“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) How many times have you heard this scripture in sermons that justify the sinful nature of a person? Typically it goes like this: “Well even Paul called himself a wretched man, that he’s a sinner. And if Paul was like this, then what can we say about ourselves?” But what is Paul really writing about here? Is this the condition (the condition of a wretched man) of a person who is born again, born from above? Paul is writing about the condition of war, a condition where you are in constant battle between the law (which is good) and sin (which is bad). This is the condition of a person who is under the law. Christ came to free us from the law and from the wretched state, from sin!
“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman… Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage…” Galatians 4:21-26
People do not understand the difference between these two laws, and because of this they are heavily influenced by the law that gives birth to slavery, through this they are in the bondage of sin, for the Lord said: “… Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house forever: but the Son abideth ever. If the son therefor shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:34-36). The law that gives birth to slavery is also called the law of the letter that kills, it is written, “ministration of death” (2 Corinthians 3:6-7). And in these same Scriptures it clearly speaks of the ministry of the Spirit, which is the ministry of the New Testament (2 Corinthians 3:6). The ministry of the letter kills, the ministry of the Spirit quickens. The difference between these two laws is very clearly shown: one leads to death, the other leads to Life. Therefore, for clarity we will call them the law of the letter and the law of the Spirit.
The importance of understanding the effects of these two laws cannot be over stated. This is necessary to understand which law has power over you, for it is written: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (Galatians 5:4-5). Here again the two laws are very clearly shown. It becomes obvious that the law of the Spirit, which liberates from the law of sin and death, is Christ in us: our life, our way, our truth. And this is very clearly confirmed by all of the New Testament. On the contrary, the law of the letter is the power of sin (1 Corinthians 15: 56), because it cannot free a person from sin but only reveals it, discovers it, and condemns it. This is the power of sin, that it takes occasions by the law; it entices, carries away, and in the end condemns a person to death by the law (Romans 7).
What is the Law of the Letter and How to Understand it?
The Old Testament, as we have already seen, is the law of the letter, why? The beginning of this comes from the Garden of Eden when man accepted the will of Satan, having eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From then on man remained outside of God in a state of death, and God did not live in the heart. The man remained by himself, and God remained by Himself. But at the same time man could still distinguish between good from evil, God gave man his law through Moses, who wrote it down in the first books of the Old Testament. The law revealed to man what he should do to please God. This was expressed in many different forms, with rules, commandments, decrees, and traditions. The law covered all areas of human life and explained every step, every day, every month, and every year. What a person should do and how to worship God. In this situation God was in heaven, man was on earth, and by deeds man tried to please God. And if he broke the law condemnation soon followed, and depending on the crime the punishment could be death.
Under the letter of the law a person is in the position where he must fulfill the rules proscribed to him with his own strength, mind, and ability. In other words this is the position of religion, or a man who is in religion.
What is the Law of the Spirit and How to Understand it?
Here everything is simple: accept the faith of Jesus Christ and give Him the opportunity to reveal Himself inside of you and then follow His guidance (Galatians 1: 15-16; 2: 20-21). The Law of the Spirit is the New Testament, as we have already established above. The New Testament does not prescribe anything to a person: no rules, no regulation, no traditions, but teaches not to be subjected to the yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). The New Testament reveals how God bought a man back from death and brings him back to the Tree of Life, so that a person takes on the Divine Life and lives for God. The New Testament teaches us how to come to God through Jesus Christ, teaches us how to receive Jesus Christ, teaches us how to deny ourselves and present ourselves to God, who will produce in a person both will and action for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
If the Old Testament demanded works from a person, then the New Testament on the contrary does not require a person to do anything at all. It invites a person to give himself to God by faith. God Himself living in the person will use him at His discretion for His Divine purposes (Romans 6:13,19-22; 12:1,8; 8:14; 15:17-19). The law of the letter is when the person himself, by his own power, achieves holiness in the letter. The law of the Spirit is when a person accepts Jesus Christ and He is the person’s holiness! The law of the letter is when the person tries to achieve righteousness by his deeds, the Law of the Spirit is when a person accepts Jesus Christ and He is the person’s righteousness! (1 Corinthians 1:30, Galatians 3:26-28, Revelations 19:8).
Contrast Between the Law of the Letter – the Law of the Spirit
For a person under the law of the Spirit, Christ is his light, mind, love, joy, peace, hope, faith, meekness, humility, food, drink, clothing, door, truth, way, i.e. everything.
A person under the law of the letter seeks these things also, he also desires for Christ to become his life. He then goes on seeking how to overcome sin because he understands that he is always sinning. And by his understanding he imagines that when he has finally dealt with his sins, at this point he is freed from sin, and then Christ will dwell in him and everything will be as it should be.
The very serious problem today is that people do not know the New Testament. They do not know the difference between the law of the letter and the law of the Spirit and how they are directly opposed. Usually when people discuss the law of the letter of the Old Testament they assume this refers to the Sabbath, the restriction of pork, and other things that have been abolished. But they go further, and transfer the Old Testament directly into the New. In this sense everything is confused, and thus the New Testament is turned into the law of the letter! People by their own strength fulfill the law, and in this they see their holiness and imagine that they are pleasing God. These are people who have not parted from the old Adam but are continually struggling with the old Adam, and naturally they find themselves under the law of slavery. Because according to Adam a person is a sinner, and cannot help but sin. According to the mind a person can understand the law of the letter, what it allows and what it prohibits. And once realizing that the wages for sin is death the person will struggle with all his strength against sin, but in the end always remains defeated and continues sinning.
