- THROUGH A NEW COVENANT
- FREE FROM LEGALISM
- FREE FROM CONDEMNATION
- FREE TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST
- FREE TO “WALK IN THE LIGHT”
THROUGH A NEW COVENANT
A covenant is an agreement where two parties vow to fulfill certain promises or conditions.
A “conditional” covenant is a promise by one party which will be honored only if the other party fulfills certain conditions. “I will do this, if you will do that.”
An “unconditional” covenant is a promise with no conditions attached. “I will do this, no matter what you do, or don’t do.”
There are a number of very interesting and important covenants in Scripture between God and man:
- Edenic …………..Between God and Mankind
- Adamic ………… Between God and Adam
- Noahic …………. Between God and Noah
- Abrahamic ……. Between God and Abraham
- Mosaic (old) ….. Between God and Israel
- Davidic………….. Between God and David
- New Testament……. Between God and the Church
The word “testament” means the same as “covenant.” We speak of the Bible as being divided into the Old and New “Testaments”.
In a more specific sense, the “Old Testament” refers to the Mosaic Covenant which was based upon God’s Law. The “New Testament” refers to a new and better covenant which is based upon God’s grace. We shall now study these two covenants in more detail.
THE NEW COVENANT REPLACES THE OLD
To understand salvation, it is necessary to know the difference between the old and the new covenants. Like a sunbeam in the shadows, the contrast is very great. The writer of Hebrews explains it in this way: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them,’ says the LORD.
”’For this is the covenant that l will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ says the LORD: ‘I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people ….
‘”For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’
“In that He says, ‘A new covenant’, He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb 8:6-10, 12, 13).
THE NEW COVENANT: BASED ON LOVE, NOT LAW
The laws and commandments of the old covenant were written by God on two tablets of stone, The Law was holy, but it was cold, hard and heavy to carry. It was always there – on the outside of one’s life – making demands that the “inner man” could not fulfill.
In contrast, the new covenant is a work of God’s Spirit, Who writes His will within our hearts and minds,
Furthermore, God’s will can be summed up in the royal law of love: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength… and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30,31).
Yes, the motivation behind the new covenant is love. Jesus simply said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). And “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
NEED FOR A NEW HEART
One of David’s psalms clearly reveals the differences between the old and new covenants. It was written after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba.
Once David truly saw the great grief his sin brought to the heart of God, he repented with deep sorrow. Out of the agony of his heart, he cried out to the Lord for mercy and forgiveness.
His prayer then took on a prophetic note which is well for us to hear. It spoke of the basis of man’s salvation which one day would be secured by Christ’s death on the cross and written into a new covenant. Listen to these beautiful words:
”Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
“For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight – that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts… Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps 51:16,10).
The prophetic insight which David received concerned the new work that God wanted to do in his life. One version of the Scriptures reads in this way: “Create in me a new heart.”
David clearly understood that God’s Law was good, but his (David’s) heart was bad. He couldn’t get the two to match up. The Apostle Paul, who knew that his own heart had this problem, cried out, “O wretched man that l am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Rom 7:24).
OUR STRUGGLE WITH SIN
I think we can all agree that David and Paul were not the only ones to face this problem. Everyone must deal with the presence, power and habit of sin in his life.
Moreover, we can never find relief in the “stony tablets” of the Law. Indeed, The Law is holy, just and good (Rom 7:12), but our hearts are sinful, and untrue. How well we know these facts from our own personal experiences!
The good law of God judges – but cannot help -the evil heart of man. For this reason, we all with David can cry out for the Lord to do a deep work within our inward parts: ”O God, create a new, clean heart within me….”
JEREMIAH LOOKS BEYOND THE OLD COVENANT
Some four hundred years after David, the prophet Jeremiah took up the same theme. He clearly foresaw the new covenant as an inward work of God’s grace. Therefore, he plainly drew a sharp line of contrast between the old and new covenants.
We will want to pay careful attention to his words. You will note that they are the same as those which were quoted in the eighth chapter of Hebrews. Let us review them here from the original record:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -not according to the covenant that l made with their fathers in the day that l took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD”
But this is the covenant that l will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My Law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer 31:31-33; see also Ezekiel 36:26, 27).
