2 Corinthians 3:7-9
7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.
Here the Apostle Paul describes the Ten Commandments as a ministry of death! Why does he use such extreme language? Aren’t the Ten Commandments a good thing? Don’t they tell us how God wants us to behave?
The truth is the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law of Moses (613 Laws) are good. They show us God’s perfect standard and that standard will never change. The problem is that it’s a standard that spiritually and morally bankrupt men were unable to keep to in their own strength!
Let’s look at some more verses:
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
The Law could not justify (make right with God) anyone.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
All who choose to live under the Law are cursed if they don’t do every single part of the Law. 99% compliance is not good enough!
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Law causes sin to increase.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The law makes us guilty, but it can’t make us justified (right with God).
1 Corinthians 15:56-57
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Law strengthened sin and brought death.
Wow, this is a strong set of statements right out of the Bible! What is going on? If the Law never made anyone right with God and it made sin and death more powerful, why did God give it to Moses?
19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
We see here that the Law was given, not to make us righteous, but to show us that even with all our willpower, we could not be righteous by ourselves, we needed help, we needed a saviour (Jesus)!
Before the Law was given, people were living under the Covenant of Abraham. This covenant was a covenant of blessings with no requirements upon the people except that they believe in God. It was a covenant of faith without any requirements of performance.
The problem was that the people were still in their hearts sinful and without an absolute standard from God, they were using their lack of punishment and their comparing themselves with one another as a measure for how good they were. Slowly this way of thinking was pushing them deeper and deeper into rebellion against God and they were in danger of destroying themselves. God intervened by giving them the Law through Moses. Now they had God’s perfect standard and as they tried and failed to keep it, they realised their need for help, that they needed a saviour. To stop them being totally destroyed on the spot by their sin, God gave them the animal sacrificial system that functioned as a temporary cover for their sin, until Jesus could take it away forever on the cross. The dying of animals for their sins, also helped the people to learn that sin brings death and it must be paid for with blood.
So what about today? How do we deal with sin and how are we made right with God?
Some people try to use the Law of Moses and by obeying it, they think that God accepts them. The problem is that no one except Jesus has ever been able to keep the Law, so anyone who thinks they are keeping it is fooling themselves. Other people put their faith in Jesus but then also try add keeping some of the Law to be right with God. This also is problematic because the Bible is clear, if you want to keep the Law then you are required to keep all of it perfectly. It says that if you break even one law, you are guilty of breaking them all!
The truth is that Law Keeping as a way of being right with God is no longer the way. Since Jesus, we have a New Covenant that is totally different from the Old Covenant (The Law of Moses). The New has made the Old obsolete (no longer to be used) as a way to approach God.
6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
We can’t mix the Old and New way of doing things together.
16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
God has through the New Covenant, made a way for us to be transformed from sinners to saints through believing in Jesus. By accepting Jesus as our Lord and believing in our hearts that He died for our sins on the cross and rose again on the third day, we are saved.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
1 Corinthians 6:17
But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
This is called being born-again. It means that Jesus’ Spirit (Holy Spirit) enters and combines with our spirit to birth a new spirit within us. Our old sinful selves are totally reborn, now with the perfect sinless nature of Jesus. Our very nature changes!
2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Along with Jesus living in us and our getting a new nature (becoming a new creation), we get to be made righteous, just as Jesus is!
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
1 John 4:17
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
We see then, that the way God dealt with sin, was to punish Jesus for us and make us innocent. He also changed our nature through the new birth so that we are no longer sinners. All this is ours through believing in Jesus, nothing else. This is why the Bible says Jesus brought us the blessings of Abraham (Covenant of faith).
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
The way for Christians to walk lives free of sin, is to realise that they have been set free by Jesus. It is a renewing of the way we think. If you think you’re a sinner, you set yourself the expectation of sinning and you act according to that expectation. If you think you are now a saint (one saved and set free by Jesus), you set the expectation of being free from sin and overcoming temptation. Your actions always follow how you truly see yourself within! We must see ourselves as God has declared us to be, saved, set free from sin and made righteous in Jesus.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.