2 Corinthians 3:7
Now if the ministry of death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at the face of Moses because of its fleeting glory,
The Old and the NewJ.R. Thomson 2 Corinthians 3:6-11
Divine Revelation More Glorious in Christ than in MosesD. Thomas, D. D.2 Corinthians 3:7-11
Ministry of the Old Testament Compared with that of the NewC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 3:7-11
The Dispensations of the Law and Gospel ComparedH. J. Hastings, M. A.2 Corinthians 3:7-11
The Glory of the GospelC. Bradley, M. A.2 Corinthians 3:7-11
The Glory of the GospelW. W. Wythe.2 Corinthians 3:7-11
The Gospel IsJ. Stratten.2 Corinthians 3:7-11
The Ministration of the SpiritH. R, Reynolds, D. D.2 Corinthians 3:7-11
The Ministrations of Law and GospelH. Melvill, B. D.2 Corinthians 3:7-11
The Old Covenant and the NewR. Tuck 2 Corinthians 3:7-11
The Peculiar Glory of the GospelD. Dickson.2 Corinthians 3:7-11
The Two MinistrationsJ. Parker, D. D.2 Corinthians 3:7-11
He speaks now of the "ministration of death," not of it as the ministry of the letter; and yet it was "glorious." Compared with the revelation made to Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, it was "glorious." Whether witnessing to the unity of God or to his providence over an elect race, it was an illumination, or splendour, unequalled in the centuries before Christ. Tribes were organized as a nation, bondmen transformed into free men; and, despite their proclivity to heathenish idolatry, they came finally to hold and defend the doctrine of one God, their Jehovah, their Lord of hosts, their Benefactor and Friend, as the doctrine underlying all their hopes and aspirations. The sanctity of human life which the great lawgiver made the foundation of his system, the rights of persons and property, the obligations of brotherhood among themselves, duties to the poor and the stranger, duties to their nation, reverence for the sabbath and its worship, obedience to God in the minutest things, were taught them with a precision and a force that largely succeeded in producing the only phenomenon of its kind in history - a nation educated in the sense of God, of his presence in their midst, and of his providence as an unceasing and omnipotent agency in their homes and business. What a "glory" there was in their literature we all know. No psalmody is given in the New Testament; none was wanted; inspired poetry reached its full measure of excellence in King David and his poetic successors; and the Christian heart, whether in prayer or praise, finds much of its deepest and most devout utterance in these ancient Judaean hymns. Reproduction is the test of enduring greatness. In this respect the genius and piety of David stand unrivalled. Whenever men worship God, he is the "chief singer" yet; nor have we any better standard by which to try the merit of our religious poetry and music than the similarity of their effect upon us to that produced by the Psalms of David. Last of all in the order of time, first in its importance, what a "glory" in him born of the Virgin Mary! On this system St. Paul made no war. What he antagonized was the misunderstanding and abuse of the system in the hands of Pharisees and Sadducees, and, especially in the shape it assumed among the Judaizers at Corinth and in Galatia. He calls the old covenant "glorious," a word he never uses but in his exalted moods of thought, True, it was "written and engraven in stones," but by whose hand? Even "the face of Moses' was more than the Israelites could bear, "for the glory of his countenance." The splendour irradiating Moses was transient - "which glory was to be done away;" but it did what it was intended to do by demonstrating where he had been and on what mission. Yet - the glory acknowledged - it was "the ministration of death." All the sublimity was that of terror, none that of beauty, when Sinai became the shrouded pavilion of Jehovah. "Whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death." This external characterization was a symbol of its condemning power. "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." It was not in the language of the Law that David prayed, "Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me;" nor in sympathy with the Law that Isaiah spoke of the Anointed One, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me;" but