THE OLD COVENANT: WRITTEN UPON TABLETS OF STONE
Jeremiah says that when God, by His mighty power, brought His people out of the land of Egypt to Mount Sinai, He made a covenant with them (Exodus Chapters 18-32).
God promised to make them a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, and a special people – if they would keep His laws and obey His voice.
“The Lord spoke to you,” Moses later reminded them. “He declared to you His covenant … the Ten Commandments” (Deut 4:12, 13; see also – and study carefully – Deuteronomy 5:1-27).
He wrote His Law upon tablets of stone and gave them to Moses. The importance of the covenant was shown through a dramatic display of fire, smoke, thunder and an earthquake.
The Israelites were greatly impressed – but only for a short time. Before Moses got down to the bottom of the mountain, they already had broken God’s Law. They had made idols of gold, like they had seen in Egypt, and were dancing around and worshipping them.
When Moses saw what they were doing, he threw the tablets of stone to the ground – breaking them. The broken tablets at their feet plainly pictured the broken Law in their hearts.
THE ARK OF THE COVENANT
Moses returned to the mountaintop, and God gave him another set of stone tablets upon which were written His commandments. Once again, Moses brought the Law down to the people.
God then designed a safe place where the stone tablets of the Law were to be kept. It was called “The Ark of the Covenant”. This was located in the part of the Tabernacle known as the “Holy of Holies”.
The Ark of the Covenant was a beautiful type or picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the perfect Keeper of the Law. He never once failed. God’s Law was ever the joy and delight of His heart. “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your Law is within my heart” (Ps 40:8).
For centuries the Law had been on stone. Now, for the first time, the law is found in the heart of a man – the Man Christ Jesus. He was the Chosen One through Whom the new covenant would come.
The Ark of the Covenant was the dwelling place of God among His chosen people, the Israelites. Jesus Christ, however, became the living Ark of God’s presence among the peoples of all the world.
THE FAILURE OF THE COVENANT
The law of the old covenant failed to make men holy. It was made up of a list of do’s and don’ts: “You shall do this you shall not do that!”
Men were to read the Law, and then live up to its demands. Paul makes it very clear, however, that this is an impossible task (see Galatians Chapters 2-4). No man can keep the Law, no matter how hard he tries.
The purpose of the Law is not to make us holy, but to reveal to us how unholy we are. For the Law plainly shows us that we cannot save ourselves -no matter what we do. The Law was given to guide us to our Savior: “Therefore the Low was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24).
No, we cannot become right before God by what we do; only by what we believe. Justification is by faith, not by works! (See Romans 3:21-26.)
The Law of the old covenant was an “external statement” -a word from without – telling us what God willed and wanted.
However, the Law could not impart to us the power to keep the commandments. The Law told us what to do, but gave us no power to do it. It showed us how weak and sinful we are, but provided no ability to fulfill its demands.
The New Testament is different. In the new covenant, God is saying to His people: “I will do for you what you cannot do for yourself. I will take that which has been a law from without, and write it within-upon your hearts.
“No longer will you look outwardly upon the Law, and carry its heavy burden in your hands. l will imprint it upon your ‘inward parts’, and cause you to faithfully do My will and go My way. My Law will now govern and empower your lives from within, rather than making demands from without.
“Moreover, My new covenant has no conditions. The only part which you can play is to believe it, and receive it. It is My gift of grace and love for you.”
NEED FOR A NEW SPIRIT
How can God keep such a wonderful promise? How can He take the Law from lifeless tablets of stone and write it within the heart and mind of man?
We must turn to the prophet Ezekiel to find our answer. It is important that we do, for without Ezekiel’s added revelation, the new covenant will be only a theory, and never a reality in our lives.
David prayed that God would not only give him a clean heart, but would renew a right spirit within him. Now notice the wording of Ezekiel’s prophecy:
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; l will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezek 36:26, 27).
THE NEW COVENANT RATIFIED
In order for a covenant to take effect, it must first be ratified, or established. The new covenant could be ratified (established) only by the death of Christ.
At the time of man’s fall, the law of sin and death began to take effect.
The result for all mankind would have been a timeless tragedy apart from God’s grace. That grace was revealed in the cross of Christ on Calvary. Only He could put the final seal upon our salvation through God’s new covenant.
Let us follow this thought further. When a man writes his last will and testament, the laws of most nations decree that it cannot be enforced until after his death.
