9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.
We find the second contrast to the Old and New Covenants in verses 9 and 10 between condemnation and justification. Law defines what condemns sinners. Grace offers justification without a person deserving of it. One reveals the justice of God and the other the mercy of God. These two dynamics are the effects of two different economies of Law and grace.
Paul ministered in a new economy of the Spirit and grace, but Moses in the old order of condemnation and death. There was a difference of ministry in each economy. Paul’s ministry arrived with the coming of Christ and the Spirit, which incorporated the standards of the Law but went far beyond it.
9 For if [since] the ministry of condemnation had glory,
The Old Covenant of the Law resulted in condemnation for those who did not believe. Some did believe (Ro 4:5-8; He 11:26). The Old was both a ministry of death and condemnation (a verdict of guilt). Law-orientation is a ministry that passes judicial sentence on people. Its glory was that it clearly defined the nature of sin as a violation of God.
the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.
The degree and nature of “glory” are different with each covenant. The Old Covenant was glorious but fading away. It was replaced by the more glorious New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit (2 Co 3:9-10). The Old was temporary (2 Co 3:7, 11, 13).
The veil obstructed the glory of Moses’ face, which symbolized the limitation of the Law; the Law cannot glorify God fully. God’s glory is His unique place in the universe or creation. There is nothing and no one like Him. A ministry of Law cannot depict Him as thoroughly as the ministry of grace can.
The New Covenant of the Spirit resulted in “righteousness” for those who believe. This is imparted righteousness or justification rather than personal righteousness. In contrast to “condemnation,” the new “righteousness” declares people right before God permanently. The person who believes that Jesus died for him receives a perfect standing in God’s eyes. “Righteousness” here is life-giving. It is the Holy Spirit who gives this life.
Paul’s opponents who hold to the Old Covenant link themselves to something far less than the New Covenant of grace. There is a danger that the Corinthian church might revert from the grace principle to that of the Law (Ga 5:2-5). To revert to the old is to fall in a ministry of death.
The Law commands man what to do, whereas grace offers what Christ did for them.
The Law demands righteousness, but the gospel declares a person righteous. The one demands righteousness, and the other gives righteousness. The Law pronounces condemnation and death; grace offers justification and life. The Law deals with people prone to sin; grace provides life that can fellowship with God. What a person deserved from the Law; he was to receive. What a person receives from God in grace, he does not deserve.
Paul associates both the Law and grace with the glory of God. Sinners deserve condemnation by breaking God’s standards of conduct. The Law serves the purpose of making sin sinful. When it comes to the God of glory, there is no defense people can make; there is no merit they can offer. However, Grace provides the answer to men violating God’s glory. Instead of condemning the sinner, grace gives God’s very own righteousness. Grace meets every demand of God’s character. This is why what Christ did by grace is infinitely superior.