By Neil Anderson
2 Corinthians 3:5, 6
God . . . made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life
Walking by the Spirit is not legalism, the opposite extreme from license. Paul said: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Galatians 5:18). Stringently striving to obey Christian rules and regulations doesn’t enable the Spirit-filled walk; it often kills it (2 Corinthians 3:6). We’re told in Galatians 3:13 that the law is really a curse, and in Galatians 3:21 that it is impotent, powerless to give life.
Laying down the law–telling someone that it is wrong to do this or that–does not give them the power to stop doing it. Christians have been notorious at trying to legislate spirituality with don’ts: Christians don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, don’t attend movies, don’t play cards, don’t wear makeup, etc. But legalism can’t curb immorality. In fact, laying down the law merely serves to heighten the temptation. Paul said that the law actually stimulates the desire to do what it forbids (Romans 7:5)! When you tell your child not to cross a certain line, where does he immediately want to go? Forbidden fruit often seems to be the most desirable.
Neither will a Spirit-filled heart be produced by demanding that someone conform to a religious code of behavior. We often equate Christian disciplines such as Bible study, prayer, regular church attendance, and witnessing with spiritual maturity. All these activities are good and helpful for spiritual growth. But merely performing these admirable Christian exercises does not guarantee a Spirit-filled walk.
Does this mean that establishing rules is wrong? Of course not. God’s law is a necessary protective moral standard and guideline. But the means by which we live a life of freedom is not the law but grace. Within the confines of God’s law, we are free to nurture a spirit-to Spirit relationship with God, which is the essence of walking in the Spirit.
Prayer: Lord, help me encourage other believers to freedom in their walk with You and not impose on them a religious code of behavior.