Law Vs Spirit

In the eyes of most people today, Law and Spirit are Polar opposites. The prevailing thought of our day is that if one walks according to Torah (Law) it negates the ability to be led by the Spirit. Nothing could be further from the truth! Let us remember it was the Spirit (God is a Spirit – John 4:24) that gave and guided Moses at Sinai. We see the pattern and purpose consistently throughout Scripture and continuing with us today.


But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26 KJV)


In fact, the Prophets foretold of a day when God would send us His Spirit and that Spirit would transform our hearts and lives. The causative effect of this Spirit coming would be to put His Law in us and would be the sign/seal of the New Covenant.

"For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra'el after those days," says ADONAI: "I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33 CJB) [See also Ezekiel 36:26-27]


While the Old Testament records an abundance of prophecies concerning the Messiah, there is no prophecy that states that one of the signs of the Messiah would be that he would do away with the Law/Torah.[1]


Indeed, if Jesus, as put forth by many today came to abrogate the Law/Torah – would not, He in effect be doing away with Himself?


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3 KJV)


“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 KJV)


Not under the Law

The Apostle Paul perhaps is the most misunderstood figure in the New Testament canon.  One misunderstanding which has led many to believe that Law and Spirit are Polar opposites is at the phrase ‘not under the law’.


“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:16-18 KJV)


We do not have the time to delve into all the passages which could be dealt with at this subject but here are a few more of the commonly cited passages. (Romans 6:14-16, Romans 2:12; 3:19, 1 Corinthians 9:20, Galatians 3:23; 4:4-5, 21)


When we interpret ‘not under the law’ (Galatians 5:16-18) as pitting Law/Torah and Spirit against each other we do in fact deny the context of this passage. The context of this passage does pit two things against each other and these two things are the Spirit and the flesh – they are indeed Polar opposites! Verse sixteen of this passage points this fact out clearly:


“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16 KJV)


We see this problem (flesh) pointed to back in Jeremiah chapter thirty one.


“ It won't be a repeat of the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant even though I did my part as their Master." GOD's Decree. (Jeremiah 31:32 MSG)


The problem was not the first covenant, or any covenant God has made! The problem was not on God’s part as He always keeps His Word. Albeit, when one walks after the flesh it will produce the works of the flesh.


Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.(Galatians 5:19-25 KJV)


What then does being “under the law” mean? The letter to the Galatians is not against obeying the Torah; it’s against using the ritual of conversion (circumcision) to become Jewish as a means of salvation.[2]


Keeping the law cannot save you. In fact, the law was not given as a vehicle of salvation but rather it was given to a people who had been brought out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb, had its pursuing enemies buried in a watery grave, and now (at Mt. Sinai) are about to receive the seal (earnest) of their inheritance. All of this was required before entering the promise land as it is today: a prerequisite for admittance into the Kingdom of God.[3]


The Apostle Paul made plenty of positive comments with regards to the Law/Torah and I find it interesting that these are rarely, if ever referenced. Here are just a few:


“ What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Romans 7:7 KJV)


“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Romans 7:12 KJV)


“ For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.” (Romans 7:14 KJV)


Legal Status

In this passage (Galatians 5:16-18) the people with the problem are the ones who are trusting in circumcision to save them – these are the ones ‘under the law’.


As Paul notes in the next chapter of Galatians, those people were not even observing the Torah; they were relying on their Jewish legal status for acceptance before God and men (Galatians 6:13). He speaks against this, saying, “neither circumcision [i.e., legal status as a Jewish person] counts for anything nor uncircumcision [i.e, legal status as a Gentile], but keeping the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:10). To be “under the law” does not mean being obedient to the commandments but to use one’s supposed legal Jewish status to give an excuse to sin.[4]


The pattern is that ‘in the beginning’ the ‘Spirit moved upon the face of the waters’, ‘not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit’, ‘a new heart also will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you’, ‘and cause you to walk in my statues, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them’. (Genesis 1:1-3, Zechariah 4:6, Ezekiel 36:26,-27)


The prophets all agree, it is the Spirit, through grace, that enables us to keep the Law/Torah. It is because I am saved and am now living a life of faith that I embrace the truths of the Bible. I do not make graven images, murder, or commit adultery because I am saved and have faith in God’s Word. I am now a partaker in the covenants of promise and have hope! It is because of my faith in the fact that God’s Word is truth that I obey God’s commandments.[5] This is the evidence of my faith, not the cause of it. And so it is today, we know that He abides in us because we keep his commandments.


As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:24 MSG)


Let us learn from the examples written down for us (Galatians – people using legal status for salvation) and exercise caution in so freely accepting the thoughts and views of our day. After all, it is true – History (human nature) repeats itself.


[1] Holiness and Food by Daniel P. Trombley - page 56

[2] Boundary Stones by Aaron Eby - page 33

[3] Holiness and Food by Daniel P. Trombley - page 8

[4] Boundary Stones by Aaron Eby - page33

[5] Holiness and Food by Daniel P. Trombley – page 9