2-Corinthians - 3:17

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Verse In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of 2-Corinthians 3:17.

Differing Translations

Compare verses for better understanding.
Now by "the Lord" is meant the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, freedom is enjoyed.
Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there the heart is free.
Now the Spirit is Lord. And wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
And the Lord is the Spirit, and, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

The Lord is the Spirit. This passage, also, has been misinterpreted, as if Paul had meant to say, that Christ is of a spiritual essence, for they connect it with that statement in John 4:24, God is a Spirit. The statement before us, however, has nothing to do with Christ's essence, but simply points out his office, for it is connected with what goes before, where we found it stated, that the doctrine of the law is literal, and not merely dead, but even an occasion of death. He now, on the other hand, calls Christ its spirit, [1] meaning by this, that it will be living and life-giving, only if it is breathed into by Christ. Let the soul be connected with the body, and then there is a living man, endowed with intelligence and perception, fit for all vital functions. [2] Let the soul be removed from the body, and there will remain nothing but a useless carcase, totally devoid of feeling. The passage is deserving of particular notice, [3] as teaching us, in what way we are to reconcile those encomiums which David pronounces upon the law -- (Psalm 19:7,8) -- "the law of the Lord converteth souls, enlighteneth the eyes, imparteth wisdom to babes," and passages of a like nature, with those statements of Paul, which at first view are at variance with them -- that it is the ministry of sin and death -- the letter that does nothing but kill. (2-Corinthians 3:6,7.) For when it is animated by Christ, [4] those things that David makes mention of are justly applicable to it. If Christ is taken away, it is altogether such as Paul describes. Hence Christ is the life of the law. [5] Where the Spirit of the Lord. He now describes the manner, in which Christ gives life to the law -- by giving us his Spirit. The term Spirit here has a different signification from what it had in the preceding verse. There, it denoted the soul, and was ascribed metaphorically to Christ. Here, on the other hand, it means the Holy Spirit, that Christ himself confers upon his people. Christ, however, by regenerating us, gives life to the law, and shows himself to be the fountain of life, as all vital functions proceed from man's soul. Christ, then, is to all (so to speak) the universal soul, not in respect of essence, but in respect of grace. Or, if you prefer it, Christ is the Spirit, because he quickens us by the life-giving influence of his Spirit. [6] He makes mention, also, of the blessing that we obtain from that source. "There," says he, "is liberty." By the term liberty I do not understand merely emancipation from the servitude of sin, and of the flesh, but also that confidence, which we acquire from His bearing witness as to our adoption. For it is in accordance with that statement -- We have not again received the spirit of bondage, to fear, etc. (Romans 8:15.) In that passage, the Apostle makes mention of two things -- bondage, and fear. The opposites of these are liberty and confidence. Thus I acknowledge, that the inference drawn from this passage by Augustine is correct -- that we are by nature the slaves of sin, and are made free by the grace of regeneration. For, where there is nothing but the bare letter of the law, there will be only the dominion of sin, but the term Liberty, as I have said, I take in a more extensive sense. The grace of the Spirit might, also, be restricted more particularly to ministers, so as to make this statement correspond with the commencement of the chapter, for ministers require to have another grace of the Spirit, and another liberty from what others have. The former signification, however, pleases me better, though at the same time I have no objection, that this should be applied to every one according to the measure of his gift. It is enough, if we observe, that Paul here points out the efficacy of the Spirit, which we experience for our salvation -- as many of us, as have been regenerated by his grace.


1 - "L'esprit de la Loy;" -- "The spirit of the law."

2 - "Tous mouuemens et operations de la vie;" -- "All the movements and operations of life."

3 - "Voici vn beau passage, et bien digne d'estre noté;" -- "Here is a beautiful passage, and well deserving to be carefully noticed."

4 - "Quand l'ame luy est inspiree par Christ;" -- "When a soul is breathed into by Christ."

5 - "La vie et l'esprit de la Loy;" -- "The life and spirit of the Law."

6 - "Par l'efficace et viue vertu de son Sainct Esprit;" -- "By the efficacy and living influence of his Holy Spirit."

Now the Lord is that Spirit - The word "Lord" here evidently refers to the Lord Jesus; see 2-Corinthians 3:16. It may be observed in general in regard to this word, that where it occurs in the New Testament unless the connection require us to understand it of God, it refers to the Lord Jesus. It was the common name by which he was known; see John 20:13; John 21:7, John 21:12; Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:5. The design of Paul in this verse seems to be to account for the "liberty" which he and the other apostles had, or for the boldness, openness, and plainness 2-Corinthians 3:12 which they evinced in contradistinction from the Jews. who so little understood the nature of their institutions. He had said 2-Corinthians 3:6, that he was a minister "not of the letter, but of the Spirit;" and he had stated that the Old Testament was not understood by the Jews who adhered to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures. He here says, that the Lord Jesus was "the Spirit" to which he referred, and by which he was enabled to understand the Old Testament so as to speak plainly, and without obscurity. The sense is, that Christ was the Spirit; that is, the sum, the substance of the Old Testament. The figures, types, prophecies, etc. all centered in him, and he was the end of all those institutions. If contemplated as having reference to him, it was easy to understand them. This I take to be the sentiment of the pas sage, though expositors have been greatly divided in regard to its meaning. Thus explained, it does not mean absolutely and abstractly that the Lord Jesus was "a Spirit," but that he was the sum, the essence, the end, and the purport of the Mosaic rites, the spirit of which Paul had spoken in 2-Corinthians 3:6, as contradistinguished from the letter of the Law.
And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty - This is a general truth designed to illustrate the particular sentiment which he had just advanced. The word "liberty" here (ἐλευθερία eleutheria) refers, I think, to freedom in speaking; the power of speaking openly, and freely, as in 2-Corinthians 3:12. It states the general truth, that the effect of the Spirit of God was to give light and clearness of view; to remove obscurity from a subject, and to enable one to see it plainly. This would be a truth that could not be denied by the Jews, who held to the doctrine that the Spirit of God revealed truth, and it must be admitted by all. Under the influence of that Spirit, therefore, Paul says, that he was able to speak with openness, and boldness; that he had a clear view of truth, which the mass of the Jews had not; and that the system of religion which he preached was open, plain, and clear. The word "freedom," would perhaps, better convey the idea. "There is freedom from the dark and obscure views of the Jews; freedom from their prejudices, and their superstitions; freedom from the slavery and bondage of sin; the freedom of the children of God, who have clear views of him as their Father and Redeemer and who are enabled to express those views openly and boldly to the world."

