The Letter of the Law vs. The Leading of the Spirit (part 2)

Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash

We might not have given it much thought, but each of us are under one form of law or another. Law is an absolute in God’s universe. For instance, no matter where we go, the law of gravity is there. Even the tiny planet Pluto is under the law of gravity, held in orbit around the sun though it is over 3.6 trillion miles away! One might think that they are free of the law of gravity because they feel weightless after bailing out of an airplane at 35,000 feet, but in short order they will find out that they did not succeed in breaking the law of gravity, it broke them. The same is true about anarchists who think they can live free of all laws and live happily ever after in their new version of utopia.

Recently a five block area in downtown Seattle was declared an “autonomous zone,” free of any legal jurisdiction or its enforcement. The mayor was all for it and told the police to abandon their precinct enclosed in that area and said all was wonderful and peaceful and it would be a “summer of love” in its confines. But right away people were stealing one another’s food. There were rapes, burglaries and a couple nights ago two people were shot. One died while they used private vehicles to transport the victims instead of allowing an ambulance to come into their lawless zone to give medical help and retrieve the victims for hospitalization. The one thing that they have proven with their little experiment in social engineering is that without Christ, there is no freedom from sin.

Spiritually speaking there are two types of law. There is the law of sin and its consequence, death. Then there is the law of the Spirit of Life IN Christ Jesus in which we live in true freedom and peace as we walk by the Spirit and not by the dictates of our fleshly desires. Where the Spirit prevails, there is freedom and peace, but where the law of sin prevails, there is captivity and warfare because our fallen nature is Satan’s fertile ground. He was a liar and a murder from the beginning and without the Holy Spirit within we are fair game to his devices. Paul wrote:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1-4, ESV)

The nation of Israel agreed to walk under the laws of Moses (see Exodus 24:6-7) and they were a miserable failure. As a result of their rebellion, they were no longer under the protecting hand of God and had to walk in captivity of the nations who conquered and enslaved them. They would eventually repent and be given their freedom once again only to fall right back into their old sinful ways and repeat the cycle all over again. Why did this happen? It was because their real enemy was within them, a fifth column undermining their best efforts. Without the Spirit of God dwelling within us we cannot please God, much less keep His commandments. Paul wrote,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal 5:16-17, ESV)

Paul understood that the law is spiritual (See Romans 7:14) and can only be fulfilled by the life of the Spirit within us, but the people of Israel did not have the Spirit. If the whole of the Old Covenant proved anything, it proved that in the flesh of man dwells no good thing. Yes, the Spirit would come upon one of them from time to time to accomplish the will of God for the nation, but He never dwelt IN them. As the Son of God, the Spirit dwelt in Jesus Christ and He came to make the way for the Holy Spirit to dwell in whosoever would truly believe in Him. Just before Jesus went to the cross He prayed,

Neither for these alone [His disciples] do I pray [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for all those who will ever come to believe in (trust in, cling to, rely on) Me through their word and teaching, That they all may be one, [just] as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me. (John 17:20-21, AMP)

With all these principles in mind, I conclude with this short excerpt from T. Austin Sparks regarding the difference between law, lawlessness and being led by the Spirit.

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (Galatians 5:25 NLT)

Satan is a great master of strategy, and one of his favourite lines is that of pushing things to extremes. Among the Galatian believers, he had sought to push legalism to an extreme. But now he is thwarted along that line; Paul wins the battle – there is no doubt about it. What is the enemy’s next line of attack? “Very well then,” he says, “if you won’t have the law, then don’t have any law; discard all law. You are no longer under law, you are under grace – you can do as you like! Just behave as you like; just carry on as you like; you must know no limitations, no restrictions. Any kind of restriction is law – repudiate it! Go to the other extreme – licence instead of law!” I believe that, if Paul were alive today, he would be just as vehement against this as he was against the other: for here is a work of Satan indeed. If Satan cannot bind by the law, and change the whole nature of things in that way, he will seek to dismiss all law and make us wholly lawless.

But remember, if this Letter to the Galatians is the letter of the liberty of the Spirit, it is also the letter of the government of the Spirit. We are only free when we are governed. In George Matheson’s well-known words, that we sometimes sing: “Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.” A paradox – but how true. We are not free when we are giving way to licence, when we take liberty that far. No: this Letter, and the Letters to the Romans and to the Hebrews, are not documents of lawlessness. Even if they do set aside the whole of the Jewish system, they do not introduce a regime of lawlessness. But they do most clearly bring in the life and government of the Holy Spirit. Remember – no child of God who is governed by the Holy Spirit, who is really living a life in the Spirit, will infringe any Divine principle. Indeed, a life governed by the Holy Spirit will be the more meticulously careful about spiritual principles.

7 comments on “The Letter of the Law vs. The Leading of the Spirit (part 2)

  1. Chaos is mistaken for freedom. As you say, Michael, “…without Christ, there is no freedom from sin”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Thanks for your comment, Anna.

      Chaos is the opposite of God’s light. Chaos is confusion and Satan is the author of it. Jesus Christ came upon this earth to bring order in the lives of those who were confused. He healed the blind, cleansed the lepers, fed the hungry and even brought order to a religious mob that wanted to kill an adulterous woman and then He gave her a new life.

