2 Corinthians 3:9
For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
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(9) If the ministration of condemnation be glory . . .—Many of the better MSS. give the reading, if there be glory to the ministry of condemnation. The latter phrase takes the place here of “the ministry of death” in 2Corinthians 3:7. The “letter,” the “written law,” as such, works death, because it brings with it the condemnation which awaits transgressors. It holds out to them the pattern of a righteousness which they have never had, and cannot of themselves attain unto, and passes its sentence on them as transgressors. Contrasted with it is the ministration which has “righteousness” as its object and result, and therefore as its characteristic attribute—the “law of the Spirit of life”—a law written in the heart, working not condemnation, but righteousness and peace and joy (Romans 8:1-4).

2 Corinthians 3:9. If, &c. — The apostle now proceeds to the second particular; the ministration of condemnation be glorious — Attended with such great glory. The law, whether moral or ceremonial, however glorious, was, to sinful and guilty, weak and depraved man, in his fallen state, no more than a ministration of condemnation. Even the moral part of it, though holy, just, and good, yet, being spiritual and extensive in its demands, condemned all for having violated it in time past, for falling short of its demands at present, and as being unable to fulfil it in future. Here we see how much they are mistaken who suppose that the moral law, of which the apostle chiefly speaks, (it alone being engraven on stones,) requires no more than a sincere obedience, such as is proportioned to our infirm state. For if this were sufficient to justify us, then the law would cease to be a ministration of condemnation. It would become (flatly contrary to the apostle’s doctrine) the ministration of righteousness. This, however, even a ministration of righteousness, is the gospel or new covenant: for, 1st, It reveals the essential righteousness of God, (Romans 1:16,) illustrating his perfections, and showing how holy and just he is, Romans 3:21-26. 2d, It exhibits the meritorious righteousness of Christ, or his obedience unto death, the procuring cause of our justification. See on Romans 10:4. 3d, It lays a foundation for, and is the seed of, the instrumental righteousness of faith, described Romans 4. and Php 3:9. 4th, It imputes righteousness to us in our justification, Romans 4:3; implants it in us in our regeneration and sanctification, Titus 3:5; Ephesians 4:23-24; and provides for our practising it in love and obedience, shedding abroad the love of God in our hearts, the great source of all piety and virtue, and creating us anew to all good works, Ephesians 2:10. Thus grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, Romans 5:21. On this account also the gospel far exceeds the law in glory: for,

3:1-11 Even the appearance of self-praise and courting human applause, is painful to the humble and spiritual mind. Nothing is more delightful to faithful ministers, or more to their praise, than the success of their ministry, as shown in the spirits and lives of those among whom they labour. The law of Christ was written in their hearts, and the love of Christ shed abroad there. Nor was it written in tables of stone, as the law of God given to Moses, but on the fleshy (not fleshly, as fleshliness denotes sensuality) tables of the heart, Eze 36:26. Their hearts were humbled and softened to receive this impression, by the new-creating power of the Holy Spirit. He ascribes all the glory to God. And remember, as our whole dependence is upon the Lord, so the whole glory belongs to him alone. The letter killeth: the letter of the law is the ministration of death; and if we rest only in the letter of the gospel, we shall not be the better for so doing: but the Holy Spirit gives life spiritual, and life eternal. The Old Testament dispensation was the ministration of death, but the New Testament of life. The law made known sin, and the wrath and curse of God; it showed us a God above us, and a God against us; but the gospel makes known grace, and Emmanuel, God with us. Therein the righteousness of God by faith is revealed; and this shows us that the just shall live by his faith; this makes known the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, for obtaining the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The gospel so much exceeds the law in glory, that it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation. But even the New Testament will be a killing letter, if shown as a mere system or form, and without dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to give it a quickening power.For if the ministration of condemnation - Of Moses in giving the Law, the effect of which is to produce condemnation. Law condemns the guilty; it does not save them. It denounces punishment; it contains no provisions of pardon. To pardon is to depart from the Law; and must be done under the operation of another system - since a law which contains a provision for the pardon of offenders, and permits them to escape, would be a burlesque in legislation. The tendency of the Mosaic institutions, therefore, was to produce a sense of condemnation. And so it will be found by all who attempt to be justified by the Law. It will tend to, and result in, their condemnation.

Be glory - Be glorious; or be glory itself - It was glorious as a manifestation of the holiness and justice of God; and glorious in the attending circumstances. No event in our world has been more magnificent in the circumstances of external majesty and splendor than the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.