Now the Lord is that Spirit - In 2-Corinthians 3:6, 2-Corinthians 3:8, the word το πνευμα, spirit, evidently signifies the Gospel; so called because it points out the spiritual nature and meaning of the law; because it produces spiritual effects; and because it is especially the dispensation of the Spirit of God. Here Jesus Christ is represented as that Spirit, because he is the end of the law for justification to every one that believes; and because the residue of the Spirit is with him, and he is the dispenser of all its gifts, graces, and influences.
And where the Spirit of the Lord is - Wherever this Gospel is received, there the Spirit of the Lord is given; and wherever that Spirit lives and works, there is liberty, not only from Jewish bondage, but from the slavery of sin - from its power, its guilt, and its pollution. See John 8:33-36 (note), and the notes there.

Now the (n) Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty.
(n) Christ is that Spirit who takes away that covering, by working in our hearts, to which also the Law itself called us, though in vain, because it speaks to dead men, until the Spirit makes us alive.

Now the Lord is that Spirit,.... "The Lord", to whom the heart is turned, when the veil is removed, is Jesus Christ; and he is "that Spirit", or "the Spirit": he, as God, is of a spiritual nature and essence; he is a spirit, as God is said to be, John 4:24 he is the giver of the Spirit of God, and the very life and spirit of the law, without whom as the end of it, it is a mere dead letter: or rather as by Moses in 2-Corinthians 3:15 is meant, the law of Moses, so by the "Lord" here may be meant the Gospel of Christ: and this is that Spirit, of which the apostles were made ministers, and is said to give life, 2-Corinthians 3:6.
And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty; which may be understood of the third person in the Godhead; where he is as a spirit of illumination, there is freedom from former blindness and darkness; where he is as a spirit of regeneration and sanctification, there is freedom from the bondage of sin, and captivity of Satan; where he is as a comforter, there is freedom from the fear of hell, wrath, and damnation: where he is as a spirit of adoption, there is the freedom of children with a father; where he is as a spirit of prayer and supplication, there is liberty of access to God with boldness, Though rather the Gospel as attended with the Spirit of God, in opposition to the law, is here designed; and which points out another difference between the law and the Gospel; where the law is, there is bondage, it genders to it; it has a natural tendency to it: quite contrary is this to what the Jews (i) say, who call the law, "liberty": and say,
"that he that studies in the law, hath , "freedom from everything":''
whereas it gives freedom in nothing, but leads into, and brings on persons a spirit of bondage; it exacts rigorous obedience, where there is no strength to perform; it holds men guilty, curses and condemns for non-obedience; so that such as are under it, and of the works of it, are always under a spirit of bondage; they obey not from love, but fear, as servants or slaves for wages, and derive all their peace and comfort from their obedience: but where the Gospel takes place under the influence of the Spirit of God, there is liberty; not to sin, which is contrary to the Gospel, to the Spirit of God in believers, and to the principle of grace wrought in their souls; but a liberty from the bondage and servitude of it: a liberty from the law's rigorous exaction, curse, and condemnation, and from the veil of former blindness and ignorance.
(i) Zohar in Genesis. fol. 90. 1. & in Exod. fol. 72. 1. & in Numb. fol. 73. 3.

the Lord--Christ (2-Corinthians 3:14, 2-Corinthians 3:16; 2-Corinthians 4:5).
is that Spirit--is THE Spirit, namely, that Spirit spoken of in 2-Corinthians 3:6, and here resumed after the parenthesis (2-Corinthians 3:7-16): Christ is the Spirit and "end" of the Old Testament, who giveth life to it, whereas "the letter killeth" (1-Corinthians 15:45; Revelation 19:10, end).
where the Spirit of the Lord is--in a man's "heart" (2-Corinthians 3:15; Romans 8:9-10).
there is liberty-- (John 8:36). "There," and there only. Such cease to be slaves to the letter, which they were while the veil was on their heart. They are free to serve God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:3): they have no longer the spirit of bondage, but of free sonship (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:7). "Liberty" is opposed to the letter (of the legal ordinances), and to the veil, the badge of slavery: also to the fear which the Israelites felt in beholding Moses' glory unveiled (Exodus 34:30; 1-John 4:18).

Now the Lord - Christ is that Spirit of the law whereof I speak, to which the letter was intended to lead. And where the Spirit of the Lord, Christ, is, there is liberty - Not the veil, the emblem of slavery. There is liberty from servile fear, liberty from the guilt and from the power of sin, liberty to behold with open face the glory of the Lord.

*More commentary available at chapter level.

Discussion on 2-Corinthians 3:17

User discussion of the verse.

*By clicking Submit, you agree to our Privacy Policy & Terms of Use.