2 Corinthians 3:1 Commentary
Amplified: ARE WE starting to commend ourselves again? Or we do not, like some [false teachers], need written credentials or letters of recommendation to you or from you, [do we]? (Lockman)
ESV: Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? (ESV)
KJV: Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
NET: Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of recommendation to you or from you as some other people do, do we? (NET Bible)
NIV: Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? (NIV - IBS)
NLT: Are we beginning to praise ourselves again? Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Is this going to be more self-advertisement in your eyes? Do we need, as some apparently do, to exchange testimonials before we can be friends? (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: Are we beginning again to be commending ourselves? Or, we do not need, as some, commendatory letters to you or commendatory letters from you, do we? (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: Do we begin again to recommend ourselves, except we need, as some, letters of recommendation unto you, or from you?
for the Saints
|Testimonial & Didactic||Practical||Apologetic|
Misunderstanding & Explanation
|Apostle's Conciliation, Ministry & Exhortations||Apostle's Solicitation for Judean Saints||Apostle's Vindication
Ephesus to Macedonia:
Macedonia: Preparation for Visit to Corinth
Adapted & modified from Jensen's Survey of the New Testament (Highly Recommended Resource) & Wilkinson's Talk Thru the Bible
|2Corinthians written ~ 57AD - see Chronological Table of Paul's Life and Ministry|
ARE WE BEGINNING TO COMMEND OURSELVES AGAIN?: Archometha (1PPMI) palin heautous sunistanein? (PAN): (1Co 3:10 4:15 10:33)
SHOW ME YOUR
Context: The Lord's ministry through Paul was under attack by false teachers and false apostles who had come to Corinth. Beloved, there is a lesson for all of us who seek to preach and teach the pure milk of His Word in season and out of season -- attacks will surely come on men and women who undertake Word centered, Christ exalting, Spirit filled, God glorifying ministries! The modus operandi of Satan's pseudo-saints (cp 2Co 11:12, 13, 14 15) has not changed much since Paul's time - they told lies about him and sought to discredit his character and his competency as a minister so that they might usurp his authority in the church at Corinth. Paul was placed in a tenuous position for his own attempts to defend his ministry might be twisted by his enemies as an effort of self-commendation. This is the context for one of the great sections of this letter.
Summary of 2Corinthians 3 (See also Tabular summary)...
Alfred Deissmann has an interesting comment on the Corinthian epistles noting that...
Paul begins with two questions, both of which expect a negative reply.
Are we beginning (757) (archomai from archo = to be first) in the active voice means to be first and so to rule over or be the leader of. The passive voice in this verse signifies to make a beginning (used this way also in Mt 4:17; Mk 1:45; Lk 3:23, Jn 13:5; Acts 1:1)
Marvin Vincent comments it is...
To commend ourselves again...do we need...letters of commendation - Paul is not saying he had been commending himself before, but that he has been accused of doing so before! Letters of commendation is analogous to someone today needing a letter of recommendation from their previous employer! Paul says "No". Clearly Paul anticipated a hostile attack from his opponents that his epistles were nothing but letters of self-commendation. In 2Co 3:2 Paul quickly counters any such distortion from the false teachers and false apostles.
Paul being a student of the Old Testament was very familiar with the wise advice to....
James Denney writes how much more serious it is to impugn the character of a minister than other professions...
Commend (4921) (sunistemi/sunistao from sún = together with + hístemi = set, place, stand) means literally to place one with another, to place or put together. To set in the same place, this literal meaning being found in Luke 9:32. To bring together. When one brings together a person with another person, it is a way of presenting or introducing them. This gives sunistemi the meaning of commend, which means to recommend as worthy of confidence (the implication being that others adopt a similar attitude) or to present to one’s acquaintance for favorable notice. (9/16 NT uses)
In this same letter Paul repeatedly addresses the false claims raised by his detractors (Satan's ambassadors )...
