Not of the letter of the law, but of the Spirit explained

There is tremendous confusion about what the letter of the law means. Paul eloquently teaches what we should do, but this message, I fear, is misunderstood.

5. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;

6. 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.

7. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away

2 Corinthians 3:5-7 KJV

The main narrative taught from this passage is that we should not keep the law because that was the error of the Pharisees. However, is this what Paul was saying?

By the Spirit

The Spirit of God - Holy Spirit - Comforter - Wisdom

The Spirit of God, the comforter—the Holy Spirit, is what Paul refers to when he states, “but of the Spirit”. This Spirit surrounded Jesus even before he was born, teaching and guiding Jesus throughout his life. His life became our example of how to live by the Spirit and not by the letter of the law.

This is not to say the Spirit leads us away from the law because she doesn’t; instead, the Spirit guides us in the instructions of God. Jesus brought grace because the penalty for breaking many laws, such as adultery, was death, but grace gives us time for repentance. God has multiplied his grace for as much as we need in an increasingly sinful world and a short life.

Paul’s contradiction

To make matters worse, Paul makes a contradictory statement in the following passage.

1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

2. God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Romans 6:1-2 KJV

Although we are not to live by the letter, we are not supposed to sin. Jesus did not condemn the adulteress but demonstrated grace and commanded her to sin no more (John 8:11).

Jesus prayed for the Holy Spirit (John 14:16) to be given to us, and she abounds in the world (2 Esdras 7:102-115). The apostles were commanded to wait for the Spirit and lived in the Spirit, who guided them into all truths. Nonetheless, they did not live in sin, breaking God’s law, despite the letter of the law not being their saviour.

4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

5. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

6. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

1 John 3:4-6 KJV

For someone to live in Jesus, they must not sin.

The carnal letter of the law

The letter of the law

The law is carnal and is given to us to benefit our fleshly lives. We live together, help each other, eat healthily, etc., but this does not save us Spiritually unless we live in the Spirit. This does not deliver us from the many traps in the world. Without the law, many questions arise, including the following:

  • Should your husband or wife commit adultery?
  • Should murder be allowed?
  • Do we keep the Sabbath?
  • How about paying tithes?

If one law is not allowed, then all laws are not allowed. Still, keeping the law is for discipline in a fleshly world and declares our conviction to serve God.

Because, being ministers of his kingdom, ye have not judged aright, nor kept the law, nor walked after the counsel of God;

Wisdom of Solomon 6:4 KJV

“Nor kept the law, nor walked after the counsel of God”.

This extract shows that many before Jesus understood that the key was to walk after the counsel of God; walking with the Spirit of God is what saves. Still, God commanded it, and therefore we must keep it, just as Jesus did.

Charity and the Jews

Tears of compassion for a fallen world

The Pharisees did not walk in the counsel of God but walked by the letter of the law. They were not interested in charity (1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Colossians 3:14, 1 Corinthians 16:14) but were quick to judgement, judged unrighteously and judged when they had sins in abundance (Ecclesiasticus 18:20, Matthew 5:23-24, Ecclesiasticus 20:4).

Strive not in a matter that concerneth thee not; and sit not in judgment with sinners.

Ecclesiasticus 11:9 KJV

If their interpretation of the law has a technicality allowing them to kill someone they do not like or agree with, they will do it (1 Kings 21, High Priest Condemnation of Jesus). If they could mould the law to justify removing obstacles to their desires, they would do it. They did this to Jesus and many of his followers by throwing them out of the synagogue, scourging and even killing them (John 9:19-22, Acts 5:40).

The Pharisees operated without carnal love; instead, they bound themselves to the letter and did not follow God’s counsel.

Thus in process of time an ungodly custom grown strong was kept as a law, and graven images were worshipped by the commandments of kings.

Wisdom of Solomon 14:16 KJV

Today’s laws in countries around the world operate much like the Pharisees. Unfair judgement abounds, grace is removed, while unfair wording of the law is the order of the day instead of sound judgement. Both the criminal and civil systems are laboured with millions of rules. The legal system is further compromised by being underpinned by private enterprises operating for profit. The civil system offers partisan justice at a high financial price and complexity, making it only available to a select few.


Stay on the narrow path to the light of the world

To love wisdom—the Holy Spirit means keeping her laws and putting these first assures incorruption (Wisdom of Solomon 6:15-21).

We all acknowledge that stealing is wrong, murder is terrible, and adultery is bad, yet these are elements of the law. The same law that many argue not to keep to hang on to their carnall lives. They fight vehemently against the laws of God but delight in their hedonistic desires and the things of the world. We are to have charity which is love for our neighbours and love for God. Yet loving God means keeping his commands, but most do not wish to do these things.

Why not?

Is it because the world has led their religions and institutions and has enslaved them? Is it because they have sold their souls to money and the system of this world? Without realising it, they serve the beast (world) in their careers, works, lustful desires, daily pursuits and choice to “buy and sell“. Anyone who loves the world is an enemy of God, yet they cannot abandon the world for God.

To walk by the Spirit is to abide in Jesus and his example.


Let God lead you in all things that you do. Let no man be your master, but whatever direction God directs, there you must go. If you stand in the name of Jesus, the world will hate you. Therefore, you are not on the correct path if the world loves you.

The letter of the law does not save but walking after the Spirit does. The Holy Spirit guides you into all truths and sets and keeps you on the path to God. The exact way that Jesus walked to worship God.

Although we must walk in the Spirit, that does not mean we should sin. Showing our discipline and commitment to God is an example to the world, demonstrating our separation and walk with God in all things.

Let no man make us afraid but let it be that we glorify God in everything we do. Do not live like the world shunning God’s instructions while chasing after money and worldly possessions.

This is what it means to continue (abide) in Jesus and live by the Spirit.
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