in contemplation of grace beyond Law, and therefore extra to the ordinary workings of the Mosaic economy. A provision existed for these spiritual anticipations, and it was a part of its excellence, the highest part, that it had on a few minds this prevenient influence. Still, the distinctive feature stands, "a ministration of death;" and to the hour when Jerusalem and her temple fell, Sinai was the mount that could not be touched without death. It had a glory, a derived and subordinate glory, and the glory itself was to die. Certain qualities of Hebrew mind under the system, methods of thought, poetic modes of looking at nature, cultivated instincts of providence, yearnings for spirituality, were to survive and attain their completeness; but the system was to end by the law of limitation organic in its structure. Now, on this basis, the glorious economy of which Moses was the minister, and the transientness of its duration, St. Paul builds an argument for the superior glory of the gospel. It is the "ministration" of the Holy Ghost. It is "the ministration of righteousness." Under the economy of grace the righteousness of God was first secured. That done, the justice of God appeared in the sinner's justification. And in this justification the converted man realizes that sense of demerit and guilt which arises in his personal instinct of justice, is met and satisfied; while, at the same time, gratitude and love are awakened by the unmerited goodness of God in Christ. The two stand together. They are inseparable in the constitution of the universe. They are inseparable by the laws of the human mind. The joy of the one is vitally blended with the gladness of the other; so that if the renewed heart feels its indebtedness to the mercy of God in Christ, it feels also that its salvation rests on the vindicated righteousness of God in Christ. It is what Christ is to the Father that makes him precious as the Christ of his faith, hope, and love. Most fitly, then, St. Paul presents the antithetic emphasis on condemnation and righteousness. Condemnation and righteousness are legal terms. The element of similarity in their common relation to Law is clearly recognized. Without this common element the antithesis could have no meaning. The dissimilarity is thus made vivid. "Much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory." Each is a "ministration," each a "ministration" of "glory," but the "ministration of righteousness doth exceed in glory." The idea is explained and strengthened yet further. A favourite thought of the Jews, and particularly of the Pharisees, was the perpetuity of the Law. After the Exile, this was the stronghold of patriotism, sentiment, and religion. On no other ground could Pharisaism have acquired its popular ascendency. This was the battle it was ever fighting for the nation - the dignity of the Law as seen in its permanent utility, since only thereby could Israel attain her true destiny and far surpass her ancient renown. Of course the anti-Pauline party at Corinth had much to say on St. Paul's view of the Law. Here, then, is an opportunity for him to defend his ministry. The point now is that the Mosaic ministration had no glory "in this respect," that is, in respect to the succeeding dispensation, which had entirely obscured its lustre. The once stately figure was not erect, but prostrated; it was disrobed of its gorgeous vestments; it wore no longer the breast, plate with its precious stones; its glory had departed; and all this "by reason of the glory that excelleth." If so, then how transcendent the splendour of the Spirit's dispensation? "If that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious." In the former Epistle he had written of various glories - one of the sun, another of the moon, still another of the stars, the radiance distributed over immeasurable spaces and among orbs widely different, each preserving from age to age its own distinctive splendour, every ray of light imaging the world whence it issued. A firmament was before his eye in its circles of magnificence. But now the glory, on which in other days he had looked with so much pride as a Pharisee, had passed forever from his sight. Yet, so far from feeling that there was loss, he exulted in the infinite gain, because "of the glory that excelleth." - L.

