The Letter and Spirit of the Law

Beware of  false teachers who claim that the “spirit” of the Word of God does away with the letter of the law of God!  There are those who claim that it is Pharisaic to be zealous for keeping the law of God in its physical letter, such men try to substitute what they regard as “spiritual” things for God’s law. 

What did Jesus teach?  Jesus taught that we are to be zealous to live by BOTH the letter of the law in its physical application and the spirit of the law.

Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Technically we can keep the letter of the law without keeping the spirit of the law, but it is impossible to keep the spirit of the law without also keeping the letter of the law. Because the letter of the law is the foundation of the spirit and intent of the law.   

The letter of a law is the foundation of any possible intent of a law! How can there be a spirit and intent of a law which does not exist in the letter? 

Yes, keeping only the letter of the law engenders death; for we can keep the letter and still break the spirit and intent of God’s Word.

Nevertheless keeping both the law in the letter AND the spirit, gives life eternal; provided we sincerely repent of PAST law breaking and go forward to “sin [break the law in both letter and spirit] no more”.  This is evident in the resurrected Christ who kept both the letter and the spirit of the law and taught us to do likewise.

In Fact, one cannot even keep the letter of the law by one’s own strength without God’s Holy Spirit!  The history of Israel reveals that one cannot even keep the letter of the law under the Mosaic Covenant, because that Covenant contained no promise of the Holy Spirit without which it is impossible to obey God in either letter or spirit.

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 

2 Corinthians 3:7 But if the ministration of death [because there was no sacrifice for breaking the spirit of the law], written and engraven in stones [at Mount Sinai], was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away [the Mosaic Covenant was to end and a New Covenant was to come, Jeremiah 31:31]: 

3:8 How shall not the ministration of the [the spiritual New Covenant which brings life eternal] spirit be rather glorious?

The spiritual New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31, is much more glorious than the merely physical Mosaic Covenant; because the physical Mosaic Covenant ended with the death of the Husband of Israel, but the spiritual New Covenant is eternal: IF we keep it, obeying our LORD.

3:9 For if the ministration of condemnation [The Mosaic Covenant condemns us because we are not able to keep it, lacking the Spirit of God; and because there is no propitiation for breaking the spirit (intent) of the law.] be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

The Mosaic Covenant was a physical covenant with sacrifices for physical sin. Those who sinned could be reconciled to that Mosaic Covenant by the physical sacrifices, but there was no SPIRITUAL sacrifice for breaking the intent, purpose and spirit of the law.

That Mosaic Covenant which had no promise of eternal life, is surpassed by the spiritual New Covenant, that does promise and will produce eternal life for its adherents. The Mosaic Covenant was temporary; the spiritual New Covenant is eternal (Jer 31:31).

The New Covenant is a SPIRITUAL Covenant, which imparts SPIRITUAL knowledge and understanding of the purpose and intent, the spirit of the law. The New Covenant also provides an effectual sacrifice for the breaking of the intent, purpose and spirit of the law, and enables us to keep that spirit of the law, by placing a new spirit and attitude within us; the Spirit of God!

Remember, that one cannot keep the spirit of a nonexistent law: Therefore the law remains; and we are to keep all of God’s Word in BOTH the letter and the spirit of the law.

Jeremiah 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

The New Covenant is that God will write His law upon our very hearts and in our minds so that God’s law and the whole Word of God becomes our very nature. As we grow in understanding we keep the Word of God more and more perfectly in the letter and the purpose, intent and spirit, becoming holy as God is holy!

By keeping and internalizing every Word of God, we ARE internalizing Jesus Christ and God the Father, and becoming like them! For the law defines the very nature of God!

2 Corinthians 3:10 For even that which was made glorious [the Mosaic Covenant] had no glory in this respect [lacking the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life], by reason of the glory that excelleth [which is the eternal spiritual New Covenant].

3:11 For if that which is done away was glorious [Paul knew the Mosaic Covenant was ended by the death of Christ the Husband], much more that which remaineth [the eternal New Covenant] is glorious.

3:12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness [boldness to speak openly] of speech: 3:13 And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end [upon the glory of that which was to end] of that which is abolished [Paul clearly tells us that the Mosaic Covenant was abolished in his day and we know that a Marriage Covenant ends with the death of the Husband]: 3:14 But their minds [spirits] were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail [of sin] untaken away in the reading of the old testament [Mosaic Covenant]; which vail [of sin can only be removed by the application of the sacrifice of Christ] is done away in Christ.

