What is the Bible talking about when mentioning the ministration of righteousness, or the ministration of death? See the scriptures below to see what I’m asking about.
7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?2 Corinthians 3:7-9
9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
Paul used the word “ministration,” describing the 2 different Covenants given to us by the Lord God Almighty.
Considering that he used this word 4 times in 3 verses, perhaps we should hang on the word “ministration” for a minute.
nounDefinition provided by Dictionary.com
1. the act of ministering care, aid, religious service, etc.
2. an instance of this.
Paul is talking about 2 overall ministries that came at different times, involved different people, differ in outcome, and was delivered by 2 different people. All this notwithstanding, both come from the same Father- the same Source.
The former was delivered to the people through Moses, the newer delivered through Christ.
The former was directed speciffically toward the Israelites, the newer directed toward everyone.
The former revealed sin and called for atonement, the newer reveals life and all sin is atoned for.
The former required sacrifices to be made to be pardoned from sin, the newer hinges on the Lord’s own sacrifice that is once for all, removing our sin as far from us as the east is from the west.
The former was impossible to stick with, because it was perfect while people were not, the newer relies on the perfection of Christ- having been the only one qualified to fulfil the former, and reveal the new.
Available to us today is a better plan by the Father through Christ, than what the Israelites had received by the Father through Moses.
Why we needed a New Covenant- Ministry of Righteousness
There’s a good reason why Paul uses terms like “ministry of death,” or “ministry of condemnation,” when talking about the Laws of Moses. It isn’t because the laws were evil or unjust by any stretch of the imagination.
Reason is, the end result- death or condemnation. It was too good, or too thorough, for anyone to live it out without having some means of escaping condemnation or death, such as sacrifices and offerings.
Select animals, food, or other things of value were offered up unto the Lord, in order to make atonement for their sins, and cover their iniquities. As we’ve discussed in several different places here on the site, the wages of sin is death, and death comes in many different forms.
Sacrifices under the Law of Moses (and also prior to that), is a method of making sure that the “death” part of sin landed on those animals or belongings, rather than the ones who sinned.
Hebrews 9: King James Bible
22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
Glory of his Countenance
In verse seven, Paul brings up the glory that was on Moses after his meeting with the Lord up the mountain, as the details of the Covenant was laid out by the Father. This can be found in Exodus 34:
9 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.
30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. 31 And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them.
32 And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai. 33 And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.
34 But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded.
35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
The Glory Done Away
It is supposed that the glory that Moses shone from his face from being in the presence of the Lord, eventually faded. I say “supposed,” because there isn’t anywhere I could find in the Old Testament, that gave mention to the glory eventually fading off the face of Moses.
While looking into these verses preparing information to write about, I’ve found that verse seven is one that has remained a mystery to many people, from the scholar to the layman. When trickled down, the mystery revolves around the “fading” of the glory off of the face of Moses.
Strange how our own presuppositions follow us around. I say that, because I went into this with the same idea- that Moses’s face stopped shining after a while. Now, after having looked into it a bit, I’ve found that there are at least five different interpretations going on, all around 2 Corinthians 3:7!
KJV: which glory was to be done away:
YLT: which was being made useless,
AMP: [a brilliance] that was fading,
NIV: transitory though it was,
NKJV: which glory was passing away,
There are a bunch of other translations that repeat “fading” or use terms such as “setting aside,” but I think you get the idea.
Personally speaking, when it comes to disputed matters such as this, I choose to go with the KJV. Why? Because out of all the translations, this is the only one where the translators were under the weight of “get it right or die.” This is only one of several reasons I stick with KJV.
Strong’s Lexicon will tell us that the transliteration of the phrase Paul used (glory was to be done away), is katargeō (we’d pronounce it as kä-tär-ge’-ō). There are many different definitions that fall under this word, such as:
- do away
The one term missing in the string of definitions above, is the word fade. So, why do so many translations use fade? I have no idea.
There isn’t any mention of the glory of the Lord fading off of the face of Moses, however, there is mention that he did indeed die. All of the above definitions could apply to one’s death.
So, who cares? Why bring any of this up, and what does it have to do with the ministration of righteousness?
Hinging on Death
The glory present on Moses was evident until death (at least as far as I can find). This was on his flesh, and consequently, the laws that the Father handed down toward Moses had a great deal to do with the flesh, and the cleansing of it from sin and iniquity.
In comes Jesus.
Aside from moments of convening with Moses and Elijah, the physical countenance of Christ Jesus was normal in appearance, without any extra showing of glory upon the flesh. That is until after his death and resurrection, where his countenance is recorded to shine.
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:
4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
The things that Jesus spoke, taught, and preached, were’t geared toward things of the flesh, but things of the spirit.
63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
From Glory to Glory
What I’m trying to point out above, is that the glory of the Lord was evident upon Moses until death, and the glory of the Lord became evident (even embodied) upon Christ Jesus after his death.
Moses unveiled his glorified face when he went in to the presence of the Lord to petition on behalf of the people. Christ Jesus, who is our ultimate and eternal High Priest, shines his face in the presence of the Father day and night.
3 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
Covenant set in Righteousness
Christ Jesus makes us worthy of the Father, when we by ourselves are completely unworthy. Where we lack in the eyes of the Lord, Christ Jesus petitions on our behalf, having made himself our personal sacrificial lamb. Where before the law was too perfect for an imperfect people, Christ in us, the hope of glory, is all the perfection necessary.
Jesus didn’t replace the laws distributed to Moses, but fulfilled them, and makes us able to live and move acceptably in the eyes of the Father through him.
It is Christ’s righteousness that has made us right with the Father, certainly not our own. This is why we have a better covenant than what the Israelis enjoyed with Moses. Where we fail, Christ has persevered and is the victor over all things.
Us being his own, we partake and bask in his victory, being the point and the prize of his good works.
Being the point and prize of the good works and sacrifices of the Lord Jesus Christ, how do we show him appreciation? Do we say thanks and live according to the world? Or, do we live according to his Word, as well as giving thanks?
We who are Christ’s are under the ministration of righteousness, which is a far better ministration to be under than the former. However, unless we partake in the fruit of the Spirit, and allow the Lord to build us up from the inside out, being obedient to his Word, and staying in Christ, how could we ever stay in fulfilment of the former laws given by the Father?
They all round up into one place, which is the heart. God’s eyes are on the heart, as it is the place where he weighs us. If we’re doing what Jesus taught: Love the Lord with all of our hearts, love our neighbor as ourselves, and loving each other as Christ loves us, then all of the former is summed up and fulfilled. The former covenant worked from the outward works, the newer works from the inside out. Praise the Lord for that!
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