There is some heavy theology in this chapter, but a theology that is necessary for us to understand to see how we have been given a new life in Jesus through a new covenant that he established. Paul begins this chapter by establishing himself once again as the one who knows the people of the Corinthian church and loves them and is their pastor. He already begins in vs.3 speaking of how Christ is present in them not as the law was present in the past, but rather in Spirit. He calls it written upon their hearts, as opposed to being written on stone tablets. We need to remember this as we move along in this chapter. But just keep in mind what prophet Ezekiel had stated some centuries before. If you look at Ezekiel 11:19 and then again 36:26 you hear the prophet foretelling the day that the new covenant will be written upon the people and provide them with hearts of flesh as opposed to hearts of stone. Keep in mind that this is the new covenant to which he is referring. Let’s talk about that new covenant.
The premise of the new covenant that we have with Jesus is that this covenant is one of Spirit, and not of law. We have spoken often about those who would want us to be believers in Jesus Christ so we can follow a set of rules. We have talked about that in the past. Paul is saying here that we are disciples of Jesus Christ not to take on more rules, not to replace the law of Moses with another written law that we have to follow, but rather we are given through Christ a covenant, or an agreement, that is of the Spirit. There are those who follow the letter of the law and those who are called to follow the Spirit of the law. We are called to follow the Spirit. Now, that can be a bit disconcerting because some of us need things spelled out and if we don’t have parameters then we become lost and unable to make decisions on our own. At times we want people to tell us what we ought to think. That is not our style and that is certainly not my calling as a pastor. I feel much more comfortable presenting what the Scripture lays out before us and then provide that background so that you can decide where the Spirit leads you, as opposed to saying you have to believe this way or else you have no part of us.
Starting in vs.7 Paul begins to explain what is this new covenant. So, just to lay it out plainly, a covenant is an agreement between two parties. The covenant that God has made with us is a unconditional covenant, which means that God has set no conditions upon the agreement that he has made with us. The agreement is one sided, He has given us a new life in Jesus, and we are to…, well, he has given us a new life in Jesus. We are not to do anything. How does that make sense? It makes perfect sense. We are not required to do anything to make that covenant applicable to us. It’s not what we are used to. The old covenant, the one written on stone by God and given to Moses, required us to respond and to sacrifice, and to act in a way that God wanted us to act. Not so with the covenant that was finalized on the cross and the empty tomb. As a result of this covenant we have a freedom that is unparalleled that has never been experienced before. He speaks about the hardening of the minds of those who followed the old covenant, that even to this day (the 1st century but it also holds true today in the 21st century) those who worship the old covenant would read the Torah with a veil covering their head.
Vs. 16 tells us that when we turn to the Lord, when we turn to Jesus, then we have freedom. Remember my favorite verse of John 8:32? Look it up and you will see the freedom that we have in Jesus. This is so important to me, that we understand the freedom that we have and that we love Jesus not out of fear or guilt, but out of a response of thanksgiving. When you are asking what exactly the Holy Spirit is, we can respond that it is God giving us a free love where the opportunities are boundless. Praise be to God!