This veil represents the sin of breaking the purpose and intent of the law; which the Mosaic Covenant had no real atonement for. The sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant could not atone for sin against the spirit of the law; they only atoned for breaking the physical Mosaic Covenant and pictured the need for a spiritual atonement by the ultimate sacrifice of our Creator and the entering in of a New Covenant through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

3:15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil [the veil of sin separating us from God and the spirit of the law; remains without the sacrifice of Christ; because the Mosaic Covenant had no effective propitiation to atone for spiritual sin] is upon their heart. 

Brethren, the Mosaic Covenant did not provide the Holy Spirit to teach us that we CANNOT keep even the physical letter of the law b y our own will and strength.  The New Covenant provides the holy Spirit to all sincerely repentant persons which Spirit enables us to live by every Word of God in both the letter and in its spirit and intent. 

  • BEWARE, those false teachers who try to claim that we must live by the letter of the law but that we need go beyond the letter to keep God’s Word in its spirit and intent. 
  • BEWARE those false teachers who say that we need only keep the spirit of the law and Word of God and we need not keep the letter of the law as well.  In teaching this they lead people away from living by the Word of God, into following their own false traditions and are true Pharisees indeed! 

James summed this up when he said:

James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? 2:5 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 2:16 and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?

2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 2:18 Yea, a man may say, You hast faith, and I have works. Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble [Yet the demons will not obey God’s Word, therefore their belief brings them nothing but the sure knowledge of their coming therefore their belief brings them nothing but the sure knowledge of their coming judgment]. 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified [by his deeds] by works when he [obeyed God] had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought [worked with] with his works and by works was faith made perfect? 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 2:25 Likewise also was not Rehab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.

What then are the works of faith?  the works of godly faith are to live by every Word of God in BOTH the letter and the spirit!  When Jesus was tempted to satisfy his hunger by turning a stone into bred, did he rationalize that stone and bread are only physical?   

NO!  He said that we must live by every Word of God

Luke 4:2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.

4:3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.

4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God

Brethren we CANNOT keep the spirit of the law without keeping the letter of the law, because the letter is the very foundation of the laws spirit and intent.  Jesus taught us this when he declared:

Matthew 15: 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

15:4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.

15:5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift [an offering], by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;  15:6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

15:7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

In saying this Jesus clearly taught that we are to keep the letter of the law in order to fulfill the spirit of the law!

We are to live by the letter and the intent and spirit of the law, in passionate enthusiastic Christ-like zeal! 

UCG has now drifted fully into the evangelical position that the law no longer matters and all that does matter is the “spirit” of the law which they define as an emotional feel good about ourselves.  They have embraces a false fake and ungodly  “love”.

True godly love is to live by every Word of God, which means keeping the letter of the law as the foundation of the spiritual intent of that law.  Without the letter of the law there can be no spirit or intent of a non existent law!

1 John 2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 2:6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 

In Don Ward’s recent letter which seems to be a response to our own recent article on “Biblical Philadelphian Love” he dares to imply that anyone zealous to keep God’s Word is Pharisaic and goes so far as to say:  

All of this [what Don considers law keeping; which in fact was not keeping the law of God but was following the traditions of men] they confused with godly judgment, mercy, faith, righteousness and character. Faith to them revolved around self-will. They could will themselves to keep the Sabbath very strictly, fast often and pay tithes. But these things can be done by any strong-willed person. But the things of the Spirit cannot be accomplished by self-will alone. 

Don is absolutely WRONG in espousing this thoroughly evangelical nonsense!  He seems to have forgotten that:  One cannot even keep the letter of the law by one’s own strength of self will!  The history of Israel reveals that one cannot even keep the letter of the law under the Mosaic Covenant, because that Covenant contained no promise of the Holy Spirit without which it is impossible to obey God in either letter or spirit.

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 

These folks start off with the assumption that the Pharisees were zealous for God’s law; and conclude that since Christ condemned the Pharisees, they think that Christ also objected to zealously living by God’s Word and law. 

The fist rule of logic:  BEWARE of a possible foundational false premise in any argument! 

The Pharisees were NOT zealous for God’s law!  They made God’s law of no effect because they were zealous for and exalted their own false traditions ABOVE the Word and law of God!  UCG has swallowed this false premise and used it as the basis to replace their  zeal for living by God’s Word with a false emotional feel good “love” and organizational loyalty. 

