To answer this question correctly is to understand the nature of the New Covenant under Christ as its Head.
Apostle Paul was once a Pharisee who taught the law. He knew everything there was to know about God and he persecuted the church (and Jesus), but after he had an encounter with the living Christ he wrote,
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. (1Co 2:7-9 KJ2000)
The wisdom of the New Covenant is hidden from those who are of the world and its way of thinking. But it is given to those who love God. Love is the key. Not love of religion, one’s denomination or even a love for the Bible, but His wisdom is given to those who truly love God! These other things can be good, but the worst enemy of the best is not evil, but what is merely “good” for they make us settle for a near miss. Many want to be seen as those who love God, but few are willing to pay the price for what it means to be a follower of His only Begotten Son whom God sent. We would much rather follow the world’s princes and leaders… kings, presidents, heads of denominations, popes, generals, etc., the very ones who lead us away from Christ and to themselves (see Acts 20: 29-31).
In the world there is a saying, “Rex Lex,” The law is king. The letter of the law must be observed! “To hell with mercy. Enforce the law!” they say. The Jews lived by this mindset. As I read the Bible, it seems that they spent their whole day searching for someone that broke their law so they could kill them. There is in Christendom a form of legalism that clings to the letter of the law, the Bible as well. The people of this mindset are loyal to God and hate everyone that is not as “loyal” as they are. Just as it was with the scribes and Pharisees of 2000 years ago, it is all about power and control to this day among the self-righteous religionists. But is this what Jesus, the Son of God, came to portray to all men regarding His Father? I think not.
Let’s look at a comparison of the letter of the law to the Spirit of Christ.
The letter of the Old Covenant says, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But Jesus came saying,
“But I say unto you, That you resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. And whosoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two. Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you turn not away.” (Mat 5:39-42 KJ2000)
The letter of the Jews’ law says, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” But Jesus said,
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love them who love you, what reward have you? do not even the tax collectors the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others? do not even the tax collectors so? Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” (Mat 5:44-48 KJV2000)
The letter said that a woman caught in adultery should be stoned. But Jesus when confronted by the Jews over an adulterous woman said,
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they who heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing before him. When Jesus had lifted himself up, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, “Woman, where are those your accusers? has no man condemned you?” She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, “Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.” (Joh 8:7-11 KJV2000)
The law kills, but Jesus gave life and came that we might have life more abundantly (see 2 Cor. 3:6).
The letter of the law said that Jews were not to talk to Samaritans, especially their women! But Jesus spoke words to an adulterous Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well that no legalistic Jew ever heard – words of healing and words of life…
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that said to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said unto him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from where then have you that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his sons, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, “Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said unto him, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come here to draw.” …The woman said unto him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said unto her, “Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (Joh 4:10-24 KJV2000)
He spoke to her of her need of the Spirit to dwell within who would become an artesian force of life flowing out of her. There was not a single word of condemnation, though He could see her whole life clearly. In this conversation Jesus also went up against the law of the Jews by saying that their temple was no longer needed to worship God, but that REAL worshipers of God do so in the Spirit out of lives lived in the Truth. Tell that one to your pastor or priest and see how far it will get you!
The letter of the law said that hands had to be washed before one could eat, yet the disciples who were with Jesus ate with unwashed hands. The self-righteous Jews were all about looking good on the outside and being seen of men as they did their religious duties, but Jesus taught that God looks not on the outward, but rather on the heart from where comes the real issues and motivations of our lives (read Matt. ch. 23). What an ugly sight that must be!
The Jews’ law said that it was okay to circumcise a man on the Sabbath, but they sought to kill Jesus because he healed a lame man on the Sabbath and made him whole. Does anyone see the irony in this? It is okay under the law to maim but not to heal? It is okay to loose one’s donkey or ox on the Sabbath and take them to water, but it is a sin to loose a woman of the demon that possessed her? To these hypocrites Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Mat 12:6-8 KJ2000 – emphasis added).
If Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, then it was impossible for Him to break the Sabbath. And the Lord of the Sabbath said, “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man.” It was meant to be day of rest, not a day of condemnation and judgment.
We Need a New Mind!
Why is everything so twisted up in the religious minds of men? Jesus came to set all men free and religion comes to bind them up again! It is simple. The carnal mind is enmity against God and the religious mind is carnal. Paul wrote,
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:6-8 KJ2000)
Jesus made it clear that we have to be born of the Spirit or we will never understand God (see John ch. 3), in fact we will end up being His enemies! Paul went on to say,
But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Rom 8:9-10 KJ2000)
Everybody wants to go to heaven, but few want to die that they might truly live. The Spirit of Christ must be in us if we are true Christians. That which is born of the flesh only is only flesh! But that which is born from above of the Spirit of God is spirit. Sorry all you who pursue Bible teaching with the power of your intellects only, you are out of luck. Is it any wonder that the first Christian seminary was not built until well into the fourth century when the church had already fallen under Roman control?
The mind when used properly is a good thing, but it has to be submitted to God and tuned to the Holy Spirit and not just used for intellectual pursuits or the Truth will never be fully apprehended by it. But we have an alternative to our carnal minds with which to explore and respond to God. Paul wrote,
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phi 2:5 KJ2000).
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1Co 2:12-16 KJ2000).
Peter wrote the same saying, “Since therefore Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (1Pe 4:1-2 KJ2000). The real battle is to LET this mind be in us, the mind of Christ, that we might fully comprehend the kingdom of God and His Son with the help of the Spirit who is our Teacher (See 1 John 2:26-27). The letter of the Bible is not enough. Without the Spirit of God we are blind to the things of God and will use them to do damage to others just as the Jews used them to justify the murder of Christ. Because they did not know the day of their visitation from God, their house has been left to them desolate. The temple is no more, but God still has His true worshipers and they worship and live IN the Spirit and IN the Truth, even Jesus Christ.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent unto you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, you shall not see me again, till you shall say, Blessed is he who comes IN the name of the Lord. (Mat 23:37-39 KJ2000 – emphasis added)