“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?” (2 Corinthians 3:1)
“Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:” (2 Corinthians 3:2)
“Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:3)
I do a lot of writing. I use a lot of paper and ink. I also spend a lot of time in reading, praying, and meditating on the Scriptures. As I sit to write each devotional message or letter, I want to be careful that the words I use express a clear thought, and that this thought serves the purpose of ministering to the needs of those reading my writings.
In today’s text passage, Paul uses the illustration of writing a letter (or epistle) to describe his care and concern for the Church. Paul did not want to write just anything, as though he were merely trying to fill space on paper. Neither were his writings simple “Hey, how ya doin’?” tokens of love (although each of his writings were tokens of love for the Church). Rather, Paul wrote with substance and meaning, giving his letters both weight and value, to millions of readers.
But there is a deeper meaning to Paul’s illustration of writing a letter. Paul at once declares that the Corinthian readers themselves are a kind of letter being read by all men. The words of this letter declare that Christ has been ‘written’ on their hearts by the Spirit of the Living God. The readers of these letters thereby know that the work of God’s Grace has been made effectual in the lives of the Corinthians; giving glory to God, and a sure, validating commendation to Paul’s ministry.
What we learn from this illustration is that we also are like a letter that is open and being read by all men. Do the words declared by the letter of our life tell others that Christ has been written on our hearts? That should be the message of our life, as we are conformed to His Image.
There is a two-fold aspect to the writing of our life’s letter that we need to consider. One is that those influences we allow to be inscribed on our hearts must be holy. If we are not careful about the influences we take in, our life will be a letter of condemnation on ourselves. A person who professes to represent the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet exhibits ungodly characteristics, is going to be considered a fake, phony, or hypocrite.
Secondly, those influences we impart to other’s hearts must also be holy. In our text, Paul speaks of the members of the Corinthian Church as his own letter of commendation. The lifestyles they were living reflected his own attention to the building up of their faith in Christ. His concern for the influence he had for them showed that he was genuine and sincere in his love of Christ.
We need to always remember that we are being watched by others. They are reading the letter we are writing with our lives. It therefore behooves us to take special care for the words we use, so that the letter of our lives have weight and meaning, bearing witness to the testimony of God’s Grace therein.