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    2 CORINTHIANS, CHAPTER III

    THIS CHAPTER is, by many persons, supposed to teach the abolition of the ten commandments. We think this doctrine is not in any wise countenanced by this portion of scripture. Let us carefully attend to what the Apostle has written in this chapter.SDSL 39.1

    Two ministrations are presented. The one is the ministration of death; the other is the ministration of the Spirit. Verses 6, 7. The word “ministration” signifies service performed by a minister or servant. Hence; two classes of ministers are introduced. The one class is Moses and those who, after him, carried out the work of ministration which he began. The other class of ministers is the apostles, and those who carry forward the work commenced by them. The one class is the ministers of the Old Testament; the other class is the ministers of the New.SDSL 39.2

    The two objects concerning which these ministrations are performed, are denominated “death,” andSDSL 39.3

    “the Spirit.” Let us now inquire respecting the meaning of these terms as here used. What is meant by the word “death,” in the sentence, “the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones?” We answer that it can only signify the words engraven upon the tables of stone; as though the sentence read, “the ministration of the ten commandments, written and engraven in stone.” The reason why the law of God is called “death,” may be gathered from the following scriptures: “the letter killeth;” “by the law is the knowledge of sin;” “the law worketh wrath; for where no law is, there is no transgression;” “the law entered that the offense might abound;” “I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which was good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.”SDSL 40.1

    What is meant by the word “Spirit” as used in this chapter? This word is definitely applied in verse 17: “Now the Lord is that Spirit.” Then we understand that the law of God slays the sinner, and is hence denominated “death;” while the Lord is that Spirit who makes alive the sinner thus slain. Hence we understand the Lord from heaven to be the life-giving Spirit here referred to.SDSL 40.2

    With these remarks we introduce verses 7, 8. “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; how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?”SDSL 40.3

    Those who offer this verse as proof that the ten commandments are abolished, have fallen into that error by confounding the ministration of that which was engraven upon stones, with the law itself that was there engraven. Thus making the law of God and the ministration of that law mean the same thing. But the next verse by furnishing a perfect parallel to the sentence in question, exhibits the absurdity of that view. “How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?” No one will claim that the ministration of the Spirit is the Spirit itself. Let them treat verse 7 with as much consistency as they do verse 8, and they will avoid the error that the ministration of the ten commandments is the ten commandments themselves.SDSL 41.1

    But verse 7 must distinctly mark the meaning of Paul in the use of the word “ministration;” and no one who will carefully read the verse need to confound the ministration with the commandments. Notice the first clause of the verse: “But if the ministration of death written and engraven in stones was glorious;” now read the explanatory clause and you may understand what that ministration was, and in what its glory consisted: “so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance.” Then the last clause of the verse is a distinct explanation of the first. The ministration or service to which Paul refers, was commenced by Moses when he took the ten commandments from Jehovah and brought them down to the people. That ministration was so glorious that the minister by whom it was performed, veiled his face to hide its glory. The full account of this interesting ministration of Moses may be read in Exodus 34:29-35. Nothing can be plainer, therefore, than the fact that by the word “ministration” in verse 7, Paul means not the ten commandments, but the service of Moses the minister, in bringing down from God that law which he had just engraven on the tables of stone.SDSL 41.2

    The ministration commenced by Moses, was carried forward through the entire period of the Old Testament. Moses placed the two tables in the ark, and placed the ark in the Most Holy Place of the typical sanctuary. Exodus 40; Deuteronomy 10. He then set apart the Levitical order of priesthood to minister before that ark while the typical sanctuary should continue. Exodus 28; 29; Leviticus 8; 9. When Moses brought down that holy law, it was to that sinful, rebellious people, but “condemnation” and “death;” for it could only show their guilt in the sight of God. It showed them exposed to its just penalty, and contained in itself no promise of pardon.SDSL 42.1

    But the ministration committed to the apostles and their successors, was expressly appointed to hold out pardon to the guilty, hope to the desponding, salvation to the lost. It recognizes indeed the great fact that the whole human family are under the just condemnation of the law of God, as its transgressors; [Romans 3:19;] but it bases its offer of pardon on the fact that Christ has died for the human family thus situated, [2 Corinthians 5:14, 15,] and that all who will avail themselves of this great propitiation may be forgiven freely. The great subject of this ministration is Christ, the life-giving Spirit, who has died for us. The priesthood which Moses appointed to minister before the ark of the testament in the typical sanctuary, offered no sacrifice that could take away sin; it could only cite penitent sinners forward to the great Sacrifice that should be offered for the sins of men. But in the heavenly Sanctuary before the ark of God’s testament, stands that great High Priest who has laid down his life for the world, and who is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God through him. Hebrews 7:8; Revelation 11:19.SDSL 42.2

