Ask yourself this question: “What would the people who are closest to me right now say about me?” Would they say that your actions show that you’re a minister of grace? Would they say that your words show that you’re minister of love? That your attitude shows you’re a minister of self-sacrificial love?
With that in mind, let’s look at 2 Corinthians 3:7-11. This passage contrasts the Old Covenant with the New Covenant using three points:
- The Old Covenant is a ministry of condemnation. In contrast, the New Covenant is a ministry of righteousness.
- The Old Covenant is a ministry of death. On the other hand, the New Covenant is a ministry of the Spirit.
- The Old Covenant is on of temporary glory while the New Covenant is one of permanent glory.
The contrasts are not made in that exact order in the text, but it is the logical sequence. And that’s how we’ll look at them today.
The Old Covenant Is a Ministry of Condemnation, the New Covenant Is One of Righteousness
For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.– v. 9
What does it mean that the Old Covenant, the law and God’s revelation in the Old Testament, is one of condemnation? How is it condemning?
To put it briefly, God revealed Himself to His people in the Old Covenant through the perfect law. He did this to show who He is – perfect and absolutely holy. But, because of sin, we can’t keep God’s law perfectly or live up to the high standards He set for us. So the law results in our guilt and condemnation.
In contrast, the New Covenant is a ministry of righteousness. It is Christ’s perfect life of obedience and perfect sacrifice that results in our righteousness. So instead of receiving condemnation, we receive righteousness in the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant Is a Ministry of Death, the New Covenant Is One of the Spirit
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?– vv. 7-8
The Old Covenant, or covenant of the letter, is a ministry of death. As the apostle Paul wrote in verse 6: “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Why does the Old Covenant bring death? Because the wages of sin is death. In other words, the “just desserts” for breaking God’s law is death. We cannot live in the presence of a holy God as sinful people.
The New Covenant, on the other hand, is a ministry of the Spirit. This Spirit “gives life” – it takes the life of Christ and applies it to us. Through the New Covenant, then, we experience new life that Christ brings to us.
The Old Covenant Is One of Temporary Glory, the New Covenant Is One of Permanent Glory
Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.– vv. 10-11
The glory of the Old Covenant was a true glory, but it was a temporary glory. There was glory in the Old Covenant – it was right and good – but it was about to be replaced.
The glory of the New Covenant maintains a permanent glory because nothing will replace it or surpass it. It so outshines the glory of the former, Old Covenant.
“Glory” is a big concept. But simply put, it is the visible manifestation of the presence of God. Glory is the visible evidence that God is here, what you perceive as you are touched by His presence. It may be the most terrifying thing in the world or the most wonderful experience – it depends on where you’re coming from.
Three Questions for Us
As we think about these few verses, we need to ask ourselves three questions. These are questions we should really ask any time we read or receive God’s Word:
- What does this passage tell us about God?
There are many things we can learn about God here, but one thing is that He has revealed to us the good, the bad and the ugly. Sin is bad and ugly, and God revealed that to us in the Old Covenant. He has also revealed the good: His awesome love and grace in the New Covenant.
- What does this passage tell us about us?
One thing we can learn about ourselves is that we are ministers of the New Covenant. We need to see ourselves this way. God has established a New Covenant, and we are His ambassadors of this covenant to the world. Whatever life context you’re in right now, you are a minister of this New Covenant of glory, righteousness and life.
- How can you specifically obey this passage?
How can you live these truths out in very specific actions? As an ambassador of God’s New Covenant, how will you live in the next hour, day, week? What does it look like for you to be a minister today?
Don’t just identify ways to obey this passage – do it! Don’t stop with general things in your personal life. We need to actually obey what Jesus tells us to do, or we stop short of being the disciples He wants us to be.
Devotional streamed on Facebook Live – Wednesday, Apr. 1 @ 3:00 PM