“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Romans 10:3-4
The apostle Paul had a sincere desire that his people, the people of Israel, would be saved. He prayed that they too would repent and place their hope and confidence in Messiah Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world.
Paul wrote (Romans 10:2-3): “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
Why were so many of his fellow Jews not saved? Because they did not know of God’s imputed righteousness for Christ’s sake and sought their own righteousness based upon their obedience to the law. In fact, in their zealous efforts to keep all of God’s commandments and be acceptable to God by their own works, they rejected the perfect righteousness of their Messiah and Savior and failed to place their hope and trust in Jesus, crucified for their sins and risen again in glory.
And this remains an obstacle for so many today, whether Jew or Gentile. People seek to be acceptable to God by their own works and lives and hope they have done enough that God will be satisfied and admit them into the joys of heaven.
What the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob failed to understand in Paul’s day, and what so many fail to grasp today, is that none of us measure up to God’s standard.
Moses wrote of God’s standard in Leviticus 18:5: “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” The problem is that none of us has kept all of God’s commandments and judgments, and the Scriptures also say: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deuteronomy 27:26); “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20); and, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).
Though none of us measure up, Jesus did. He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And, “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Because Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us and suffered the just punishment for the sins of all, rising again in victory, God’s righteousness – the only righteousness which avails before Him – is a perfect and imputed righteousness received through faith in Messiah Jesus. Cf. Romans 1:16-17; 3:9-26.
Indeed Christ Jesus is the end – the fulfillment (telos) – of the law for righteousness to all who believe. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us and, by His sufferings, death and glorious resurrection, God “hath made us accepted in the beloved … In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6-7).
Do we then return to the law for righteousness before God? Never! We hold fast to Christ Jesus and the perfect righteousness which is ours through faith in Him.
Thy righteousness, O Christ, alone can cover me: No righteousness avails save that which is of Thee. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal #380, v. 5)
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]