Newness of the Spirit vs. Oldness of the Letter

But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6).

A basic difference between the Law and the gospel is freedom to choose.

Within a week after a male child was born, he was circumcised. He had no choice. If his parents were devout, he was taught (Deuteronomy 6:4-7), dressed (Deuteronomy 6:8), and lived (Deuteronomy 6:9) in very specific ways from infancy onward. He had no choice.

Often, such a lack of choice produces a lack of genuine interest. Life gets routine. Routine gets irksome. Irk­some get “old”.

The new covenant Jeremiah prophesied of (Jeremiah 31:31-34) is quite different. Becom­ing a member of God’s family via the gospel is solely a matter of personal, not parental, choice. What a refreshing difference!

Because the gospel is predicated upon personal choice, holy living begins with the inner person. Its focus is not simply outward conformity with God’s Law, it is a loving embrace of God’s holy will. Therefore, Jesus will state in the Sermon on the Mount:

  • whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:22).

  • whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

  • whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality [fornication] causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32).

  • do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne…But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:34, 37).

  • [do] not…resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Matthew 5:38-42).

  • love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

The days of believing outward conformity with inward corruption is acceptable to God are over. We now serve God in newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter.

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Author: jchowning

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