    If therefore the ministration that could only exhibit man’s guilt and just condemnation, was so glorious that Moses, its minister, had to veil the glory of his countenance, how unspeakably glorious must that ministration be, that offers life, pardon and salvation to the guilty, the condemned, the lost!SDSL 43.1

    Moses while performing that ministration had a veil upon his face; but in contrast with this, Paul says, “But we all with open [literally unveiled] face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”SDSL 43.2

    Let us now inquire respecting the thing abolished in verse 7. That the word glory, inserted by the translators in its last clause, was rightly placed there, admits of certain proof. For the expression “teen katargoumeneen,” rendered, “which glory was to be done way,” is in the feminine accusative, and hence necessarily refers to “teen doxan,” “the glory,” which immediately precedes it, and is in the same gender and case, and not to “he diakonia,” “the ministration,” which is more remote, and is of a different case. On this point there can be no dispute. Hence the translators by inserting the word “glory” in the last clause of this verse, have faithfully expressed the sense of the original.SDSL 43.3

    Then Paul in verse 7, asserts the abolition of the glory of the former ministration. Verse 10 tells us that though that ministration was made glorious, yet in this respect it had no glory, by reason of the glory that excelleth. Now verse 11 will explain to us how the glory of the former ministration was done away, and also in what respect that ministration had no glory. It is more correctly rendered by Macknight than by our version. For “dia doxees” must signify, “by glory,” and not the adjective, “glorious.” As rendered by Macknight it reads: “Besides if that which is abolished, is abolished by glory, much more that which remaineth, remaineth in glory.” Two important facts are determined by this verse. 1. That the glory of the former ministration was done away by the surpassing glory of the present ministration, just as the glory of the stars is done away by the glory of the sun arising in his strength. 2. And hence we understand that it had no glory by reason of the glory that excelleth, in the same manner that we understand that the stars have no glory when the sun shines.SDSL 44.1

    We will now quote verses 13, 14. “And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished; but their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which vail is done away in Christ.” Verse 13 being explanatory of verse 7, we have here a good opportunity to determine what was abolished. And we shall find its statement on this point the same as that of verse 7. When the veil was upon the face of Moses, “the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished.” What then did the vail hide? for the answer to this question determines the whole matter. Were the tables of stone hidden by that vail? No verily. But it was the glory of that ministration, which glory in the estimation of the Jews still abides. The vail upon his face hid that which is abolished; but the tables of stone were neither hidden nor obscured by the vail: he held them in his hands. Exodus 34:29.SDSL 44.2

    The vail with which Moses hid the glory of his face still remains upon literal Israel. They still connect in an inseparable manner the great constitution, the ten commandments, with the glory that enshrouded Moses and that attended the Levitical ministration, not seeing that that ministration has given place to another of far surpassing glory. Israel cannot see that the hidden glory is gone; but as they can still see that holy law, they believe that that glory must abide as well as that law. Others at the present day fall into the opposite error. They can see that that glory is gone, and hence conclude that that holy law has gone also. They do not see that in the heavenly tabernacle, where our great High Priest is ministering for us, the ark of God abides as well as it did in the earthly tabernacle. Revelation 11:19. They think highly indeed of the mercy-seat; but the law of God contained in the ark beneath that mercy-seat, is despised and counted a thing of naught. Exodus 25:17-22; Hebrews 9:4. But the dream that the blood of Christ blotted out the moral law (the very thing that caused it to be shed) will be found vain and delusive in the day of God.SDSL 45.1

    The act of Moses in covering from the sight of Israel the glory that beamed from his face at the commencement of that ministration represented this great truth; viz., that that ministration with its glory was not to abide; and that when it should be succeeded by a ministration that could give life and pardon to guilty man, Israel would not understand the fact. To this day the vail is upon their heart. Every thing relating to the ministration and the glory in the reading of the Old Testament, is with them inseparably connected with Moses. This vail is done away in Christ; and when the heart shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Every thing relating to salvation and glory will then be associated with Christ and the better ministration.SDSL 46.1

