Have you ever read scripture and been caught by a crippling wave of guilt, shame and fear? Have you sat with your Bible open in front of you and thought, “Well, if this is the case, I might as well pack it in right now, because there’s no hope for me!” Have you ever been attacked by doubts as to whether the Good News you have staked your eternity on is really true after encountering a particularly convicting passage? If so, you’re not alone!
Because Law is the default voice we humans naturally and initially hear in every situation, it is important to understand that this applies as much to our reading of Scripture as anything else. If we recognize that our instinctive interpretation will always be from the perspective of Law this will enable us to take a step back when we feel that crippling wave wash over us, and to remember that the guilt, shame and fear we are experiencing is our reaction to hearing the voice of the unmet expectations of the Law.
In that moment what we fear is that there is no answering voice, and that we stand exposed and justly condemned. The fact is that we do stand exposed and justly condemned. But, thankfully, there is an answering voice: the voice of the Gospel. It is a voice which is not intuitive. It is, in fact, a voice which is alien. It is a voice which does not come to us through our own reason or effort. The voice of the Gospel is a gift of grace by which the Holy Spirit first draws us to, and then confirms us in, faith in the all-sufficiency of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, on our behalf.
Without that gift we stand condemned and silent before the unmet expectations of the law. With that gift we receive hope, absolution and freedom.
In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul speaks of this phenomenon. He describes the believers as “a letter from Christ…, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (Verse 3) He goes on to say that, through the sufficiency of God alone, they are ministers of a new covenant, “not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (Verse 6)
These verses are contrasting the Law (tablets of stone; letter that kills) with the Gospel (Spirit). The Law, by ministering condemnation, kills; but the Spirit, by ministering the Gospel, gives life.
In verses 7 and 8 Paul says, “If the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone [Law], came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit [Gospel] have even more glory?”
And then Paul reminds us that Moses had to put a veil over his face to hide the glory which accompanied the Law; a glory which was coming to an end. And he tells us that veil is representative of the veil which remains over the minds of those who do not have the Spirit. “For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.” (Verse 14). And again in verse 16 he says, “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” A truth which will point away from our unworthiness to the worthiness of Christ
The battle waged daily against those whose hope is in Christ, is to cover our minds again with the veil, associated with the Law, in an attempt to rob us of that hope; telling us that the Law has the final word, that there is no answering voice. We can respond to the attack by recognizing that strategy for what it is, and calling out for the Spirit’s help to keep us from succumbing to doubt as he tunes our ears to hear his voice and testifies to us once more of all that is ours in Christ.
We can be assured that in every scripture, which on the surface sends that wave of doubt crashing over us, there is a deeper truth waiting to be revealed by the Spirit; a truth which will point away from our unworthiness to the worthiness of Christ and will set us free; free from guilt, shame and fear; free to have a confident hope. As Paul says in verse 17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”