The Ministration of Death

2Corinthians 3:7-11 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly 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 does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excells. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious. 

‘Written and engraven in stones’ – the Ten Commandments, in particular, were abolished along with the whole law of Moses (Acts 15; Gal. 1:6; 3:1-5; 5:4). The only ones of the law of Moses that were brought into and made a part of the new covenant are for Christians to obey. The ten commandments were the only part of the law of Moses written on the tables of stone (Ex. 24:12; 31:18; 34:1-4; Deut. 4:13; 5:22; 9:9-11; 10:1-3).

From Galatians 1:6 we see that the Galatians turned back away from Christ to serve the law again – here it was called another gospel which: couldn’t justify (Gal. 2:16; 3:11; 5:4); brings only the curse (Gal. 3:10); is not of faith (Gal. 3:12); cannot give an inheritance (Gal. 3:18); was added only to make sin sinful (Gal. 3:19; Rom. 3:19-20; 7:13; 1Jn. 3:4); was given only until Christ came (Gal. 3:19, 23-25; Heb. 7:28; 9:9-10; Luke 16:16); could not give life nor righteousness (Gal. 3:21); was a schoolmaster to lead to Christ (Gal. 3:24-26; Matt. 11:11; Luke 16:16); is not in force for Christians (Gal. 3:19-25; Acts 15); makes servants, not sons (Gal. 4:1-3); brings bondage (Gal. 4:9, 24; 5:1); was a religion of days, etc. (Gal. 4:10); could not give the new birth (Gal. 4:28-30); was cast out (Gal. 4:21-31); demanded circumcision (Gal. 5:2-3); if observed, cancels grace (Gal. 5:4).

‘Glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance.’ Moses talked to Israel veiled, but when he went unveiled into the tabernacle to talk to God (Ex. 34:33-34). ‘By reason of the glory that excells’ – the reason the new covenant excels the old is that the old was only for a time (2Cor. 3:7; Gal. 3:19, 25; 4:30; Heb. 9:9-10), a place – Palestine (Deut. 5:16; 11:9; 28:8; 31:13), and a people – the Jews (Deut. 5:3; Rom. 2:12-16). The new covenant is for all time, all lands, and all people (Matt. 26:28; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 3:16; Acts 1:8; Rom. 10:9-14; 1Cor. 12:13).

God through Jesus Christ

Romans 7:21-25 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. 

‘Law’ – this is the law of the mind, which consents to the law of God (7:16, 21, 23).

‘Law of God’ – this is the law of Moses of Romans 7:1-16. ‘Inward man’ refers to the spirit of man which knows (1Cor. 2:11; 2Cor. 4:16; Eph. 3:16) and which is immortal (1Pet. 3:4). It also takes in the soul, that is, the seat of the feelings, emotions, and desires, for Paul not only knew and willed to do the will of God, but he delighted in it (cp. Ps. 1:2).

‘Another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members’ the law of sin (7:23, 25; 8:2). That law is stronger than the law of the mind, for it captures man regardless of the protest of the law of the mind (7:23, 25). This victory is not occasional, but complete (7:24).

‘O wretched man that I am!’ this is not a picture of a redeemed soul, but of a captive of sin. Every statement in this chapter proves that this was Paul’s experience while bound by sin under the law and before he was freed from the law of sin and death, as in Romans 8:1-4. His testimony indicates deliverance was after the three days of blindness at Damascus (Acts 9:17-18). The experience must have been during these three days for he had lived in all good conscience before this (Acts 23:1; Gal. 1:13-14; Php. 3:6). In the new enlightened state of these three days, he saw that he had not really kept the law, saw that he was a helpless slave to sin and could not obey it as it should be kept. Hence, his conclusion of wretchedness.

‘The body of this death’ – there is an allusion here to the ancient custom of tyrants who bound a dead body to a living man, requiring him to carry it about until he died of contagion from the putrid mass.

‘I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord’ This is the answer to Romans 7:24. Jesus Christ is the only deliverer from sin (1:16; 10:9-10; Matt. 1:21; 1Jn. 1:9).

‘So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin’ – this is a misplaced conclusion which has caused many false doctrines to be taught. It should follow Romans 7:23 as the conclusion of the whole argument. It is not only the logical conclusion, but it starts out with the Greek: ara and oun, therefore. It means, “to conclude, the sum of what I have said,” etc. Many have used these words to prove Paul himself was not saved from sin. This would contradict all the arguments of Romans up to this point and what follows. He proves both before and after this that there is complete victory over the law of sin (1:16-18; 2:8-11; 3:5-8, 24-31; 4:1-24; 5:1-11; 6:1-23; 8:1-13).

Judge Righteous Judgment

John 7:19-24 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keep the law? Why go you about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who go about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and you all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and you on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are you angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. 

Moses gave the nation of Israel the Law as he received it from God, and the whole summary of the Law (Matt. 22:37-40) was to love God, serve AND obey Him (Deut. 6:5; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1, 13).  Jesus accused the Pharisees of violating the very law they professed to respect and obey, they only kept up the Law for outward appearance that would produce the praise of men and produce followers for their religion (Matt. 23).

Many strangers (people) at the feast were ignorant of the plots of the Pharisees to killed Jesus, so they were astonished at His announcement that they seek Him to kill Him.

This ‘one work’ from verse 21 was the healing of the man on the sabbath (John 7:23; 5:1-16). The Pharisees accused Him of breaking the law and, in the interest of religion, thought He should be killed. He replied that they did more work on the sabbath in circumcising a boy than He did in healing a man, so who was the greater sinner?

The law concerning circumcision was given to Abraham (Gen. 17:9-14); Moses only mentioned the law in Exodus 12:44, 48 and Leviticus 12:3.

‘Judge not according to the appearance’ – Jesus answered those who tried to kill Him for obeying His Father that the covenant of healing (Ex. 15:26) should be obeyed as much as the covenant of circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14); that sickness in their midst proved that they had broken God’s covenant.