Ourselves - Henry Alford feels that although this is plural, Paul is speaking of himself. Alford writes "The plural seems to be used, as so often in this Epistle, -- see e.g. 2Co 7:3, 5 -- of Paul himself only." (The New Testament for English Readers)
Again - This time phrase suggests that Paul had previously been accused of commending or praising himself.
Pulpit Commentary notes that...
Diogenes, the cynic philosopher, was once asked to give a letter of commendation for someone & he answered
Here’s a letter that was found on papyri
OR DO WE NEED, AS SOME, LETTERS OF COMMENDATION TO YOU OR FROM YOU?: e me chrezomen (1PPAI) os tines sustatikon epistolon pros humas e ex humon?: (Letters: 1Co 16:3)
Or do we need as some - Apparently the entrance of the false apostles (although he does not specifically name them) into the body of believers at Corinth was accompanied by presentation of written papyrus "letters of recommendation" from so called spiritual authorities (or possibly forgeries from genuine spiritual authorities).
Or...as some (e me...os tines) - The Pulpit Commentary says that this introduction
As some - See similar uses of "some" (Paul's "usual vague description of opponents") in 1Co 4:18, 1Co 15:12, 34, 2Co 10:2, 12, Gal 1:7, Php 1:15, 1Ti 1:3, 6, 19 6:21
Letters of commendation were common in Paul's day, Dr Luke recording an example in Acts...
Chreizo - 5x in the NAS - Mt 6:32 Lk11:8 12:30 Ro16:2 2Co 3:1
Letters (1992)(epistole from epi = to + stello = send) is an epistle, used figuratively in this passage of the believers at Corinth.
Commendation (4956)(sustatikos from sunistao) (Only NT use of this word) is literally a placing together, and thus introducing in the sense of being commendatory. Here it refers to a letter of commendation, which Paul says he does not need because of the saints at Corinth, whose lives were transformed by Paul's teaching of the Word of Truth.
J H Bernard comments that Paul...
J Vernon McGee rightly comments that...
Pulpit Commentary notes that letters of commendation were...
THE TWO COVENANTS
|Written with ink
on tablets of stone
|Written with the Spirit
on tablets of human hearts
|The Letter (law) Kills
(3000 @ Sinai – Ex 32:28)
|The Spirit gives Life
(3000 @ Pentecost – Acts 2:41)
|Ministry of Death
|Ministry of the Spirit
(~glory of moon)
|Glory that surpasses
(~glory of sun)
|Remains in Glory:
|Reading of Old Covenant
|Turn to the Lord
Veil is removed in Christ
|Where Spirit of the Lord is
|Glory fading on Moses’ face
No Internal Transformation
|Glory going to glory on saints' faces
Continual Internal transformation by the Spirit
2 Corinthians 3:2 Commentary
Amplified: [No] you yourselves are our letter of recommendation (our credentials), written in your hearts, to be known (perceived, recognized) and read by everybody. (Lockman)
ESV: You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. (ESV)
KJV: Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
NET: You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, (NET Bible)
NIV: You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. (NIV - IBS)
NLT: The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: You yourselves are our testimonial, written in our hearts and yet open for anyone to inspect and read. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: As for you, you are our letter which has been permanently engraved in our hearts, and which is being known and read by all men. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: our letter ye are, having been written in our hearts, known and read by all men,
YOU ARE OUR LETTER, WRITTEN IN OUR HEARTS, KNOWN AND READ BY ALL MEN: e epistole hemon humeis este, (2PPAI) eggegrammene (RPPFSN) en tais kardiais emon, ginoskomene (PPPFSN) kai anaginoskomene (PPFSN) hupo panton anthropon: (are:1Co 3:10 9:1,2) (in: 2Co 7:3 11:11 12:15 Php 1:7) (known: Ro 1:8 1Co 9:2 1Th 1:8)
You are - Note the present tense indicates Paul considers the saints at Corinth to continually be their "letter of commendation", their "credentials" (Amplified) or their "testimonial" (Phillips).
