Romans 10:4

[4] τέλος γὰρ νόμου Χριστὸς εἰς δικαιοσύνην παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι.

(KJV) Romans 10:4

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Does this refer to termination/cease/boundary/limit, or purpose/object/aim of the law?


8 Answers 8


I think the word has both meanings: one literal, the other figurative. Consider this use of τέλος in the final words of John 13:1.

ἀγαπήσας τοὺς ἰδίους τοὺς ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ εἰς τέλος ἠγάπησεν αὐτούς. (Nestle-Aland)

having loved his own [people] in the world, he loved them to the end.

Clearly, the word here means "end" in the literal sense. It refers to the end of Jesus's life.

In your passage, the word could be either literal or figurative. It could refer to the boundary or limit of the law, or it could also refer to the aim or purpose of the law. Ι think the latter is more natural. It is more common to say that a law has a purpose than to say it has a boundary. But just because it is more common, I wouldn't disqualify the alternative. I think it is a case where both the literal and figurative meanings are possible. These ambiguities can often be interesting.

It is worth pointing out that the word τέλος often meant "goal" or "purpose" in the philosophy of Aristotle.

A telos (from the Greek τέλος for "end", "purpose", or "goal") is an end or purpose, in a fairly constrained sense used by philosophers such as Aristotle. It is the root of the term "teleology", roughly the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions. (Wikipedia)

This could have made the figurative meaning quite obvious to Greek speakers of the time. (Not that all Greek speakers were familiar with the philosophy of Aristotle, but rather that the figurative meaning was cemented in the word.)


It is always useful to let the Bible defines its own terms. While other meanings are possible, the Bible clearly uses "telos" (the original Greek word translated as "end" in Romans 10:4) to mean the "end" or "purpose" or "goal" as in these verses:

  • "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." (1 Pet 1:9)

    "Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." (James 5:11)

    "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:" (1 Tim 1:5)

Clearly, in those verses, the meaning is not the end of faith or commandments or the Lord. There is a good summary of the need to do this at: http://characterofgod.org/2016/02/bible-dictionary/


In most cases in the New Testament, τέλος is used to mean "end" as in the termination. Examples (tranlsations of τέλος are in bold):

Matthew 10:22 (RSV)

and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Mark 13:7

And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet.

Luke 1:33

and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.

1 Corinthians 1:8

who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 22:13

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

In Romans, however, Paul does seem to use the word to mean object. Your verse is one example; others are:

Romans 6:21

But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.

Romans 6:22

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.

It is also used in the less common context of payment (revenue):

Romans 13:7

Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

  • I'm not sure why your answer was down voted. +1
    – Ruminator
    Apr 17, 2018 at 17:01

I would translate Romans 10:4 like this:

Indeed, Christ is the culmination of the law as far as righteousness is concerned, for all who believe.


enter image description here

Figuratively, the Law is a train track that was laid to take passengers to Christ waiting at the end of the line.

The gospel train is coming
I hear it just at hand
I hear the car wheels moving
And rumbling thro' the land

Get on board, children
Get on board, children
Get on board, children
For there's room for many a more

The Gospel train rolls along the track that is the Law, and τέλος, figuratively, is the station at the end of the line, where Christ waits.

Paul provides an equivalent analogy in Galatians 3:26, which I would translate like this:

Wherefore, the law has become the means by which we were led to Christ, so that we might be justified by faith.


enter image description here

Here, Jesus is the instructor waiting at the τέλος (end point/destination, i.e. figuratively, the school), and the one whose duty it is to bring the children, is the νόμος (law, i.e. figuratively, the pædagog).


τέλος has two seemingly unrelated meanings:

  • end as completion
  • tax, toll, or custom.

