2 Corinthians 3:3
For as much as you are manifestly declared to be the letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink…
The people of God are set forth under various figures in Scripture. For example - as corn ripening for harvest; as Lebanon's cedars, standing like rocks under fiercest blasts; as stars fixed in heavenly places; as the sun climbing the heavens, enlightening the world; as purified gold, fit for the King; as jewels flashing forth tints of loveliness, prepared for regal crown; as vine branches richly laden; as pomegranates and figs, sweet and refreshing; for might, the lion and eagle; and, great paradox, for weakness, the defenceless sheep and lamb; for humility, the lily; for dignity, the palm tree; for usefulness, the salt of the earth. Here, as "the epistle of Christ." A singular but impressive title. And this sets forth what each individual believer should be - a Christ-letter. We have been accustomed to regard epistles as certain books of the Scripture or letters passing between men. The apostle leads us to this thought - men are epistles. Apart from nature and providence, we have regarded the Bible as God's only book. Now we are directed to other books of God, volumes of redeemed humanity. We speak of the Epistles of Scripture as inspired; men who are the epistles of Christ are inspired by the same Spirit. Of the former we think as testimonies for God, for Christ, for religion; the latter are equally so. And, as though God were not content with Wing to mankind silent and secluded epistles, he has placed in the midst of the world living epistles, moving amongst men, unobscured, ever beheld and perused. We regard the Scriptures with reverence. What a thought that we, if we are truly of Christ, constitute part of the great Scriptures of God! The Bible we esteem as sacred; if of Christ, we are sacred, appointed to bear a like witness to the verities of the Christian faith. It would seem as though there could scarcely be a more honourable designation than this - "the epistle of Christ." If we are to be the epistles of Christ -
I. GOD MUST WRITE OUR LIVES. The epistle, to be worth anything, must be dictated by God. We say Paul's Epistles, Peter's Epistles, John's Epistles; but, if this adequately represents them, they are nothing. If they are anything, they are God's Epistles - God's Epistle to the Corinthians and to the Romans, and so on. So with us. If we are epistles of Christ, we must be "of God," "written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God" (ver. 3); and the writing must be, not on "tables of stone "for us, but in "tables that are hearts of flesh" within us. The work of the Divine Spirit in our natures and in our lives can alone make us epistles of Christ. This is the highest form of human life, when it is made by God, day by day, hour by hour - the will of God finding expression in conduct, thoughts, motives, being. Free will is the glory of man, received by the fiat of the Eternal; but the noblest act of free will is its voluntary subjection to the will of God. We are highest when we are willing to become most completely the servants of God. Satan tempted our first parents to pass from under the will of God by the promise, "Ye shall be as gods." There was wonderful deceit here. The temptation found them as gods, it left them as devils. To live otherwise than in subjection to the will of God is to go down. The way upward is, "Not my will, but thine, be done." To consult the Divine wish in all our undertakings, to follow the Divine instruction in all our deeds, to wait upon the Divine purpose in our whole being and course, is for God to be writing our lives. How different, alas! is our experience! How often we have taken the pen out of the Divine hand, that we ourselves might write a little! How often, by our wilfulness, our self-seeking, our sin, we have rendered the Divine writing blurred, and the manuscript of our life blotted and defaced! How often have our foolish insertions entirely altered the meaning of what the Divine fingers were tracing! What chaos, confusion, disaster, have come into the epistle of our life because it has been largely of ourselves and not of God! How poor has been the influence of the life-letter because it has not been inspired of the Holy Ghost!
II. OUR LIVES WILL THEN TESTIFY OF CHRIST. This must be our supreme aim if we desire to be epistles of Christ. He is to be the one conspicuous feature in our life and being. Epistles we are to be, which, when men read, they shall find that they are reading of Christ. Many professing Christians are anything but epistles of Christ. There are some very great epistles of doubt, read and known of many men, telling us that they do not claim apostolical succession, and proving this with conclusiveness by being anything but fully persuaded in their own minds; epistles of dismalness, epistles of idleness, epistles of delay, epistles of change, epistles of frivolity, epistles of self, epistles of quarrelsomeness, and others who seem to be epistles of nothingness. In contrast to the true consistent believer - Christ manifested in his actions, Christ breathed forth in his influence, Christ the utterance of his life. To him "to live is Christ." If we are the epistles of Christ:
1. We must allow men to read us. We must not be too reserved. We must not hide our light.
2. We should not be too forward. Much talk of our attainments and graces will convince most men that we have not any. A book is not instructive which has the most of the printing outside.
3. Men will be willing to read us when very unwilling to read the Epistles of the Scriptures. There are two things which men are very fond of reading - their newspaper and each other. The true epistle of Christ is likely to have wide circulation and large usefulness. - H.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.