The Letter Kills, But The Spirit Gives Life | 2 Corinthians 3:6

the letter kills the spirit gives life
October 25, 2021

The Letter Kills, But The Spirit Gives Life | 2 Corinthians 3:6

The Letter kills but the spirit gives life


The sermon delivered by Pastor Eric on October 24, 2021 is one of the most important sermons he has ever preached, not because of the way it was delivered, but because of its content.

Read 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

As stated in the above passage, the Corinthian believers were the apostle Paul’s letter of recommendation, for he had seen the fruit of his ministry in them. He explained to these believers that they were the letter written by Christ, not on stone tablets but on their hearts, not with ink but with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Read 2 Corinthians 3:7

We learn from this verse that there are two covenants between the Lord and His people: one which leads to death and one which leads to life. The New Covenant introduced a new way of approaching the Lord and is the only way to enter heaven.


The apostle Paul states in verse 5 that God empowers his servants to be ministers of the New Covenant. Having a deep understanding of the Old Covenant Law, Paul proclaimed that the Lord had provided him with the skills necessary to serve as a minister under the New Covenant. This is also true for each of us. Although we may not be preachers, apostles, pastors, or prophets, we can allow the Lord to empower us to become who He desires us to be. As Christians, we are to pray that God instructs, equips, and uses us in a way that is honouring to Him. He will provide the capabilities necessary for us to achieve the impossible.

Paul served as minister of both covenants: the old and the new. Upon telling the Corinthians that they were to follow the New Covenant, some of them began to reject his leadership. They elevated the status of wealthy preachers and rebelled against him. The apostle shed tears as he strived to bring repentance and reconciliation to the lost through his letters. In his writings, Paul stated that the Old Covenant was temporary and Christ had not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill it.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to focus more on the Saviour than the messenger or the way in which the message was conveyed. He reminded them that their competence was a gift from God. James 1:17 echoes this very well. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” 

The Lord has equipped us to serve as ministers of the New Covenant as well. We are no longer under the Old Covenant since Jesus died on the cross for our sins. To follow the Old Testament Law for salvation leads to death.

Read Exodus 32:25-28

After his descent from the mountain, Moses was shocked and enraged to see the people worshiping a golden calf. He smashed the tablets and ordered the golden idol to be destroyed. Moses confronted them about their immorality and idolatry, but many of them refused to repent. He, therefore, invited those who wished to follow the Lord to gather around him and instructed them to destroy those who continued to sin. As a result, 3,000 men perished.

Read Matthew 5:17 and James 2:10

As demonstrated by the Law, we are unable to live up to God’s perfect standard on our own. Those who follow the Law in order to be justified by God must not break a single commandment throughout their lives; otherwise, they will be guilty of breaking them all.


Read Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23

All of us violate the Law, and all of us are guilty of sin, which is punishable by death. The standard set by God is unattainable for any of us.

Read Romans 7:10 and Romans 3:20

Since it reminds us of our sins, the Letter keeps us in a constant state of guilt, condemnation, and shame. As a result, we come to understand that we cannot be righteous simply by obeying the Law. Nevertheless, Paul says we should remain hopeful because the Spirit gives life.


Someone once said, “God saves us from death and grants us eternal life when we are born again through the power of the Holy Spirit.” It was through the death of Jesus on the cross that the Law was fulfilled. Consequently, we can now enter into a new covenant known as the Covenant of Grace.

Read Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Luke 22:20

Since we are under the New Covenant, the forgiveness of sin no longer requires animal sacrifices. The final sacrifice was made by Jesus – the Lamb of God when He shed His blood for you and I on the cross.

Are you striving to obtain salvation by following the Law? Are you seeking to become a good Christian through the observance of the Ten Commandments? If so, you are on the wrong path. You cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven by simply obeying the Law. Christ’s sacrifice for us provides the means by which we may enter into heaven. The Old Covenant was temporary, whereas the New Covenant is permanent. As opposed to the Old Covenant which was written on stone tablets, the New Covenant is written on our hearts and sealed with His blood.

Read John 3:3-8

In this passage, Jesus explains to Nicodemus how to be born again. In the Old Testament, when a person violated the Law, he or she was required to sacrifice an animal as a form of atonement. This is not the case anymore as the Holy Spirit now indwells every believer forever. As Christians, we walk in righteousness, not to be saved, but because we are saved.

Read Ephesians 1:13 and Galatians 5:22:23

If we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, abundant fruit will be produced in our lives. As opposed to the Old Covenant, which has ceased to be relevant, the New Covenant is eternal and far more glorious.

Read Acts 2:41

According to this verse, 3,000 people repented of their sins and surrendered their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. What a stark contrast it is from the 3,000 men who lost their lives for rebelling against God.

John Piper once said to future pastors:

Don’t turn Christianity into a mere list of rules, whether it’s the Ten Commandments or any other list. Because without the work of the Holy Spirit, commandments and rules kill. That is the meek self-sufficient heart. It produces either self-exalting rebellion by rejecting the rules or self-satisfying self-achievements by keeping the rules. In either case, death. The Letter kills and the Spirit gives life.

Christians are called to ministry. Is your ministry one of death or one of life?

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