Apparently the accusations of Paul's spurious apostleship had been present for some time for in his first epistle he defends his legitimacy with an argument similar to that in the present passage asking four pointed rhetorical [for effect] questions...
You are our letter - Note that epistole (letter) is placed first for emphasis. While this description obviously refers to the saints in the church at Corinth, by way of application, every believer is in effect an "Epistle of Christ". The power of the Gospel is indisputably demonstrated by changed lives, especially the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-note, Gal 5:23-note). You have heard the saying that you may be the only Bible someone ever reads! What message is your "version" of the Bible conveying to your family members, your neighbors, your co-workers, etc?
Illustration - The world knows how British journalist Henry Stanley went to Africa to find the famed missionary, Dr. David Livingstone. Stanley's greeting, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" is world famous, but few know the rest of the story. After the two had been together for some time, Stanley saw what Livingstone endured and wrote, "I went to Africa as prejudiced as the biggest atheist in London. But there came for me a long time for reflection. I saw this solitary old man there and asked myself, 'How on earth does he stop here -- is he cracked, or what? What is it that inspires him so?' For months after we met I found myself wondering at the old man carrying out all that was said in the Bible -- 'Leave all things and follow Me.' But little by little his sympathy for others became contagious; my sympathy was aroused; seeing his piety, his gentleness, his zeal, his earnestness, and how he went about his business, I was converted by him." (From Rich Cathers)
Illustration - Habitat for Humanity started officially in 1976 but unofficially when founder Millard Fuller went to Zaire with a church group to build not-for-profit houses in 1968. With a beginning undergirded with little except prayer and vision for what God could do, Habitat has grown into one of the nation’s largest home builders. Fuller describes Habitat as an "alive, dynamic, Christ-centered movement" that welcomes Christians and non-Christians to participate in building houses for the poor. Fuller takes special delight when people listen to the message behind the sweat, nails and saws. Recently, he returned to the site of a Jimmy Carter Work Project in Charlotte, N.C. He spotted a five year-old boy playing in the yard of the house that Carter had helped build. After complimenting the boy on his beautiful home, he asked him who built it, expecting to hear the boy say, "Jimmy Carter." Instead, the boy said, "Jesus built my house." -- The Columbus Dispatch, 6-20-92, p. 8H (From Rich Cathers)
In the first epistle Paul had appealed to the lives of the saints at Corinth as the defense of his ministry writing...
Bob Deffinbaugh comments...
S Coley agrees writing that...
Vincent has a lengthy comment on you are our letter...
Hughes cites a similar example of
James Denney writes that...
Written (1449) (eggrapho from en = in or on, + grapho = to write, engrave, inscribe) is used here in a figurative sense of being inscribed in Paul's heart. Note Paul's use of the perfect tense which signifies the permanence of the inscription of the Corinthian believer's names on his heart. (Wuest = "permanently engraved in our hearts") Paul was not about to forget them. Do you have "spiritual children" in the Lord who like the saints at Corinth to Paul, have been written permanently on your heart and who serve as living testimony of the authenticity of your ministry?
Written in our hearts (cp 2Co 7:3) - Note that this great truth allowed him to speak of confidence in 2Cor 3:4 and his hope and boldness in speech in 2Cor 3:12. Paul's prior work among these saints (even with their "issues") had left an indelible impression on his heart.
Heart (2588) (kardia [word study]) does not refer to the physical organ but is always used figuratively in Scripture to refer to the seat and center of human life. The heart is the center of the personality, and it controls the intellect, emotions, and will. No outward obedience is of the slightest value unless the heart turns to God.
The great Puritan writer John Flavel wrote that...
Vincent has a quote from Plato...
Known (1097) (ginosko) conveys the basic meaning of taking in knowledge in regard to something or someone, knowledge that goes beyond the merely factual. By extension, the term frequently was used of a special relationship between the person who knows and the object of the knowledge. It was often used of the intimate relationship between husband and wife and between God and His people.
J H Bernard calls our attention to the fact that ...
