“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Romans 10:3-4 (Read Romans 10)
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 (Rom. 10:2-3): “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to 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, who was crucified for their sins and is risen again in glory.
And this remains an obstacle for so many today, whether Jew or Gentile. People seek to be acceptable to God through 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 doeth, 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” (Deut. 27:26); “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Eccl. 7:20); and, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20).
None of us measure up. As it is written in Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way …” But Jesus did measure up. He was holy and righteous under God’s law. The Scripture tells us that He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15); and the Scripture tells us that “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).
Because Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us and then suffered the just punishment for the sins of all when He died on the cross — and He rose again in victory, showing God accepted His perfect sacrifice for sin — the righteousness of God, the only righteousness which avails before Him, is that perfect and imputed righteousness of Jesus the Messiah, received through faith in Him.
The Bible tells us in Romans 3:19-26: “Now we know that whatever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ to all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he may be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.”
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, through faith in 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” (Eph. 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. To whom save Thee, who canst alone for sin atone, Lord, shall I flee? Amen. (“Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ,” Horatius Bonar, 1857)
[ Scripture is quoted from the Revised 1833 Webster Version of the Bible.]