But if the ministration of death... was glorious
I. THAT CONTRASTED WITH THE LAW AS "THE MINISTRATION OF CONDEMNATION" THE GOSPEL IS THE "MINISTRATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS." That the law was "the ministration of condemnation" will require little proof. The very glory which attended the publication of it struck terror into the beholders. Its unequivocal language was, "the soul that sinneth it shall die" (Exodus 19:16; Hebrews 12:21; Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Deuteronomy 27:28; Galatians 3:10). Against this awful alternative the Mosaic dispensation provided no effectual resource (Hebrews 10:4). But herein is the incomparable glory of the gospel displayed: it is, "the ministration of righteousness." Not as some have most erroneously represented it, a remedial law; neither as others would call it, a less rigorous dispensation, relaxing our obligations to duty. And hence we are led to notice what may be regarded as the peculiar glory of the gospel, that it discovers to us a way in which sin may be pardoned, and yet sinners be saved. The gospel alone reveals a righteousness sufficient for this purpose. The gospel is also the ministration of righteousness, because it enjoins and secures the practice of righteousness among men.

II. THAT CONTRASTED WITH THE LAW AS THE MINISTRATION OF DEATH, THE GOSPEL IS THE MINISTRATION OF THE SPIRIT. The Christian as contrasted with the Jewish dispensation may be called the "ministration of the Spirit," not only on account of its more spiritual nature, and as containing the spirit and substance of ancient rites and figures, but chiefly because it is distinguished by the clearer revelation of the Divine Spirit, and the more abundant communications of His influence to the children of men. Let us, then, attend to the surpassing glory of the gospel in this view. We have already seen that the law, which is the ministration of death, made no effectual provision for the justification of transgressors; and as little did it provide for their sanctification. All precepts, and threatenings, and promises, were insufficient for this purpose, without the quickening and renewing influence of the Holy Ghost. How refulgent, then, the glory of the gospel, when we consider that the Spirit, of whom it testifies, is Himself the eternal Jehovah! Under the ministration of the Spirit, how marvellous the success which attended the preaching of the apostles, amidst the combined opposition of earth and hell! Still farther, under the ministration of the Spirit the Church has been preserved in succeeding ages, since the apostles' days to the present time. Finally, under the ministration of the Spirit, and by His benign influence, the Church throughout succeeding generations shall become gradually more enlightened, and sanctified, and enlarged. Is such, then, the glory of the gospel?

1. What an unspeakable honour is conferred upon those who are allowed to be the ministers of it!

2. Again, is such the glory of the gospel; how inestimable is your privilege? The Lord has not dealt so with every people. Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear, what many prophets and righteous men desired to see and to hear but were not permitted.

3. Still farther, is such the glory of the gospel? Let its ministers learn to be more and more faithful and earnest in declaring and recommending it.

4. Let me beseech you who attend on our ministrations to consider, that in proportion to the glory of the gospel must be the condemnation of those who do not esteem and improve it.

5. Once more, is the gospel the ministration of the Spirit? Let us all be solicitous to experience His saving influence on our own souls; and let us be earnest also for the communications of His grace to others.

(D. Dickson.)


1. There must ever enter into our thought on matters of religion continued reference to the unchangeableness of God. If we were setting ourselves to scrutinize the arrangements of a finite, and therefore changeable agent; if we found that at one time he had given a law to his inferiors which worked out their death, and that afterwards he had sent forth another law which allowed of their life, we might conclude that he had, in the first instance, been making an experiment, and that, warned by its failure, he had turned himself to a new course of treatment. But we must not so reason in regard of God. He knew perfectly well when He issued the law that it would prove a ministration of death. And if the law and the gospel had been altogether detached, there would have existed great cause for marvel at God's appointing a ministration of death. But when it is remembered that the law was introductory to the gospel, so that the covenant of works literally made way for the covenant of grace, all surprise ought to vanish. From the earliest moment of human apostasy, God's dealing with the fallen had always reference to the work of atonement. Though by itself the law was a ministration of death, yet those who live under it were not necessarily left to die. Know we not that whilst this legal dispensation was in the fulness of its strength, there passed many an Israelite into the kingdom of heaven? We carry you to the scenes of temple-worship, and bid you learn from the emblematical announcement of redemption that no man died because living under the ministration of death; but that, even whilst the moral law was unrepealed, as a covenant it could weigh no one down to perdition who looked onward to the long-promised sacrifice.

2. But while the Divine goodness in the appointment of a ministration of death is thus vindicated, the law was actually a ministration of death. Could man, with all his industry, obey truly the moral law? If not, then the ministration of the law must have been a ministration of death, seeing, that if it cannot be fulfilled, it must unavoidably condemn. You shall take the Crucifixion as an answer to all questioning on the law being aught else than a ministration of death. Why, if man had a capacity for working out by his own strivings obedience to the law, and he could win to himself a crown of glory — why did Divinity throw itself into humanity, and achieve, through the wondrous coalition, the mastery over death, and Satan, and hell?

2. Though the law was thus a ministration of death, it was nevertheless glorious. It was mainly as a consequence of its own perfection that the law proved a minister of death. Had the law been a defective law, constructed so as to be adapted to the weakness of the parties on whom it was imposed, and not to the attributes of Him from whom it proceeded, it is altogether supposable that the result might not have been the condemnation of mankind. But if a law had been constructed which man could have obeyed, would it have been glorious? You tell me, in the fact of its being a practical and saving law, and allowing the wretched to work out deliverance from their wretchedness. Then it is glory that the law should make loop-holes for offenders, in case of being a rampart against offences; while the whole of the universe must have been shaken at God's overlooking of sin. We say not, it was glory that man should perish; but we do say it was glorious that the moral law was the transcript of the Divine mind.


1. The ministration of the Spirit is set in antithesis to the ministration of death. The great work which Christ effected was the procurement of life to those who were dead in trespasses and sins. We are legally dead — because born under the sentence of eternal condemnation — and we are morally dead, because insensible to our condition; and, if insensible, totally unable to reanimate ourselves. The legal death the Mediator may be said to have annihilated, for He bore our sins in His own body on the tree; and the moral death-for the destruction of this He made the amplest provision, procuring for us, by the merits of His passion, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life.

