There is a well-known verse in the New Testament that has caused serious misunderstanding amongst many professing Christians. That verse is the one the article is named after, and it is found in 2 Corinthians 3:6. A common interpretation of this verse is that the “letter of the (Old) law” can be harsh and without mercy, whereas the “spirit” expressed by a Christian through their actions can be done with patience, mercy and love. I would say that this common, often unspoken, intpretation is what I believe the Apostle Paul was probably trying to convey when he wrote it.
However, the diabolical misunderstanding of the SPIRIT of this verse has led many people into believing that it is actually against God’s will to take Jesus’ teachings at face value, much less to attempt to obey those teachings.
I’ll give an example of trying to put into practice even one of Jesus’ teachings by accepting its literal meaning. In Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 23 verse 9, Jesus tells us plainly to call no one on Earth our father, because God is our only true Father. It’s astounding for me to listen to countless professing followers of Jesus disregard this simple command, based on some interpretation of this verse that they belive relieves them from having to obey. What if Jesus really did want us to see God as our common Father so much so that He forbids us to use that title for even our earthly fathers anymore (not to mention religious leaders!)?
Using that one command of Jesus as an illusustration, it may become easier for the reader to see the point I wish to convey in this article. The “misunderstanding” that is so often used to dismiss Jesus’ teachings is that; as Christians, we are now free to live by “the Spirit” and that anything sounding remotely like a command is somehow in opposition to the “freedom we have in Christ”.
When we take the above approach to the teachings of Jesus recorded in the four Gospels, we are utterly deceiving ourselves with this demonic interpretation of Paul’s writings. If we try to justify disobedience to Jesus’ clear teachings, we truly need to consider which “Spirit” we are being led by!
Let’s look at another verse about the Spirit, this time by Jesus himself, which may help to clear up any confusion about the matter. In John 6:63, Jesus tells us that the words He speaks are spirit and life. You see that? Jesus says that His own words are indeed spirit. When we take His words to heart, we are truly living by the Spirit already. Jesus also tells us that if we love Him, we will obey him (John 14:15, 23-24; John 15:14). Any “Spirit” that tells us not to obey Jesus is not of Christ!
This article has been inspired by recent conversations we have had with several supposed “followers of Jesus” who took offense at us suggesting that we should take Jesus’ teachings seriously (read literally). When we witnessed the lengths people would go to in trying to argue against Jesus’ commands (yikes! There’s that word again!) we could see more clearly why Jesus tells us that we would be “hated by all for following [His] teachings” (Matt 10:22; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17; John 15:18). Two questions that must be asked of all people who claim to “believe” in Jesus are these: are you sharing Jesus’ actual teachings, in love; and, by sharing those teachings have you experienced any of the persecution Jesus said would come as a result? If the answer to the latter is no, you may have to wonder how it is that you are more popular, accepted and praised than your Lord and Savior was.
To assume that we are “living by the Spirit” while ignoring Jesus’ commands is to be living in delusion. Let us stop trying to pit “the Spirit” against the “letter” (or words) of Christ. Jesus tells us that the job of the Holy SPIRIT is remind of his teachings/commands (John 14:26). After all, according to Jesus, they are one and the same (John 6:63)!