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Read Introduction to 2 Corinthians

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, 


written and engraved on stones,

The Mosaic law did not justify; it only identified sin and pronounced guilt (Ro 8:3; Ga 3:21).

was glorious,

Paul introduces the idea of glory 16 times between this verse and 2 Corinthians 4:17, and eight times in this section. The argument throughout this passage is the glorious superiority of the economy of grace over the Law.

so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses

The nation Israel could not look steadily at Moses’ face because he reflected the glory of God (Ex 34:29-35). God’s holiness would have consumed Israel if Moses did not put a veil on his face.

because of the glory of his countenance,

The apostle takes the glory motif from Exodus 34:29-35. Moses had to veil his face to hide the brightness of being with God on Mount Sinai. When Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments, his face radiated with the glory of God’s presence. There is a glory to the Mosaic Law, although it was transitory and fading (2 Co 3:11, 13).

which glory was passing away,

Moses put a veil over his face to keep Israel from seeing the glory pass away (Ex 34:33). Paul’s foes thought that the glory of the Law would not diminish. They brought that message to the Corinthian church, endangering the congregation from accepting the change that Jesus brought to the church, grace-oriented living.

Moses’ glory, however, did not last. The glory of the law was in the process of being rendered inoperative and deferred to the economy of grace. The Greek word for “passing away” means to be rendered inoperative or nullified. “Inoperative” implies that there was still validity in the Law because it defined the nature of sin but that it is inadequate in the age of grace.

The two economies of law and grace are not concurrent, but consecutive. They do not parallel each other. The Law precedes, and grace succeeds. They are not identical or interchangeable. By belonging to different eras, they perform different functions. The Law came by Moses but grace and truth by Jesus Christ (Jn 1:17).


God has a separate and distinct administrative program for the church than Israel.


Christian ministry is not like that of Moses, who had to put a veil over his face so that Israel could not see the glory on his face. His ministry of the Law was a fading glory because it belonged to a disappearing dispensation. Today, many Christians have not come to grips with the passing of that dispensation. It faded with the coming of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

The church and Israel are not the same economies. The church did not replace Israel’s role with the four unconditional or eternal covenants: Abrahamic, Palestinian, Dravidic, and New. God has a separate and distinct economy for the church.