11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.
The third contrast is between the past and present (v. 11). The administration of the Law was a passing one; its glory faded. Grace is permanent. Law rested on obedience; grace casts itself upon what God provided in Christ freely.
11 For if [since] what is passing away was glorious,
Israel caused the Old Covenant’s glory to fade. The Greek word for “passing away” means to be rendered inoperative. It was the nation that caused the glory of the Law to be rendered inoperative (passive voice). This interpretation also suggests that it was Palestinian Jews still under the Old Covenant who challenged Paul’s authority. They put the priority on the Mosaic Law (2 Co 2:15-16). This group undermined Paul’s message of grace and liberty.
The words “is passing away” means to render inoperative. God did not do away with the Law completely but changed the economy in which it functioned to something very different. Its previous role in defining sin remained, but God afforded something greater—grace greater than our sin. The difference was to accept the sacrifice of Christ as the giver of grace. Jesus met all the demands of the Law.
The Old Covenant was indeed glorious because it reflected God’s holiness. However, it was a fading glory as a temporary function, which was being rendered inoperative by God. The Old Covenant was short-lived, whereas the New is permanent.
what remains [endures] is much more glorious.
The New Covenant was “much more glorious” than the Old Covenant. Both covenants exist because of their relationship to God’s glory, but the New Covenant excels in glory. The greater surpasses the lesser. The Old was temporary but the New permanent–it “remains” or endures. The point is not that the Old Covenant gradually dissipates, but that its obsolescence existed from the beginning. Grace abruptly replaces it by superior glory, which cannot be replaced. Nothing can add to the finished work of Christ. There is a covenantal contrast between life under the Law and life by the Spirit.
It is essential to distinguish between the economies of the Law and grace.
Sinful human beings cannot understand sin until God’s righteousness confronts them. That is why they need to look into the mirror of God’s Word to see themselves truly. The Law is not the means of salvation or sanctification but the instrument to bring people to a conviction of sin.
The original purpose of the Law was to lead Israel to God’s grace. However, the nation as a whole reduced the Law to legalism that stripped it of God’s grace.
There is a covenantal contrast between life under the Law and life by the Spirit. The Law condemns sinners by defining God’s standards of righteousness. It declared the will of God without giving the power to live it. The Law as a system ended with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The New Covenant provides divine enablement to live under the control of God. The Law as a way of life ended, and an economy of the Spirit of grace has begun.