One of the great contrasts we find in the writings of St Paul is the difference between living under the Law and living under the Spirit. How should we understand these thoughts of Paul?

One of the temptations that we face as human beings as a result of sin in our lives is the tendency to want to put things in clear and concise categories when it comes to the moral law. This is all very well if we want to know where we stand on issue and if we are prepared to only deal with any given issue in a simplistic manner. Paul never says that the Law as such is wrong or dead and gone. The distinction that tries to make is between living our lives under a legalistic sense of the Law and living according to the Spirit of God’s guidance as to how to apply the Law of God in our lives.

God gave the Law to us through Moses and it has constantly been interpreted and applied in the more than three millennia since! However, if our interpretation and application is based only upon our human comprehension of the Law apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then we are most likely to drift into a legalistic and very limited interpretation of how we should live as Christians. As we all know, Jesus gave His own personal ‘twist’ to matters of the Law during His ministry and it is this sort of understanding that we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us to discover.

The covenant initiated by Jesus replaces the old one and it is this understanding of the gift of the Holy Spirit that is one of the great innovations of Jesus. Yes, the Holy Spirit was active in the Old Testament; however, through Christ we now have a share in the life of the Holy Spirit that was only ever dreamt about before the ministry of Jesus.

If Christians are going to live their faith to the full and if they are going to have the impact upon society that we should, it will be necessary for us to live this new life of the Spirit in the fullest way possible. Not only will it save us from a very narrow and distorted understanding of the Law, it will free and empower us to be witnesses to the truth in new and exciting ways. Paul’s own life is a testimony to this fact.

How do I approach questions regarding the Law? Do I tend to be legalistic or guided by the Holy Spirit when I try to understand and apply God’s Law to my life?

Holy Spirit, come into my life in a new way so that I will be able to know how to live according to the mind and will of God. May I always have the humility to look for guidance in matters beyond my own understanding.