The ministration of righteousness - The gospel; the promulgation of the plan of mercy. It is called "the ministration of righteousness," in contradistinction from the Law of Moses, which was a "ministration of condemnation." The word "righteousness," however, does not exactly express the force of the original word. That word is δικαιοσύνης dikaiosunēs, and it stands directly opposed to the word κατακρισεως katakriseōs, "condemnation." It should be rendered 'the ministration of justification;' the plan by which God justifies people; see the note, Romans 1:17. The Law of Moses condemns; the gospel is the plan by which man is justified. And if that which condemns could be glorious, much more must that be by which people can be justified, acquitted, and saved. The superior glory of the gospel, therefore, consists in the fact that it is a scheme to justify and save lost sinners. And this glory consists:

(1) In the fact that it can be done when all law condemns.

(2) in the showing forth of the divine character while it is done, as just, and merciful, and benevolent in doing it - blending all his great and glorious attributes together - while the Law disclosed only one of His attributes - His justice.

(3) in the manner in which it is done. It is by the incarnation of the Son of God - a far more glorious manifestation of deity than was made on Mount Sinai. It is by the toils, and sufferings, and death of him who made the atonement, and by the circumstances of awful and imposing grandeur which attended his death, when the sun was darkened. and the rocks were rent - far more grand and awful scenes than occurred when the Law was given. It is by the resurrection and ascension of the Redeemer - scenes far more sublime than all the external glories of Sinai when the Law was given.

(4) in the effects, or results. The one condemns; the other justifies and saves. The effect of the one is seen in the convictions of conscience, in alarm, in a sense of guilt, in the conscious desert of condemnation, and in the apprehension of eternal punishment. The other is seen in sins forgiven; in peace of conscience; in the joy of pardon; in the hope of heaven; in comfort and triumph on the bed of death, and amidst the glories of heaven.

9. ministration of condemnation—the law regarded in the "letter" which "killeth" (2Co 3:6; Ro 7:9-11). The oldest existing manuscript seems to read as English Version. But most of the almost contemporary manuscripts, versions, and Fathers, read, "If to the ministration of condemnation there be glory."

the ministration of righteousness—the Gospel, which especially reveals the righteousness of God (Ro 1:17), and imputes righteousness to men through faith in Christ (Ro 3:21-28; 4:3, 22-25), and imparts righteousness by the Spirit (Ro 8:1-4).


What the apostle before called the ministration of death, he here calleth

the ministration of condemnation; and therin gives us a reason why he called it the ministration of death, because it led unto eternal death, as showing men sin, so accusing and condemning men for sinful acts. If it pleased God (saith the apostle) to make that ministration glorious, that the minister of the law (Moses) appeared so glorious in the eyes of Aaron and of the people;

the ministration of righteousness (by which he means the gospel) must needs be more exceedingly glorious. He tells us, Romans 1:16,17, that he was not ashamed of the gospel—for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; that is, the righteousness wherein a soul must stand and appear righteous before God.

The ministration of righteousness signifieth the ministration of that gospel, that doctrine, which revealeth righteousness.

Righteousness is here opposed to condemnation; and therefore signifieth that which is opposed to it, viz. justification. For God doth not so freely remit sins, but that he declares his righteousness in the remission of them; and will show himself just, while he showeth himself the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus, Romans 3:26. And from hence it appeareth, that the gospel is called the ministration of righteousness, because he that ministereth in it exhibiteth the righteousness to Christ to be reckoned to the soul, as that whereby it must be justified; for God could not otherwise declare his righteousness in the remission of sins, nor show himself just in justifying the ungodly. This ministration (he saith) must needs be more glorious in the eyes of men than the ministration of the law; for that ministration afforded nothing but terror and death, this affordeth relief, and comfort, and life.

For if the ministration of condemnation be glory,.... So the Jews call the law, for they say, , "there is no glory but the law" (f); this is another head of opposition or difference between the law and the Gospel, from whence the superior glory of the one to the other is argued. The law is "the ministration of condemnation"; as sin is a transgression of the law, it accuses for it, convinces of it, pronounces guilty, and adjudges to death on account of it; which is the condemnation it ministers; and this it does to all Adam's posterity, and for his sin too; and to all the actual transgressors of it, to all unbelievers, to all that are under it; even to God's elect themselves, as considered in Adam, and in themselves as transgressors; and this it ministers to their consciences when convicted, though it is never executed on them, because of the suretyship engagement and performances of Christ. The Gospel is

the ministration of righteousness; not of a legal one, or a man's own, but of the righteousness of Christ, by which the law is honoured, justice is satisfied, and God's elect justified from all sin and condemnation; this being perfect, pure, and spotless, and for ever: the Gospel is "the ministration" of it, as it is a means of stripping a man of his own righteousness, of revealing Christ's to him, and of working faith in him, and encouraging him to lay hold upon it for himself; and thus it is not to righteous persons, but sinners, to all believers, to all the second Adam's posterity; now as

much more as righteousness exceeds condemnation, and a justified state a condemned one, so "much more" does the Gospel

exceed the law

in glory.

