Christ, the Content of the Law

Not only was Christ the giver of the Law, but also the very content and substance that the Moral Law of God imaged and pictured

We must never think of the Old Testament People of God as a carnal people, hoping in temporal promises, and only reaching Christ in spite of the Old Covenant. We must instead put ourselves in the shoes of the faithful saints of old by attending to the actual words of Scripture. Held out before them was the promised Seed, who is Christ, their hope. Though their feet indeed landed in carnal Canaan, they were received by God into eternal reward since they all looked for the heavenly country, seeing the temporal as simply a deposit of the eternal.  And when they received the Law from Mt. Sinai, they saw the righteousness, holiness, goodness, and perfection of the one man who would embody all of this, our Lord Jesus Christ.


“The law was a schoolmaster unto Christ” (Gal. 3:24) and contained “the shadow of things to come” (Heb. 10:1), whose body and express image is in Christ. (Francis Turretin, Elenctic Theology, Bk. 2, p. 226)

In our endeavor to show how the one redemptive work of Christ was administered or dispensed to the saints of the Old Testament, we have shown that the Law of God, including the Ten Commandments, was no exception.  In our last post, we have shown from the Scriptures that Christ Himself was He Who promulgated the Law from Mt. Sinai.  Here we will show that not only was He the giver of the Law, but also the very content and substance that the Moral Law of God imaged and pictured.

The Law a Delight and an Accuser

To begin with, I think it is enlightening to see the way King David spoke of the Law in Psalm 119:

Your testimonies are my delight;
they are my counselors. (vs. 24)

Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life! (vs. 40)

for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love. (vs. 47)

When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O Lord. (vs. 52)

I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have given me life. (vs. 93)

Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
for they are the joy of my heart. (vs. 111)

Your testimonies are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them. (vs. 129)

These are just seven of one hundred and seventy-six verses in praise of God’s Law, written by the man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14).  David over and over calls God’s Law his delight, that which he longs for, his love, his comfort, his life, the joy of his heart, and the due object of his wonder. Was this because he merely relished a list of rules and regulations? Did he long for and love the ministry of death and condemnation (2 Cor. 3:7, 9)? Was it a life of slavery under a taskmaster that was the desire and delight of his heart (Gal. 3:24; 4:5; 5:1)? Or did he, as a regenerate believer, see something much more wonderful in these laws, commandments, precepts, and statutes of the Law; viz., He that is called Wonderful Himself (Judg. 13:18; Isa. 9:6)?  As our Lord Jesus Christ said to the unbelieving Jews,

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. (John 5:45)

In these verses, we are told two important truths about the Law and Christ.  First, we see that Moses wrote of Christ so clearly that if they had believed his words, they would have believed in Jesus.  Second, the unbelieving Jews found only accusation and condemnation in Moses, having placed their hope in him (i.e., the Law itself) rather than He of whom Moses wrote.  Their condemnation was found in emptying the Law of its true content, Christ.

Christ, the Telos of the Law

These all-important truths are fleshed out beautifully in Romans 9:30-10:9. The Apostle Paul concludes his theodicy of chapter 9 with the following questions and answers:

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.  Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. (Rom 9:30-32)

The Gentiles, who weren’t even looking for righteousness, ended up receiving it by placing their faith in Christ.  The Jews, on the other hand, who had a righteous law (Rom. 7:12) that would in fact lead to righteousness ran afoul of the very purpose of that law and did not attain the righteousness they were seeking. They thought that it was by their own labor in keeping the Law that they would be righteous, rather than recognizing its true content, Christ. As such, they “did not succeed in reaching that law.” We see this confirmed a couple verses later, when he writes of the Jews:

Being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom 10:3-4)

Again, the Jews, anxious to attain their own righteousness by the Law, missed the righteous aim of the Law. In the context, to say that “Christ is the τέλος (telos) of the Law” is to say that He was the goal of the Law, the end at which it pointed, its intended consummation.  The passage is not saying that Christ simply came and put an end to the Law, but rather that the Law came to its intended conclusion in Christ. Paul then contrasts the righteousness achieved by works with the righteousness that is achieved by faith:

Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:5-9)

The righteousness offered by law keeping says “do all things written in the Law” (Deut. 27:26).  But the righteousness based on faith does not look for anything other than Christ, His death and resurrection.  It is not a matter of willing or running (Rom. 9:16), searching high or low, but believing what has been brought near and graciously offered in Christ.

But how is it that Paul moves from arguing that the Jews, seeking to attain their own righteousness by works, did not reach the Law (9:31)—Christ being its intended end (telos)—to saying that the Law itself only offered righteousness by works as distinct from faith in Christ?  How then can it be said that Christ was the true telos of the Law? How can it be said that they missed the goal of the Law, righteousness in Christ, if the only righteousness that the Law offers is by “doing” while true righteousness is by believing?

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