the Christian life

Mosaic Law: 2 Corinthians 3

by Carol Berubee; adapted from the book, A Primer on Pauline Doctrine: Revealing the Mystery of the Body of Christ

The Corinthian church was under pressure from the Judaizers to forsake Paul and his Gospel of grace in favor of their false gospel of grace plus law. Paul explains that Mosaic Law has nothing to offer in comparison to the Holy Spirit. Much like the argument made in the epistle to the Hebrews, wherein Christ is put forth as the Mediator of a better covenant, here the Spirit is upheld as more glorious than the Law. 

2 Corinthians 3
3 Being made manifest that you [Corinthian believers] are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us [Paul and his co-laborers in Corinth], written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone [the Ten Commandments], but in tables that are hearts of flesh… 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God; 6 Who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter [the Law], but of the Spirit: for the letter [the Law] kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven on stones [the Ten Commandments], came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which glory was passing away: 8 How shall not rather the ministration of the Spirit be with glory? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation [the Law] is glory, much rather does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For truly that which has been made glorious has not been made glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasses. 11 For if that which passes away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.

If the Law of condemnation and death had glory so that the children of Israel could not look upon Moses’ face, then the new covenant of righteousness abounds more in glory. Moreover, the Law has no more glory because of the surpassing glory of the new covenant with which it is compared. If glory was on the doomed, then more glory rests on the eternal. 

The new covenant of which Paul speaks (v. 6) is not Israel’s New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:24-28), though Israel’s New Covenant is made possible by the covenant of which Paul speaks. This new covenant spoken of here in 2 Corinthians is the one explained in Hebrews 13:20-21, in which the two parties involved are God the Father and God the Son; it is not a covenant made with any man. This eternal covenant is, of course, more glorious than the Old Covenant of Law, which has been done away. 

2 Corinthians 3
13 …Moses…put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel should not look steadfastly on the end of that which was passing away: 14 But their minds were hardened, for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, which veil is done away in Christ… 16 But when a man shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Moses covered the fading glory so that the Jews wouldn’t see the end of its brightness, but their minds were hardened. Even today, they can’t see beyond the veil to see the fading glory and that the Law is done away in Christ. But when a person shall turn to the Lord, the veil that had hidden the fading glory of the Law is removed and he or she can see Christ clearly. 

2 Corinthians 3
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.

Where the Spirit dwells, there is freedom from the Law; there is no longer bondage to ordinances and fear of condemnation. Unlike Moses, our faces are unveiled and in this unveiled liberty we behold the glory of the Lord as in a mirror. We are transformed continually into His likeness, and His glory that shines on us is reflected by us. The work of the Spirit is infinitely more glorious than laws written on tables of stone.