2 Corinthians 3:2-3
You are our letter written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
Apollos had carried to Corinth written credentials (see Acts 18:27; Acts 19:1). Why had Paul not done so too? He claims that he needed them not. The converts in that city were themselves his credentials. His appeal to the Corinthians on this point proceeds on a principle easily understood and often applied. The best testimonial a teacher can produce is the proficiency of his pupils. The most satisfactory evidences of the skill of a physician are the patients who have recovered health under his care. The convincing proofs of the competency of a gardener are the prosperity of the plants and the abundance of flowers and fruits which he produces from the ground. So was the Church at Corinth itself the best diploma or commendation of the apostle who had founded it and watched over it (see 1 Corinthians 4:14-16). A good teacher needs no letter of commendation to his own pupils, or a father to his own children. Seizing the idea of a letter, and showing that the Corinthian saints themselves formed the only letter he needed to produce, St. Paul used this as an illustration in two forms.
1. The Christians at Corinth were written on his heart, for they were dear to him (2 Corinthians 7:3; Philippians 1:7). And this was no secret. The tie of affection between St. Paul and the Corinthian brethren was "known and read of all."
2. Christ had written upon their hearts what served as a powerful letter of commendation for his servant Paul. Let us pursue the second use of the metaphor. A Church is an epistle of Christ, open for all men to read.
I. THE AUTHOR OF THE LETTER. This is Christ. Whatever Divine thoughts are given to human minds, or spiritual impressions are stamped on human hearts, proceed from Christ. And it is true of Churches in all ages. As Christ is the living One, he is ever writing new epistles - in harmony with those which were written at the beginning - and yet new and fresh and suited to the current time.
II. THE AMANUENSIS. At Corinth this was Paul. In modern Churches it is the faithful ministry of the Word. The epistle is not invented or dictated by us, but "ministered by us." The mind of Christ is thereby conveyed to and impressed on the company of believers.
III. THE TABLETS. They are not of stone, but of the heart. The ministration of neath was written and engraven on stone in the form of ten commandments. The more glorious ministration of the spirit and of righteousness is inscribed on the convictions and affections of living men. The law of Christ is put into the inward parts and written on the heart. For this end, too, the Lord knows how to soften the tablets, to make the heart tender and warm, and so susceptible of the instruction and impression of the Word. Oh to have a still heart, not restless, that the writing may be plain, and to have a lowly heart, not hard, that the engraving may be deep!
IV. THE MANNER OF WRITING. "Not with ink." St. Paul's letters were so written, as were those of other apostles (2 John 1:12); and by ink of the scribe and the printer have they been preserved and propagated. But for writing on the heart perishable material is unsuited. Jehovah wrote the Law on the tablets of stone with his own hand; and on the tablets of the human heart Jesus Christ writes, using ministry as he pleases in the process with the finger or power of God - "the Spirit of the living God." And so, in all times and all Churches of the saints, the application of the truth is by the living Spirit.
V. THE THING WRITTEN. It is the mind of Christ. Ye "have learned Christ, and the truth as it is in Jesus." There is no higher truth to learn, no better message to carry.
VI. THE PUBLICATION OF THE LETTER. It is "manifestly declared," and may be known and read of all men. This is said of the Church collective, for such is the temple of God and such is the epistle of Christ - an argument surely for Christian consistency and for brotherly concord, that the sacred epistle may not be rendered unintelligible. It each member of a Church abide in his place, and all together dwell in peace and walk in the truth, there is produced an epistle of Christ which puts the gainsayer to silence. Thank God that even a faulty Church or blotted epistle has something of a Divine element, some impression and expression of Christ! The obligation which lies on the Church may be pressed on each member thereof. Would that Christ were more apparent and more legible in Christians! Let your character be a consistent representation or epistle of your Lord, and let it be an original, not a copy of some other man's religion, but a genuine production of Jesus Christ by "the Spirit of the living God." If you go to the Lord justifying yourself and accusing others, he will only write on the ground; but if you with a penitent heart accuse yourself, he will write on you his grace and truth. Hereafter, when you have overcome, he will write on you his new Name. - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: