Hi James and beagle lady. This passage about the letter of the law killing and the spirit giving life is one of the most beautiful life giving passages in all of Scripture. This passage is not about taking the Bible literally or not. it is the gospel. Let me explain using an analogy:
Child A is raised in a difficult family with an alcoholic dad. the Dad tells the child,“you better clean up those dishes and scrub the toilets or you are sleeping in the shed with the mice and rats tonight!” That child works really hard to avoid the punishment and despised his dad.
Then there is a second child B who is raised in a wonderful family with a loving, kind and forgiving Dad. The Dad has rules and stipulations for all children in the home to follow for sure. Afterall, how loving would it be for a dad to just let that child run wild with no boundaries? Some of his stipulations are that children are to respect their elders, love their neighbors such as helping the elderly neighbor across the street , participate in various tasks, not fight, or have attitudes of selfishness or arrogance before others. However amidst that set of principles to live by, that Dad LOVES all of His children! he cannot wait to get home from work to see them, be with them, take his wife and kids for icecream, playing kickball, going boating on the family pontoon and others. And he is perfectly willing to even pay for the broken glass after that child admits that he threw a ball through the window. Correcting that child may come and is always firm but is always loving and affirming with encouragement to do better next time. When that child recognizes the boundary and how such a loving Dad seems to want what is best, they play in the backyard with a smile and with freedom and enjoyment as they do so within those boundaries.
Child A may obey the Dad out of fear and live a miserable existence. That child recognizes that the Dad is so harsh that it is as if the child can do no right. The child lives but is as if dead because nothing can appease such a hating dad. This is representative of “The letter kills”
Child B loves honors and obeys the Dad even better. Where the first child may find himself spitting in the dad’s soup when he is not looking, Child B puts the dad’s soup in the microwave to warm it before he comes down after his shower. This child is loved, knows that he is not perfect and may mess up from time to time, but that Dad has a forgiving and understanding heart. This child may tend towards even closer allegiance to the laws precepts and ordinances of that childs household out of love for his father. These are not burdensome whatsoever. Mom and Dad don’t consume the kids with too many duties. And it is a joy for the kids to serve the family and love neighbor with kindness in honor of such good and loving parents!
Child B respresents the Christian gospel. My wife and I used 1Jn 4:19 as our marriage verse which says that “We love because He first loved us.” That is the gospel. God so loves us that he sent His one and only Son to die for us that we might have eternal life with Him forever! He did not send his Son to condemn the world but to save it. When one by faith comes into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, our Maker, love and joy are fruits of that relationship and from these come desires to long to abide by His teaching in His Word! That person is reborn into a family where the family head is the most loving, caring person in the entire universe, the God who reveals Himself in His inerrant Word we call the Bible.