(f) Raya Mehimna in Zohar in Lev. fol. 33. 4.

For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of {k} righteousness exceed in glory.

(k) That is, of Christ. And since he is imputed to us as our own, we are not condemned, and what is more we are also crowned as righteous.

2 Corinthians 3:9. Grounding, simply by a characteristic change of the predicates (κατακρ. and δικαιοσύν.), of what was said in 2 Corinthians 3:7-8. Comp. Romans 5:18-19.

ἡ διακονία τῆς κατακρίσ.] the ministry, which is the medium of condemnation. For the ministry of Moses, which communicated the Decalogue, promoted through the law sin (Romans 7:9 ff.), whose power it became (1 Corinthians 15:56), and thus realized the divine curse against the transgressors of the law (Galatians 3:20). Comp. on 2 Corinthians 3:6. The article denoted the well-known, solemn condemnation, Deuteronomy 27:26.

δόξα] sc. ἐστί, for the former ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ is realised as present, regarded as present. Comp., subsequently, the present περισσεύει. The substantive δόξα (it refers, as in 2 Corinthians 3:7, to that external glory) stands as predicate in the sense of ἔνδοξος, denoting the notion of the adjective more strongly, according to a current usage in Greek. Romans 8:10; John 6:63; 1 John 4:8, al. See Abresch, Auctar. Diluc. p. 275 f.; Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 120.

περισσεύει] The tense realizes as present what is future; for the future glory of the teacher is already now an ideal possession. Note the accumulated strength of the expression: is in much higher degree superabundant in glory. On the dative of more precise definition with περισσεύειν, comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Acts 16:5; Polyb. xviii. 5; Plut. Mor. p. 708 F. Usually in the N. T. with ἐν, as also here in Elzevi.

ἡ διακονία τῆς δικαιοσύν.] the ministry, which is the medium of righteousness[162] (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:15); for it is the office of gospel teaching to preach the faith in Jesus Christ, by which we have righteousness before God. See Romans 1:17; Romans 3:22 ff., Romans 3:30; Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:13. Comp. especially, 2 Corinthians 5:21.

[162] Note the contrast of κατάκρισις and δικαιοσύνη. The former is an actus forensis; so also the latter, constituted by the divine act of the δικαίωσις (Romans 4:25; Romans 5:18), rests on imputation. Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:21. This in opposition to Hofmann, Schriftbew. I. p. 627 f.

9. For if the ministration of condemnation be glory] Dampnacioun, Wiclif, and similarly the Rhemish version. The law must be understood to be a ministry of condemnation, “not in itself and in its own nature, but accidentally, in consequence of man’s corruption,” Turretin. So St Paul explains in Romans 7:12-14; Galatians 3:23; and 1 Timothy 1:8-10. Cf. also Hebrews 12:18-21 and note on 2 Corinthians 3:7.

much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory] Or, abound. See last note but one. The Gospel was the ministration of righteousness because righteousness was imparted by the indwelling of the Spirit of the Living God (2 Corinthians 3:3). See notes on 2 Corinthians 3:6; also Romans 3:21, cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 5:21.

2 Corinthians 3:9. Κατακρίσεως· δικαιοσύνης, of condemnation; of righteousness) The glory of God shines back more brightly by the latter, than by the former. The letter condemns; condemnation imposes death as the punishment. The Spirit, along with righteousness, brings life.—δόξα, glory) The abstract for the concrete, for the sake of brevity.

Verse 9. - The ministration of condemnation. The same antithesis between the Law as involving "condemnation" and the gospel as bestowing "righteousness" is found in Romans 5:18, 19. The glory; perhaps, rather, a glory; a stronger way of describing it as "glorious." Of righteousness. Involving the further conception of "justification," as in Romans 5:21; Romans 1:16, 17; Romans 4:25; Romans 5:21. 2 Corinthians 3:9Ministration of condemnation

Because Moses was the minister of the law. For the relation of the law to sin and condemnation, see Romans 5:20; Romans 7:7-13.

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