Twisted Text - 2 Corinthians 3:6 (The Letter Kills)

Paul wrote,

6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The entire chapter of 2 Corinthians 3 is regularly misused. Because Paul wrote that "the letter kills" (verse 6), that the "ministry of death [was] written and engraved in stone" (verse 7), and is "passing away" (verse 11), many conclude that the Big Ten are out-of-date. But this is not what Paul meant.

First, there are many other New Testament passages (including others written by Paul) that refer to the Ten Commandments as being in full force today (see Romans 3:20; 7:7,12; 8:4; Ephesians 6:1-3; James 2:8-12; 1 John 3:4; Revelation 14:12). Second, a careful reading of 2 Corinthians 3 reveals that it is not the law itself that has passed away, but rather that its "ministry of death" (verse 7) and "ministry of condemnation" (verse 9) has now ceased for the believer only. But before this happens, we must first be convinced that we are condemned, doomed, and lost lawbreakers, which is all part of the Holy Spirit’s "ministry" to rescue our souls from the pending sentence of eternal death. And then, once we receive Jesus Christ and trust Him only, the same Holy Spirit who first convicted us of sin through the law (see Romans 3:20) now writes that same law "not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart" (verse 3). Thus the end result of "the new covenant" (verse 6) is the same as the Lord’s statement, "I will put My law into their hearts" (Hebrews 10:16).

Bottom line: those who are truly born again will become commandment keepers, not commandment breakers, after "the letter kills" and "the Spirit gives life" (verse 6). This is the "fruit" of the gospel.

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