4. For the end of the law is Christ, etc. The word completion, (321) seems not to me unsuitable in this place; and [Erasmus ] has rendered it perfection: but as the other reading is almost universally approved, and is not inappropriate, readers, for my part, may retain it.
The Apostle obviates here an objection which might have been made against him; for the Jews might have appeared to have kept the right way by depending on the righteousness of the law. It was necessary for him to disprove this false opinion; and this is what he does here. He shows that he is a false interpreter of the law, who seeks to be justified by his own works; because the law had been given for this end, — to lead us as by the hand to another righteousness: nay, whatever the law teaches, whatever it commands, whatever it promises, has always a reference to Christ as its main object; and hence all its parts ought to be applied to him. But this cannot be done, except we, being stripped of all righteousness, and confounded with the knowledge of our sin, seek gratuitous righteousness from him alone.
It hence follows, that the wicked abuse of the law was justly reprehended in the Jews, who absurdly made an obstacle of that which was to be their help: nay, it appears that they had shamefully mutilated the law of God; for they rejected its soul, and seized on the dead body of the letter. For though the law promises reward to those who observe its righteousness, it yet substitutes, after having proved all guilty, another righteousness in Christ, which is not attained by works, but is received by faith as a free gift. Thus the righteousness of faith, (as we have seen in the first chapter,) receives a testimony from the law. We have then here a remarkable passage, which proves that the law in all its parts had a reference to Christ; and hence no one can rightly understand it, who does not continually level at this mark.
The meaning of the word depends on what is connected with it. The end of evils, or of life, is their termination; the end of a promise is its fulfillment; the end of a command, its performance or obedience; the end of faith is salvation. In such instances, the general idea is the result, or the effect, or the consequence. Now the law may be viewed as an economy, comprising the whole Jewish law, not perfect, but introductory; in this view Christ may be said to be its end — its perfection or “its landing place.” But we may also regard the law in its moral character, as the rule and condition of life; then the end of the law is its fulfillment, the performance of what it requires to attain life: and Christ in this respect is its end, having rendered to it perfect obedience. This last meaning is most consistent with the words which follow, and with the Apostle’s argument. The first view is taken by [Chrysostom ], [Beza ], [Turrettin ], as well as [Calvin ]; the second, by [Mede ] , [Stuart ] , and [Chalmers ]. There is really not much difference in the two views; only the sequel of the verse, “for righteousness to every one who believes,” and the opposite sentiment in the next verse, “the man who doeth these shall live in (or through) them,” seem to favor the latter view. — Ed.