Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 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 3:2-3
Some time ago, when taking a flight, I sat in the center seat beside my wife, who was next to the window. As we watched others board the plane, an elderly lady stopped in the aisle beside me, carrying a bag that appeared to be far too heavy for her. She had difficulty hoisting it into the overhead storage, so I offered to help her. After taking the seat next to mine, she thanked me for the help and told me that the bag contained homemade fruitcakes that she was taking home for her family. I lightly remarked that I was glad she was sitting next to us; if we had a long delay, at least we would have food! We shared a few more casual remarks, and then suddenly she asked, “Are you a pastor?” I told her I was and asked, “How did you know?” Since I was casually dressed, I knew that my clothes had not been the indicator. She said, “I just know. Your way of speaking and your offer of a helping hand gave me that impression.” She did not have to ask me to show any documents or credentials — she was already convinced. What she observed on the outside was because of the change on the inside.
The grace of God, ministered by the Spirit of God, can transform lost sinners into living epistles who glorify Jesus Christ. This internal transformation of the heart is brought about by true repentance for sin and through the atoning Blood shed on Calvary. It produces righteousness and changes lives to the glory of God, a change on the inside that is reflected on the outside. As Moses reflected the glory of God, you and I should also radiate the glory of God.
We are not competent to carry out the responsibilities of God’s calling in our own strength. Without the Holy Spirit’s enabling, natural abilities can take us only so far. As Christ’s witnesses, we need the character and special strength that only God can give.
As our knowledge deepens, the Holy Spirit will continue to help us be more like Him. The closer we follow Him, the more we will reflect Him!
It was common in the Early Church for Christians who were traveling to carry letters of introduction. These letters were used to introduce themselves to other groups of believers who were strangers. Unfortunately, some false teachers had started carrying forged letters of recommendation to increase their authority.
Paul stated that he did not need any such letters; the believers to whom he had preached were enough of a recommendation. Paul’s ministry to the people at Corinth had made a direct impression on their lives, and these converts were living testimonials for all to see that Paul was a true minister.
Paul did not take credit for the conversion of the Corinthians, but indicated that their transformation was the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, giving them power to live for Christ. It was not written with ink or on tables of stone, but by the Holy Spirit on the fleshy tables of the heart.
By this example, Paul was contrasting the New Covenant (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) with the Old Covenant (the Law of Moses). His statement brought out that Moses’ law was external, an outward, written code, while the law of the Spirit is internal. The Gospel of Jesus Christ superseded the Law of Moses. Moses was a minister of the Old Covenant, but Paul called it a ministry of death (verse 7) and condemnation (verse 9). This did not mean that the Law was evil, because God gave it and Paul had been devoted to it. However, the Law did not bring life. It was temporary and needed to be replaced by something permanent. The Law had no saving, life-giving power in itself, but was disciplinary and penal. The best it could do was condemn the sinner, but the Spirit can give life. The New Covenant is superior in that it involves the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who enables people to walk and live in obedience to God’s commands. It brings righteousness. In addition, the New Covenant is permanent, whereas the old was temporary and fulfilled by Christ.
Paul also contrasted the glory of the Old Covenant with the new. If the Law which led to death was glorious, how much more glorious is God’s plan to give life through His Spirit! In verse 13, Paul commented that Moses put a veil over his face because it shone (Exodus 34:33-35). The veil kept the people from being terrified by the brightness of his face. Paul added that Moses and his veil illustrated people’s moral rejection of the light of truth, thus veiling their minds and understanding with their pride, hardness of heart, and refusal to repent. When the Corinthians would turn to the Lord, they would see and understand, and the veil would be removed.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The apology of the Apostle
B. The calling of Paul
2. The credentials for the ministry (3:1-5)
a. Personal (3:1)
b. Experiential (3:2-3)
c. Divine (3:4-5)
3. The theme of the ministry: the new covenant
a. The glory of the old covenant (3:6-8)
b. The glory of the new covenant (3:9-11)
c. The temporality of the old covenant (3:12-16)
d. The permanence of the new covenant (3:17-18)
As living epistles, we are “known and read of all men,” so our goal must be to accurately reflect the image of Christ to those we encounter.