2 Corinthians 3:7-11:
The glory of the law abolished?

“Paul tells us in 2Corinthians 3:7 that the Law of God was a ministration of death, and that it was done away with!”

Let us examine closely the things Paul spoke about in this chapter:

Verse 7 reads:

2Corinthians 3:7
(7) But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

There are a couple of things we should note about this verse.

-First, towards the very end, the word “glory” is in italic. It is not in the original greek. This becomes important with the next two points.

-Second, Paul says that the ministration of death, which we’ll soon see is the Ten Commandments, was glorious.

-Third, Moses’ face was also glorious. We know this because the verse reads, “… behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance.

Paul speaks of “two” things which was glorious, the law and Moses’ face. Which one of these did he then say was “done away with?” By adding the word “glory” at the end of the verse, people find it hard to figure out which glory was done away with. However, remove that word which does not belong there, and it becomes evident that Paul was saying that it was the glory of Moses’ face that was done away with. Let’s take a look at that historical account of which Paul was speaking of:

Exodus 34:32-35
(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.

Moses face was made glorious, and the children of Israel “could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses” because he “put a vail on his face.” It was the glory of Moses that was taken out of the way. Paul further proves this in the following verse:

2Corinthians 3:13-14
(13) And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:

It says here that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold something, and that that something was “abolished.” Yet when we go back and read the account in Exodus 34, we see that they did behold the tablets of stone in Moses’ hands. What then was it that they could not “stedfastly behold?” It was the “face” of Moses:

Exodus 34:35
(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.

Because they could not behold his face, for it “shone” –verse 34, Moses had to cover his face with a veil until he went back in to speak with God.

Notice verses 14-18:

(14) 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.
(15) But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
(16) Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.
(17) Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
(18) But we all, with open 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.

Notice that while reading the old testament, the vail of Moses’ glory was still upon their hearts. They could not see that Moses’ glory was replaced by “the glory of Jesus Christ.” Paul later says:

Hebrews 3:3
(3) For this man [Jesus] was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.

When the Jew comes to Jesus, “the vail shall be taken away,” because in Jesus is the true glory of God, which is Jesus the Son of God. Now that the believer has Jesus he is, says Paul, “with an open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord.” We now, rather then beholding the face of Moses, we behold the glory of the face of Jesus, the glory of God:

2Corinthians 4:6
(6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The words of Paul in verse 14 still apply for today. The Jews, upon reading the old testament, still can’t see the glory of Jesus, for they still have that vail covering the heart.

Was it therefore the law of God that Paul says was abolished? It simply can not be, because Paul says they could not stedfastly behold something, but they certainly beheld the tablets of stone in his hands. It was the face of Moses that they, in Exodus 35, could not stedfastly behold, and it was the face of the glory of Jesus that has abolished the glory of Moses.

Let us however suppose for a moment that Paul was here teaching that the Law was abolished. What would Paul have done with the following verse:

Isaiah 66:22-23
(22) For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.
(23) And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.

Note: For a study on why Isaiah also mentioned the new moon, click HERE.

The Sabbath, we know, is part of the Ten Commandments. Since Isaiah says it will bind forever, that even in the new Earth we will observe it, was Paul therefore contradicting this ancient prophet?

Isaiah also shares with us another interesting point:

Isaiah 51:6-7
(6) Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
(7) Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.

Notice the context of Isaiah’s words, it includes the “law” (verse 7). But let’s get deeper, notice:

Psalms 119:172
(172) My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.

If Paul meant to say that the law is abolished… would he not have contradicted Isaiah’s words? For Isaiah said that the righteousness of God, which is his “law, commandments,” will never be abolished!

Consider also the fact that Paul himself kept the Sabbath. Would Paul in one place teach that the Sabbath along with the rest of the law is abolished, but then in another place observe the Sabbath? Some argue that he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath only to reach to the Jews. However, Paul was a minister of the gentiles (Rom. 15:16, Eph. 3:1) not of the Jews. We also read of Paul observing the Sabbath by a river side, were there was preaching and baptism (Acts 16:13-15). And when Paul attended the synagogue on the Sabbath in Acts 13:15-16, there is no evidence that he went there specifically to preach to the Jews. He only spoke when the teachers invited the people to speak. And if you argue that he was there because he was still a Jew, consider the fact that when the followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Acts 11:26, Paul was present (Acts 11:30). He had already experienced the vision that convicted him he needed Jesus (Acts 9).

Note: For proof Paul was a Sabbath keeper, click HERE.

Also, if Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 was teaching that the 10 Commandments were abolished, how is it then that he exhorts his students to observe the 5th commandment (Eph. 6:1-3)? Was not this commandment part of the Decalogue as well? And in light of the following verse, did Paul after-words in his 2nd epistle to the Corinthians change his mind about the law?

1Corinthians 7:19
(19) Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

If the honest student reads Paul’s words in context, along with the rest of his writings, that student will see that out of the two glories he mentions in 2 Corinthians 3:7, one of them (the glory of Moses) was the one which was abolished. The other, being the very character of God in written form, abides for ever and ever, as long as God lives!

Ministration of Death?

Why then does Paul refer to the 10 Commandments as the ministration of death? The answer is found in Romans 7. Paul here speaks about the law as something that, when he see it, says he, “I died.” But why did he die when the commandment came?

Romans 7:9
(9) For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

Is it that the law brought sin? No, the law “revealed” sin to him, and sin is what causes death. Without the law, we would not have known of sin, and would have died in ignorance. We might have thought we were okay in our condition (I was alive) but we would be heading strait to the grave. This is why Paul says that he would not have “known sin but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” –Romans 7:7. When the law comes, we learn that we are sinners in need of a savior:

Romans 3:20
(20) Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

The law is then a ministration of death, because it condemns us by revealing sin in our lives, and shows us that we are in desperate need of a healer of those sins. This is how grace and law works. Its as if you had a stain on your face. How could you ever find out you had that stain on your face unless you looked into the mirror? That mirror is the law, revealing to you your filthiness. However, can you cleanse yourself of that stain with that mirror? No! You have to open the faucet, and wash that stain away with the blood of the son of God – Jesus Christ the savior of the world.

For further study on Romans 7, click here.


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About The Author

Edwin Cotto

With over 13 years of experience in apologetics, evangelism and youth directing, Edwin has worked with various ministries both in English and Spanish. Having had the opportunity to travel to various states in the USA, and also to Venezuela and Mexico, he has enjoyed the privilege of conducting evangelistic meetings and apologetics seminars. His education includes training in the Medical Field, Adult Education at Valencia College, Biblical Hebrew with the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, and Evangelism with Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism. He is furthering his academic studies in theology while also working as a bible worker for the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Ordained as an elder, Edwin's passion for ministry begins first at home with his wife and kids.

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