2. The gospel in its every department is a ministration of righteousness, and therefore of spiritual life. It is the mightiest display of God's righteousness. Where has God equally shown His hatred of sin, His settled determination to wring its punishment from the impenitent? It is a system, moreover, whose grand feature is the application to man of the righteousness of Christ; "Christ is made unto us of God, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," and therefore is He our life. And this gospel, moreover, while displaying a perfect righteousness which must be wrought for us, insists peremptorily on a righteousness which must be wrought in us by God's Spirit — the ministration of the Spirit thus making our own holiness, though it can obtain nothing in the way of merit, indispensably necessary in the way of preparation.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)


1. The perfection of the moral law was a favourite subject with the saints of old (Nehemiah 9:13; Psalm 19:7). But this glory, as regards God, made it to man, if he rested in it, the ministration of condemnation. It set before men a perfect rule of conduct, and therefore required more than fallen man could fulfil. Yet it pronounced a curse upon all who did not perfectly answer to its demands (Galatians 3:10; Romans 3:19, 20; Romans 7:9-11).

2. But the ceremonial law is also glorious, not in itself, but as it borrowed light from the gospel and prefigured it. Whereas the moral law doomed all under it to death, the ceremonial taw gave them some faint indications of mercy. The ceremonial law, then, must be greatly inferior to the gospel, inasmuch as Christ is the substance of all its types and shadows. Since He is come it has lost its glory. It is chiefly useful to show the necessity of atonement.


1. It is a republication of the moral law; therefore, what glory the law has the gospel has likewise. But it possesses far higher glory, inasmuch as it is the ministration of righteousness. As the law denounces all who rest upon it as a covenant of works to death, so the gospel, by its gift of righteousness, conveys life to all who receive it in faith. The law shows the holiness of God, and is therefore glorious, but the gospel shows the holiness, justice, and mercy of God in an inconceivable degree by the very method in which it freely dispenses righteousness, and therefore it is transcendently glorious.

2. It is superior to the law, as it is the ministration of the Spirit, who is the life and soul of the whole system. We may descant about the righteousness of Christ, and the demands of the perfect law, but we never could have attained to that righteousness unless the Spirit of God had been likewise bestowed, to write these truths in our hearts, and to bring home these doctrines with power.Conclusion:

1. As regards the law —(1) Do not neglect it by taking up your own rule of life, such as the customs of men and worldly maxims afford. The law of God is the only rule of duty (Matthew 19:17), and is still our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.(2) Do not abuse it by looking to be saved by your own obedience to its commands.

2. As regards the gospel —(1) Do not neglect it. It is God's method of saving sinners; His mercy now flows in this one channel; if you seek His mercy in any other way, you will find yourselves in an evil case (Thessalonians 1:8).(2) Do not abuse it. Remember that while Christ came to provide forgiveness, He came also "to purify to Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works."

(H. J. Hastings, M. A.)