In the present context ginosko speaks of the fact that "all men" had an experiential knowledge of the Corinthian believers. They were not hypocrites or imposters but were new creatures in Christ (2Co 5:17-note) living transformed lives, having proven themselves before "all men"
These saints had proved themselves true to Jesus' call for His disciples to be "salt" and "light" in a godless, idol filled, sex saturated culture like that found in Corinth, Jesus in His "Sermon on the Mount" declaring...
Read (314) (anaginosko from aná = emphatic, again + ginosko = know <> know again) literally to know again or to recognize again. It came to mean to distinguish between, to know accurately and then to read. In the NT anaginosko is only used with the meaning of to read, especially referring to reading aloud and to public reading. In Acts 8:28, 30, 32 we see the Ethiopian eunuch is reading in private (until encountered by Phillip!) In the present context the use is clearly in a figurative sense of others "reading" the lives of the Corinthian saints as one would read a written letter.
Know (understood) and read are coupled together in Acts 8...
The lives of the saints at Corinth were so real and transparent that they could be easily "read". Their lives were not written in the difficult to understand language of "religiosity" or "Christianeze (Christian jargon)" but with real lives that could be really read, really understood and really believed! Are you convicted? I am! What would my neighbors say is the "gospel written by me (by my life lived out before their eyes)?"
By all men - Believers and unbelievers alike, among the former group serving to encourage faithful lives much as iron sharpens iron (Pr 27:17-note), and among the latter group an aroma of death to some and life to others (2Co 2:15,16, cp Jn 3:19, 20, 21)
Hughes makes the point that living, breathing letters...
Your Life's Handwriting -- Some people believe that our hand-writing reveals our character. Experts in the field of graphology watch for things like the slant of letters, the way they are formed, where the “t” is crossed, and how the “i” is dotted. Based on these distinctions, conclusions are drawn about one’s personality. We are told that the style of our writing shows whether we are outgoing or withdrawn, individualistic or of a conforming nature.
While some may question the reliability of this practice, it reminds me of what the apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:2. He told us that Christians are epistles “known and read by all men.” The way we compose the letters of our conduct indicates the kind of persons we really are.
If we are trying to please the Lord Jesus Christ, the handwriting of our lives will reveal a love for others and a responsiveness to their needs. We will also express an individuality and a willingness to stand alone for righteousness’ sake if duty demands it. Each day we will try to adjust our behavior to the will of our heavenly Father.
Allow the Savior to live through you by relying on His power. Then let the handwriting of your life tell others you belong to Him. — by Richard De Haan
The Christian's life is the world's Bible.
A LIVING EPISTLE - A missionary in India was so feeble mentally that ‘he could not learn the language, After some years he asked to be recalled, frankly saying that he had not sufficient intellect for the work. A dozen missionaries, however, petitioned his Board not to grant his request, saying that his goodness gave him a wider influence among the heathen than any other missionary at the station. A convert, when asked, “What is it to be a Christian?” replied, “It is to be like Mr. ______ ,” naming the good missionary. He was kept in India. He never preached a sermon (Ed: Maybe not with his lips, but he certainly did with his life!), but when he died hundreds of heathen, as well as many Christians, mourned him, and testified to his holy life and character. (S. S. Chronicle.)
Nothing so commends a minister
The fruitfulness of the people
"SELF-PRAISE is no recommendation," and the "sounding of one's own trumpet" is not to be applauded. The apostle must show that he does not approve of such a method, and although he was in a position to boast of great attainments, yet he would not glory in himself. However, it fell to his lot to be charged with arrogance, and that which he most carefully avoided was brought against him as a crime. But are we not entitled as Christians to somewhat of boasting? We have surely a glory of which we need not be ashamed. As "children of God" we possess an inheritance concerning which we may well be proud. To us are committed the " oracles of God," and we still hold to the " faith once delivered to the saints." Ours is not a vain glorying, for it is of God. I would that every Christian were preaching so as to be heard by all around, not in the pulpit, but in the home, a sermon in which he made the cross of Christ his glory, and the blood of Christ his boast.
