The Ministry of Death and the Ministry of Life

2Corinthians 3

Compare with Romans 8, the Law of sin and death and the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.


Ministry of Death

Ministry of Life

1.     Medium

Hearts of Stone which are represented by the Tables of Stone. The law cannot penetrate the hearts of stone. [Jer. 31:33].

Fleshly Tables of the Heart: Receptive to God because of Christ.

2.     Content

The Law of God working wrath

The blood of Christ working faith and repentance by the Holy Spirit.

3.     Agent

Ink [why not the finger of God? Because Israel read Moses, not the Tables of Stone.]  This is referred to in No. 8 below.

Spirit of God

4.     Designation

Old Testament of the letter

New Testament of the Spirit

5.     Effect

Sin and Death

Righteousness of Life

6.     Glory

Caused the face of Moses to Shine

Much more glory in the face of Jesus Christ

7.     Manner

Veiled and hidden

Great plainness of speech because of hope

8.     Israel

Heart is veiled in the reading of Moses,  The tables of stone were hidden in the Ark of the Covenant behind the veil of the temple.

Veil removed when the heart turns to Christ.  The veil of the temple was rent when the flesh of Christ was rent. His shed blood and broken body is our entry in to life and joy.

9.     Veil

Put upon the face of Moses to protect the people, because their hearts were veiled and hardened

No veil on our face so we see Christ clearly, and are changed to His likeness.

10.  Christ

Hidden, because of the veil on their hearts kept them from seeing Christ in the reading of the old testament.

Because our hearts are not veiled, we see Christ clearly as in a mirror [in the reading of the new testament].

11.  Continuance

Done away in Christ with respect to the people of God.

Remains forever


The above chart is to be studied in connection with the chart on Romans 8: The Law of sin and death and the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.

Notes.  Corresponding to the numbers above on the chart.

  1. Written, “not on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of the heart.”  The figure is mixed.  Instead of the hardness of stones, which corresponds to the stony hearts of Israel, the Lord writes on the new hearts, the fleshly hearts, that He had promised to give them in regeneration—a heart that is of Christ and His Spirit, and not the command.  See Ez. 11:19; Ez.36:26;  Jer. 31:33;  Jer. 32:40;  Heb. 8:10.
  2. The Law was written on the hardness of the stone, just as the law is written on the stony heart of every man, so that no man has an excuse.  Romans 2:3-5 and Romans 2:14,15.  The fact that every man is created a moral being, capable of judging and condemning his neighbor, means that is responsible for his deeds.  He can no more, however, soften his own heart and love God, than could Israel circumcise their own hearts and love Him.  This is proved by the crucifixion of Christ and His rejection by stony hearted sinners everywhere:  “Ye would not come to me that you might have life.”   John 5:40
  3. The agent for the writing of the law was pen and ink.  Why not the finger of God?  Because Israel did not read the tables of stone. They read the old testament scriptures, but the veil on their hearts made the scriptures incomprehensible to them.  “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.” (Ac 7:51-53)

In the ministry of life, the preaching of the gospel is the ministry of the new testament; not on tables of stone, but on the fleshly tables of the heart [the new heart], by the Holy Spirit, who takes the elect by the hand, leading through calling, regeneration, faith, justification, adoption, sanctification, tribulation and trials, perseverance, death, resurrection, and glorification.  He begins the good work and performs it until the day of Jesus Christ, so it is fulfilled, “As many as are lead by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Romans 8:14.

  1. The law of God written on the tables of stones is designated the ministry of death.  It includes everything pertained to Moses, Aaron, sacrifices, temple worship, feasts, sabbaths, etc., that Paul calls the rudiments of the world.  Colossians 2:8-17  Christ spoiled all these things, took them captive and displayed their impotence, dying on the cross and declaring our death to sin and freedom from all the curse of the law and all its trappings.

The Gospel is the Ministry of Life:  The ministry of the Spirit, received by the preaching of Christ crucified, is the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus and brings liberty. We are not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  Galatians 3:1-5

  1. The law was and is a ministry of sin and death.  It is not of him that wills or him that runs: neither inward nor outward works can save our souls; only our union with Christ by faith in His blood gains us access into the grace in which we stand.   The strength of sin is the law [1Cor. 15:56] and the sting of death is sin, for the law brings guilt.

The gospel is life and peace, because the elect are in Christ in his death.  Sin as a power to destroy them is finished.  “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:” Ro 8:3

  1. The law was from God and so glorious that Moses had to veil his face.  This was because of the hardness of heart of the people, a hardness and scab that hid the truth from them.  But glorious as the law was and is, it pales besides the gospel.  The ministry of death is done away; the ministry of life of the Gospel remains, far more glorious, a gloriousness that dazzles the law and makes its glory as nothing. 2Cor. 3:10
  2. The truth is hidden and veiled in the law, for the hearts of the people were not prepared to receive.  There is progress from things hidden to things made plain.  The spiritual reality is veiled in promises and ceremonies, and figures, and types until the coming of Christ.  Even then, He spoke in parables and in private to His disciples.  He told them that the time would come when what they had heart in secret they would proclaim opening.  Christ, Himself, spoke more clearly shortly before his crucifixion and resurrection, causing His disciples to marvel:  [John 16:25ff].  The apostles in their epistles speak plainly in clear statements of doctrine and moral duty.   God honored His Beloved Son by giving Him alone the clear and plain message of salvation.  It is Christ who commissioned the apostles to take this glorious message of reconciliation, plainly and clearly spoken, to the whole world.
  3. The hearts of the Israelites were hard and blind, and without faith their carcasses fell in the wilderness.  The law never gave them grace and truth.  This was not given to Moses to reveal, but came by Jesus Christ.
  4. See 7 and 8 above.
  5. Christ was hidden in the old testament and there are only small hints as to the Trinity and the forgiveness of sins by faith.  Even that which was revealed was not understood because of the veil that was on their hearts.  That continued even in Paul’s day, for those sons of the law who did not turn to Christ continued in their blindness and hardness of heart.  The sons of faith, because they have participated in the rending of the flesh of Christ, have identified with the removal of the curse, and have had the veil removed by regeneration—they can see Christ and are and are being transformed by Him.  The sons of the law are blinded even though they read the old testament which was given by God; the sons of faith see Christ as in a mirror as they read the new testament.
  6. As a ministry of death, the law is abolished with respect to the regenerate.  It remains a ministry of death to those who are only of the flesh and will rise in the day of judgment to stop every mouth and make the whole world guilty before God.  The ministry of death remains forever, and will be a song of rejoicing on the tongues of the saints forever. 

“And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Re 7:13-17 AV)


Amen and Amen