Summary: Here Paul contrasts the glory of the Ten Commandments with the glory of the life-giving Spirit. If the Law that leads to death was glorious, how much more glorious is God’s plan to give us life through His Spirit
2 CORINTHIANS 3: 7-11 [GAINING PERSPECTIVE Series]
A MINISTRY OF DEATH OR LIFE
In our study on 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 we again heard that by works of law no one shall be justified or sanctified (Gal. 2:16, 3:11). Only by accepting Christ is a man justified and only by being obedient to His Spirit can man be sanctified. The law can give no one life but brings condemnation to those who break it. Life comes from the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who is the only law-keeper, to those who will receive His transforming new heart by receiving Him.
Tonight we find Paul contrasting the glory of the Ten Commandments with the glory of the life-giving Spirit. If the Law that leads to death was glorious, how much more glorious is God’s plan to give us life through His Spirit (CIT)!
I. LIFE NOT DEATH, 7-8.
II. GLORY NOT CONDEMNATION, 9-10.
III. PERMANENT NOT TEMPORARY, 11.
The superiority of the new covenant is argued on three counts. The first found in verses 7 & 8 is that the ministry of the Spirit is more splendid than the ministry that brought death. “But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face; fading as it was,”
“The Ministry of death” is here defined as letters engraved on stone or the Ten Commandments. The design and effect of the law was to kill, to prove man guilty of condemnation. It certified man a transgressor because he broke this law. Through the law sin receives its strength and power against man (1 Cor. 15:56; Galatians 3:10), for it would not establish as wrong if there was no law against it. Yet this ministry of death had glory. When Moses descended from the mountain with the Ten Commandments after conversing with God, his face shone with the glory of this encounter. His face was so radiant that the people were afraid to approach him (Ex. 34:29-30). This is part of the glory of the giving of the Law and it impressed the people.
Moses is view as the minister of the Covenant of death because he was the agent through whom God delivered it to the people and God delivered it with glory (Ex. 19:16-20). God’s glory was seen in the countenance of Moses. Apparently this radiance would fade, or pass away, over time until Moses again would go into the Tabernacle of God’s Presence and meet with God. Moses glory was an outward brightness because the people were directed to follow external regulation; the rituals, the priesthood, the Temple, the Sacrifices.
Today we have an inward glory because God lives within and it is permanent because God is eternally with us. [The Greek word for glory, doxa, refers to the splendor of God’s manifest presence.]
If this ministry of death so manifested the glory of God, verse 8 asks will not the ministry of the Spirit be far more glorious? “how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?”
Because Moses’ glory was a fading glory the argument advances the superiority of the unfading, unfailing New Covenant. The glory of the Old Covenant is not to be compared with that of the New. The glory of the old was external, radiated on Moses face from the Shekinah Glory of God’s presence, the Spirit’s glory is intimate and internal as well. The Spirit’s Shekinah shines from within us, the light of God’s presence filling the soul. The former was transcendent, impermanent glory for over the course of time Moses face faded. Moses, the mediator of the Law, in the course of time was removed by death. Jesus Christ, the abiding light in every believing heart is the eternal mediator of the New Covenant.
Since the glory of the old faded into insignificance the ministry of a Christian is marked by the Spirit, not the Law. It is the ministry of the Spirit to make one righteous, something that the law cannot do (Heb 9:11–28; 10:11–22).
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS NOT CONDEMNATION (9-10).
The second argument for superiority of the new covenant found in verse 9 is that the ministry that brings righteousness is more splendid than the ministry that condemns. “For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.
The Law was not given for the purpose of salvation for there is no salvation through obedience to the law. The law produces condemnation. It reveals our bondage to an unpayable indebtedness (Col. 2:14), and it is a yoke too heavy to bear (Gal.5:1; Acts 15:10)[, and a guardian that disciplines (Gal. 4:1-5)]. The Ministry of the Law brings condemnation because natural man is unable to obey the Law. This condemnation is just consequences for all who break the Law. Yet it was glorious because by the Law we knew-know right and wrong and it shows us how far short we fall. It is like a mirror that reveals how dirty our faces really are. The ministry of the Law gives no one who accepts it the power to live by it. But the one who will accept Christ Jesus will be given the power to live righteously like Christ lived.