Objection 5. '...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious...For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.' 2 Cor 3:6-7, 11. Here the apostle shows the difference between the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament is the letter and ministration of death, and has been done away with. How do those, therefore, who live by the spirit have anything to do with ministration of death, with the letter, and with that which has been done away with?
Answer: The apostle does not make a distinction here between the old and new Testament, for also on the old Testament holy spirit regenerate at the elect, and there was a ministry of the spirit, which was the gospel. They also had a large inscribed upon the fleshy tables of the heart, apart from which they would never have been regenerated nor partakers of sanctification (cf Psalm 116).
Rather, the apostle makes a distinction between the law (both moral and ceremonial) in an external sense as having been written with letters and administered externally, and the internal spiritual disposition and motions of the heart in faith, hope, and love. He maintains that the entire external service, unless imbued by the Spirit, is but a dead letter which killed those who went no further that the external and physical activity and were satisfied with this.
This was true then, and is also true today, for what does the sound of the words of the gospel, holy baptism, and the Lord's Supper themselves avail if the Spirit does not operate by means of them? Are they then not also a dead and killing letter? Over against the external ministration as such, the apostle places the ministration imbued by the Spirit and made efficacious by Him. This also occurred in the Old Testament where the Spirit, be it more infrequently, also was active in granting illumination and conversion, causing sinners to embrace Christ (the soul of the ministry of shadows) by faith. This ministration of shadows has been done away with the coming of Christ. Neither here or elsewhere is this stated concerning the moral law as a rule of life. It remains in force and the Spirit still writes it upon the heart and understanding of the elect.
Objection 6: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor 3:17). We are therefore under no obligation to the law whatsoever, for if one were still under obligation to the law, he would still be subject to the yoke of bondage. Then his activity will still be of a forced and compulsory nature. One is now free, however, and everything is performed out of love.
The Spirit was also present in the Old Testament, and thus there was also liberty at that time. Liberty is therefore not a privilege of the New Testament.
Freedom is not Belial, that is, to be without a yoke, for then you would be free from the law of Christ; and freedom would mean to live according to your own wishes and to be left to fend for yourself. Instead, freedom here means to be free from the covenant of works, the curse, the condemning power of the law, and a state of slavery. In such a condition they once were, and all still are, who are without the spirit. To have liberty is to be free from the ceremonial law. To do something out of love and at the same time according to the law is not contradictory. The yoke of Christ is light and his burden is delightful, because the believer greatly desires it. They love the law which demands love, and it is therefore their meditation all the day. The law is a law of liberty; it is freedom to live according to the law.