Why Did Paul Call the Old Covenant a Ministration of Death?

Did Paul call the Torah a “ministration of death”?images (2)

2Cor 3:7 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,


Paul is not equating God’s commandments with death. That would be absurd (though that is what most Dispensationalists suggest). Paul repeatedly states that we should keep the Torah.


Here is the solution: God divorced Israel (Jer 3:8) and God promised to betroth her to himself (Hose 2:19-20). However, it was completely against the law to take a wife back after she had married another, (Deut 24:1-4). Because Israel broke the old marriage covenant, the covenant itself had to be dissolved even though the terms of the covenant were still good! The terms are so good that they will actually be written on our hearts under the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-33).


Hence, the administration of death is not the bad nature of the commandments, but the fact that the Israelites broke the covenant which made it into a form of unalterable condemnation because of the divorce. Paul addresses the law of the husband in Romans 7 where he says:


Rom 7:2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.

Rom 7:3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.

Rom 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another–to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.


Jesus, Immanuel, the husband of divorced Israel, died and when he did, the Old Covenant (the first marriage contract which had become a ministration of death died with him). Now there can be a new glorious marriage contract in which the Torah (the same commandments) is actually written on the heart.

Ezek 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezek 36:27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.


Problem solved! The ministration of death was the marriage covenant which they broke which left them in a perpetual state of hopelessness because their adulterous state could never be undone so long as their husband lived. Once Jesus died, then the old ministration of death (Old Covenant) was replaced with a more glorious covenant where the (same) commandments would be written on the heart.