2 Corinthians 3:1-5
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, letters of commendation to you…
"Self-praise is no recommendation," and the "sounding of one's own trumpet" is not to be applauded. False teachers had entered into the Corinthian Church, and they had found it necessary to have letters of recommendation, but Paul needed no such introduction. Truth and righteousness recommend themselves in the work they accomplish. Our translation admits of another rendering — namely, "Ye are our epistles written in your hearts," and this would imply that Paul had been enabled to pencil something in the hearts of others which could be read by all men; and it is with this idea I shall deal in speaking about sacred penmanship.
I. Observe THE REQUISITES FOR WRITING. The accessories must be provided, however, for a letter to be written, and let us briefly notice these — pen, ink, and paper.
1. In the third verse we have the pen: "Forasmuch as ye are declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us." Here is the instrument in the hand of God. The Church was divided, for one said, "I am of Paul," another, "I am of Cephas"; but these good men were only the pens whereby God, through His Spirit, had written upon the fleshy tables of their hearts. Among these instruments there must ever be a variety. The rough and rude can, however, be made to write well. Paul, though he was not eloquent of speech, but somewhat blunt, had power to get hold of men's hearts, and he wrote upon them, with dark, indelible lines, great truths. Apollos could speak with eloquence of diction, and finely pencil the Scripture, so that the Jews were mightily convinced that Jesus was the Christ. John was another such instrument. Soft in love, sketching in poetry the wonderful revelations he had of "the better land," he would win hearts for Jesus.
2. Then there must be the ink. The sacred fluid is the Spirit of God. "Written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God." The mysterious influence that flows through us is not of earthly manufacture.
3. The next requisite is the paper. It is not written upon stone, but "in fleshy tables of the heart." A soft heart best absorbs the ink, a living tablet best retains impressions. Lord, write first in us, and then make us as the "pen of the ready writer," to make our mark on others.
II. THE READERS OF THE WRITING. "Known and read of all men." The writing is real — no fiction, for the author is Christ. We are the autograph letters of our Lord, and bear His signature. The writing is clear, for we are "manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ." Now, this document is a public one. Believers are the library for the world; they are a Christian literature; each saint is a volume to expound the grace of God. "Known and read of all men." We may consider the readers of this writing to be of three classes —
1. The intelligent. Many are real students of Christian character, desirous of gaining knowledge for their own good in spiritual attainments.
2. Then there are the interested readers — our friends who like to see if we make progress in Divine things. The "first series" of Christian experiences are interesting, and are studied with deep anxiety by those who love young converts.
3. The last class I have called the inquisitive. They only peruse to find fault. Ours must be so correct an epistle that fault-finders shall find it difficult to gratify their morbid taste. The schoolmaster says to his boys, "Be sure you dot your i's and cross your t's"; and we too must be mindful of little things.
Parallel VersesKJV: Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?