The Lord is that Spirit Paul makes repeated reference to, through the earlier verses in this chapter. Sometimes through Paul’s writings, you need to look back to what he’s already written, in order to understand what he’s talking about ahead.
Verse 17 is one of those occasions where, many people remember the verse but might not recall what he’s making reference to in its first half. Here’s the scripture:
2 Corinthians 3:
17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
The Lord is what Spirit?
Many people can quote this verse, because it’s telling us two major points. The major point being made in the latter half of the verse is the one people usually use when making reference. Typically when talking about liberty in the Lord through Christ Jesus.
But the first half is less talked about, or preached on. The Lord is that Spirit. Alright, the Lord is what Spirit? What’s he talking about?
To figure it out for sure, we’ll need to remember what we’ve already covered.
That Spirit is:
- The one who worked through the Apostle’s ministration of the gospel. (vs. 1-6)
- The one who caused for their qualifications to be seen by all through those they reached (known and read of all men in vs. 2), rather than scholarly degrees or worldly type of approval.
- The one providing sufficiency. (vs. 5-6)
- The one ushering in and co-ordinating the changes being made from the Old Covenant to the New. (vs. 7-16)
All of what Paul has been talking about throughout the entire chapter, points to which Spirit he’s making reference to in this verse. Every aspect of ministry was provided and accomplished by the Holy Ghost, through his willing and obedient servants the Apostles.
The extent of the Apostle’s part of success in ministry was a reflection of their obedience to the Father, and their constant availability to the Holy Ghost. The miracles, wisdom, understanding, favor, words, epistles, or other deeds, was all the Spirit of the Lord.
All made possible through Christ Jesus.
Open and Obedient to the Holy Ghost
A lot of people want to serve and please the Lord, but do we grasp what it means to be available to the Father, or what it means to be in his service under the guidance of the Holy Ghost? Many of us talk a good game, have all the best intentions, and visions of being that one person that will stand for Christ when all else choose to stay seated.
When the rubber meets the road, will you do it? Will I do it? This isn’t a charge being levelled against anyone or anything, but how willing are we to let go, and allow the Lord to lead? Or as the cliche goes: Let go and let God?
It seems easy for the Apostles in that regard, when reading about their acts, doesn’t it? Clear cut instructions, hands on support by the Father on their behalf, miracles helping to prove their point and throw down arguments.
We see these things and wonder- what happened? Why don’t these things happen with the same clarity for all of us who believe? I would argue that they did nothing miraculous due to faith, or belief- but by obedience to the lead of the Holy Ghost.
If the Spirit of the Lord tells you to lay hands on someone and hoist them out of a wheelchair, you just do it. It isn’t within our power to do anything beyond that, but is all the Spirit of the Lord.
If we see someone in a wheelchair at the mall, and walk up, hoist him out of his chair because we have faith or belief- yet no instruction from the Lord, that person will fall flat on his face, and you’ll be hiding yours.
Jesus himself did nothing that the Father didn’t instruct him to do. He is our example, and our Lord. If he obeyed the Lord’s voice, so should we be available to do the same.
John 8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
The Lord is that Spirit, and he is every bit as active today through his obedient children, than he was 2,000 years ago.
What is our Liberty in the Lord?
There are some out there, who erroneously teach that Paul promotes sin through verses like this. Somehow using the word “liberty” to mean that we can sin, and it’s just fine with the Lord.
Paul’s never written that, he never preached that, nor is that what’s meant by having liberty through the Spirit of the Lord. Ever!
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Earthly Consequences for Carnal Sin
Now, the Bible makes it clear that after you’re saved and born anew, you’re going to be present with the Lord after being absent from the body, regardless of sin. However, sin in a believer’s life brings consequences that we will live out.
In fact, it can feel like hell on earth for believers that are tangled up in sin, and the consequences thereof. In a world that rejects the children of God, you’d better believe that Christians get caught, stuck, discovered and found out- when we have one face toward the Father, and another for the world and the sinful nature we’ve been plucked out from by the Spirit of the Lord.
There’s no free pass with sin. In fact, we’ll be penalized from the rewards that we may have otherwise received, were it not for our foolishness.
Liberty is not a sin pass. Period.
We’ve Been Liberated!
Through the finished works of Christ, we have been liberated from the old letter of the ministration of death, unto the ministration of the Spirit, made possible by the Spirit.
We are not beholden to commit acts of earning forgiveness for sin as the old letter maintained. Something had to either die or be relinquished as a sacrifice, in order for our sins to be atoned for.
Through the ministration of the Spirit, our sacrifice is an eternal once for all sacrifice in Christ Jesus. We need only to turn to the Lord for forgiveness with an earnest heart, and repent! No lamb slaughtering required per family anymore, through this new ministration- or New Testament.
We are the beneficiaries of Christ’s fulfillment of the the Old Covenant. We serve the same Lord, who feels the same way about sinful carnality as the Old Testament saints did.
And even under this new ministration of life by the Spirit, many of the old rules apply, that have applied since the fall of Adam. Among which, is that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.
Hebrews 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
Matthew 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
No sacrifice of neither man nor beast will ever equal that which the Father sacrificed in our behalf, on the cross in the person of Christ Jesus. Our liberty in the Lord was purchased and made possible by the burdens that Christ bore unto himself.
The coverage and cleansing away of sin without having to make a sacrifice is simply one of the liberties that come through the ministry of the Spirit.
Through this ministration, we are able (by that same Spirit) to live to righteousness, rather than avoid sin. To more easily do what’s right, rather than begrudgingly avoiding doing what’s wrong. To want to be obedient to the Father to please him out of loving fear and awe, rather than struggling to stay out of hell.
To not want to disappoint our loving Father, rather than fearing the vengeance of an angry God.
So what do we do with this liberty offered to us by the Spirit of the Lord? How do we individually receive and respond to not being under the burden of the laws of sin and death?
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- What is the Spirit of Faith? – 2 Corinthians 4 Part 6
- Ministration of Righteous – 2 Corinthians 3 Part 3
- Daily Renewal in Christ – 2 Corinthians 4 Part 8
- Through Christ – 2 Corinthians 3 Part 2
- Daily Inspiration from Proverbs 20 P. 296 – Spirit of Man