“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom. 7:6).
Satan loves to create controversy out of nothing. He takes what God puts together and splits it up, moving Christians to stand behind one side of the issue or the other. After both divided groups of Christians have fought long and hard and feel good about their “service” in defending God and His cause, they are self-exalted, self-pitiful, angry and unforgiving, and dead to the righteousness that God had built into His original principles, which Satan has split apart. And it all looks so moral and righteous to the religious pawns in Satan’s hands; thus, Satan’s genius triumphs again.
This scenario happens in individual commandments of God’s law, and to the law of God as a whole. Should we keep the letter of the law? Or the spirit of the law? Paul’s statement above sounds like there exists a dichotomy in the law, such that we cannot keep the letter or spirit of it without breaking the other part. This is a real conundrum. The Old Testament sounds so heavy on obedience to God’s law to the letter.
Yet, Jesus comes along and places the things of the heart over the letter of the law. “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?…
Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.…
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” (Matt. 15:3,11,18-20).
Again it appears that He crosses the law. “At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto Him, Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day.
But He said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” (Matt. 12:1-5).
Yet Paul says Jesus lived under the law. “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law,” (Gal. 4:4).
What Jesus was teaching them was that He was the essence of all that the law had to command. He was the great authority on the law. He was greater than the whole Mosaic and Davidic laws. He was greater than Solomon, the temple, and even the Sabbath commandment. “But I say unto you, That in this place is One greater than the temple.
But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.” (Matt. 12:6-8).
“The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” (Matt. 12:42).
The spirit behind the law and the prophets had one and the same source—Christ. His Spirit was in all the law and the prophets of old. He was their inspiration.
“Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in His Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.” (Zech. 7:12).
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (Jn. 1:1,14). “For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.” (Jn. 3:34).
From the Son of God, the Lord God, originated the Spirit of the Law.
“Seek ye out of the book of the Lord , and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and His Spirit it hath gathered them.” (Is. 34:16).
“Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; Mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” (Is. 42:1).
“Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent me.” (Is. 48:16).
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” (Is. 61:1).
“And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him.” (Matt. 3:16).
“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” (Lk. 11:13).
“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.” (Lk. 23:46).
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Jn. 4:24).
“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Jn. 7:38,39).
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me.” (Jn. 15:26).
“He shall glorify Me: for Me shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you” (Jn. 16:14).
“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Is. 30:21).
The Spirit of truth has been on earth from the beginning. “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come.” (Jn. 16:13).
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen. 1:1,2).
The Spirit has resided in the law from the beginning. The Lord wrote the letters with His finger, but His Spirit residing in the precepts has written the principle of those letters in the hearts and minds of His people throughout time.
“Christ [crucified] the power of God, and the wisdom
of God.” (1Cor. 1:24).
Christ, as the power of God and the wisdom of God, metaphorically treats Himself as wisdom, the holy Word of God.
“I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Counsel is Mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.
By Me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
By Me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.
I love them that love Me; and those that seek Me early shall find Me.…
The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him;
Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and My delights were with the sons of men.
Now therefore hearken unto Me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep My ways.
Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
Blessed is the man that heareth Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors.
For whoso findeth Me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.
But he that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate Me love death.” (Prov. 8:12-17,22-36).
It was the Holy Spirit from Christ that moved the prophets to speak His words. “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” (1Pet. 1:10,11).
Notice the association of the letter of the law and the flesh, and the self-motivation due to a lack of new birth and of the Holy Spirit. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.…
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” (Rom. 7:4-7,14).
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Jn. 3:5,6).
So we can see that depending on our flesh, our own strength, means only being able to keep the letter of the law and not the spirit of it. Only the Spirit of God can give us that kind of true obedience—spirituality and the righteousness of faith. Any other kind of obedience is only traditions of men and keeping the dead, empty letter of the law only. It means offering God the husks of obedience, the outer shell that may appear to men to be obedience, but it is not the real thing.
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” (Rom. 8:9).
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
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.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom. 8:1-6).
The spirit of the law or the law of the Spirit is in Christ. He is the person behind the law. Behind the law is a heart of love and a mind of true wisdom that places the righteousness of Christ as the eternal truth and wisdom. Through constant communion with Jesus He will give as a gift a morality that no earthly law or humanistic tradition of society or peer group can ever supersede. But in all this wonderful Spirit-led life of obedience, His law will be kept, to the letter
! “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Rom. 3:31). “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom. 13:10).
The concept of Christ’s law of love to God and love to our neighbor came straight out of the Mosaic Law. (Deut 6:5,6;Lev. 19:18). Those ancient commandments were to be firmly placed into Israel’s minds. God expected the children of Israel to keep the law of love to the letter and in the spirit of the law
, from their inception as a nation.
“For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Heb. 4:2).
The problem with Israel arose because, after departing from the great revival under Ezra, they lost the Holy Spirit as they lost their first love (Jer. 2:2) and continued to try to obey God without the Spirit. But their obedience resulted in Christ-less, loveless religion—the traditions of men. Christ-less traditions originated with Satan. The same thing will happen today when we lose the first love for Jesus. (Rev. 2:4). So, insisting to continue in Christ-less traditions means never arriving at Christ. Only through His spirit do we arrive at knowing Him and sensing His presence.
“This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2,5).
Rather, denying the Holy Spirit as the only true power for obedience means to default to the flesh for obedience and thus to the empty letter of the law only. It also means to follow Satan into his captivity. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom 8:6,7).
“And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?” (Rom. 2:27).
And God has given us provision through His Son that we don’t have to stand before His Law in constant condemnation. Christ becomes our mediator to the Law and thus, He becomes our surety by His example and merciful doctrine. “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” (Gal. 5:18).
“Because the law worketh wrath: for where...law is, there is...transgression.” (Rom. 4:15). The law works more than simply wrath in us, but a plethora of evil that breaks forth from the condemnation of God on our souls. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:19-21).
It is the grace and Spirit of Christ that keep us from falling. “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (Zech. 12:10).
Failing to continue in Christ’s grace is exactly identical to spiritualism and serving Satan, who knows absolutely no grace. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” (Heb. 12:15).
“Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;
And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:
The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.” (Deut. 29:18-20).
The history of every human made in God’s image is littered with moral wreckage because the good news of God’s grace was neglected.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;…
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Rom. 1:16-32).
Only the spirit and letter of the law will result in blessing. Cain thought to skirt the letter of the law by avoiding the slaying of the innocent lamb. In his spirit, he sought to evade the impact of conviction of his conscience and then humiliation, sorrow, and repentance through holding and beholding the helplessness and innocence of the dying lamb and the hardheartedness and guilt and shame of Cain’s heart.
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” (Gen. 4:3-5).
We must seek the Spirit of Christ, in the new birth, in order to receive of His Hpirit for obedience. Thus, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us in the Spirit of God’s love, and even to the letter. “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:4). “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
For He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.…
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.…
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (Jas. 2:10-18,20-24,26).
“O how love I Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.…
Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Ps. 119:97,165).
We don’t serve God in the letter alone. Only the flesh does that. But those who have responded to His call and whom He has adopted through the new birth of the Holy Spirit, they establish the law of God because they have His Spirit of grace and love; they are born of the Spirit, and serve the Lord in newness of the Spirit.
“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” (Rom. 11:22).
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Rom. 1:21).
“But in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.
Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart.
Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.
Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand:
But thou must eat them before the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God
in all that thou puttest thine hands unto.
Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.” (Deut. 12:14-19).