God also set forth His will in the form of a new testament or covenant. It could not be put in force until the One Who wrote it died.
This is the reason God the Son came to this earth as the Son of Man. He came to die so that the new covenant -His will and testament -could be put into effect.
THE HOLY SPIRIT: THE EXECUTER OF THE NEW COVENANT
When a will or testament is written, and the man who wrote it dies – he needs someone who is still alive to enforce the provisions of the will. Someone must execute (or implement) those provisions.
The person named to do this is called “an executor” because he executes (or enforces) the provisions of the will.
Christ not only died, but He rose again and ascended to the right hand of the Father. By doing so, He could become “the executor” in Heaven of His will, of His Testament. He could thus legally establish the provisions of His Own will, of His Own (new) covenant.
Once the new will and testament was established in Heaven, it was necessary to execute or put it into effect -here on earth. For that reason, God sent His Holy Spirit from Heaven on the day of Pentecost.
The Spirit of God is the divine “Executor” of Christ’s will and testament. He is the One Who enforces the new covenant with its blessings and benefits. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezek 36:27).
The role of the Holy Spirit as the Executor of the new covenant is confirmed by the words of Christ Himself.
Just before His crucifixion, Jesus tried to prepare His disciples for His departure. He was going to leave them, and they would soon be on their own. However, He promised them that He would not leave them as orphans; He would send Someone to take His place:
“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16,17).
The Greek word for “helper” is parakletos . It has a much wider meaning than just “one who comforts or consoles”. This word comes from the combination of two Greek words: para, meaning “beside”, and kaleo meaning “to call”. When these words are placed together, they mean “called to one’s side”. This word, parakletos, signifies many things in the New Testament. It is used for “intercessor”, “comforter”, “helper”, “advocate”, “counselor”. This word was also used in a technical meaning of an attorney who goes to court on another’s behalf. We see this type of usage in 1 John 2:1: “If any one sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Now an “advocate” is a legal counselor or lawyer. He serves to plead his client’s cause before a court of law. The advocate stands by his client’s side, to provide counsel and speak on his behalf. It is the advocate’s duty to see that his client has the full benefits of the law.
To enforce His will – the new covenant -God the Father decided to appoint two Advocates for us. (That should give us a measure of “comfort”!) One of them is at the Father’s right hand. As we have already seen, He is the Lord Jesus Himself. Therefore, if we sin we have a “Lawyer ” in Heaven to plead our cause – and He has never lost a case! It is also very important to remember that God the Father, as Judge over all, is totally on our side as well! God is for us (Rom 8:31-39). But He must also uphold His perfect justice by demanding a payment for sin. He upheld His justice because He “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Rom 8:32).
Justice demanded that the Judge of all the earth pass sentence on sin; and that sentence is death. This is what man deserved and justice required.
But God, Who is perfectly just, is also perfectly merciful. Perfect justice required payment for sin, yet perfect mercy could only respond by doing for man what man could not do for himself. “But God, Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:4-10). Thanks be to God for His great love!
We also have an Advocate here on earth. He is the Holy Spirit our divine Counselor and Advocate. This is what Jesus meant when He said that the Father would send to us, another Parakletos. Let us further consider the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and daily lives.
THE HOLY SPIRIT: THE INNER CONTROL FOR OUR LIVES
Now what is our Advocate, the Holy Spirit, going to do for us? Ezekiel answers that question: “I will give you a new heart… I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes “(Ezek 36:26, 27).
In other words, God is placing His “law of love” in our hearts and minds through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It is then that the Holy Spirit begins to “teach you all things” (John 14:26) and “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). It is through the Spirit of God within us that we begin to live out our salvation in our daily lives.
It is of great importance to remember that the Holy Spirit does not replace the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has come to explain and apply the Word to our lives. The Spirit and the Word work in partnership together to reveal God’s will and give us the power to be transformed into the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit’s work in our lives will always agree with the truth of God’s Word.
Moreover, the Holy Spirit will not only reveal to us the Father’s will; He will also enable us to fulfill the Father’s will. If we will submit to His control in our lives, the Holy Spirit will not only show us what to do and where to go; He will also move us in the right direction.
Now this “inner law of love” – linked with the Holy Spirit of truth-is very exacting. It covers every detail and every moment of our lives.