    In this chapter, therefore, there is no intimation that the law of God is abolished. Those who make it teach such a doctrine, wrest the words of Paul to their own destruction. Even the verses on which such persons lay the greatest stress become a complete absurdity when made to teach the abolition of the ten commandments. For in the first place they have to assume that the word “ministration” instead of signifying service performed by a minister, [as the word invariably signifies, and is expressly so applied in the latter part of verse 7,] signifies the ten commandments. This absurd assumption is the basis of the doctrine. Let us see how consistent a doctrine can be erected upon this basis. It stands thus: If the ten commandments were glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses etc. Any one can see how incongruous such a statement would be. To say that the ministration was glorious so that they could not behold the face of the minister, is a statement perfectly consistent, being indeed the very thing that Paul has affirmed; but to say that the tables of stone were the subjects of this glory, and yet, have that glory only appear upon the face of Moses is reasoning from unlike to unlike. If the tables of stone constituted this glorious ministration, why was not the vail which hid that glory wrapped about the tables of stone, and not placed before the face of the minister? The answer is obvious. It was the service performed by Moses that was thus glorious: and that glory was hidden when Moses vailed his face.SDSL 46.2

    It remains that we quote two or three texts in which Paul directly teaches the perpetuity of the law of God. The word of Paul was not yea and nay, so that he does not affirm a doctrine in one place and deny it in another.SDSL 47.1

    1. The following is Dr. Bloomfield’s translation of 1 Corinthians 7:19, with his note appended:SDSL 47.2

    “‘Circumcision is of no moment, and uncircumcision of no moment; but keeping the commandments of God is something of consequence;’ i.e., as being the test of genuine faith.”SDSL 47.3

    2. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long upon the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3. In this text it is certain that Paul enforces the duty of children to their parents, by the commandment which he quotes, thus acknowledging its supreme authority. Nor can the argument from this text be evaded by saying that he quoted it from a revised code which Christ had established. For it is a fact, that although Christ has quoted this commandment, he has never appended a promise to it; much less has he added the one here quoted by Paul. But it is also a fact that this commandment does stand in the decalogue not only as its first commandment with promise, but with the very promise in question annexed. Hence it is certain that Paul acknowledges the fifth precept of the decalogue as the fountain-head of all authority on this point.SDSL 47.4

    3. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31. Now it is an interesting fact that the verb “katargeo” which in 2 Corinthians 3:1s rendered ‘done away,” “abolished,” is the same one that in Romans 3:31, is rendered “make void.” We have shown that the word is not used in 2 Corinthians 3, with reference to the law of God. As a demonstration of the truth on this point, we present these words of Paul to the Romans. In the strongest manner he expresses his abhorrence of the sentiment that the law of God is abolished. Those who make Paul in 2 Corinthians 3, utter a sentiment which in Romans 3, he solemnly disavows, should pause and reflect, lest they thus wrest his words to their own destruction.SDSL 48.1

    Ministration signifies not a law, but a service performed by a minister. We present every instance where “diakonia,” the word rendered ministration in 2 Corinthians 3, occurs, the word in italics being its translation:SDSL 48.2

    Luke 10:40. Martha was cumbered about much serving,SDSL 48.3

    Acts 1:17. had obtained part of this ministry.SDSL 48.4

    25. he may take part of this ministrySDSL 48.5

    7:1. neglected in the daily ministration.
    4. to the ministry of the word.
    11:29. determined to send relief unto the
    12:25. they had fulfilled their ministry,
    20:24. the ministry, which I have received
    21:19. among the Gentiles by his ministry.
    Romans 11:13. I magnify mine office:
    12:7. Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering:
    15:31. that my service which I have
    1 Corinthians 12:5. differences of administrations,
    16:15. themselves to the ministry of the saints,
    2 Corinthians 3:7. if the ministration of death
    8. the ministration of the Spirit
    9. the ministration of condemnation
    — the ministration of righteousness
    4:1. seeing we have this ministry,
    5:18. the ministry of reconciliation;
    6:3. that the ministry be not blamed:
    8:4. the fellowship of the ministering to
    9:1. the ministering to the saints,
    12. For the administration of this service
    13. the experiment of this ministration
    11:8. wages of them, to do you service. [lit. for ministering to you.]
    Ephesians 4:12. the work of the ministry,
    Colossians 4:17. Take heed to the ministry
    1 Timothy 1:12. putting me into the ministry;
    2 Timothy 4:5. make full proof of thy ministry.
    11. profitable to me for the ministry.
    Hebrews 1:14. sent forth to minister for them
    Revelation 2:19. know thy works, and charity, and service,
    SDSL 49.1

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