      The story of creation starts out with darkness and chaos and ends with light and life where everything was in perfect order. It was Satan who introduced chaos by enticing Adam and Eve to “be like God” (gods unto themselves) instead of living in unity WITH God in the harmony of His creation. What we are seeing today is the final fruits of Satan as he seeks to restore all creation into chaos. Only as we walk IN and obey the Spirit of God will we not be swept along in this flood that is pouring out of the mouth of the great red dragon.

      The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2Thess 2:9-10, NKJV)

      The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10, NKJV)

      God is saying to America today what He once said to Israel,

      I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; (Deut 30:19, NKJV)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Allan Halton says:

    Michael, one of the old songs we used to sing has this line: “Set me free from freedom’s yoke, make me captive, Lord, to Thee…” It’s a paradox, isn’t it– that liberty, as man so often sees it, is actually a yoke of bondage, whereas captivity to the Lord is true liberty. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, (underscore “Lord”) there is liberty.”

    As to the letter of the law vs the leading of the Spirit, Paul’s words in Romans 7 are enlightening. He says that those who are “married to Him who is raised from the dead… serve in newness of Spirit, and not in oldness of letter.” It’s quite something that Paul uses the word “serve” with regard to “newness of Spirit,” for it is the same word used of the service of a slave. Unhappy servitude “in oldness of letter” we understand well enough. But, what is “serving-as-a-slave” in newness of Spirit? Paul surely still has in mind here his earlier words in Romans 6, where he has written of those in Christ being no longer “under law, but under grace.” Paul immediately makes clear that being under grace does not mean liberty to sin (God forbid), but rather is the empowering of the Spirit of God enabling those who yield themselves as bondslaves to Righteousness (Himself) to “bring forth fruit into God.”

    Oh, happy servitude!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael says:

      Allan, thanks for your enlightening comment. You wrote about Paul’s use of the Greek verb, “douleuos” is rightly translated “serve as a slave.” It is the same for “doulos” the same word in the noun form.

      G1401 δοῦλος doulos (d̮ou’-los) n.
      1. (involuntarily) a slave.
      2. (of necessity) a bond-servant.
      3. (figuratively) a voluntary, fully devoted servant.

      whereas diakonos should be translated “servant” not “minister.” The word, “minister” is way overused in Christendom and denotes a hierarchic position, just the opposite of what it should be.

      G1249 διάκονος diakonos (d̮iy-a’-ko-nos) n.
      1. an attendant, a servant.
      2. (genitive case) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties).

      Of himself Paul wrote,

      Paul, a servant [doulos – slave] of Jesus Christ, called [to be] an apostle [apostolos – delegate or sent one], separated unto the gospel of God, (Rom 1:1, KJV)

      It is sad that the KJV translators used the word “servant” in the place of doulos which waters down the depth of its meaning and commitment. How many “pastors” do we know who call themselves “slaves of Jesus Christ” or a slave of all who believe in Christ? Yet, look what Jesus said to His disciples…

      “But Jesus called them [unto him], and said Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great [Grk. megas – as in mega-church] exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great [megas] among you, let him be your minister [diakonos – servant]; And whosoever will be chief [protos, foremost, before, first, best, chiefest] among you, let him be your servant [doulos– slave]:” (Matt 20:25-27, KJV)

      Like you said, my dear brother, its a paradox. We are called to be slaves of righteousness as we abide IN the Spirit of Jesus Christ so that we might bring forth fruit unto our Father and be truly free.

      “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:28, NKJV)

      Father, may we all be totally humbled who call ourselves servants of Christ’s righteousness. Amen.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Very well put Michael,
    It’s notable that in the scripture you quoted, Rom 8:1-2, what sets us free from the ‘law of sin and death’ is actually another ‘law’, albeit of a different kind, the ‘law of the Spirit and life’. It therefore is erroneous to interpret the freedom that being in Christ gives as lawlessness. It brings to mind Rom 6:15-23;

    “15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

    Since reading your post yesterday, I’ve been thinking about the contrast of the two laws, and woke up today thinking that one is outside in, while the other is inside out. one is legal, the other is organic….Thank you once again for faithfully sharing from the Spirit – really edifying.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Michael says:

      What a great point you make here, Patrick. You wrote:

      Since reading your post yesterday, I’ve been thinking about the contrast of the two laws, and woke up today thinking that one is outside in, while the other is inside out. one is legal, the other is organic….

      Jeremiah prophesied this very thing,

      “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:31-33, ESV)

      You are right about the old Jewish law system, IT WAS ALL EXTERNAL. It was a legal straight-jacket designed to keep a lid on their fallen human natures until the time came (via Christ, see Galatians 3:23-25) that a more perfect union between God and man could come; the placing of His Spirit within all who believe in His Son. With the infilling of the Spirit we now have His law written upon our hearts. First He had to remove from us our stony hearts and put in “organic” hearts that were supple and could be conformed to the love of God (see Ezekiel 36:26).

      You are so right, my brother, God made a way through His Son, Jesus Christ, for His will to be internalized so it could be lived from the “inside out.”

      Thanks for your Spirit inspired comment.

      Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s