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. "Good wine needs no bush," and those who are blessed beneath a faithful minister are his best letters of commendation. In sending forth the seventy our Lord did not give each a letter of introduction, but rather endowed each with power to do good, and their works and words were to stand them in stead thereof. Paul's converts were his epistles, as we call books the works of writers now, and these were put down as the apostle's seals to his ministry. 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.
Figures (of speech) are often used to set forth the Christian life, and none, I think, does so more clearly than that beneath our notice, "Ye are our epistles." We are likened to trees, for we need planting, nurturing, watering, and pruning before we can bear fruit; stones, for there has been the quarrying, setting, polishing, and building wrought upon us; lights, where trimming and sustaining is so much required to render us clear and bright; and now epistles, written so that all men may read us. 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 ministers by whom they had believed, — 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. But God has another pen. 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. Or yet again, see how Peter suits the bold, round-hand, writing which God would have inscribed upon the hard tables of Jewish minds. He stands forth to declare the whole counsel of God before the Sanhedrim, the murderers of Christ, without fear. Luke, his friend, however, is the pen that the Spirit uses to write the small-hand of detail. Thus is it the Master uses varied tools to inscribe His own will upon men's hearts. O Lord, point us, if need be, with cutting, so that we may be pens in Thy hand to write upon others' hearts.
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. It is the pure Spirit of the living God; it never mars or discolors, but adds glory to the heart upon which it flows. Words penned by this agency shall not die, for the marks of grace are indelible, it being the Spirit of the living God. It is truly an invisible ink, but when held to the fire of divine love shall become apparent, and it can never fade; a non-corrosive fluid, and yet it eats its way into men's hearts. What we want is a greater measure of this sacred writing power. Pray that the Father may send the Spirit upon you more abundantly.
3) The next requisite is the paper.
It is not written upon stone, but "in fleshy tables of the heart." The law may be penciled by God's finger upon stones, but His love must be written upon the tender heart. As Matthew Henry quaintly says: "Not upon the fleshly, but fleshy tables." That heart that God gives best receives God's writing. A soft heart best absorbs the ink; a living tablet best retains impressions. How is it with your heart, dear hearer? Has God ever written His name there? Lay bare the page, and let the Lord even now transcribe words of love and mercy upon it. Are you willing that it should be so? Then shall you know His willingness, for He says: "I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh."
Lord, write first in us,
II. Now I want you to consider, secondly, 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." The handwriting is legible, not shaky with doubt; no forgery through unfaithfulness, but the whole plainly penned in all the up-and-down strokes. 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, — the intelligent, interested, and inquisitive.
1) The intelligent - Many are real students of Christian character, desirous of gaining knowledge for their own good in spiritual attainments. If you see a person take down a book in a library, you soon judge whether he has been accustomed to study by the way in which he handles the volume; and so there are those who carefully review every syllable of a Christian's life, and read each line for their own edification. How anxious should we be to help such students by our example, living near unto the great Exemplar.
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. The pastor reads to find out if such are increasing in the knowledge of God, growing in grace, getting stronger in love, and taking a deeper and firmer hold of the doctrines of Christ. The parent reads the heart of the child, anxiously seeking to see how far Christ's character is spelled out in the child's life. The teacher reads the scholar's, the friend the acquaintance's, the master the servant's, and the servant the master's too. Let us seek to please such as take a loving interest in us, remembering that the Lord Himself is one of these readers; so may we strive to adorn His doctrine in all things.