These people have not believed and have not accepted what was given to humanity on Calvary. They believe that Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice and consider this the end of the matter saying, “How is it that we do not be not believe in Calvary?”. Yes, they believe, but they do not believe as they should and did not accept what was given to them. They do not understand what was given on Calvary, they say they believe but have remained in Adam. They are waging a bitter struggle within, trying to remake, re-educate, make righteous and holy, but this cannot be done. Years are spent in this hard struggle because of their zealousness for God, but they do not understand that there is no victory in sight, why? They have not believed, as they should, in Calvary.
They have been baptized, have buried Adam, but for some reason he does not remain buried. After leaving the water he still lingers and people continue to sin. Why? Because they have not believed in Calvary the way that it needs to be believed. They do not accept the Word of God by faith, but with their mind. Understanding what they should become, they then rely on their own strength to achieve it. They ask the Lord for strength because the Lord is not the power in them, God is on His own, and they are on their own, as it was in the Old Testament. They ask continually for blessing because Christ is not in them, and they cannot see themselves forever blessed. They ask, and at times they ask very fervently, but nothing is actually sent to them. And although deep down they know this to be true, they do not want to believe it. Deceiving themselves they ascribe some of their success and their deeds as blessings from God, all the while the unbelievers around them experience even more success. In the depths of their heart they remain unsatisfied. They understand that the Word is not being performed on them or in them, but they do not admit it to themselves, fearing a complete falling away from the faith. Looking around they see other people in a similar state, and with this they console themselves. Such people generally do not understand what the law of the letter is, nor the law of the Spirit, and do not understand how to get out of the law of the letter and how to enter into the law of the Spirit.
Christ is the End of the Law for Righteousness to Everyone who Believes
Where was freedom from the law of slavery resolved? And how was the entrance to the law of the Spirit of Life opened? These questions were answered once and for all on Calvary. Calvary is the place where the old dies and new man rises, as it is written: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above … For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3). On Calvary the question concerning the old Adam was solved once and for all. God rejected him and crucified him with Christ on Calvary (Romans 6:6-7). On Calvary there was finally liberation from the law of the letter, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another … But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:4-6). This verse clearly shows how we should serve, not in the old letter, but in a renewed Spirit. And it must be emphasized: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Romans 10:4). If a person does not understand the end of the law he can never have righteousness, the law will not allow it.
Why was the Law of the Letter Given, the Law of Slavery?
From fear of death people have been subjected to this law’s slavery throughout their entire life (Heb. 2:15). No one could fulfill it, because by the deeds of the law no flesh could be justified before Him (Rom. 3:20). It is written: “For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found it to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me” (Romans 7:8-11). If sin was dead without the law, why give this commandment allowing sin to be revived? After all, God knew in advance that man would not obey His commandments. Yes, of course He knew, before the creation of the world the Lamb of God was already prepared, His sacrifice and the election through Him (Ephesians 1:4-8, 2 Timothy 1:9, Romans 8:29-30).
We know that God created man a free being, with a personal will, the ability to think, reason, and choose. If God gave a person the ability to choose, it only stands to reason that there must be two choices that stand before him, and the choices are life or death. Everything is learned by comparing opposites, good and evil, life and death, love and hate, light and darkness, day and night, truth and lies. If God brought man before the two trees in paradise and did not warn him of what would happen if he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the person, not knowing the consequences and ate, it would be quite justified to blame God for not providing a warning. But God led the man to the trees and clearly warned them not to eat from this tree, for in the day that they ate they would die (Genesis 2:16-17). And the person actually stood with the free choice, whom to listen to? For the tempter came and began to speak the opposite: “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).
It is not written how long man lived in paradise, but what is know is that “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise…” (Genesis 3:6), and in this sin revived. Her desire and curiosity for knowledge lead her and didn’t allow her to keep Gods commandment. Similarly the husband could not resist, he also followed the voice of Satan and sin entered the world. Along with sin was death, and death passed unto all people, for in Adam all have sinned. If it were any man instead of Adam the same result would have followed (Romans 5:12). God foresaw all of this and knew that the soul needed to mature, to reach its fullness in darkness, before he could realize that he is without God. He would see that he has become a lowly creature, becoming worse than cattle and the other field animals, and in this realizing what death is and how it is expressed. In order to come to this realization the law was given, to expose sin and death in a person.
When man fell into the state of sin his trespasses multiplied, but he could not be imputed because he did not know what was good or bad before God (Romans 5:13, 7:7). Therefore the law was given, not as a savior, but for the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). But the law also had promises: whoever fulfills the law does not live under grace, but under duty (Galatians 3:12, Romans 4:4). And it is written that no one can be justified before God by the law (Galatians 3:11, Romans 3:20, 8:7). If the law could give life then righteousness would be from the law, and it would not be necessary for Jesus to come into the world for suffering and death (2 Corinthians 3:6-7). The law demanded holiness, but did not provide men the strength to fulfill it. It was a “dead letter”, and so man had to rely on his own strength. Sin had manifested in man’s flesh and held him captive, and no matter how much a person wanted to fulfill the law, he could not. Only God has the strength to make men holy, unblemished, righteous, and only God can fulfill his destiny, and this is all done through the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.