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“For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.”—2 Corinthians 3:9 (NKJV)
2 Corinthians 3 is one of the most important chapters in all the Bible. There, Paul draws a definitive line between the ministry of the Mosaic Law and the ministry of God’s grace. We might even say that He divides the Old and New Testaments.
In Old Testament times, under the Mosaic Law, God commanded men and women to relate to Him through their observance of the regulations expressed in the law. Now, we know that God’s ultimate purpose in doing this was to reveal that human beings were incapable of keeping and finding freedom through the law (Galatians 3:19–26). Imperfect people inevitably fell short of God’s standard for perfection.
The net result was a profound sense of condemnation under the law, which is why Paul refers to it as the “ministry of condemnation.” This system of the law had a glorious beginning as God personally delivered the law to Moses. Yet there was always a broken standard just around the corner requiring yet another sin sacrifice.
This is what people had to go on in order to be “right” or “righteous” before God . . . it was a form of righteousness, but one that didn’t result in true rest. Yet some did all they could to make it the solution it could never be. The Pharisees were so obsessively devoted to the law that everyone viewed them as the closest a person could ever get to perfectly keeping it. So imagine how it hit folks when Jesus said the following: “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20 NKJV).
This was both terrible and wonderful news! Terrible in the sense that it showed no person could ever be right with God by the law. But wonderful because Jesus was actually pointing to Himself as the greater righteousness needed to enter God’s Kingdom. He is the Perfect One who would make all who place their faith in Him perfectly righteous before God. By grace, He would do for mankind what mankind could never do for itself under the law.
This is why Paul refers to this “ministry of righteousness” (Christ’s righteousness to all who trust in Him) as more glorious than the law ever was or could be. Jesus has bestowed a righteousness on us that far exceeds anything the Pharisees could muster on their own . . . a reason to rejoice!
DIG: What makes 2 Corinthians 3 such an important passage?
DISCOVER: What was the law’s ultimate purpose?
DISPLAY: What makes you right before God? Who else needs to know this? Today, share the truth of what makes us right before God with someone.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.