The first is the most common; yet the second meaning is employed in both Gospel and Epistle:

He says, “Yes”. And Peter having come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What seems right to you, Simon— from whom do the kings of the earth take taxes (τέλη) or a poll-tax, from their sons or from the strangers?”(Matthew 17:25) [DLNT]

Give-back to all authorities the things owed— the tribute to the one owed the tribute, the tax (τέλος) to the one owed the tax (τέλος), the fear to the one owed the fear, the honor to the one owed the honor. (Romans 13:7)

Matthew has another use of τέλος involving Peter:

And Peter was following Him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest. And having entered inside, he was sitting with the officers to see the outcome (τέλος). (Matthew 26:58)

Peter waited to see the "end" or as the DLNT states, the "outcome" because the end of the trial was not the "end." It was the end of one trial which would lead to another and finally to the death of Jesus. Yet even that end was not the end.

Similarly, taxes paid in full does not discharge a person from paying future taxes. When one tax period ends, another begins. For example, the τέλος of the year is December 31, but December 31 is not the τέλος of time. Applying this sense to τέλος leads to seeing "end" or "completion" within a continuation of the process in time. In other words, it is not the end with nothing following; it is the end within an established sequence.

For Christ is the continuing end of the Law for righteousness for everyone believing.

The sense then is Christ did not pay the tax and bring an end to taxation, but His one-time payment continues to satisfy all future obligations. It is a payment made in the past which those living in the future can believe will also satisfy their current obligations.


Some thoughts as to what the word "end" means as used by Paul in Romans 10:4. My firm belief is that we must search the context earnestly seeking the language therein that will make this and all such concerns clear! I have heard it all my life that we are to "speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where the Bible is silent"! This I believe but, we apply it only by carefully letting the Holy Spirit impart unto us what the truth is and this requires us to be very thoughtful and committed to the whole context where the Holy Spirit is presenting HIS DIVINE TRUTH! WE MUST SOLVE ALL BIBLE ISSUES BY LISTENING INTENTLY TO THE WAY THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS CONSTRUCTED THE CONTEXT IN WHICH THE ISSUE BEING CONSIDERED IS FOUND! WE DON'T NEED TO BE ASKING HUMAN BEINGS WHAT A WORD OR CONTEXT MEANS. WE MUST ASK THE HOLY SPIRIT TO TEACH US THROUGH THE SCRIPTURES WHICH HE HAS GIVEN! People make decisions too quick before they have had time to put the scriptures together so that they (the scriptures, Holy Spirit) can teach and consequently they often miss the point that is being taught! We must learn to hear the voice of the Spirit, John 3:8!

                                 VERSE ONE

The desire of Paul's heart was that Israel "might" be "saved" but, unless something changed, Israel was DOOMED! Thus, Paul prays constantly for them! Notice the last word of this first verse, "saved". In the rest of the context Paul will delve into the only way Israel can be "saved"!

                                 VERSE TWO

This is due to the fact that although they had a zeal of God, verse 2, it was misguided. (A) THEY LACKED A PROPER "KNOWLEDGE" OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD, verse 2, and, verse 3. They were going about to establish their own righteousness, verse 3, (B) THEY WERE IGNORANT OF GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS, verse 3. This lack of understanding of the righteousness of God and going about to establish their own righteousness led them to fail to (C) SUBMIT themselves unto the righteousness of God. When man is listening to man it is likely that they are not listening to God and what we don't know can, indeed hurt us!

In verse four notice the connection between the words "END OF THE LAW" and "TO EVERY ONE THAT BELIEVETH". This context is about the TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE "WORD OF FAITH" WHICH WE PREACH! If that Divine Message is received in the heart it will transform the heart, then it will be in the mouth as a personal confession of faith in the Lord Jesus, verses 9 and 10.

What Paul is saying, in verse 4, is that when Christ is established in the heart through faith through the preaching/teaching of the word of faith that is the POINT where that persons ties to the law as a reference for the achievement of righteousness ceases to exist! When we come to Christ we leave the law behind! Christ is the righteousness of God! How can we have the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of God at the same time? Finally, I think of Paul when he said "Oh wretched man that I am.." who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I THANK GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. THUS, AT THAT POINT, TO THE MAN OF FAITH, A CONSCIOUS DECISION IS MADE FOR CHRIST AND TO THAT MAN THE LAW HAS COME TO AN END THROUGH FAITH AND THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS OF THE LAW IS REPLACED WITH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS OF FAITH!

