The Object of the Law is Realized in Christ: Romans 10:4 and Paul’s Justification Teaching

Bibliographic information:

Irons, Charles Lee. “The Object of the Law is Realized in Christ: Romans 10:4 and Paul’s Justification Teaching,” Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters 6.1 (2016): 33–54



The meaning of telos nomou in Rom 10:4 (“Christ is telos nomou for righteousness to everyone who believes”) has been highly contested, with interpretations falling into two main camps, depending on whether telos is interpreted temporally or teleologically. A taxonomy of interpretations is set forth and a version of the teleological interpretation is defended. It is argued that Paul presupposed that the object of the law was righteousness. The law demanded righteousness (as personal obedience to God’s moral will) and offered righteousness (as a status before God) and life to those who kept it. By affirming that Christ is telos nomou, Paul was saying that Christ has realized the object of the law, namely, righteousness. How he did so (by his obedience to the point of death) is not explicitly stated in this text but can be teased out from other Pauline texts. Christ’s realization of the object of the law, which he accomplishes as the believer’s representative, results in a status of righteousness that is enjoyed by all who believe in him. In addition, Christ’s being the telos of the law is intimately related to the concept of “the righteousness of God.” Believers are not righteous by doing the law personally but by receiving the gift of righteousness, the righteousness of God constituted by Christ crucified and risen as their representative. Connections with related justification passages strengthen this interpretation and highlight the notion that righteousness is “reckoned” to believers by a gracious divine act.


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