3). The last class I have called the inquisitive. They only peruse to find fault. They look at the Christian character through smoky magnifying-glasses, and sometimes they turn the volume upside down, and then complain that it is all a big mistake, and they cannot make it out. They pick out that which the follower of Jesus knows full well to be a flaw himself, and then ask the question, "Is this like a Christian?" Beware, dear reader! Be careful, for men's eyes are always ready to detect a failing. 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. If the Spirit of God has written upon our hearts, let us exhibit that epistle in our lives, so that we may be known and read of all men to the glory of our God. Amen. (The life and labors of Charles H Spurgeon)
2 Corinthians 3:3 Commentary
2 Corinthians 3:3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (NASB: Lockman)
Greek : phaneroumenoi (PPPMPN) hoti este (2PPAI) epistole Christou diakonetheisa (APPFSN) uph' hemon, eggegrammene (RPPFSN) ou melani alla pneumati theou zontos, (PAPMSG) ouk en plaxin lithinais all' en plaxin kardiais sarkinais.
Amplified: You show and make obvious that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, not written with ink but with [the] Spirit of [the] living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. [Ex 24:12; 31:18; 32:15, 16; Jer 31:33.] (Lockman)
ESV: And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (ESV)
KJV: 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 fleshly tables of the heart.
NET: revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts. (NET Bible)
NIV: 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. (NIV - IBS)
NLT: Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: You are an open letter about Christ which we ourselves have written, not with pen and ink but with the Spirit of the living God. Our message has been engraved not in stone, but in living men and women. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: You are those who are openly shown to be a letter which exhibits Christ, this letter having been ministered [written] by us, not having been written with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets that are human hearts. (Eerdmans) (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: manifested that ye are a letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in the tablets of stone, but in fleshy tablets of the heart,
BEING MANIFESTED THAT YOU ARE A LETTER OF CHRIST, CARED FOR BY US: phaneroumenoi (PPPMPN) hoti este (2PPAI) epistole Christou diakonetheisa (APPFSN) uph' hemon: (Letter: Ex 31:18 Rev 2:1,8,12,18 3:1,7,14,22) (cared for: 1Co 8:5-10)
You are our letter of Christ - The famous Greek philosopher Plato agreed with Paul writing that...
Ray Stedman quips that Paul was in essence saying...
Brian Bell writes that...
Being manifested - The lives of the saints at Corinth were clearly and continually (present tense) visible "open letters" that gave obvious testimony to all men of their radical new life in Christ (2Co 5:17-note). This description implies that these saints lived authentic, transparent lives "in the open" for all to witness and did not remain sequestered in a "holy huddle". In the words of Jesus they did not
Being manifested (disclosed, revealed) (5319)(phaneroo from phanerós = manifest, visible, conspicuous in turn from phaino = give light; become visible in turn from phos = light) is literally "to bring to light" and primarily means "to make visible" or to cause to become visible. The basic meaning of phaneroo is to make known, to clearly reveal, to manifest (see Vine's elaboration of "to be manifest" below), to cause to be seen or to make clear or known.
Vine summarizes phaneroo...
Thayer says phaneroo means...
As noted above, Paul uses the present tense to signify that they are continually being revealed as a letter of Christ, the best letter of commendation any preacher or teacher could present.
Letter of Christ - Not a letter of Paul or Timothy but of Christ (cp He 12:2-note "Author and Perfecter"), for they were but servants ("deacons" - see below) of Christ, "Who manifests through (Paul and Timothy) the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place." (2Co 2:14). Note that the Spirit of Christ works in us before and in order that He might work through us.
Paul uses the well known example of a literal literal as a metaphor. A metaphor is a commonly used a figure of speech "in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action (the changed lives of the saints at Corinth) that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance" (See terms of comparison simile metaphor).
Rob Salvato asks what is...
Henry Alford commenting on letter of Christ writes that...
Ray Stedman rightly remarks that what Paul was saying was that...
Hughes remarks that...
Bogue comments on Christ is the "Writer" and Christians as His "Letter"...
Marvin Vincent explains a letter of Christ cared for by us...
Cared for or ministered by about which John Calvin remarks that Paul...
Guzik comments on cared for by us...
Cared for (1247)(diakoneo [word study] derivation uncertain - cp diakonis = in the dust laboring or running through the dust or possibly diako = to run on errands; see also study of related noun - diakonia) means to minister by way of rendering service in any form or to take care of by rendering humble service.
