RULES AND REGULATIONS KILL. ONLY CHRIST'S SPIRIT BRINGS LIFE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS.
THE NEW WAY OF THE SPIRIT
“He has made us competent ministers of a New Covenant—
not of the letter but of the Spirit;
for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
2 Cor. 3:6
As modern American believers in Christ, many of us have been raised with a sort of ‘hybrid gospel’ that tries very hard to combine some elements of the letter and some elements of the Spirit. As evangelicals, we must go back to basics, and see that there is no compromise possible.
The Bible teaches us clearly and simply that Christ is the New Covenant, and supplants the Old Covenant of the letter of the law.
The letter kills. This is the declaration. Any attempt to codify and write down on tablets of stone the ‘principles and precepts of the Christian life’ will kill that life, just as surely as the Mosaic Law brought death, and sin, to light. This was Paul’s whole declaration in Romans.
“For when we were controlled by the sinful nature,
the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work
in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now,
by dying to what bound us, we have been released from the law
so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not
in the old way of the written code.”
Again, brothers, there can be no compromise with law. There has crept into the churches over the past several centuries much compromise on this issue.
But Scripture is clear. Any attempts to live by a code, or a set of rules, is futile, and a disobedience to Christ. Not only in long passages in Romans, but also in long passages in his Corinthian letters, as well as in Galations, and other letters, Paul spends an enormous amount of time declaring this new life in Christ as being completely dependent on the Spirit of God for its power within us to change us. Death comes from trying to live by the basic principles of any kind, including religious basic principles.
This was the very thing Christ died to save us from. Do we now, as the Galations did, think we will be carried through to completion in Christ by our own efforts? Sadly, brothers, many of us do.
“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit,
are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”
The real tragedy today is that many who are attending our churches, and claiming the name “Christian” have never even begun “with the Spirit”. We have begun by the church creeds, lived by the church’s edicts, and tried our hardest to adhere to the levels of righteous living we think we must attain in order to make it to heaven. Many of us who are in so-called “Spirit-filled” churches fit this description also. We are loud in our worship, and try our best to summon up the Spirit in our meetings, yet we live the rest of the time in our own efforts, trying desperately to understand and live by the ‘basic Christian principles’ we think God calls us to live by.
Oh, my brothers and sisters who strive and work to be ‘good Christians’, we can never reach our goals.
Power and life are not in the letter, whether the letter of the churches, or the letter of the law, or the letter of the world. Death comes through the letter.
Life comes through Christ, BUT only if we submit ourselves to death. The death of self, and the new life of the Spirit that does it all in us. All Christ’s work in us. It is no longer our work, but Christ’s. Not just to believe in His work on the cross, but to believe in His daily work in us, transforming us, creating us into His image by the power of His Spirit.
There is no self-effort that can do that. In fact, our attempts to live up to some standard of behavior or another will always end in frustration and death.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come.”
2 Cor. 5:17
This is why Paul declared, over and over, that Christ set us free from the law of sin and death. Watch out for those who want you to follow this or that set of rules, or this or that set of principles. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, perhaps not intentionally, as they may be ignorant of the true life available to us in Christ, yet are all the more dangerous in that ignorance.
There are many pastors and teachers today who will solidly and confidently declare things that are not true under the New Covenant. They will do so, as they have to me, with great volumes of rhetoric, and in fact will produce long lists of Old Testament Scripture to back up their arguments that we should be keeping this or that basic precept of the law of Moses. Yet their arguments are in vain with Paul and the other apostles, and with the New Covenant Scripture. You must not be swayed by these men and women. We must adhere only to Christ, and His Spirit, as the power in us to live righteously. Our righteousness is worked within us only by the power of His Spirit.
“You who are trying to be justified by law
have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen
away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await
through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.”
I read and hear many things from “Christians” who declare that we must be adhering to this or that principle, or this or that law, while we live the Christian life. That is why there is tremendous confusion among believers.
Brothers, there is only the simple, straightforward message of life in Christ, and the power of His Spirit to work it in us. This is the “full message of this new life” (Acts 5:20) that was declared from the beginning by the apostles, and brought to us in the New Covenant Scriptures.
We must not stray from this declaration, though it makes us a stench in the nostrils of certain religious people, who love their principles and their precepts, and who love the trappings of religion.
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not
gratify the desires of the sinful nature…
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self control.
Against such things there is no law.”