The Ministry of Death

“The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life?”

                         – 2 Corinthians 3:7-8 NLT

If you want to know about law in regards to the new covenant, Paul is your man. Romans and Galatians especially are just full of grace and new covenant. And this guy was no amateur, either; he told the Galatian church that he had been far ahead of his Jewish peers in zeal for their ancestral traditions (Galatians 1:14) and we all know the story, Paul was raised up and trained carefully in the Jewish laws and traditions, as he testified to at the beginning of his defense in Acts 22:1-3. I think we can all agree; Paul knew his stuff when it came to the old covenant. He was young and zealous, and God got a hold of him and turned that zeal right over to Christ. And so this is where we turn to first, in his second letter to the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 3 – Take a few minutes and read through the chapter (don’t worry, it’s only 18 verses).

Now that I have begun learning to live under the new covenant, it seems absurd that people still in the Adventist church–or any old covenant based system of religion–cannot see the new covenant as I do. Why couldn’t the Pharisees and teachers of the law see Jesus for what He is? Paul gives us the answer in this chapter; “Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.” (Verse 15) Focus on the old covenant blinds our hearts to the new covenant. To truly see the new covenant in all the glory that Paul was talking about in verses 7-11, we must begin to let the old covenant be…the old covenant. Dead. Gone and done with. And, Paul goes on to say in verses 16-18, “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (Amen?!) So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

It is important to notice that in verse 7 Paul tells us that the “old way,” the old covenant, had “laws etched in stone”. The ten commandments are not only part of the old covenant, Paul places them at the core of what the King James Bible calls here the “ministration (ministry) of death”, the old covenant. (Grab a King James bible and take a look at the language in these verses)

What does that mean? That means that when Paul says the law was fulfilled and done away with, he’s talking about the whole law. Not just the “ceremonial” law, but the ten commandments. And we see in examples such as Romans 7:6-7 that Paul makes no distinction between the “ceremonial” laws and the ten commandments. Let’s take a brief look:

“But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” “

                         – Romans 7:6-7 NLT

These two verses are absolutely packed. If you have some time, read through the whole chapter, but for now I just want to emphasize these two things: 1) Paul says that we are released from the law, and 2) refers to the tenth commandment (Exodus 20:17)  in his example. Neither did the Pharisees and teachers of the law (who taught Paul everything he knew about the law) distinguish between the ten commandments and the rest of the laws God gave to Moses.

So to recap:

1) Focus on the old covenant blinds our hearts to the new covenant. (2 Corinthians 3:15)

2) The ten commandments are an inseparable part–the core–of the old covenant.

So now the law is abolished and we just do whatever we want? If you’ve ever read James you’ll know that’s not the way the new covenant works. Living under the new covenant means rather than the old covenant’s ten commandments, written on stone, we now have the commands of God written on our minds and in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). It’s the core of the new covenant–God teaching His people His ways personally. And we know from Jesus’ ministry here on the earth that God’s command is to believe in the name of Jesus, love God and love our neighbors–essentially, to love as He loves us. (1 John 3:23)

At this point it may be very helpful and clarifying for you to read 1st John. That’s right, the whole thing. John just lathered the love of God on his church in this letter; a holy, sinless love.

And God’s command to love isn’t new; John says as much in 1 John 2:7-8. Love has been God’s character for as long as God has been God! The ten commandments were a spittin’ image of the just character of God, but they also summed up to love in two commandments (Matthew 22:34-40). So it really shouldn’t be any big deal that the listed ten got thrown out with all the ceremonial stuff, because God is still God; it isn’t that God’s justice was abolished with the law, but:

“now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”

                                   – Romans 3:21-22

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.”

                                    – Romans 8:1-4

But you know what? Why don’t you close down my blog now, and go check it out for yourself?

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