Letter Of The Law vs. Spirit
(Posted on November 4, 2014 by David McMillin)
[NOTE: While serving as mentor for an online version of "A Search For God" study group and working on the Spirit lesson, a group member asked me to expound on the reading excerpt "For, indeed the letter killeth, – the spirit maketh alive." (262-124) Here is my reply. – David McMillin]
That's a great question. Obviously, Cayce liked to quote or paraphrase scripture and this particular excerpt is associated with:
“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)
You can find many different interpretations of this verse by searching online, such as this:
“Legalism is one of the most insidious, and deadliest, dangers which Christians face…. The 'letter,' of course, is the law. What law? The Law of Moses, certainly; but the application can and should be wider, to encompass any law devised by man or another religion. Basing one’s faith upon adhering to any set of laws or rules will inevitably lead to spiritual death. The letter kills! … 'But the spirit giveth life.' This new life is manifested by love. God is love.”
Many varied, conservative interpretations may be found that remind us that the letter of the law condemns us to death and an eternity in hell fire, but the spirit of God through the grace afforded by Jesus gives us the opportunity for eternal life (i.e., the law of karma versus the spirit of grace).
Personally, I prefer to reflect on the life of Jesus, when he consistently manifested the Spirit of love rather than obeying the letter of the law which the Scribes and Pharisees endorsed. You will recall that they tried to trip him up for not adhering to the letter of the law (e.g., doing good works on the Sabbath, ministering to the unclean, etc.). Jesus endorsed the LAW OF LOVE (Love God, love others, love self). It was just the man-made additions to God's laws (letter of the law) that blocked Spirit that he resisted.
The legalistic aspect of the verse carries over even into modern times where a lawyer may appeal to what a law means (its spirit) rather than the specific details or technicalities that can undermine its real intent or meaning when put into practice (i.e., legalism).
And of course, we can look around in the religious practices in the world today and see some pretty extreme examples of legalism at the expense of spirituality.
Reading 281-27 given for the Glad Helpers healing group, taps into this meaning of the verse in a way that encouraged the healers to be flexible and amenable to Spirit (rather than following a rigid protocol or set of beliefs).
Interestingly, the quote cited in reading 262-124 comes from a review of the Spirit lesson draft which was submitted for comment. The entranced Cayce encouraged “brevity” so that the Spirit of the lesson comes through (rather than a lengthy treatise “with too many words without too much meaning”). Ouch!
In other readings for this lesson there is repeated requests for more application rather than just empty words and ideas not grounded in experience. Otherwise seekers may spend too much time debating the meaning of the text without putting it into practice and EXPERIENCING its meaning. The recommendation was to make the text focused and inspiring so as to arouse or stimulate the desire to seek knowledge and a relationship with Creative Forces. Thus the book text is a beginning and not a totality or end point to be regarded in a legalistic or rigid way as the final word.
With this in mind, I leave you to pursue this question further on your own, as you wish. Blessings, Dave