The root word diakonos refers to one who serves as a waiter upon tables performing menial duties (see Matt 8:15; 20:28; 27:55; Mark 1:31; 10:45; 15:41; Luke 4:39; 10:40; 12:37; 17:8; 22:26, 27; John 12:2). Diakoneo conveys the basic idea of personal service, and depending on the context can mean specifically to serve, to wait on, to see after or to care for someone's needs by performing a service (conveying the sense that help is provided to the one being served - see Mt 4:11, 25:44, Mark 1:13).
A good picture of the meaning of diakoneo is seen when Peter's mother-in-law was healed by Jesus "and she immediately got up and waited (diakoneo) on them." (Lk 4:39) What Peter's mother was doing physically (albeit still a "spiritual" act), Paul was doing most likely primarily spiritually by proclaiming the Word of God to the saints and in so doing "caring" for the needs of their souls.
Augustine rightly phrased it when he said that...
The group of words related to diakoneo (diakonia, diakonos) word group differs the other Greek word group, douleuo (doulos) which also means to serve, in that the former word group connotes “service” on behalf of someone while the latter speaks of “service” as a slave under or subordinate to someone (as a bondservant or bondslave to the “lord” or “master”). As Richards says...
TDNT writes that...
Perhaps you think your work for the Lord is of no eternal consequence, but as Vance Havner rightly reminds us...
Every believer is an “open letter” from Christ, because their changed life will show God’s work within their heart.
WRITTEN NOT WITH INK BUT WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD, NOT ON TABLETS OF STONE BUT ON TABLETS OF HUMAN HEARTS: eggegrammene (RPPFSN) ou melani alla pneumati theou zontos, (PAPMSG) ouk en plaxin lithinais all' en plaxin kardiais sarkinais: (Living: 2Co 6:16 Jos 3:10 1Sa 17:26 Ps 42:2 84:2 Jer 10:10 Da 6:26 Mt 16:16 1Th 1:9 Heb 9:14) (not: Ex 24:12 34:1) (but: Ps 40:8 Jer 31:33 Eze 11:19 36:25-27 Heb 8:10 10:16)
Moses records that the Old Covenant was also written by God...
Paul in speaking of tablets of human hearts (which speak of the New Covenant) is led to recall the tablets of stone (which speak of the Old Covenant), and in the succeeding passages is led by the Spirit to launch into a description of the superiority of the New over the Old Covenant.
Some have suggested that Paul launched into a discussion of the superiority of the New Covenant because some of the false teachers did not want to see the Mosaic system set aside.
Written (1449) (eggrapho from en = in or on, + grapho = to write, engrave, inscribe) is used again in a figurative sense. Paul's use of the perfect tense pictures the permanence of the Spirit's "autograph" on their hearts and indirectly speaks of the assurance and eternal security of their salvation in Christ (see other articles on assurance). When I teach I use erasable markers which means what I write on the white board is not permanent. It's as if God used a "Permanent Marker", His Spirit writing irrevocably on our hearts! Praise the Lord that His writing is permanent and our names can never be erased from the Lamb's book of life!
Not with ink (melan source of our English word melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color) refers to any black concretion, which could be ink but could also be something like charcoal, either of which could be used to write on stone.
Many centuries earlier Job had written...
Not with ink...but the Spirit - Not with visible, perishable materials but with the invisible, spiritual hand of God's Spirit.
As Brian Bell quips...
We ought to be
And I would add we should all be Christians in "BOLD FONT", filled with Holy Spirit boldness (Acts 4:31, 9:27, 28, 13:46, 14:3 18:26 19:8 Ep 6:20-note 1Th 2:2-note) making us adequate to live out and speak forth the transforming truth of the Gospel of Grace (Ac 20:24) to a lost world in desperate need of rescue from the wrath to come (Mt 3:7 Lk 3:7 1Th 1:10-note)!
