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Scripture Reading: Galatians 3:10-14

The "Spirit" of the Law v. The "Letter" of the Law

 

Intro.

1.  The Bible nowhere suggests an alleged “spirit” v. “letter” conflict.

  a.  (Definition) This is a manufactured conflict, cf. Matt. 23:23.

  b.  Define “spirit” as intent; “letter” as strict obedience/literal interpretation.

  c.  Some propose 2 Cor. 3:5-6, but this contrasts old and new covenants.

2.  It is said:  “If you keep the letter of the law, the outcome is death.”

  a.  Wrong, Gal. 3:10-12. Sinless perfection...keep the law...have life.

  b.  Christ redeemed Jews from the curse of the OT law (sin and death), Gal. 3:13. Because they were sinners of the Law; not saved by it.

  c.  Gentiles receive the Abrahamic blessing through faith (not LOM), Gal. 3:14.

3.  It is said: “The Pharisees kept the letter of the law.”

  a.  No they didn’t, Matt. 15:1-9; Matt. 23:1-3.

  b.  The righteousness of the Pharisees was not by the Law, but by their self-righteous approach to the law. They considered themselves to be righteous (by the Law) even while they violated the LOM. cf. Matt. 5:17-20; Rom. 9:30-33; 10:1-3

4.  This is exactly what the current spirit of the law v. letter of the law contention produces: Self-defined righteousness, Rom. 10:3-10.

 

I.  THE PROBLEM: SUBJECTIVE STANDARD FOR FAITH v. AN ABSOLUTE STANDARD OF TRUTH FOR FAITH, cf. Rom. 1:16-17.

  A.  “Spirit of the Law” is Code for Self-Defined Approach to God’s Law.

    1.  Whose “spirit” is the spirit we should follow?

    2.  This is an effort to redefine truth acc. to each person’s heart.

  B.  “Spirit of the Law” is Code for Tolerant Grace and Mercy from God.

    1.  “’Peace, peace’ when there is no peace,” Jer. 6:14.

    2.  Grace and mercy are extended only by God according to His will, Psa. 85:10-13; Eph. 2:4-10. cf. Noah, Gen. 6:8-9; 6:22-7:1

     -This is an effort to redefine grace to tolerate, accept and include variations from an absolute standard of truth;  Diversity (Jude 3-4)

  C.  “Letter of the Law” is Code for Disparaging Careful Understanding of, and Obedience to, God’s Revelation of Truth, cf. 2 Tim. 3:10 (2:15).

    1.  God expected Israel to go “to the law” to seek Him, Isa. 8:19-20; 1:10.

    2.  Jesus has the words of eternal life, Jno. 6:68. (Not merely intent)

    3.  God’s law is not at fault when people sin against it, Rom. 7:10-12.

 

II.  GOD ALWAYS WANTS OUR SPIRIT AND OUR OBEDIENCE.

 

PASSAGE

ATTITUDE

ACTION

John 4:24

spirit

truth

Joshua 24:14

sincerity

truth

Eccl.12:13

fear God

keep commands

Acts 10:35

fear Him

work righteous

James 2:17

faith

works

1 John 3:18

word/tongue

deed/truth

Deut. 10:12-13  

fear/love—heart  

walk/ways

Romans 1:9

with my spirit

in the gospel

 

“The Spirit and Letter of the Law”, Dave Miller, Ph.D. (Apologetics Press)

 

III.  THE WAY OF MAN v. THE WAY OF GOD.

  A.  The Way of Man:

    1.  Is not in himself, Jer. 10:23.

    2.  Seems right, but the end is death, Prov. 16:25.

  B.  The Way of God:

    1.  Is higher, deeper, richer, more powerful than ours, Isa. 55:8-11.

    2.  God’s way is holy, just and good, cf. Rom. 7:12.

    3.  The revelation of the words of Jesus Christ, Jno. 6:68.

  C.  We Choose the Way We Will Go, Josh. 24:15; Matt. 7:13-14.

     -Our choice brings consequences, now and eternally, Gal. 6:7-8.

 

Conclusion

1.  Christ has given us an understanding, 1 Jno. 5:20.

2.  His truth can be known, and when believed and obeyed, it gives life, Jno. 14:6; 8:31-32; 6:60-63, 68.

3.  How are you going to know Jesus without knowing His word?

  a.  Not by your own spirit. (1 Cor. 2:11)

  b.  Jesus is only known by His word of truth. 1 Jno. 4:1, 6

 

“The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the “letter”) of the law, but not necessarily the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not necessarily adhering to the literal wording.” (“Letter and spirit of the law,” wikipedia.com)

 

 

 

 

 

By: Joe R. Price

Posted: January 12, 2017