Actually, the Spirit-ruled life is even more demanding than the Law of Moses. However, there is a difference. In this new life in Christ, we are moved by the inner power of God’s love, and directed by His Spirit revealing His truth written in His Word. The Spirit filled life is not one of grim duty, but of loving obedience.
However, please do not think that being led by the Holy Spirit frees us from the demands of the Law. The presence of God’s Spirit within us has set us free from the laws written on stone; but He has freed us to obey the law written on our hearts. No law written on stone tablets could ever completely cover every situation we face in life; only the Holy Spirit illuminating the truth of God’s Word could do that.
Our freedom in Christ is not so that we can do whatever we want. We are freed so that we can do what we ought to do – obey God in every situation we face!
The power of God’s love in our hearts is much more than just a warm feeling. This “law of love” can be very convicting when we act or speak in some unlovely way. It will work in all kinds of situations, many of which aren’t specifically covered by the Ten Commandments.
We all need a kind of “inner control” to rule over the affairs of our everyday lives. This is how Christ lives His life through us.
A great tragedy is this: Many of us don’t rely upon the Holy Spirit within our hearts. Instead, we look outside of us to the “tablets of stone”. We try to keep God’s laws by our own weak efforts. We somehow think we can become holy from an external or outside source. But it won’t work.
Now perhaps we can better understand the difference between the two covenants. In the old covenant, the law was outside of us -written on tablets of stone. In the new covenant, the law is within – written upon our hearts and minds. The Law could force an outward conformity that would last only temporarily. But the indwelling of the Spirit can transform us from the inside permanently.
God has given us His Holy Spirit so that we might know His will in our minds, and be moved to do His will with our hearts – by the power the Spirit gives. In this way, the right and holy life which the Law demands is fulfilled in us. For we no longer walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Truly, He is the inner control of our lives!
FREE FROM LEGALISM
NO LONGER BOUND
Unfortunately, many sincere Christians are tempted to go back under the outer control of the Old Law: This was true of some Jewish Christians in Paul’s day.
They were being tempted by legalistic leaders to forsake the grace which was theirs in Christ Jesus. Paul made a direct reference to this kind of danger in his letter to the Romans:
“Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
“For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.
“So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.”
“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through, the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him Who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Rom 7:1-4).
MARRIAGE: A PICTURE OF OUR NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST
Paul uses the laws of marriage to illustrate relationship with Christ under the new covenant (testament).
As sinners, we were “married” to the Law and bound by its demands. When we accepted Christ as Savior, we were “baptized” (placed) into His Body (1 Cor 12:13). We thus became identified with Him -in both His death and His resurrection (see Roman 6).
When Christ died on the cross, we were “in Him”. When He was raised from the dead and ascended into Heaven ···· “in Him” we also rose and ascended, and are enthroned with Him in the heavens (see Ephesians 2:1-6).
By our death on the cross (in Christ), we were not only set free from the power of sin, but also set free from our “marriage-bondage” to the Law. Now we are free to many “Another” -Christ.
When Christ a rose, we also became alive in Him. In that resurrection, He became our heavenly Husband, and we became the Bride of Christ.
We are no longer under the rule of the Law -our “old husband”: Now we are under the loving rule and law of our “new Husband” – the Lord Jesus.
SPIRITUAL “ADULTERY:” A PROBLEM FOR MANY SINCERE CHRISTIANS
Now a problem for many sincere Christians is the temptation to again come under the control of the Law. In Christ, God set them free from their “old husband” (the Law) so that they might be wedded to their “new Husband” (the Lord).
Yet they seem drawn back into a “friendly” relationship with one to whom they are no longer married. Clearly, they do not realize what they are doing. Such Christians are “flirting” with the Law, and this can lead to spiritual adultery.
They are not totally trusting in the ”finished” work of Christ upon the cross. Therefore, they feel they must “add something” to fully satisfy the demands of the Law. They do not understand that when they look back to the Law in that way, they are really being “unfaithful” to their new Husband, the Lord Jesus. We cannot put our faith in the Law and God’s grace at the same time.
LEGALISM: A SERIOUS PROBLEM IN THE GALATIAN CHURCH
This same problem was faced at an earlier time by the Galatian church. Certain legalistic teachers had come up from Jerusalem and tried to bring the Galatian Christians back under submission to the Law.
