the Law’s authority for the Christian entirely misses the concern Paul has in Romans 10:4. Paul’s purpose in Romans 10:4 is not to provide a sweeping rejection of the OT Law, but to communicate the end of the Law as the means to justification.