Longing for the Divine

Not Like Oil and Vinegar

As the Bible presents the law of God, it sounds very heavy and authoritarian. I have seen churches and people trying to conform to this law but instead showing heartless legalism. There is too much of that. Others have replaced the law with the spirit—separating the two, treating them like oil and vinegar. Such people consider the spirit spontaneous and free from the constraints of religion and consider the law structured, legalistic, and stifling, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Law and spirit, can they go together? Some try hard to hold the oil of the spirit and the vinegar of the law together, but our poor sense of the law often perverts our understanding of it. The true essence of God’s law is love (Romans 13:10). The Bible indicates that the law is to be written on the heart. “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10).

God gave the law for life, but when we emphasize its stony commands, we make the law demanding, rigid, sterile, cold, and devoid of life. The law has no meaning when its spirit is lost. The law and spirit must go together. The two meet in the person of Jesus to become “the law of the spirit of life” (Romans 8:2). The spirit of God’s character of love living within us helps us figure out how to obey.

The law alone cannot bring about the life of the spirit. The law and spirit work together. The law defines God’s ways of life and what love looks like, and the spirit writes the law on the heart (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26). The spirit pours God’s love into our hearts as a empowered transformation (Romans 5:5).

I believe we should pursue the good and follow the inner urging of the spirit. There is no contradiction between the law and the spirit, only between our flesh and the spirit (Galatians 5:16-17). I do not want to merely perform the law but be transformed by the spirit. The essence of the law is Christlike love, and God promises to give us the very thing He commands.

Craig Ashton Jr.

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