Don, by coming out with this, clearly reveals the direction of UCG and how far they have already fallen from God the Father and Jesus Christ. 

See our article on “Law and Grace”.

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  1. Don Ward wrote: “…Faith to them revolved around self-will. They could will themselves to keep the Sabbath very strictly, fast often and pay tithes. But these things can be done by any strong-willed person…”

    And how did Don Ward define faith? Don, in his letter, wrote: “…In simplest terms, faith can be defined as believing God and doing what He says…”

    And that definition, based upon God’s Word, is a totally wrong definition b/c faith, God’s faith, is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and has nothing to do with self-will. As James Malm pointed out, ancient Israel’s example was one of making that very point: Without God’s Spirit one can’t obey God. Period! Another point: God’s Spirit is absolutely needed if one is to obey God. Israel’s example is preserved for us to clearly see these things.

    Also, believing God cannot be done without God’s Spirit, which again makes Don Ward’s definition a false one. How does one believe:

    “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,” Ephesians 1:19

    Belief comes by God’s power (Zech 4:6) and not by anything of self.

    As James said: “…Don is absolutely WRONG in espousing this thoroughly evangelical nonsense!…”

    John

    Don Ward [along with Victor Kubik and many others now leading UCG] has always been a closet evangelical. Visit this and scroll down to the; Tkach the first decade section. https://godourlight.info/tkach-wcg-history-and-ucg-today/
    James

  2. UCG has now drifted fully into the evangelical position that the law no longer matters…

    Peter Eddington with the UCG Home Office said something very different in Cincinnati on the seventh day of Unleavened Bread. He said the law was the only way to find peace, based on Psalm 119 and I John 5.

    Some of us wondered if he’d mention the Ephesians 2 passage about Jesus becoming our peace. He did not.

    I was quoting Ward directly. If you pin Eddington down he likely meant the spirit of the law rather than the letter. This is the same kind of signals put out by these same people during the Tkach changes. On the other hand Eddington might be sincere. I am well aware that there are deep divisions in UCG just as in the other COG groups. James

  3. Mr. COG Member, you wrote Peter Eddington “…the law was the only way to find peace, based on Psalm 119 and I John 5…”

    If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Peter appears to be turning a blind eye to Galatians 5, which states:

    :22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
    :23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

    Peace comes from God as one of His many fruits……of the Spirit! One needs to receive God’s Spirit if one is to display this fruit of peace within their lives. Oh, and yes, one with God’s Spirit will love God’s law. A key is the Spirit. The key is God, who can only give that peace.

    Some examples to prove peace comes from God could be as follows:

    “Grace be to you and PEACE FROM God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,” Gal 1:3

    “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and PEACE, FROM God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Col 1:2

    “Elect according to the foreknowledge [[Romans 8:28-30]] of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” 1 Peter 1:2

    The 10 Commandments, for example, are a way of life and reflects the thinking of a loving God. There is great peace via God’s law, but God, not the law, by the power of His Spirit through His Son Jesus Christ (I Cor 8:6) is the source of true Godly peace.

    If it were true that “the law was the only way to find peace,” then where would God, or His Spirit and the fruits of that Spirit, be in that way of thinking?

    John

    God’s Holy Spirit leads people to live by every Word of God in BOTH the letter and the spirit and intent of God’s Word.

    If we sincerely repent of all past departures from living by God’s Word and we make a baptismal commitment to STOP sinning and to live by every Word of God in BOTH the letter and the spirit of the law in future: We are then reconciled and therefore at peace with God the Father through the application of the sacrifice of Christ.

    We can then be empowered with God’s Holy Spirit which enable us to keep God’s law

    Keeping the law in future does NOT bring us peace with God. To be at peace with God, all past sin must first be sincerely repented of and atoned for by the sacrifice of Christ; It is then that we are reconciled to God and enter a state of peace with God.

    From that point on, if we are faithful; God’s Holy Spirit enables us to keep the law and to live by every Word of God in BOTH the letter and spirit of the law, thereby maintaining our state of peace with God the Father.

    This summer I will be doing a full book tentatively titled “God’s Plan of Salvation: The Way to Peace and Eternal Life” which will cover this subject in depth. Also in the works is a review and update of the Epistles and the Sabbath and Festivals material. I regard this material [Epistles, Salvation, the Sabbath and Festivals] as so very important that I may delay the Minor Prophets to do these studies right after the Jeremiah study.
    James

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