Why should the law be described as "the ministration of death" or "the ministration of condemnation"? Are not the terms unnecessarily harsh? Do they not suggest a false idea of the dignity of law? My first object is to defend a negative answer to this inquiry. The very fact of penal law being established presupposes either power or disposition to do that which is wrong. The simplest of illustrations shall bring the meaning of the assertion, that law defines and limits liberty, within the comprehension of a child. For a length of time you have been in the habit of regarding certain fields as common property; again and again you have struck your course across them to shorten or vary a journey. The idea that you were trespassing never occurred to you. So far as you knew there was no law whatever in the case. In process of time, however, the proprietor determines to assert his right to his own land. With this end in view he gives public intimation that all persons found upon his property will be dealt with as trespassers. He proclaims a law. He sets up in his field a ministration of condemnation. From that hour the whole question of your liberty undergoes a fundamental change. Yet, why should the law be designated "the ministration of condemnation" and "the ministration of death"? When the law is based on rectitude, what possible relation can it sustain to death or condemnation? All punishment stands on the plane of death. Death, absolutely so called, is the ultimate penalty; but the very gentlest blow, nay, the very shadow of a frown, is death in incipiency; that is to say, it belongs to the kingdom of death, and not in any sense to the kingdom of life; death is in the penalty as truly as the plant is in the seed. That law is correctly designated "the ministration of condemnation," and "the ministration of death," may be shown by another simple illustration. Let me suppose that as heads of houses you had not for a long time felt the necessity of requiring all the members of your households to be at home by a fixed hour. In the working of your family life, however, you find it necessary to determine an hour at which every child shall be with you. To that effect you proclaim your law. In process of events, I further suppose, one of your children is a mile off when the well-known hour strikes. What is the consequence in his own experience? He hears stroke after stroke without alarm, until, alas! the legal hour is pealed off. How that stroke shakes him! how reproachful the shivering tone! A week before he could have heard the same hour strike, and nothing would have alarmed him. He now feels that the law is "the ministration of condemnation." He says, "I am late; I should have been at home; my father's eye will reprove me; I had not known sin but by the law, for I had not known irregularity in time, except the law had said, Thou shalt be punctual." Take the world's first case of law. There was law in the Edenic life. There was a "Thou shalt not" in the programme of the world's first experience of manhood, and over it fell the shadow of threatened death. Liberty was made liberty by law. Up to the very moment of touching the forbidden fruit, Adam knew not what was meant by the "ministration of condemnation" but the moment after, how vast his knowledge! The law said nothing to Adam of "condemnation" until he had broken it. So long as he kept the law he knew nothing of death, except by Observation. Fools are they who cavil because Adam did not physically expire. Is death a question of frozen marrow? Every man knows the killing power of sin. In darkness you have done some deed of iniquity. Your heart condemns you. When you come forward to the light, you feel yourself dead, your moral vitality is gone. Another inquiry is now suggested. Under circumstances so appalling, how can "the ministration of condemnation" be said to be "glory"? — for that is the royal word of the text. I answer, the glory is not in the condemnation and the death, except in the immediate connection with the law. That there is glory in law is open to decisive demonstration. The establishment of law implies authority on the part of the lawgiver. Law is the declared will of the superior. How is it amongst ourselves? Does the servant give law to the master, or the master to the servant? By whose authority is the table of regulations put up in all your great hives of industry? I repeat, then, that law implies authority on the part of the lawgiver. Carry these illustrations forward to the case argued in the text, then the "glory" will at once kindle upon us, and, like the children of Israel, we shall need the protecting veil. Recall the dread days of Sinai. Almighty God alights, and the mountain shudders at His presence. Every utterance of the eternal mind must have its own peculiar glory; alike the utterance designed to produce physical results and the utterance intended to operate in the moral kingdom: each shines with a glory distinctively its own, and in proportion as the moral is superior to the physical, so does the glory of the one exceed the glory of the other. When, therefore, I contemplate the dread issue of an infraction of God's law, I can understand the apostle when he calls that law "the ministration of condemnation"; and as I further contemplate the sublime purpose of that law, I can understand how, upon such a " ministration," there shone a "glory" which must have beamed from heaven! The gospel is described as "the ministration of righteousness," and is affirmed to "exceed in glory." In giving the law, God did not accommodate Himself to human weakness by imposing easy or elastic conditions and regulations. He declared that which was absolute in rectitude. The law rendered supremely important service to man if it did nothing more than bring him to the consciousness that he was powerless to fulfil requirements so holy. The law showed him the height to which he must ascend, and he trembled, and owned his weakness. "Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law." "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." The law was not designed to give life. It had but a schoolmaster's work to do. There was an epoch of law; there is now an epoch of faith. Faith is younger than law; hence, "before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up into the faith which should afterwards be revealed." As the law was antecedent to faith, so also it stands in perfect contrast; "the one being " the ministration of condemnation," the other "the ministration of righteousness." Yet what is meant by asserting that the law was antecedent to the gospel? I mean antecedent merely in the order of open manifestation. The promise that Christ should come into the world takes precedence of all other promises. The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. Love is from everlasting, law is but of yesterday; law is for a season, love is for ever;law is a transient flame, love an eternal orb. Sublime beyond full comprehension is the fact that the gospel is "the ministration of righteousness." Those who exercise repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ are not merely pardoned; that would be much — infinitely more, indeed, than the law could ever do — but they are made righteous, they are cleansed, they are sanctified, they are transformed into the image of God. Law had no blood in its iron hand to apply to the depraved and guilty nature of man. It is impossible that law could forgive, law only can condemn. Here is the moral contrast in all its breadth. The law is weak, the gospel is mighty; the law touches the outer man, the gospel penetrates the heart. The ministration of righteousness exceeds the ministration of condemnation "in glory." This is in strict harmony with God's general method of government. He never goes from the greater to the less, but ever from the less to the greater. We thought nothing could exceed the splendour of Sinai, yet it was eclipsed by the transcendent magnificence of Calvary. The law was veiled under types and shadows, but the Son of God has been crucified before our eyes. The exceeding glory of the gospel, then, is seen in this, that while it comes to condemn sin, it also comes to destroy its power, and save those whom it has brought into bondage. The gospel has no word of pity for sin, or of extenuation for error, but it melts with infinite compassion as it yearns over the sinner. The law never had a loving word for the transgressor — it was stern, inflexible, rigorous. Some are endeavouring to reach heaven through obedience to the law. Are you wiser than God? Is the atonement a mistake? A man passes from one "ministration" to another, and so is brought nearer and nearer to God, we should remind ourselves that the advancing ages multiply our responsibilities. We cannot live under the "exceeding glory " without incurring proportionate obligations.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Note three facts in the context —

