Author: Ron Graham

Old Testament

Death of the Ten Commandments
—2Corinthians 3:1-18

A study in 2Corinthians 3, comparing the Ten Commandments, written on tablets of stone, with the new covenant, written in human hearts as “the epistle of Christ”.

Before we look at 2Corinthians 3, we need to read the background story, giving us the facts to which Paul will refer. The important thing to notice is that the Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets, and after the Ten Commandments were given, Moses’s face shone. By noting this, you will be aware, when we study 2Corinthians 3 that Paul is referring to the Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:1,27-28).

1The LORD said to Moses, 'Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the original tablets which you broke.' ...

27The LORD said to Moses, 'Write these words, for according to these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.' 28So Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

The Shining Face of Moses (Exodus 34:29-35).

29Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand. As he descended the mountain, Moses did not know that, because he had been talking with God, the skin of his face shone. 30Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone! They were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32Afterwards, all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.

33Now when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. But when he came out and told the people of Israel what God had commanded him, 35the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. So Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Seven Contrasts

We now go to 2Corinthians 3:1-18, and note the contrasts Paul makes between (1) the Ten Commandments along with the other laws of the old covenant that God gave through Moses, and (2) the gospel or new covenant that God gave through Christ and which Paul preached.

1 Stones and Hearts

OLD 10 Commandments “written on tablets of stone”

NEW Covenant of Christ “written on human hearts”

¶ "And you are manifest as a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (2Corinthians 3:3).

2 Killer and Life-giver

OLD 10 Commandments “the letter kills”

NEW Covenant of Christ “the Spirit gives life”

¶ "The Spirit has made us adequate to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2Corinthians 3:6).

3 Death and Spirit

OLD 10 Commandments “the ministry of death”

NEW Covenant of Christ “the ministry of the Spirit”

¶ "Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at the face of Moses, because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?" (2Corinthians 3:7-8, Exodus 34:27-35).

4 Condemnation and Justification

OLD 10 Commandments “ministry of condemnation”

NEW Covenant of Christ “ministry of justification”

¶ "For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, the ministry of justification1 abounds in much more glory." (2Corinthians 3:9). 1justification = being made righteous

5 Passing and Permanent

OLD 10 Commandments “what is passing away”

NEW Covenant of Christ “what is permanent”

¶ "In fact, what once had glory has lost its glory, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was passing away came with glory, much more what is permanent will have glory." (2Corinthians 3:10-11).

6 Veiled and Unveiled

OLD 10 Commandments “a veil lies on their heart”

NEW Covenant of Christ “the veil is taken away”

¶ "Therefore having such a hope, we speak boldly, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were blinded; for until this very day when they read the old testament the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2Corinthians 3:12-18).

7 Blindness and Liberty

OLD 10 Commandments “their minds were blinded”

NEW Covenant of Christ “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”

¶ "Their minds were blinded; for until this very day when they read the old testament the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ... and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2Corinthians 3:14,17).

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