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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 3

Verse 3. Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared. You are made manifest as the epistle of Christ; or you, being made manifest, are the epistle, etc. They had been made manifest to be such by their conversion. The sense is, It is plain, or evident, that ye are the epistle of Christ.

To be the epistle of Christ. That which Christ has sent to be our testimonial, he has given this letter of recommendation. He has converted you by our ministry, and that is the best evidence which we can have that we have been sent by him, and that our labour is accepted by him. Your conversion is his work, and it is his public attestation to our fidelity in his cause.

Ministered by us. The idea here is, that Christ had employed their ministry in accomplishing this. They were Christ's letter, but it had been prepared by the instrumentality of the apostles. It had not been prepared by him independently of their labours, but in connexion with, and as the result of, those labours. Christ, in writing this epistle, so to speak, has used our aid; or employed us as amanuenses.

Written not with ink. Paul continues and varies the image in regard to this "epistle," so that he may make the testimony borne to his fidelity and success more striking and emphatic, he says, therefore, that it was not written as letters of introduction are, with ink—by traces drawn on a lifeless substance, and in lines that easily fade, or that may become easily illegible, or that can be read only by a few, or that may be soon destroyed.

But with the Spirit of the living God. In strong contrast thus with letters written with ink. By the Spirit of God moving on the heart, and producing that variety of graces which constitute so striking and so beautiful an evidence of your conversion. If written by the Spirit of the living God, it was far more valuable, and precious, and permanent, than any record which could be made by ink. Every trace of the Spirit's influences on the heart was an undoubted proof that God had sent the apostles; and was a proof which they would much more sensibly and tenderly feel than they could any letter of recommendation written in ink.

Not in tables of stone. It is generally admitted that Paul here refers to the evidences of the Divine mission of Moses which was given by the law engraven on tablets of stone. Comp. 2 Co 3:7. Probably those who were false teachers among the Corinthians were Jews, and had insisted much on the Divine origin and permanency of the Mosaic institutions. The law had been engraven on stone by the hand of God himself; and had thus the strongest proofs of Divine origin, and the Divine attestation to its pure and holy nature. To this fact the friends of the law, and the advocates for the permanency of the Jewish institutions, would appeal. Paul says, on the other hand, that the testimonials of the Divine favour through him were not on tablets of stone. They were frail, and easily broken. There was no life in them, (comp. 2 Co 3:6,7;) and valuable and important as they were, yet they could not be compared with the testimonials which God had given to those who successfully preached the gospel.

But in fleshy tables of the heart. In truths engraven on the heart. This testimonial was of more value than an inscription on stone, because

(1.) no hand but that of God could reach the heart, and inscribe these truths there.

(2.) Because it would be attended with a life-giving and living influence. It was not a mere dead letter.

(3.) Because it would be permanent. Stones, even where laws were engraven by the finger of God, would moulder and decay, and the inscription made there would be destroyed. But not so with that which was made on the heart. It would live for ever. It would abide in other worlds. It would send its influence into all the relations of life; into all future scenes in this world; and that influence would be seen and felt: in the world that shall never end. By all these considerations, therefore, the testimonials which Paul had of the Divine approbation were more valuable than any mere letters of introduction or human commendation could have been; and more valuable even than the attestation which was given to the divine mission of Moses himself.

{b} "tables of stone" Ex 24:12 {c} "fleshy tables" Jer 31:33; Eze 11:19

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