THE OLD AND NEW COVENANTS CONTRASTED
¯But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.¯ (2 Cor 3:7-9)
Devotion 22 of 38
THE MINISTRATION OF CONDEMNATION
¯For if the ministration of condemnation be glory . . . ¯ (2 Cor 3:9a)
Now Paul takes hold of the Old Covenant, and turns it so we can catch another view of it. We ought to expect something given by God to be multifaceted. If, in fact, the New Covenant is superior, it will be superior in many ways. This is because sin has greatly complicated the situation. Iniquity is not merely on the surface. It has penetrated the depths of humanity, and pervaded every aspect of his personality. It has defiled the intellect, emotion, and will, leaving no part uncorrupted. The Old Covenant, of which the Ten Commandments were the ¯words¯ (Ex 34:29) will bring out all of these areas.
MINISTRATION OF CONDEMNATION
¯For if the ministration of condemnation . . . ¯ Other versions read, ¯ministry of condemnation¯ (NKJV), ¯ministry that condemns¯ (NIV), ¯dispensation of condemnation¯ (RSV), ¯operation of the Law¯ (BBE), ¯administer condemnation¯ (NJB), ¯which brings condemnation¯ (NLT), ¯plan that leads to doom¯ (LIVING), ¯service which pronounces doom¯ (WEYMOUTH), ¯the service connected with condemnation¯ (WILLIAMS) and ¯the service that condemns [the ministration of doom]¯ (AMPLIFIED).
To condemn is to assess the individual, find fault, and impose the due penalty. Thus, under the Law, when the judges discovered guilt, they also imposed the penalty for the deed committed (Ex 22:9).
The Law justified the righteous and condemned the guilty (Duet 25:1): that is, it exonerated the person who had not committed a specific trespass, and imposed the due penalty on the guilty party (Deut 25:1). The Law taught men that condemnation was not merely theoretical. It was not the voicing of a bare human opinion. It was as real as the guilt, which was as real as the deed committed.
The Law ministered death, severing the cord between man and God. But that is not all it did. It also condemned, consigning men to ¯doom.¯Elsewhere Paul referred to this condition as men being ¯children of wrath¯ (Eph 2:3). Jesus referred to it as men being ¯condemned already¯(John 3:18), and being under ¯the wrath of God¯ (John 3:36). The Law, Old Covenant, or First Testament, ministered this reality. It did not cause the condemnation, but announced it.
The word ¯condemnation¯ is translated from the Greek word that speaks of an action, as compared to a state ¯ that is, it is something the Law delivered. It announced the condition that sin caused, nailing it solidly in the conscience of the individual who took that Law seriously. It refers to punishment and doom (UBS lexicon). Condemnation involves judging someone and finding them guilty, and thus subject to punishment. It is the verdict of a discerning judge: GUILTY AS CHARGED! (LOUW-NIDA Lexicon)
Elsewhere, the Spirit spells out this ministry of ¯condemnation.¯ This is one of the fundamental purposes of the Law, of the Old Covenant. ¯Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God¯ (Rom 3:19). Those who say the Law, or Ten Commandments, were ¯only for the Jews¯ could not possibly be more wrong! In the sense of a covenant, they were for the Jews. However, as a ¯law,¯ they applied to ¯every mouth¯ and ¯all the world.¯ The Law rendered the verdict: ¯all have sinned and come short of the glory of God¯ (Rom 3:23). The immediate penalty was also announced: ¯having no hope, and without God in the world¯ (Eph 2:12). The ¯ministration of condemnation¯ involves making men aware that by nature they are ¯children of wrath¯ (Eph 2:3). They are ¯enemies¯ (Rom 5:10), ¯alienated¯ (Col 1:21; Eph 4:18), and ¯servants of sin¯ (Rom 6:20). By nature God¯s thoughts are not their thoughts, and His ways are not their ways ¯ and they were condemned because of it (Isa 55:8-9).
Let me be clear about this. When men are not like God ¯ that is, when they do not think like God, and are fundamentally unlike Him in their ways ¯they are condemned! The Law ministers that to those who will hear its verdict, then nails it into their conscience! Sin is a real condition, involving the deliberate breaking of a very real Law. Its presence requires a real discovery, and the imposition of a real judgment. That is the ministration of the Law. It takes ¯wrong¯ out of the domain of opinion. It removes all excuses for sin, revealing its very real nature and the unavoidable guilt that comes when it is committed.
The Scriptures teach us that this is required if we are to be brought to Christ. If we are to be justified, our sinful condition must be discovered, and a sense of condemnation must envelop the soul. As it is written, ¯But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith¯ (Gal 3:22-24).
Those who diminish the enormity of sin, and make provision for guilt to be lessened in those who commit it, are the enemies of men. They are also opposing the Law of God, as well as God Himself. When they call sin a disease, a weakness, a generational curse, or an addiction, they have lied. They are like those whom the prophets condemned: ¯Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!¯ (Isa 5:20).
Further, those who replace the Law of God with psychoanalysis, and the pretentious probing of the psychiatrist, have ¯taken away the key of knowledge,¯ and ¯hindered¯ those would otherwise have entered into the vestibule of truth (Lk 11:52). Such efforts cannot be dignified by making them religiously professional! It is the business of the Law to discover guilt. It is the business of the Savior to take that guilt away. When men take it upon them selves to accomplish these things, they have only attempted to barge into an area that is unlawful for them to occupy.
Tomorrow: ¯IT WAS GLORIOUS¯
PRAYER POINT: Father, in the name of Jesus I thank You for the ministry of the Law, and for the solution to guilt that is realized in Your Son.