Shadows and Realities

(Law and Grace)



3. What do the following words of Paul “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6) mean?



To understand the meaning of these words of Paul correctly, we need to read the words which precede it which are these: “But our sufficiency is of God; who also had made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). Therefore the letter is the Old Testament or rather the commandment of the Old Testament that was intended to bring life but actually brought death because Paul says: “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” (Romans 7:11). That happened because the commandment of the law is the strength of sin (1 Corinthians 15:56), that is to say, because it makes sin exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:8,13), That’s why Paul calls the Old Testament “the ministry of death” (2 Corinthians 3:7 – NKJV).

Now, if the letter is the Old Testament, the spirit is the New Testament, or rather the words of Christ which are spirit and life as Jesus said: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63), and which bring life, that is, they give life to those who are slaves of sin (or dead in their sins), who repent and believe in Jesus.