Toward the end of his letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul wrote:
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56-57.)
This trio of death, sin, and law leads to the main point – Jesus gives us victory over all three. This is not the only time Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth about the fact that following the law leads to death. In a later letter we read:
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, … will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? (2 Corinthians 3:7-8.)
The ministry engraved in stone refers to the 10 Commandments, representing all of the written law of the covenant God made with his people at the time of Moses.
Paul minces no words in saying this is a ministry that brings death. Yet he also told them that Jesus has overcome both the law and death, and that there is a more glorious ministry of the Spirit under the New Covenant, a ministry of life and not death. This is the ministry Jesus announced:
The Spirit gives life … . (John 6:63)
and which Paul spoke of in saying:
… through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2.)
So if there is no power over death in following the law but only in the ministry of the Spirit, what does this new ministry look like in a person’s life? This is difficult for people to grasp when they’ve been taught that the way to prove faithfulness to God is by following rules and checking them off the list.
The new way to live is not by rules, though, but in love. This is what Jesus got at when he said:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40.)
His brother James summed it up like this,
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. (James 2:8.)
and Paul stated in similar fashion:
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14.)
Recognizing the Ministry that Brings Life
When it comes to knowing what this ministry of the Spirit – this ministry of loving others – will look like in a person’s life, it looks like this:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23.)
Why is there no law against this fruit of the Spirit? Because the law that leads to death – a death which would interfere with such things as love and kindness – has been overcome by Jesus, whose Spirit is in you now.
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh [that is, trying to fulfill the Law] but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9.)
If you belong to Jesus, you are called to live in the victory over the law, sin and death. You can now live in the Spirit of God who lives in you.