The Letter Kills

My Charismatic journey took me through years of living a life built around scriptural precepts and principles. Often I would say that the Holy Spirit was leading me when, in fact, I was being led by religious rules. It is a dangerous way to lead your life because it leans heavily on your head to instruct you. The apostle Paul identifies this danger when he writes:
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. [2 Corinthians 3:5-6]
Paul speaks of a sufficiency that cannot be discerned with your head. This sufficiency is one of the heart or spirit. He tells us that when we are led by the Spirit we are competent New Testament ministers. It is a simple idea but such a challenging one.

Paul also says in this passage that the letter kills.. did you catch that word - "kills". He could have said hurts, hinders or wounds but he chose the word kills. It strikes me how, when we live by the letter of the scripture, we live a sort of death.

Jesus, as He shared the sermon on the mount, spoke to this kind of death-living when He challenged the religious people of His day often saying:

You have heard that it was said” … “But I say to you”

Jesus took on the letter of murder, the letter of adultery, the letter of divorce, the letter of making an oath, the letter of vengeance, the letter of loving, the letter of judging others - and He spoke to them about the Spirit of those issues. He spoke to them of heart anger, heart lust, heart revenge and heart love. It was like He was telling them about how a healthy and whole heart would be life-giving.. and how a life lived by the letter of the law would be death-giving.. on a heart level.

I guess that is what I am trying to say. Those years that I lived by the letter of the scripture were years that I spent shutting down my heart.. my "spiritual life" was axiomatic.. I relied on my brain to lead me. I masqueraded my pseudo-spirituality with all sorts of Christian cliches and mumbo-jumbo.. and all the while the letter of my religion was slowly killing me on the inside.

I think that, in a sense, this kind of letter-driven behavior is encouraged by weak religious leaders who want to keep the flock under control. The sad part is that when we are under the control of the letter the influence and work of the Holy Spirit is quenched in our lives and in the church.. and the result is death and not life. I think that this is why so many leave traditional churches tired of heart-killing religion and looking for something that will ignite their hearts to real life.


  1. Very well put. I have been through the same thing. Started off claiming I was being led by "the Spirit", when it was really a set of rules forced on me.

    One thing Jesus did was give us freedom. Trouble is the freedom is not so easy to embrace.

  2. "Where The Spirit of The Messiah is there is Liberty" only "use not this Liberty to fulfill fleshly desires".

  3. I think that I agree with you elderchild as long as the Messiah is Jesus and the fleshly desires are sinful ones.. not all fleshly desires are sinful.

  4. Being given complete liberty is a very real challenge. It is so much easier for some to "follow the rules" than study and discern for themselves.

  5. Excellent!

    My friends who are still in a church of "letters" think that I am lost while I think they are serving their church and themselves but not others - not Jesus.

  6. "only use not this Liberty for an occasion to the flesh but in Love serve one another".

    And Love, as all that is Good, is Spirit and must be received, and then be given to others.

    i prefer calling The Son of The Living GOD, The Messiah.

  7. What a great post...just what was on my mind this morning.

  8. This is a great post Bob! You'd think we would have learned by now that we are incapable of following to the letter of the Law. I'm so thankful for the enormity of God's Grace!


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