Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Ministration of Death

The Letter KILLETH

We have previously done a series on the law and its place in the life of a believer. Some, however, assert that references to "the law" in the New Testament is only about the 613 ceremonial and sacrificial laws, not the Ten Commandments.  However, what does Scripture say?

To examine this, we will examine what God calls the "ministration of death".

"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 doth 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 excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart." II Corinthians 3:7-15

In the above text, God references an event in the Old Testament when Moses' face was so glorious and shone with such brightness, that the people could not even look upon him (Exodus 34:29-33).  This occurred when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the "two tables of testimony", otherwise called the Ten Commandments.

Yet, in II Corinthians Chapter 3, God calls these tables "written and engraven in stone" the "ministration of death" and goes on to contrast them with the "ministration of the spirit". 

Ministration of Death Ministration of Spirit
Ministration of CondemnationMinistration of Righteousness
GloriousExceedingly More Glorious
That which is Done AwayThat which Remains
Blinds the Spiritual Eyes from
seeing the end of what is abolished
Removes the Vail of Blindness
by placing us in Christ

In order to understand why the Ten Commandments are called the ministration of death and condemnation, we must understand the purpose of the law.

"And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." II Corinthians 3:4-6

God is again making a contrast between two ministrations or covenants.  The old testament is of the letter and kills, while the new testament is of the spirit and imparts life.

The Ten Commandments is called the ministration of death and condemnation precisely because the letter kills.  The law condemns man to death because it can never perfect man in regards to sin, and the wages of sin is death (Hebrews 7:19; Galatians 2:16).  The purpose of the law is to show man that - in spite all of his efforts to be righteous - he still stands guilty before God; he still is in need of a Savior (Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 19:16-21).

"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. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets." Romans 3:19-21

The problem is not with the law, but with man.  There is a fleshly, carnal nature in man referred to in Scripture as the "old man", and this old man rebells against God by nature.  Even though the law is perfect, it only brought out the worst in man because it could only produce outward performance and not inner conversion. 

"What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." Romans 7:7-13

Taking advantage of the commandments, sin works death in those under the law by sowing to, and promoting confidence in, the flesh. It leaves man in a constant position of trying to earn God's approval & acceptance through religious works; all of which never changes man's heart, which is the root of the problem.  God's answer to this dilemma is for the "covenant from Mt. Sinai" to be cast out, for such simply promotes being in bondage to the flesh and to sin (Galatians 4:30).
In fact, God tells us that those who attempt to bring you under the law are attempting to subvert your souls (Acts 15:24), are adulterers in trying to be "married" to both covenants at one time (Romans 7:3), and are in bondage (Galatians 4:24). 

Therefore, God ushered in a new and better covenant built upon better promises (Hebrews 8:6-13; Hebrews 10:9), where His people would obey Him by nature and not compulsion through reconciliation in the person of His Son.

"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter." Romans 7:4-6

In Christ, we become dead to the law and can worship God in Spirit and in Truth.  This is why the law is not made for a righteous man.  When people place themselves under the law, they are proclaiming their own unrighteousness before God and self-righteousness before man (Philippians 3:9).

Having the old man crucified in Christ, we are then freed from the law because we are no longer performing for God, but allowing Him to live through us; at that point, we have truly entered into our Sabbath rest

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2

There are two covenants contrasted in the Scripture.  We must be either in one or the other; you cannot be under both.  Will we attempt to work our way into God's favor, or will we trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ?  Will we boast in our own self-righteousness or submit to God's righteousness?

Under the old covenant, your fate is condemnation.  In the new testament in the blood of Christ, there is redemption.  Which will you choose?

Old Covenant New Covenant
Ministration of Death
(II Corinthians 3:7)
Ministration of the Spirit
(II Corinthians 3:8)
Ministration of Condemnation
(II Corinthians 3:9)
Ministration of Righteousness
(II Corinthians 3:9)
(II Corinthians 3:7-9)
Exceedingly More Glorious
(II Corinthians 3:7-9)
That which is Done Away
(II Corinthians 3:11)
That which Remains
(II Corinthians 3:11)
Blinds the Spiritual Eyes from
seeing the end of what is abolished
(II Corinthians 3:13-15)
Removes the Vail of Blindness
by being placing us in Christ
(II Corinthians 3:14)
Of the Letter
(II Corinthians 3:6)
Of the Spirit
(II Corinthians 3:6)
(Romans 7:6)
Imparts Life
(Romans 7:6)
Engenders to Bondage
(II Corinthians 3:9)
Gives Liberty
(James 1:25; James 2:12)
Written & Engraved in Tables of Stone
(Exodus 24:12; II Corinthians 3:7)
Written in Hearts of Men
(II Romans 2:15; II Corinthians 3:3)
Law of Sin and Death
(Romans 8:2)
Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus
(Romans 8:2)
Ten Commandments
(Exodus 34:28-29; Deuteronomy 4:13;
Galatians 3:24-25; II Corinthians 3:9
Royal Law of Love
(Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8-10;
Galatians 5:14; II Corinthians 3:9
After the Flesh
(Romans 8:4)
After the Spirit
(Romans 8:4)
Is a Schoolmaster
(Galatians 3:24)
Does Not Need a Schoolmaster
(Galatians 3:25)
Covenant from Mt. Sinai
(Galatians 4:24)
Covenant of Jerusalem from Above
(Galatians 4:26)

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Galatians 5:1


  1. Amen! This article really blessed me. Damola :-)

  2. Hi Damola! I have wondered whether you guys relocated for the missions in Russia or not. I pray that you are well and will keep you both in prayer.


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