1. The infinite Father has made a special revelation to man. This is a fact answering to the a priori reasonings and intuitions of humanity.

2. That this special revelation has mainly come through two great general sources — Moses and Christ.

3. That while the essence of the revelation is the same, the forms differ, and the forms it assumes through Christ are most "glorious."


1. The wonderful display of Divinity attending the expression of it on Mount Sinai. The apostle seems to have had an eye to this in his reference to the supernatural brightness that rested on "the face of Moses" (Exodus 34:29, 30). What wonderful things did Moses hear and see during the forty days he was up on that mountain! What overwhelming display of glory there must have been when from His hand went a "fiery law"! (Exodus 19; Exodus 20; Hebrews 12:18-22).

2. The magnificence of its religious scenes and celebrations. The temple, how splendid in its architecture, materials, and furniture! The priesthood, how imposing in their costume and their services! The psalmody, how sublime! etc. "Glorious things are spoken of the city of the living God."

3. The stupendous miracles that stand in connection with it. The wilderness was the theatre of great wonders.

4. The splendid intellects which were employed in connection with it. The philosophy of Solomon, the poetry of David, the eloquence of Isaiah, the imagery of Ezekiel, the strains of Jeremiah, etc. Divine revelation, as it stands hi connection with Moses, is associated with the most brilliant of human geniuses.


1. The Christian form of Divine revelation is more adapted to give life than the Mosaic. Compare the effect of the words of the revelation as it came from Christ, addressed by Peter on the day of Pentecost, to the moral effect of the preaching of any of the prophets under the law, and you will find that the one may justly be called a "ministration of death" as compared with the other.

2. The Christian form of Divine revelation is more emphatically spirit than the Mosaic. It is called here "the ministration of the spirit." There was much spirit in the Mosaic; but Christianity throbs through every sentence with the eternal spirit of truth. Then, too, the smaller amount of the spirit in the Mosaic was so overlaid with ceremony that it was almost buried out of sight; whereas the greater amount of the spirit of truth in connection with Christianity is stripped almost entirely of ceremony. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are all.

3. The Christian form of Divine revelation is more restorative than the Mosaic. The apostle speaks of one as the ministration of "condemnation," and the other, that of "righteousness." The Mosaic revelation had an aspect of terrible severity. Contrast the "curses" of Moses (Deuteronomy 27:15-26) with the beatitudes of Christ (Matthew 5:3-12).

4. The Christian form of Divine revelation is more lasting than the Mosaic. Christianity is the final revelation of God to our world.Conclusion: The subject serves —

1. To expose the absurdity of making Moses the interpreter of Christ.

2. To show the wrongness of going to Moses to support opinions you cannot get from Christ.

3. To reveal the immense responsibility of men living in gospel times.

4. To indicate the serious position of a true minister.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Note —


1. "The ministration of condemnation."

2. "The ministration of death." Its sentence is a death sentence. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Now from the execution of this sentence the law provides no resource. Sacrifices for sin, it is true, were provided raider the Mosaic dispensation; but they were merely typical of that great sacrifice for sin, which was to form a part of another and more glorious dispensation. "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins."


1. It is the "ministration of righteousness," because it provides for the believing sinner a complete satisfaction for the offences he has committed against the law of God, and an obedience perfectly commensurate with its demands, and so saves him from condemnation and death.

