2 Corinthians 3:11 – “For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
The words ‘being brought to an end’ have been interpreted by some to mean that God’s law came to an end. But if that interpretation is correct, one would then need to reconcile a contradiction with the words of Jesus.
“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:18-19) For more, please see the section on Matthew 5:17. I also recommend the section titled Did Jesus ever deviate from his Father’s will?
Have heaven and earth passed away yet? Will Paul be called least in the kingdom of heaven for relaxing commandments? Thankfully, a closer look at the passage reveals that it wasn’t God’s law being brought to an end.
“7 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, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. 12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Some things were being “brought to an end” and others are described as “permanent”.
Being brought to an end:
- The glory of the ministry of death (v 7)
- The glory of the ministry of condemnation (vs 9-11)
- Having a veil over their hearts (vs 13-18)
Permanent and more glorious:
- The ministry of the Spirit (v 8)
- The ministry of righteousness (v 9)
- The veil is removed (v 16)
This is a pattern repeated often by New testament writers. Death is replaced by life.
“who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)
For more, I recommend reading the section called Meaning #7 of “Law”: The law of the Spirit of life.
A pattern we don’t see is any writer calling for obedience to the law to be replaced by lawlessness.
If that which leads to death without the Spirit was so glorious it made Moses face glow, so much so that the Isrealites couldn’t keep looking at him, then how much more glorious will the same law be when obeyed from the heart in the power of the Spirit! The law is even more glorious when written on a believing heart instead of on stone tablets to be ignored by a stone heart.