What does Paul mean when he says Christ is the end (telos) of the law (Romans 10:4)? Does he mean that Christ has terminated God’s law? The underlying Greek word telos, translated “end,” rarely means termination. For example, James speaks of the telos (end) of the Lord (James 5:11, KJV). “End” in this context doesn’t mean the termination of the Lord. It means the end of the purpose of the Lord, as it is translated in the English Standard Version. Similarly, Peter speaks of the telos (end) of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9). Peter is not talking about the elimination of our faith. He is teaching about the “end result” of our faith, which is our salvation, as it is translated in the New International Version.
When Paul says that Christ is the telos (end) of the law (Romans 10:4), he is teaching that Christ was the intended outcome of the law. Again, according to the New International Version, Christ is the culmination of the law. Jesus didn’t terminate the law. Everything the law said culminated in Jesus. Jesus was the final fulfillment of the law. Every prediction it ever made came to completion in Christ. This is the universal teaching of the New Testament. According to Jesus, all the Scriptures are about Him (John 5:39). After His resurrection, Jesus explained to His disciples that all Scripture is about Him (Luke 24:25–27, 44–45). Jesus is the culmination of everything the law ever said or taught.
The good news is that, as a result of Jesus’ coming, everyone who believes in Him is righteous (Romans 10:4). Someone might object and say, doesn’t the Old Testament indicate that it’s the person who does the law who will live (Romans 10:5; Leviticus 18:5)? It does say that, but follow Paul’s argument. The law points to Jesus, and the law says, do the law and you will live. If the law culminates in Jesus, then doing the law and living must be understood to mean, “Believe in the one the law is all about, and you will live.” If you believe in Jesus, you will live. Righteousness isn’t in heaven, and it isn’t buried in an abyss (Romans 10:6–8). The universal message of Scripture is that salvation doesn’t come by some Herculean effort. It is by faith in a saving God.
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9, 10).