|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-11 Even the appearance of self-praise and courting human applause, is painful to the humble and spiritual mind. Nothing is more delightful to faithful ministers, or more to their praise, than the success of their ministry, as shown in the spirits and lives of those among whom they labour. The law of Christ was written in their hearts, and the love of Christ shed abroad there. Nor was it written in tables of stone, as the law of God given to Moses, but on the fleshy (not fleshly, as fleshliness denotes sensuality) tables of the heart, Eze 36:26. Their hearts were humbled and softened to receive this impression, by the new-creating power of the Holy Spirit. He ascribes all the glory to God. And remember, as our whole dependence is upon the Lord, so the whole glory belongs to him alone. The letter killeth: the letter of the law is the ministration of death; and if we rest only in the letter of the gospel, we shall not be the better for so doing: but the Holy Spirit gives life spiritual, and life eternal. The Old Testament dispensation was the ministration of death, but the New Testament of life. The law made known sin, and the wrath and curse of God; it showed us a God above us, and a God against us; but the gospel makes known grace, and Emmanuel, God with us. Therein the righteousness of God by faith is revealed; and this shows us that the just shall live by his faith; this makes known the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, for obtaining the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The gospel so much exceeds the law in glory, that it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation. But even the New Testament will be a killing letter, if shown as a mere system or form, and without dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to give it a quickening power.
Verse 2. - Ye are our epistle. Their very existence as a Church was the most absolute "commendatory letter" of St. Paul, both from them and to them (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:2, "The seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord "). Written in our hearts. The expression has no connection with the fact that the high priest bore the names of Israel graven on the jewelled Urim, which he wore upon his breast. St. Paul means that others may bring their "letters of commendation" in their hands. His letter of commendation is the very name and existence of the Church of Corinth written on his heart. Known and read of all men. The metaphor is subordinated to the fact. All men may recognize the autograph, and in it were read the history of the Corinthian converts, which was written on the apostle's heart, and which therefore rendered the notion of any other letter of commendation to or from them superfluous and even absurd. The play on words (epigignosko and anagignosko) is similar to that in 2 Corinthians 1:13.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Ye are our epistle,.... Here a reason is given why they stood in no need of letters of commendation, to or from the church at Corinth, because that church was their living epistle, and which was much preferable to any written one. The apostle calls them their epistle in the same sense, as they are said to be his "work in the Lord, and the seal of his apostleship", 1 Corinthians 9:1 they were so as persons regenerated by the Spirit and grace of God, in whose conversion he was an instrument; now it was the work of conversion in them, which was the epistle said to be
written in our hearts; some think it should be read, "in your hearts"; and so the Ethiopic version reads it; and it looks as if it should be so read, from the following verse, and from the nature of the thing itself; for the conversion of the Corinthians was not written in the heart of the apostle, but in their own; and this was so very notorious and remarkable, that it was
known and read of all men; everyone could read, and was obliged to acknowledge the handwriting; it was so clear a case, what hand the apostle, as an instrument, had in the turning of these persons from idols to serve the living God; and which was so full a proof of the divinity, efficacy, truth, and sincerity of his doctrine, that he needed no letters from any to recommend him.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. our epistle—of recommendation.
in our hearts—not letters borne merely in the hands. Your conversion through my instrumentality, and your faith which is "known of all men" by widespread report (1Co 1:4-7), and which is written by memory and affection on my inmost heart and is borne about wherever I go, is my letter of recommendation (1Co 9:2).
known and read—words akin in root, sound, and sense (so 2Co 1:13). "Ye are known to be my converts by general knowledge: then ye are known more particularly by your reflecting my doctrine in your Christian life." The handwriting is first "known," then the Epistle is "read" [Grotius] (2Co 4:2; 1Co 14:25). There is not so powerful a sermon in the world, as a consistent Christian life. The eye of the world takes in more than the ear. Christians' lives are the only religious books the world reads. Ignatius [Epistle to the Ephesians, 10] writes, "Give unbelievers the chance of believing through you. Consider yourselves employed by God; your lives the form of language in which He addresses them. Be mild when they are angry, humble when they are haughty; to their blasphemy oppose prayer without ceasing; to their inconsistency, a steadfast adherence to your faith."
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