  • Whenever someone uses capital letters it means that they are trying to shout at me, either because they think they are important, or else because their argument is weak. I get the impression that both are true of this particular answer.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 4, 2018 at 15:00

In what sense is the τέλος used in Romans 10:4?

The context show the answer here:-

Texts = NWT

Romans 10:1-5 "Brothers, the goodwill of my heart and my supplication to God for them are indeed for their salvation.

Paul here refers to the Jews and prays for "their Salvation."

2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to accurate knowledge.

He says the have an understanding about God but that it is not "accurate"!

3 For because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.

The Jews thought that following the Mosaic Law would bring the rightness, when in fact it showed they were sinners! See Romans 3:20b and Gal. 3:19.

4 For Christ is the end (Gk. "telos") of the Law, so that everyone exercising faith may have righteousness.

Here Paul teaches the Christ ended all the Mosaic Laws as they cannot bring a righteous standing before God! See the texts below for further on this.

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is by the Law: “The man who does these things will live by means of them.”

Paul show that following the Law "will live" as The Law show the Christ to be coming and only he can bring Christians to a good standing before God:-

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I came, not to destroy, but to fulfill."

Romans 7:6 "But now we have been released from the Law, because we have died to that which restrained us, in order that we might be slaves in a new sense by the spirit and not in the old sense by the written code."

Ephesians 2:15 "By means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, in order to make the two groups in union with himself into one new man and to make peace,"

Colossians 2:13, 14 "Furthermore, though you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcised state of your flesh, God made you alive together with him. He kindly forgave us all our trespasses 14 and erased the handwritten document that consisted of decrees and was in opposition to us. He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake."

Thus Christ finished the Mosaic Law, it became redundant or to a "telos."


Romans 10:3-8 (KJV)

3 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.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

[For Christ is the goal of the Father’s instructions, providing righteousness to every one that believeth]

5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise... [Paul quotes Deu. 30:11-14]

Romans 8:3-4: For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

The "righteousness of faith” referenced from Deuteronomy 30 was veiled for many in the past. The word law also comes from the Hebrew word torah, meaning instructions, which more accurately describes the thought being conveyed. (And when our flesh is connected to the law, the law is weak).

V. 4: The word telos can mean the purpose or goal of a thing. One might ask, "to what end are you attending college?” This is clear in the NKJV’s and NIV’s rendering of 1 Timothy 1:5, and 1 Peter 1:9 usage of telos. It was a commonly used word by great thinkers like Aristotle who used it in relation to complex ideas like the ultimate goal of human interactions (happiness), the goal of business (the creation of wealth): a concept the Romans Paul was writing to would have been familiar with. Reason was one of Paul’s methods of interaction, and speaking within his neighbor's world view (1 Co. 9:21-22; Acts 18:4).

Thus, in the context of attaining God’s righteousness, in a long term philosophical view, the purpose or goal of the law has always been for Christ to provide righteousness through it. Paul touches on this goal two chapters prior.

V. 5-6: There is no grammar in the original Greek nor verse numbers: adding every period or comma in is a translators choice. Verses 3-4 could have been represented as a single sentence, as could 5-6. Verses 5-6 call back to verses 3 and 4 in their presented order (having an odd callback sequence like that seen in Galatians 3:13-14).

True faith establishes the law (Ro. 3:31):

Luke 1:6: ...they were both righteous… walking in all the commandments…

2 K. 23:25: [King Josiah:] ...turned to the Lord with all his heart... according to all the law of Moses...

  • Please edit this to more clearly mark out what is quoted and what is your original writing.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 1, 2019 at 3:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.