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The Letter versus the Spirit

[God] also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:6)

The "letter versus the Spirit" is another contrast between living by the old covenant or by the new. This is another choice that determines whether we are functioning by man's sufficiency or by God's.

A life developed "of the letter" is one built on rules and regulations. We cannot become a child of God by rules; neither can we develop in godliness by regulations. No list of demands (including God's law) could ever bring to us, or develop in us, a life with God. All rules and regulations (including God's law) come without resource. They are a list of requirements, not a supply of adequacy. They call for an observable response, but they provide no power to produce the required effect.

Consider circumcision, which was required by the law of God for the Israelites. "And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised" (Leviticus 12:3). This was to be a reminder to God's people that they were His. Implementing that regulation did not inherently change the life of any Jew. Physical, external circumcision (that is, circumcision "by the letter") did not make a change in the heart of the one circumcised. It takes an inner working of God to produce a true child of God (in Romans 2 language, a "true Jew"). "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter." (Romans 2:28-29). God births His children and raises them in godliness through His work in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

The kingdom of heaven is "of the Spirit." It is not about external "do's and dont's" (such as, whether to follow the standard of God's law concerning certain foods). "For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). Entrance into God's family, as well as development as God's children, does not hinge on following various regulations. Rather, it is about the Holy Spirit supplying heavenly blessings in the hearts of those who trust in the Lord. Life with God is always "of the Spirit" (God's sufficiency), not "of the letter" (man's sufficiency).

Father, I admit my tendency at times to equate godly living with following regulations. Help me to live by the work of Your Spirit within my heart. Through Christ I pray, Amen.


CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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