These Jewish teachers told the Galatian believers that they were not really saved from sin and separated to Christ unless they were circumcised. They taught the Galatians that this was something they had to do in addition to trusting in Christ.
In submitting to the dictates of the Old Testament law which required circumcision, they were like a married woman submitting to someone other than her husband. This is wrong in marriage. A wife submits only to her husband.
In the same way, it is wrong for people who say they are fully (and only) trusting in Christ – to put their trust in other things such as religious medals, penance, and other religious exercises.
In returning to their old “husband” (the Law) the Galatians were being unfaithful. Christ had set them free by His death on the cross. Now they were going back into bondage under the laws of the Old Testament.
LEGALISM: AN ONGOING DANGER
The danger of being drawn back into an unfaithful relationship with the Law was a great concern of the Apostle Paul. He warned the Galatian church with these strong words:
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.
“And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole Law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal 5:1-4).
In Paul’s mind, there is nothing more tragic than the Christian who turns from the freedom he has in Christ to the slavery of a legalistic system. Sadly, there have been Pharisees in every age who have sought to bring God’s people back into that kind of bondage.
A DARK SHADOW OF FEAR
The spirit of legalism is very powerful and very deceptive. The sincere Christian who does not understand the true basis of his salvation can be easily seduced or misled. Such a person truly wants to please God and have His approval. Trying to live up to the demands of the Law seems like such a right way to do it. It may seem right, but it is wrong!
The basic force behind legalism is fear. The Law strictly says we must do or die. But once that path is taken, it soon becomes very clear that one can never do enough. A dark cloud of condemnation, therefore, hangs over the believer’s head. A dark shadow of fear fills the believer’s heart. Only the light of God’s love – the “light of the Gospel” – can dispel that darkness.
And it has!
Salvation – if we accept it fully as a free gift -sets us free from the bondage of legalism.
FREE FROM CONDEMNATION
BRIGHT WORDS OF HOPE
Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words of hope and encouragement in the first verse of the eighth chapter of Romans: “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The rest of the verse – “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” -is not in our best and most reliable Greek texts. It is possible that this portion of verse 4 was accidentally added here as a copyist’s error.
Perhaps, however, some of the later translators could not accept such a statement without some conditions. Surely, they may have felt, there was something we have to “do” to get out from under condemnation. So they took a part of verse four and added it to verse one.
Now why did they do this? Possibly because they were still living by the outward Law themselves. They did not fully understand the provisions of the new covenant. Therefore, they added some conditions of self-effort: “In order to come out of condemnation, you must not walk in the flesh; you must -walk in the Spirit.”
Adding these words to the Bible distorts the pristine beauty of our new covenant. These words falsely teach us that any failure on our part will at once bring us under condemnation. This is the opposite of what Paul was trying to say and teach. However, as was pointed out earlier, we have been set free to obey God. We are not to use our freedom to satisfy fleshly desires. “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another … I say then: Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:13,16).
We are not under condemnation (God’s banishing judgment) if we are in Christ. But if we violate His Lordship and the law of love which the Holy Spirit has placed in us, we should feel conviction.
There is a difference between conviction and condemnation. Conviction will draw us to Christ to seek His forgiveness and cleansing. A sense of condemnation will drive us from God and make us try harder in our own effort to be religiously perfect.
Some people get a strange sense of satisfaction from a ministry of condemnation. If people aren’t “flogged” and “beaten” by the Law, they haven’t had a good meeting. One senses an element of self-righteous pride in such a legalistic attitude.
That was why Jesus boldly and sternly confronted the Pharisees. They placed legalistic burdens upon the backs of the people which the people could not bear (Matt 23:4; Acts 15:10,11).
FOREVER FREE FROM THE LAW
We are free from condemnation because in Christ, the penalty to our sin has already been paid. He took upon Himself our sin — and the penalty of our sin — when He died upon the cross. He was condemned in our place. Therefore, we are free from the law of sin and death – – and the condemnation which it brings.
This is exactly what Paul tells us in the very next verse: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2).
The meaning of this verse can be better understood if we substitute the word “control” for the word “law.” It would then read: “For the control of the Spirit… has made me free from the control of sin and death.”
“Sin and death” represent the results of the law written in stone. So Paul is saying that the Holy Spirit has a greater control over our lives within us than the Law does outside of us. The higher authority dwells within, not without.
