The Letter Versus the Spirit

God’s Law has a purpose. It has a purpose for those who have not received Jesus as Savior and Lord. It reveals God’s perfect will for mankind. The problem is that no man is able to perfectly obey it. We all fall short and James makes it clear that if we offend in one point of the law, we have broken it all. There is no way that we can meet its demands perfectly. That leaves only judgment for failure, unless we come to Christ. If we do that, we discover that Jesus took the judgment due us, as our Substitute! He perfectly fulfilled the law in our place. What does this law have to say to those who have received salvation? It spells out the way God wants us to live and He provides the enabling for us to live out the “righteousness” of the law as we grow in grace and study and apply His word. The profound difference is in the motivation. Before we are born again, it is obey or else! After we are born again, we desire to keep the law because we love Him and are grateful to Him. As He leads us in obedience, we have a love for and appreciation of His Holy Law. A legal approach is the letter of the Law and compliance is an exercise in futility. When the Holy Spirit guides us into the Truth of God’s Word, He works in us is to fulfill the “righteousness” of the Law. That brings joy and blessing. In II Corinthians 3:6, Paul pointed out that His sufficiency for ministry was Christ and that his ministry was not of the “letter” but of the Spirit. This is how he put it: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” William R. Newell discovered the difference between the letter and the Spirit. In his hymn; “At Calvary,” the second stanza speaks of the “letter,” while the third stanza emphasizes the work of the “Spirit.” “By God’s Word at last my sin I learned; then I trembled at the law I’d spurned, till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary. Now I’ve given to Jesus everything, now I gladly own Him as my King, now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary.” Selah! In our unsaved state, the Law makes impossible demands; once we are born again, God’s Spirit makes “the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus,” a great delight!    Ron

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