Digging in Deeper: 2 Corinthians 3:17

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

Two points here.  The first is that you won’t find a more direct connection between the Father and the Spirit than this.  While the connection between the Father and the Son is fairly easy to make in the Scriptures, for the sake of the Trinity, it is more difficult sometimes to connect the Spirit as the third person.  What Paul says here makes it pretty plain.  The Lord is the Spirit.  There you have it.

The second thing that caught my eye here is this idea that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.  What does this mean?  Well, what is freedom?  I would define freedom as the non-coerced ability to make choices that have both meaning and consequence.  If you could have chosen something else and the choice you ultimately make has real weight to it, then you made a free choice.

Both of those criteria are necessary.  Some folks would leave off the second part.  Simply being able to choose other than what you did, though, does not mean a choice was truly free.  Many times with my boys, when I want them to do something but want to give them the illusion of being able to participate in the decision-making process, I will give them the choice between two different ways of doing it.  Their choice doesn’t have any real consequence, though, because they are ultimately going to do what I want.  They’re only choosing how, not what.  They could have chosen other than what they did, but only within the limits I set for them.  This wasn’t really a free choice.

Paul’s argument is that real freedom comes part and parcel with the presence of the Spirit of the Lord.  Here’s why.  God’s Spirit is present in the lives of those who belong to Him.  When we have committed ourselves to Christ and the Spirit has filled our hearts He gradually transforms us more and more into the image of Christ.  A part of this is the transformation of our desires.  He changes them as He changes our hearts to be more in line with the things God Himself desires.

As our sinful nature is washed away in His cleansing flood, we come to want the things God wants on our own.  In this place, we have a freedom that doesn’t exist anywhere else.  We are able to choose what we want without restriction of any kind and each choice is invested with the meaning and significance of moving us in the direction of Jesus.  Freedom.

Now, some might allege that this situation is akin to what I described for my kids.  We are only choosing within the limits of what God wants us to do and so the choices aren’t really free.  But, this argument falls apart when we remember that our desires have been transformed by the Spirit such that we aren’t merely choosing among several options God wants us to have whether we want them or not, but rather are genuinely choosing what we want.  The fact is, because God never forces Himself, we could choose to do other than what He wants.  There would be consequences for that, but we could make it.  But we don’t because we genuinely don’t want that.

Without the Spirit, though, this is not the case.  The freedom we seem to have is only an illusion.  When our sinful nature is in control, we can’t choose righteousness.  We might be able to do a good thing or two, but consistent righteousness will always be beyond us.  We can only sin.  We can choose among a number of different sinful options, but that’s it.  This is not freedom.  This is instead the kind of pseudo freedom I give my boys.  Freedom only exists when the Spirit of the Lord is present.  If we want to be truly free, we will only find it with Him.

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