2 Corinthians 3:7-11
But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious…
In some sense it may be said that teachings respecting the relations between the older revelation in Judaism and the newer revelation in Christianity were special to the Apostle Paul. On this point he had direct revelations from Christ, and the liberal form which his teachings took exposed him to the peril of being misunderstood and misrepresented, and brought persecutions around him. No man could be found more truly loyal to the older revelation than the apostle of the Gentiles, but while he honoured it he saw clearly that it had its day and its mission. That day had now passed; that mission had been fulfilled. The older covenant had made open and plain the way for the new, and it was loyalty to the old for Paul to accept fully the new, in which it found its fulfilment, its completion, its glory; for the ministration of Jesus and the Spirit is but Judaism glorified, the gospel of the letter passed into the gospel of the spirit. Three contrasts are here dwelt upon. The old covenant and the new are conceived as -
I. A MINISTRATION OF DEATH AND A MINISTRATION OF LIFE. St. Paul had said (ver. 6) that the "letter killeth." He meant that it crushed hope and effort, since no man could reach a perfect obedience. The old covenant condemned all who failed even in the least thing. It provided no life, no strength in which obedience could become possible. On the other band, the new covenant provided a new life for the will and a new grace unto obedience. The old crushed down heart and hope, and made a man cry out, "I cannot." The new cheered him, lifted him up, and made him say, "I can, through him who strengtheneth me."
II. A MINISTRATION OF CONDEMNATION AND A MINISTRATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The old covenant said, "Thou shalt not," and it denounced its penalties on the offenders. The new covenant says, "Thou shalt," holds before us the model life of obedience lived by the Lord Jesus, and provides grace unto changing us into his image.
III. A MINISTRATION THAT WAS PASSING AND A MINISTRATION THAT WAS PERMANENT. (Ver. 11.) The older covenant was of necessity transitory. It had but a temporary and preparatory mission. The new is abiding, for there can be nothing higher than or beyond that spiritual righteousness which is its sublime aim to accomplish. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
WEB: But if the service of death, written engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly on the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which was passing away: