2 Corinthians 3:7-11

But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away,

how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?

For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.

10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels.

11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

ministry (v.7) = service with a willing (voluntary) attitude, lit. “waiting at a table”

glory (v.7) = honor, renown, splendor, the unspoken manifestation of God.

exceeds (v.9) = abounds, overflows, exceeds the ordinary

passing away (v.11) = made idle, made of no effect, abolished

The ministry announcing death, i.e., “the Letter,” that is, the Law, came with glory—a glory so great that man could not look upon it, for it judged him, making him conscious that he was a sinner—but the ministry announcing life has so much more excellent a glory that it eclipses the glory of the former. The Law demanded righteousness; the Gospel provides righteousness. The Law bartered righteousness for obedience, and as that obedience was impossible to man, it was unobtainable by him; hence his condemnation to death. The Gospel provides man with a spotless righteousness as a free gift; hence the Gospel ministry of life. Man being guilty, his greatest need is righteousness. So the one was the ministration of condemnation; the other, the ministration of righteousness. Both were “with glory,” for they both express God’s moral glory demonstrated in judgment and in grace. Both demonstrations were Divinely necessary to the manifestation of that glory. — Williams, page 899.

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The ministration of the Law began in a blaze of glory. Mt. Sinai was “altogether on a smoke … as the smoke of a furnace.” There were thunderings, lightnings and an earthquake, driving the people back. There was the sound of a trumpet, “exceeding loud.” There was the glorious Shekinah cloud in which God Himself appeared and literally “spake all these words” (Exodus 19:9–20:1).

But ere Moses had even come down from the Mount with the tables of stone, the people were breaking the very first commandment, dancing naked like heathen around a golden calf.

From here on, at the very outset, the law took on another aspect. Judgment had to be pronounced and penalties inflicted. Nor could any escape its just sentence of condemnation and death. What had begun in glory now lead only to gloom, “because the Law worketh wrath” (Romans 4:15).

But there can be no gloom associated with the administration of the New Covenant, says the apostle, for under it righteousness and life are ministered to all who will receive them by faith. This is because the claims of the Old Covenant were fully met by Christ at Calvary. Thus the ministration of the New Covenant outshines that of the Old in every respect.

If I light a lamp in a dark room at night the glory of the lamp will fill the room with light. But when the sun rises the glory of the lamp will fade until one can barely notice that it is lit. Thus the ministration of the Law has “no glory in this respect, by reason of” the infinite glory of the ministration of grace. — Stam, pages 65-66.

This whole section is part of a parentheses in which Paul details his message and explains how it’s different from the Old Covenant.

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