7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away,
Verses 7 and 8 compare the Old Covenant (the external Law) with the New Covenant (internal working of the Spirit). There is a threefold contrast between the two ministries of the Old Covenant and New Covenant:
-Law and grace (vv. 7-8)
–condemnation and justification (vv. 9-10)
–past and present (v. 11)
Continuing to comment on the adequacy or sufficiency of his ministry, Paul asserted a series of contrasts between the Old and New Covenants. There was a big difference between Paul’s understanding of adequacy and the Judaizers’. The Christian’s sufficiency is solely in God (2 Co 3:5). The nature of the New Covenant rests its adequacy on what God does. The New Covenant is superior in its divine origin, life-giving power, and surpassing glory.
Verse 7 references Exodus 34:29-32, which describes Moses’ descent from the mount with the two tables of Law. When he descended, Israel feared him because of the brightness of his face. Paul compared and contrasted his ministry of glory with the glory of Law in verses 7-18.
Verses 7-9 compare the glory of the two ministries of Moses and Paul. The stark contrast of the works of the Law and faith in Christ does not occur here as it does in Romans and Galatians. The term “law” does not appear in 2 Corinthians. However, there is an implied contrast between the economy of the Law and grace; it is a contrast of “glory.”
7 But if [since] the ministry of death [the law],
The “ministry of death” is the Old Testament economy or dispensation summed by the Ten Commandments. The Law pronounces spiritual death for its transgressions. Apart from the Law, people do not have proper knowledge of what sin means to God (Ro 4:15; 5:13). The Law provokes sin, revealing its implication (Ro 7:8, 13). The Law judges sin, which results in death (Ro 7:8-10).
The Mosaic Covenant was a unilateral agreement that God made with the nation Israel. This agreement structured every aspect of the nation’s religious, social, physical, and civic life. These laws numbered 613.
The adversaries of Paul argued that the Corinthian church was to go back to Moses and the Law. However, God changed the entire dispensation of the Law to the economy of grace when Christ came.
The old is often the enemy of the new.
Some believers hold tightly to the past. They are uncomfortable with change, even with good possible developments. This is especially true when it comes to biblical doctrines of Law and grace. Legalism is often the result of this fear.
Often those who are legalistic portray themselves as more spiritual or having more insight into the true meaning of Scripture. This complicates the problem of making the change necessary to improve one’s spirituality or ministry in the local church.
We find the fear of the new in the change of methodology in church ministries. Because something worked in the past does not mean it will work in a later time and culture. People love the familiar, but to hang onto the past when there is something better will blunt growth, whether it is personal or in the church.