2 Corinthians 3:4-6 – “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” NKJV
Back to the contrast, Paul gave of the Gospel of Legalism, the Grace of God, and the reality of Death vs. Life. One of the many things I love about the apostle Paul was his quickness to give God Glory rather than seeking to call attention to himself. Paul continually expressed his confidence and trust in God and declared adamantly that his (Paul’s) sufficiency was from God, not anything within himself. We must never forget that Paul was a brilliant, highly educated man, yet he refused to depend or rely on his own adequacy; he depended on the Lord in all things and at all times.
The Legalist told the people that anyone who kept the law would become spiritual and gain special acceptance and favor with God. All Legalistic ministries have a way of inflating people’s egos and creating false security in actions rather than pointing to Grace.
When you promote Grace, you must tell people they are sinners who cannot save themselves. That is not very ego-building. Paul’s testimony is found in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” I like that! No one is sufficient in himself to minister to the hearts of people; that sufficiency, ability, and power must come through the Holy Spirit and His anointing.
I find the names or ways Paul identifies the Old and New Testaments interesting. In (v.6), he calls the Old Testament The Letter, and the New Testament is referred to as The Spirit as he referenced the message of Grace.
I must insist that you not assume that Paul was contrasting or offering two approaches to the Bible. He was not contrasting Literal Interpretation and Spiritual Interpretation. He reminds us that the Old Testament Law could not give life; according to Galatians 3:21, it is the ministry of death. On the other hand, the Gospel of Grace offers life to those who believe because of the Person of Jesus Christ and His Work on the Cross.
I also must insist that you refrain from assuming Paul to be saying that The Law was a mistake or that its ministry is not important. It is our School Master to bring us to Grace. Paul understood that the lost sinner must be slain by The Law and left hopelessly and helplessly lost and condemned before God’s Grace could save him!
Legalism brings death, but Grace brings life! Preachers and teachers who major in rules (minors) and regulations keep their flocks under a dark cloud of guilt, and that is not where God wants us. That cloud of guilt kills joy, saps power, and renders our witness ineffective. Christians who constantly measure themselves against others, comparing results and competing, soon find that they depend on the flesh, not the Power of the Spirit of God. The Bible speaks of ‘having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.’
There has never been a standard that could transform people’s lives, including the Ten Commandments. Only and I mean Only, God’s Grace can do that. Only the Grace of God ministered by the Holy Spirit can transform a lost sinner into a living epistle that glorifies Jesus Christ!
Paul’s doctrine of the New Covenant was not an invention of his own intellect. He had studied and read passages like Jeremiah 31:27-34; and Ezekiel 11:14-21. The Old Covenant Law, with its emphasis on external obedience, was preparation for the New Covenant message of Grace, where the emphasis is on the Internal and the transformation of the heart.
The Old Covenant is incredibly important but pales in the glory of the New Covenant, a Better Covenant established on Better Promises. The promises of the Old were nothing short of amazing. I want to talk about that contrast but will pause here and pick up next time in contrasting the glories of the two covenants.
God, bless you richly is my prayer and desire!