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A Man of Letters

A Man of Letters

Words of Faith 9-11-17

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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2 Corinthians 3

   Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? [2] You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. [3] You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.


       It was Paul's practice to dictate his communications to a scribe. We begin this chapter with a sense that as he heard his own words of criticism directed toward the false prophets and he realized that it might sound self-extolling. That was the last thing he wanted to convey. This was not at all the nature of Paul's call and some might suppose that Paul had to commend himself because he could find no one else to do so. So Paul explained a little more.

       You see, some might have called Paul's opponents "men of letters". They carried letters of recommendation, a common practice in the first century. Today such letters might even be in the form of formal diplomas or certificates. There was nothing specifically wrong with this. Paul himself followed this practice at various times writing letters on behalf of those who served with him. But Paul knew the limits of such commendations.

       But Paul also had reason to doubt the authenticity of these letters carried by his opponents. He suggests this later-- "We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2).

       Unlike those false letters commending the false apostles, apparently unavailable to public scrutiny, Paul's "letter of commendation" could be examined by everybody. His "letter" was the Corinthians themselves! And they were a letter written by the Spirit of the living God dispatched by Christ Himself.

     Paul was a "man of letters" but these were letters of an entirely different sort! The false apostles' commendation was human, but Paul's was divine. The opponents of the Gospel carried paper letters, but Paul's letters circulated in the form of flesh and were written by the Spirit.

     The Corinthians may have recalled what Paul had written earlier to them-- "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power" (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

     When Paul spoke of a letter written on our hearts, the "hearts" probably included Timothy and Titus. When he spoke of "tablets of human hearts" he also alluded to the nature of the New Covenant-- "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people" (Jer. 31:33).

     In contrast to the Old Covenant inscribed in stone (Ex. 24:12), the New Covenant is inscribed on human hearts (Ezek. 11:19; 36:26). As the New is far superior to the Old, so was Paul's commendation compared with that of the false apostles.

       We live in a world that certifies by diploma, credential, license and ordination. There is nothing wrong with these things. Paul sent letters of commendation for some who traveled in his behalf. But Paul makes it clear that it is not a diploma on a wall or a certificate on file that ever makes a person genuine. It is not a letter of commendation that makes them true. The most lasting letter of commendation that stands all tests is written on the lives and hearts of people.

     It may cause us to ask-- What is God writing on the hearts of people about me? What is God writing in the hearts of people about Himself through me? What commendation is there regarding my walk with God?

     Don't misunderstand. This is not about good works. It is about purity of heart and obedience. None of us are writing a perfect record. But we can "set forth the truth plainly" and so commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.


     Father God, give me a more careful walk with You. Write on those around me a testimony of Your love and grace. Use me as Your pen to write upon the hearts of those I encounter. Write a commendation of Your grace as I set the truth before them. May I walk with a clear conscience in Your sight. In Jesus' Name.