Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty
In this letter to his Corinthian brethren Paul is communicating the excellency of the gospel message the gospel, or good news, of the Kingdom of God, through the name of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds them of the privilege they knew of the fulfilment of the gospel message through the spirit of Christ.
"Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God; not on tablets of stone but on fleshly tablets of the heart." (2Cor. 3:3)
The members of the Corinthian body were both Jews and Gentiles, and as Paul brought the gospel message to that mixed group, it was important they understood the spirit of the law and not cling to the letter of the law from years of rote and practice. He emphasized this, reminding of those still under the law saying: "seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech. And not as Moses, who put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished. But their minds were blinded, for until this day remains the same veil unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament which veil is done away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their hearts." (2Cor. 3:12-15)
There were some during the early days of Paul's ministry who were holding fast to the law's precepts unwilling to grasp the fulfilment made through Christ's death. Paul speaks of those as having a `veil' over their heart unwilling to see the truth. When they did perceive Christ as the fulfiller of the law, then that veil would be removed.
"Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is the
Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2Cor.3:16-17). This word `liberty' means freedom, and Paul is speaking of the freedom granted through Christ from the curse of sin and death placed on all flesh after Adam's and Eve's fall in the garden of Eden. The word `spirit,' as used here, speaks of the divine Spirit of God's power, which guides and directs in an understanding of His word.
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, writes further on liberty: "Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace." (Gal.5:1-4) The doing of the law bound them, but the spirit of Christ gave release and liberty, therefore Paul urged them not to backslide by taking up the old ways of the law. In his case some were demanding that all new members of the body be circumcised as was required under the law. If those covered under Christ could not perceive the freedom he had provided with his death, then his sacrifice was meaningless.
"For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." (Gal.5:13) They were now free from the restraints of the law. Yet this freedom could be stretched and misapplied to give occasion for fleshly pursuits. With liberty there was now a greater responsibility to exercise the spirit of Christ in their living, serving one another in love.
"For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Gal.5:14) If we are covered by his death, then we are given liberty from the law of sin and death. With that freedom comes a duty to walk after his example in order to be known as his brethren and sisters. "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into his death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." (Rom.6:3-4)
In Jesus' day, many of the Jews felt a false assurance of salvation just because they were the seed of Abraham. Because they did not perceive the spirit within the law, they were unprepared to receive their Messiah when he appeared before them. Jesus admonished them in this regard, saying: "...if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, `we be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?' Jesus answered them, `verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committed sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:31-36).
Prophesying of the liberty which would be brought by the coming Messiah, Isaiah wrote in the spirit of Christ saying: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn." (Isa.61:1-2)
Jesus' sacrifice and death gave release to the flesh's curse upon man for those who could perceive with the eyes of faith. "Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed on him, `if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'" (John 8:31-32)
(2Corinthians 3:17) Bro. Francis Kotei (Odiko, Subri, Ghana.)