II Corinthians 3:7-18
Paul was moved by the Holy Spirit to write to the Corinthians concerning the difference between God’s relationship with believers under the law and under the new covenant. The Apostle introduces the difference by announcing that the Corinthians are an epistle written, not with ink, but, with and by the Spirit of the living God upon fleshy tablets of the heart (v. 3).
In verse 6, Paul states that God “hath made us able ministers of the new testament.” He, further, declares that God did this, not by letter, but, by the Spirit. In the closing words of the verse Paul reveals why God chose to make “us able ministers” by the Spirit — “. . . the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
All that Paul wrote was given to him by God for God’s purposes. God desires that all believers know and act upon that the Spirit has done.
In verse 7 and 8, Paul refers to the law which God gave Moses as the ministration of death and the new covenant as the ministration of the Spirit.
Why does Paul label the law as the ministration of death? In Romans 7:10, the Apostle states, “The commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.” Man cannot join himself to God by keeping the law because no man can undo his sin. To keep the law one must be as God. In Genesis 3:5, Satan told Eve that she could be as God by disobeying God. Eve believed Satan’s lie and disobeyed. One cannot be as God by disobeying God. God gave the law to men such that we might know that we are separated from Him. Hence, the law which was ordained to life was found to be unto death because all have sinned.
The law, the ministration of death, was written upon stones. The law was glorious — too glorious for the children of Israel to look upon the face of Moses (see Ex. 34:29-35). The veil upon Moses’ face prevented the children of Israel from seeing the glory which God bestowed upon Moses. The new covenant is the ministration of the Spirit (v. 8). The glory of the new covenant is greater than the glory of the law because Jesus fulfilled the law (see Matt. 5:17). The new covenant was not revealed until Jesus removed the veil by fulfilling all righteousness. The glory of the ministration of the Spirit is magnitude upon magnitude greater than the glory of the law because the Spirit reveals that which the law masks.
In verse 9, Paul uses new names to refer to the law and to the new covenant. The ministration of death is the ministration of condemnation and the ministration of the Spirit is the ministration of righteousness. These new names declare the difference between the glory of the law and the glory of the new testament. The glory of condemnation is pale and weak and does not compare to the glory of righteousness.
“For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious” (v. 11). The glory of condemnation has been replaced by the glory of righteousness. The glory of righteousness is seen in Him who was without sin. Jesus came, not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Jesus replaced the glory of condemnation with the glory of righteousness.
Paul was God’s messenger to the Corinthians and us. God wants us to know that we are bathed in the glory of His righteousness — a righteousness that is without veil.
Because there is no veil, we see that which the children of Israel could not. In verse 14, the Apostle states that the veil remains before the eyes of Israel and Israel is unable to hear when Moses is read (v. 15). The blindness of Israel remains, even now, almost two thousand years after Paul wrote this epistle.
There is, however, good news for Israel. The veil shall be removed when Israel turns to the Lord (v. 16). Believing God changes one’s relationship with God from condemnation to that of righteousness.
In verse 17, Paul states, “Now the Lord is that Spirit.” That Spirit is of righteousness. Christ is the righteousness who satisfied the law and has made us free of the law. In Him, we have liberty. The condemnation of the law is put to no effect.
In the closing verse, Paul state that “we all” —all believers— are changed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord. His righteousness has been given to us. The image that we behold in a mirror is that which God sees. The Father sees that which the Son has done. We see His glory, the glory of life everlasting, life with Him.
Let us share that which we have received.