17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
There are two effects of the New Covenant on the Christian:
-it gives him or her liberty (3:17)
-it produces ever-increasing likeness to Christ (3:18)
Verse 17 also draws an implication from 2 Corinthians 3:6, 8 where it states that the New Covenant proceeds from the Spirit as life-giving. It is more glorious than the Old Covenant.
17 Now the Lord [Christ] is the Spirit;
Paul now explains the use of the word “Lord” in the previous verse. The Holy Spirit is God because this passage calls Him “Lord” (Ac 5:3-4). The Spirit is the personal negotiator for Christ (Ro 8:9). They are one in purpose (Jn 15:26; 16:6-15).
As Christ and the Father are one (Jn 10:30), so the Holy Spirit and Jesus are one. They are one in essence but different in person. To say that the “Lord” or Christ is the Spirit is not to confound persons of the Trinity. We should not identify Christ with the Spirit in that sense. The idea is that the Lord and the Spirit are one in the same notion that Christ and the Father are one in essence (Jn 10:30).
The influence of the Spirit is universal in its effect. Christ transforms lives because the Spirit shows everyone who He is (Jn 16:14). We cannot separate the ministries of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals Christ and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (Ga 5:18).
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit removes the veil of a hard heart and brings freedom in Christ (Ro 7:6). “Liberty” here is opposed to the Law. To pursue salvation or sanctification through the Law is to put oneself in bondage (Ro 6:6-22; Ga 2:4). Christ sets the Christian free from sin and guilt.
Freedom removes any barrier that would prohibit a walk with God. The Spirit frees the believer from sin (Ro 7:6), fear (Ro 8:5), and the Law (Ga 5:1-5, 18).
Under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit is the operative power giving the believer freedom to live the Christian life.
Christ reconciled the world to Himself bringing spiritual liberty before God (2 Co 3:17; Ga 5:1). When the Law reigns in one’s life, there is bondage. When the Spirit is in control, there is freedom. The Spirit bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God (Ro 8:15-16). Our Lord met all the demands of the Law; He fulfilled it on our behalf (Ro 8:3-4). There is no condemnation of the sinner either (Ro 8:1). Such liberty engenders boldness to walk with God.
The Spirit brings freedom from sin and death. The Law brings slavery (Ga 4:24-31). Christians are free because Christ redeemed us from the penalty of the Law (Ga 4:5-7). We are free from the Law (Ro 7:1-6). Christ’s work liberates the Christian (Jn 8:36). He is the only one who can give spiritual freedom.
This does not mean that the Christian is free from God’s standards for living or righteousness. Biblical freedom does not make the Christian autonomous from God. True freedom is from the power of sin, enabling the believer to live the way he or she should (Ro 7:6).
To turn to Christ from the Law is to turn from a code that spiritually enslaves a person by precepts and rituals. The Spirit gives liberty to live by a new power. Instead of hiding the glory of God as Moses did, the Spirit transforms our character inwardly by His indwelling presence. This is life by an inner power rather than an external code. The Law was temporary and faded with the coming of the Holy Spirit. The glory of Christ superseded the Law.
The Law places strictures on conduct by a set of rules where the Holy Spirit transforms life from within, by convictions, desires, and affections. This is a change from legalism to supernatural spirituality. It enables the Christian to do what the Law requires.
The Law can never save a sinner nor sanctify a saint. Christians who live under the Law have put themselves in a religious straight jacket. However, God’s unconditional promise of a grace-oriented life eliminates the conditional promises of the Law. The idea of the Law was if you meet the condition under its demands, you are blessed. If you do not, then you are cursed. The Law is not the standard for living under grace.