There are two ways by which we can understand Godís law. Here, as in 2 Corinthians 3:6-8, Paul calls these two ways the Ďspirití and the Ďletterí. One of these ways is right, and the other is wrong. One gives us a right relationship with God, the other cannot do that.
The natural way to read Godís law is to read the letters and words on the page. We see there a series of rules and commands that tell us how to live. However, without the work of Godís Spirit in our lives, we are too weak to follow these laws completely. So, these laws bring Godís judgement against us (see James 2:10-11). Even if we seem to succeed, we then become proud of ourselves. God cannot approve of our proud attitudes (Proverbs 16:5); we are taking for ourselves the honour that is due to God alone. We think that we are strong; but we have only proved our weakness.
We may ask, therefore, how we can ever please God. The answer is that we must come to God, not in our own strength, but by the death of Christ (Romans 5:6-10; Hebrews 10:19-22). That is the new law of Godís Spirit. Christ frees us from the old law that brings us the judgement of death for our evil deeds (6:23; 8:2).
God wants us to allow his Holy Spirit to guide our lives (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16). Paul contrasts that with the natural way that our human bodies behave (7:14). It is natural to allow our feelings, desires and fears to guide our lives. It is natural not to trust God, especially in difficult circumstances (contrast Romans 4:19-22). So, our natural way to read Godís law is not right, either. Instead, we must let Godís Holy Spirit show us how we can truly please God. When we do that, our actions will not offend against any of Godís laws (Galatians 5:22-23).
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© 2018, Keith Simons.