2. It is "the ministration of Spirit," because of the great outpouring of the Spirit with which it commenced, and the abundant communication of the same Spirit with which it has ever since been attended.

III. THE SUPERIOR GLORY OF THE GOSPEL ABOVE THAT OF THE LAW. The Jewish dispensation was glorious. It bad a glorious Author. Its object was glorious, viz., to unfold the infinite justice, purity, and majesty of God. It was published in a glorious manner. But, notwithstanding all this, the glory of the law sinks into nothing when compared with the gospel. The names which are here applied to the law and the gospel show us at once the propriety of this language. But the superior glory of the gospel may be made clear by other considerations.

1. It offers greater blessings to man than were offered by the law. The Mosaic dispensation had a reference principally to the present life, and most of its promises were temporal promises. The gospel places within our reach a share of that very joy which satisfies the Redeemer for "the travail of His soul."

2. It offers these blessings more extensively. The promises of the law were confined to one nation, and even of this nation it was but a little remnant that inherited the spiritual benefits of the dispensation under which they lived. The blessings of the gospel, on the contrary, are thrown open to all the world.

3. It has a greater influence on the hearts of men. The law had no power to touch the heart, and to cause men to love and obey it. The gospel, on the contrary, was no sooner published than it made glorious changes in the characters and lives of multitudes who embraced it.

4. It has a glory which will last for ever.

5. It is a brighter display of the Divine law.Conclusion:

1. How honourable an office is that of a minister of Christ!

2. How great is the privilege which we enjoy in living under the dispensation of the gospel!

3. How great a debt of gratitude and praise does every Christian owe to his crucified Lord!

4. How unwise are they who hope for pardon and salvation on the ground of their partial obedience to the law of God!

5. How ignorant are they of the gospel of Christ who make the influence of the Spirit the object of their scorn!

6. How anxiously should every hearer of the gospel desire that it may be made the ministration of the Spirit to himself, that he may experience its softening and purifying influence in his own heart!

(C. Bradley, M. A.)


1. Sensuous.

2. Stationary.

3. Artificial.

4. Transitory.

5. Shadowy.

6. Dangerous.


1. Spiritual.

2. Progressive.

3. Intrinsic.

4. Immortal.

5. Luminous.

6. Inviting.

(W. W. Wythe.)

I. A MINISTRATION OF THE SPIRIT. It was foretold that it should be so. "The days come when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel," etc. Then, respecting Him who is the head of the new dispensation, His holy body was the immediate product of the Holy Ghost, at His baptism "the Holy Spirit like a dove descended upon Him," His ministry was conducted by the power of the Spirit, He spake to the apostles of the Holy Ghost, and the last thing He said to them on earth was, that "they should wait for the promise of the Spirit." On the day of Pentecost it was fulfilled. And whatever light and grace and purity there has been in the Church from that day to this has been by the same influence and power. What, then, was the ministry of Moses, compared with that economy at the head of which appeared Jesus Christ with this great title — "He that baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire"?


III. A MINISTRATION OF LIFE. The first Adam was made a living soul, the second a quickening spirit. We were dead in trespasses and sins, but we are said to be "quickened." "Christ hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."

IV. A MINISTRY OF PLAINNESS (vers. 12, 13),that is, clearness of manifestation — not the obscurity of a type — not the difficulty of a prediction. All the gospel is as plain as language can make it. And having the light and plainness of the instruction of the N.T., the writers speak with confidence; they say, "We know whom we have believed," etc.

V. A DISPENSATION TREAT IS TO ABIDE. "Of the increase of His government there shall be no end."

(J. Stratten.)

How shall not the ministration
Who does not yearn over the long-lost joys of his boyhood — the light heart, the game, the holiday, and the prize? And yet we think manhood a nobler thing even with the wrinkles on its brow. Who does not long for the simple faith of his early years? Yet those who have gone through the agonies of honest doubt know that the faith which can survive such a test is worth more than that which never suffered a pang. The springing corn with its emerald glow of fresh young life is glorious; but the rich harvest is rather glorious. A scaffolding is sometimes a thing of beauty, but the building which it surrounds deprives it of permanent interest. There is a disposition to praise the good old times; yet no man of competent mind can say that the times of limited education, restricted commerce, slow transit and spiritual despotism were better than these. There is, however, and always has been this conservative tendency, and the Church has never been freed from it. Even in the days of Paul there were Gentile Christians whose very Christ had come to them so dressed up in Jewish garments that they were anxious to retain as much as possible of the older dispensation. So Paul had to reassert here the spiritual nature of the gospel he had been the first to proclaim at Corinth. In order to understand the ministration of the Spirit —


1. If we see several things united to each other by some secret bond, and subserving some secret purpose, we speak of them as a body, and that purpose as their uniting spirit. So a company of individuals instinct with a common idea are spoken of as bodies of men, and their common object as the spirit which actuates them. This arises, doubtless, from our consciousness that we are ourselves compounds of many parts over which a presiding spirit rules. Paul often speaks of the Church under this image — it is the Body of Christ inhabited by His Spirit.