FREE TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST
THE RULE OF TRUTH AND LOVE
The Holy Spirit’s control within us frees us from the control of sin and death. The inner authority of the Holy Spirit is a higher power than the power of the Law. In fact, the Law never could produce the righteousness which it demanded. Only the power and authority of the Holy Spirit can do that.
Paul enlarges this thought in the next two verses: “There is therefore, now no condemnation to those
Who are in Christ Jesus…”
“For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the Law might lie fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:1-4).
Our old sinful nature is also called the “flesh”. To live “in the flesh” is to live by our own efforts- apart from the Law-keeper within (the Holy Spirit).
To do so brings us back under the Law and its condemnation. Paul plainly tells us that this will lead only to failure and feelings of guilt. We are again bound by the law of sin and death!
To walk in the Spirit is to exercise the self-control which comes as a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22) and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
To walk in the Spirit brings life. We walk and live in the Spirit by giving ourselves to His control. He will always rule our lives in truth and love. While He will never condemn us, He will be very quick to convict us of sin. He will faithfully let us know whenever we break God’s holy law of love. He will also give us the power to live out that law so we need not fail.
What a beautiful gift of God’s grace the Holy Spirit is to our hearts! No wonder He is called the blessed Comforter -our ever-present Counselor and companion.
AN INNER DESIRE AND POWER
At this point, we want to make two things clear so that we will not be misunderstood.
Caution 1. We are NOT saying that the Holy Spirit has come to replace the Word of God (the Bible). There are some who teach this, but it is not true.
The Holy Spirit has come to explain and apply the Word to our lives. Without the Scriptures, He has nothing to explain. The Holy Spirit’s work in our lives will always agree with the truth of God’s Word. His desire is to relate that Word to the details of our daily affairs.
The Holy Spirit converts the written Word into the Living Word within our hearts. He makes it the vital focus for our faith. The Lord Jesus is our model Brother. He totally relied upon both God’s Word and God’s Spirit to fulfill the will of His Father here on earth. We should do no less.
Caution 2. Another important point concerns our freedom in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit does NOT release us from the demands of the Law so that we can live unlawful lives. He has set us free from the law written on stone, so that we might obey the law written upon our hearts.
This is a higher law or control; and this higher law of the Holy Spirit within us will govern every area of our lives. No law written on tablets of stone could ever cover all of the different situations we face in lite. Only the Holy Spirit can apply God’s inner law of low in such a way.
No, we are NOT being loosed to follow the lusts or desires of our flesh. In fact, if we fall short of God’s will for us in Christ, the Holy Spirit will convict and correct us at once.
It is His purpose to make us like Jesus -to conform us into His image. As the Spirit of Christ, He becomes for us our inner Law of life. We are no longer controlled by an outer law of do’s and don’ts, but by an inner desire and power to become like the Lord Jesus.
“We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).
FREE TO “WALK IN THE LIGHT”
The glory of the Lord is a glorious light, and “in Him is no darkness at all” (John 1:5). Nor, dear fellow saint, should there be any darkness in your walk with the Lord.
The cloud of condemnation has been lifted. The dark shadow of fear has been dispelled.
If you have submitted your spirit to God’s Spirit, and your mind to His Word, you truly need not fear. You may make some mistakes, but God will be faithful to work even these together for your good and His glory. He will lovingly train and discipline your life day by day if you allow Him.
Praise God, we have been given a new heart, a new spirit and a new covenant.
We have been set free – and our freedom in Christ is forever secure!
GOD’S WAY OF PEACE AND JOY
Dear fellow saint, God desires for you to enjoy the blessings and benefits of His new covenant. It is a gift of His grace in Christ Jesus. His Holy Spirit now dwells within you, and “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty” (2 Cor 3:17). It is a freedom from the law of sin and death.
God’s law of love is written plainly upon your heart. The Holy Spirit – your Comforter and Counselor -will apply that Law to every detail of your life. He will faithfully correct and direct your life in the ways of the Lord. This, is God’s way of peace and joy for you.
And you can have peace and joy dear friend! If you are ever tempted to fall back under the bondage of legalism, repeat these words of assurance found in Romans 8:1,2:
“There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the spirit of life has SET ME FREE” – free to “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7), the glorious light of God’s love and grace.