There are many passages in scripture commonly quoted off point and out
of context to demonstrate that the Law of God is abolished.
This simply is not true. 2 Corinthians chapter 3 is one such
passage, but a proper understanding will demonstrate that
2 Corinthians 3 supports the following of God's law.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 3 the Apostle Paul makes a few
statements that can be easily misunderstood. We need
to always keep in mind the warning given us by the Apostle
Peter regarding Paul's writings. Peter said, "And
think of the long-suffering of our Lord as salvation, as our
beloved brother Paul also has written to you according to
the wisdom given to him as also in all his letters, speaking
in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be
understood, which the unlearned and unstable pervert, as
also they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own
Pet. 3:15-16). Peter is not refuting the writings
of Paul, but warning us to make sure we have a correct
understanding. Peter says the, "unlearned and unstable
pervert" the scriptures, which implies that Paul was
apparently learned and stable. We might ask, what was
Paul learned and stable in? Here is a quick resume of
the Apostle Paul, he was, "Circumcised the eighth day, of the
stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the
Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal,
persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is
in the law, blameless" (Phil.
3:5-6), and educated at the "feet of Gamaliel" (Acts
22:3). The Apostle Paul was well educated in the
Mosaic law. He would be what we would call today a
prosecuting attorney for he was sent out by the High Priest
to prosecute the church (Acts
9:1-2). We, however, have a hard time
understanding his writings because we are "unlearned and
unstable" in the Mosaic law. Those who say Paul
advocated the abolishment of the Mosaic law are "unlearned
and unstable" in that law. It is important for us
to use the Mosaic law to properly understand Paul's writings.
In so doing, we will see that he never once advocated the
abolishment of God's law, but rather endorsed the proper
understanding and practice of it. With this in mind,
lets take a look at 2 Corinthians chapter 3.
The Apostle Paul states twice in chapter 3 that
something is "done away" with or
The confusion is with what exactly is done away with
or abolished. This statement is made in 2 Cor.
3:7 and 2 Cor. 3:13. Here is the context of
chapter 3. Paul speaks here of the "new
testament" which is not of "the letter, but of the
spirit" (2 Cor. 3:6). There is a difference
between the old and new testament (covenants).
The difference is the Spirit of God in our hearts.
In the old covenant, the law was written on stone.
We were expected to follow it, but could not perform
our duties. The new covenant is based on the
promise given to Abraham. This promise is of
the Holy Spirit. The third chapter of the book
of Galatians tells us so (Gal. 3:2-6). What we
need to remember is that the difference between the
letter of the law and the spirit of the law is not
whether or not we should practice the law, but how
we are empowered to practice the law. The
letter of the law is us practicing the law in our
own power. The spirit of the law is the Holy
Spirit empowering us to practice the law. We
know this for the purpose of the spirit is to "cause
[us] to walk in [His] statutes, and ... keep [His]
judgments, and do them" (Eze. 36:27). From the
start, the Apostle is endorsing the practice of God's
law, not by our might, but by the Holy Spirit.
But if the law, which is here called the
"ministration of death," was "glorious," how much
more the "ministration of the spirit" will be
glorious (2 Cor. 3:7-8). This is the point of
chapter 3. Not to say the law is "done away"
with or "abolished." Since the law was
glorious how much more will the spirit be.
Even though the law was a "ministration of death"
because we could not fulfill our duties under it, it
was still glorious. It was so glorious that
Moses face shone brightly as he received it.
How much more the "ministration of the spirit" be
glorious because we now can fulfill our duties.
This is the entire point of chapter 3. Since
the law was glorious, even though we could not
fulfill it, how much more will the spirit be
glorious, because the spirit will help us fulfill
it. The confusion is caused by the last phrase
of verse seven which says, "which glory was to be
done away." To properly understand this
statement we need to understand Exodus chapter 34.
Exodus 34, Moses spoke face to face with the living
God. Something miraculous happened, which is
what the Apostle is referencing here in 2
Corinthians 3. Moses wrote, "And it came to
pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the
two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came
down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the
skin of his face shone while he talked with him ...
And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh:
and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD
had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till
Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on
his face. But when Moses went in before the
LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until
he came out. And he came out, and spake unto
the children of Israel that which he was commanded.
And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses,
that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put
the vail upon his face again, until he went in to
speak with him" (Ex. 34:29, 32-35). Here is
the reference the Apostle is speaking of.
Moses' face shone brightly after speaking with God.
This causes him to put a vail over his face so the
people could see him, until Moses went back to speak
with God. This miracle faded away, for Moses'
face did not continue to shine forever. The
Apostle Paul is speaking of Moses face being "done
away" with, not the law of God. The Greek word
used for "done away" is katargeō, which
has many meanings, among which are "bring (come) to
nought, put away (down), vanish away" (Strong's
Concordance - G2673). It is true that this
word can mean abolish or make void, but the context
here is clearly in reference to Moses' face vanishing
away. We should be careful not to interpret
something as removing the law of God, which God
Himself clearly stated would last "forever" (Ex.
12:14-17, Ex. 12:24, Ex. 27:21, Ex. 28:43, Ex.
29:28, Ex. 30:21, Ex. 31:16-17, Lev. 10:15, Lev.
16:29-31, Lev. 23:21, Lev. 23:31, Lev. 24:8, Deut.
5:29, Deut. 11:1, 2 Chron. 2:4, and many, many
The rest of chapter 3 clearly confirms this
understanding. Paul states, "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" (2 Cor. 3:13). Paul
clearly references Moses' face, which he put a vail
over. From Exodus 34, we know that the children
of Israel could not look to the face of Moses
without the veil. The children of Israel could
not "stedfastly look" toward his face, which is what
was "abolished." The word for
the same word for "done away" in verse 7. A
better translation of katargeō, here would
be vanish away. Clearly from the context of 2
Corinthians 3, Moses' shining face is that which was
"done away" with or "abolished." Obviously his
face was not "abolished," but rather the glory of
the LORD faded away from his face. "Abolished"
and "done away" is an unfortunate mistranslation of
the word katargeō. From the context
of 2 Corinthians 3, a better translation clearly
would be "vanish away."
always need to remember that God's law is "forever"
and when it appears to say otherwise, we should error
on the side of caution and believe what God clearly
said. 2 Corinthians 3 clearly does not abolish
the law of God, but rather uses the Glory of Moses'
face as an example to show how much better the new
covenant is than the old. The Mosaic law is so
glorious that Moses' face shown brightly as he
received it, yet it was still an instrument of death
because we could not follow it. The new
covenant is even more glorious in that we have the
promised Holy Spirit to help us obey God and keep
His commandments. If the old covenant,
which brought death to us because we could not
fulfill it, was glorious, how much more the new
covenant with the promise of the Holy Spirit be
glorious. With the new covenant we have the
promise of the Holy Spirit to "cause [us] to walk in
[His] statutes, and ... keep [His] judgments, and do
them" (Eze. 36:27).