All of us have been in bondage to sin, to brokenness, to addictions, and the like. All are things that threaten to destroy our bodies, lives, and relationships. We struggle, even as believers, to live fully holy and pure lives. If you know the weight of bondage, of what it’s like to be held down by chains, then this idea of freedom in the Spirit of the Lord may seem either incredibly enticing or downright unimaginable.

Let’s take a look at this familiar phrase. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say it, or learned it in a song; it’s actually found in God’s word.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

What seems impossible to us is always possible with God. If freedom seems unattainable, then surely, with God it is not only possible, but accessible! As we take a deeper look at what this verse conveys, we come to learn that freedom in the Spirit means we are no longer held to unrealistic expectations in the laws of the old covenant, that we are free under the new covenant ushered in by Jesus, and that each of our individual lives are deeply impacted by freedom found in the Spirit of the Lord.

What Does This Verse Mean?

We have freedom in the Spirit because Jesus came and paid the debt. The wages of sin is death, but Jesus died and rose from the grave. Thus, he conquered sin and death and made salvation possible to all humankind. No longer was connection to God formed by being Jewish, converting to Judaism, and following the laws of the old covenant. The old covenant essentially led to death. It was impossible for any person, even the Israelites who were God’s chosen people, to live fully according to the old covenant. But God had a plan – a beautiful plan of redemption for his beloved children. He would send the Messiah to save the world.

When Jesus entered humanity as God incarnate, everything changed. A new covenant between God and humanity was established. When Jesus ascended to heaven, the Spirit came, and with the Spirit we have freedom. When the Spirit lives in us as believers, we are free. We are free to believe, accept the gift of salvation, and live our days as devoted followers of Christ, made holy and acceptable in the sight of God.

What Is Happening in 2 Corinthians 3?

The church of Corinth which was made up of Gentiles and some Jews. Paul founded this church during one of the missionary journeys he took after his conversion. The Corinthians had a reputation as an immoral people group. Surely, Paul faced an uphill battle sharing the Gospel to these people. The epistles Paul wrote to this church were indicative of the troubles they had and the struggles they faced to turn from their sinful ways and follow Jesus.

In this particular section of the second letter to the church of Corinth, Paul contrasted the old covenant given through Moses to the Israelites, and the new covenant which came through turning one’s heart to Jesus. Paul asserted the primacy of the new covenant. He addressed the old covenant and insisted that unless one turns to the Lord, they have a veil covering their hearts and their minds are made dull, not able to fully understand God’s glory.

Paul drew the connection that the Spirit of the Lord removes that veil, freeing us, and allows believers who have turned to Jesus to understand and be part of the new covenant. Therefore, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there we find freedom from the veil and freedom from the old covenant that leads only to death. Paul made it clear that believers in Jesus were no longer bound to the yoke of the old covenant. We are free through the Spirit of the Lord.

What Is the Spirit of the Lord?

When Jesus rose from the grave and ascended into heaven, the Father sent the Spirit. Jesus spoke of the coming helper, the Holy Spirit, during his earthly ministry (see: John 14:16-18).

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).

The Spirit made a grandiose entrance, barely describable with words. We can only imagine what that moment must have been like for the followers of Jesus to encounter the Holy Spirit for the first time!

The Spirit of the Lord was sent to be with us, to remind us of God’s truth, and through the Spirit we all have been equipped with gifts. The Spirit dwells in believers, just as Christ does. The Spirit of the Lord is our helper, is present with us, and ministers to us and through us. It is the Spirit that empowers us to freely pursue righteousness and a personal relationship with Jesus.

What Kind of Freedom Do We Have in Christ?

The freedom we have in Christ is profound. It’s life-changing, life-giving, and life-altering. There is nothing that compares to the freedom we have in Christ. Perhaps you live in a free country, or work for an employer that respects your autonomy, or you are single, free to make decisions as you please without consulting anyone else. We feel free under circumstances such as these. But truly, they pale in comparison to the freedom found in Christ Jesus.

Christ offers freedom from sin, destruction, and death, freedom from bondages and sinful strongholds. We are free to love, and be kind, and at peace with others. We are free from internal struggles and burdens because we get to lay it all at the feet of Jesus. We are free to bear the fruit of the Spirit. We are free to share the Gospel. We are in debt to no one because Jesus paid it all on the cross.

We can embrace this freedom by entering into a close relationship with God. We live in freedom by walking in spirit and truth. We attain this freedom by surrendering our lives to God’s righteous and good ways. When we turn our hearts to Christ Jesus, we have freedom from the old covenant that leads to death. The new covenant ushered in through Jesus frees believers from the burden of the Mosaic law (See Acts 15:10). In Christ, we have been set free and given eternal life through salvation in him.

The next time you hear this phrase, or perhaps read it for yourself in the Bible, may you be reminded of the power of the Spirit and that you have been set free by God. This verse doesn’t just sound good, it’s a promise – a promise we can stand on, and believe in, and trust. It’s a promise to us believers that we have been freed from death, and can live our lives now for Jesus, anticipating an eternity with the Lord.