2. Under the old dispensation a similar body grew up, and the religion of Moses, Samuel and Solomon, might be termed a ministration of the body. It consisted of innumerable regulations for the external management of the individual and the community. But the prejudices of the Jews led them to suppose that the body was of more consequence than the spirit; and directly the body considers itself the chief end of existence, the spirit is impaired. The man who sinks into such a condition becomes a morbid valetudinarian, a slave of his poor body; the institution thus perverted becomes obstructive of the end that called it into existence; and the Church that does so quenches the Spirit of God. When the Spirit works upon us we can never rest satisfied with the most careful attention to the most venerable rubric, but shall be moved to live a Divine life.

3. We have many institutions and societies, the body of which has sprung into existence under the direction of the Spirit. In proportion as they are imbued with that Spirit, they are parts of His scheme of mercy for a ruined world. But if we in our vanity make our own sanctuary or schools, organisations, church principles, etc., ends rather than means we deplete them of all their power.


1. Take any word — of what does it consist? Of a few strokes in themselves, utterly unmeaning. Pronounce the word? It is a sound having no meaning in itself. You and others agree to represent certain ideas by that word; but there is no necessary connection between the word and the meaning; for the same word may convey ideas utterly dissimilar to different people or nations. Thus though the letter has great value, it is transitory, accidental, liable to change; but the thing connoted, or the spirit conveyed may have an undying worth.

2. We speak of the letter and the spirit of a law or a testament. The one may be observed while the other is violated. Often has the letter of the Divine law been kept, while its spirit has been trifled with, and vice versa. A Divine spirit penetrated the rules of the O.T. dispensation; the spirit of that covenant has been ministered afresh in the gospel, but the letter in which it has been conveyed by Moses and Christ has widely differed.(1) At one time the nation and government of Israel was the form in which God's love and providence were made known to the world; but now the holy nation is found wherever hearts beat with childlike love to God.(2) So the spirit of sacrifice was seen in the thank and burnt-offerings; but while the mode of expressing this is changed the spirit is not lost.(3) The idea of holiness — separation to Divine use — was traced out in a marvellous detail, which has been for the most part superseded; yet the gospel puts holiness on an even higher elevation, exhibits it to our view in an embodiment of its loftiest perfection, and assures us that the same Spirit that was given to Christ is sent forth into our hearts.

III. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE SPIRIT AND THE FLESH, i.e., the dwelling in us of a living Christ, overpowering both the lower and more cultivated passions by Christlike and heavenly longings — the quickening of our whole spiritual being and alliance with God Himself. Now we must not forget that the ministration of the flesh, i.e., all that man has been able to achieve unaided by the Divine Spirit, has been in some respects glorious. There is an appalling grandeur in the efforts of men. The daring of Prometheus, the wisdom of Confucius, the conscience of Socrates, the mental affluence of Aristotle, the insight of Plato, the self-sacrifice of Buddha — still all this has no glory by reason of the glory that excelleth. The spirit soars into a region where the flesh in its most refined form cannot penetrate; it deals with problems that science cannot solve, and induces in human nature a new series of forces transcending reason, satisfying conscience, glorifying God.


1. The ministration of the body was a ministration of that which is perishable and must die, and hence it is a ministration of death. The ministration of the flesh is a ministration of that which has no real vitality in it, and hence it, too, is a ministration of death. The ministration of the letter of the law was a ministration of threatening and destruction. But the ministration of the Spirit is eternal.

2. The whole of the ministration of death had a glory of its own. The Lord of life employed it to teach mankind lessons of life and happiness; but as sunrise is more glorious than the sublimity of the midnight storm, and the dayspring than the dazzle of the lightning, and the smile of spring than the magnificence of iceberg or desert mirage, so does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory all the ministration of death.

(H. R, Reynolds, D. D.)

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