Spirit (4151)(pneuma from pneo = to blow, to breathe) in context (cp use 2Co 3:17) refers in this context to the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, Who had caused them to be born again (Jn 3:5, 6, 7, 8)
Bernard feels that this description of "the mystical imprint of the Divine Spirit" on their hearts...
Joseph Beet comments...
James Denney writes that...
Living God - Marked contrast with lifeless ink or dead, cold slabs of stone.
Living God - This great description of the Eternal God appears 28x in Scripture - Dt 5:26; Josh 3:10; 1 Sam 17:26, 36; 2 Kgs 19:4, 16; Ps 42:2; 84:2; Isa 37:4, 17; Jer 10:10; 23:36; Dan 6:20, 26; Hos 1:10; Matt 16:16; 26:63; Acts 14:15; Ro 9:26; 2 Cor 3:3; 6:16; 1Ti 3:15; 4:10; Heb 3:12; 9:14; 10:31; 12:22; Rev 7:2
Beet adds that Living God
Not on tablets of stone - A description of the "Ten Commandments" representative of the Old Covenant of the Law. Paul begins to contrast the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was clearly external and provided no internal power to live out the commandments. You could hold the tablets of stone in your hands your entire life but it would never change your life. The New Covenant ministry is an inside job", the Spirit of the Living God indwelling, empowering and transforming believers from the inside out!
In other words, the New Covenant which was prophesied in the Old Testament provided a "spiritual heart transplant", Ezekiel recording God's promise that...
Jeremiah reiterates the prophetic promise of the New Covenant God declaring...
Tablets of human hearts - "tables which are hearts of flesh" (cp God's indictment of Judah's sin - Jer 17:1).
Tablets (4109)(plax) describes a flat, broad surface, tablet or plain (or land), and in the NT describes a flat stone on which inscriptions are written.
Plax - 2Co 3:3 (2x), He 9:4.
Plax - 33x in 21v Septuagint (LXX) - Ex 31:18; 32:15, 16, 19; 34:1, 4, 28, 29; Dt 4:13; 5:22; 9:9, 10, 11, 15, 17; 10:1, 2, 3; 1Ki 8:9; 2Chr 5:10
Human (4560) (sarkinos from sarx = flesh) is an adjective meaning fleshly, describing that which is made of or consists of flesh. The suffix –inos refers to the material from which the noun is composed.
Solomon uses a similar metaphor exhorting his readers...
D Thomas refers to this section as "Soul (Heart) Literature"...
Paul Apple writes
David writes of the righteous that...
Again David wrote...
James Denney sums up this section writing that...
Here is a illustration of a living epistle from Christ = The Life of Adoniram Judson - Many years ago when the great missionary Adoniram Judson was home on furlough, he passed through the city of Stonington, Connecticut. A young boy playing about the wharves at the time of Judson’s arrival was struck by the man’s appearance. Never before had he seen such a light on any human face (cp 2Co 3:18-note, 1Co 15:49). He ran up the street to a minister to ask if he knew who the stranger was. The minister hurried back with him, but became so absorbed in conversation with Judson that he forgot all about the impatient youngster standing near him. Many years afterward that boy—who could never get away from the influence of that wonderful face—became the famous preacher Henry Clay Trumbull. (author of the insightful and fascinating book The Blood Covenant A Primitive Rite And Its Bearings on Scripture) In a book of memoirs he penned a chapter entitled: "What a Boy Saw in the Face of Adoniram Judson." That lighted countenance had changed his life. Even as flowers thrive when they bend to the light, so shining, radiant faces come to those who constantly turn toward Christ!
F B Meyer's devotional "An Autograph Letter" -
W Grant describes....
William Arnot (author of one of the better commentaries on the Book of Proverbs [Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth] - but only comments on selected passages) has a sermon entitled...
2 Corinthians 3:4 Commentary
Amplified: Such is the reliance and confidence that we have through Christ toward and with reference to God. (Lockman)
ESV: Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. . (ESV)
KJV: And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
NET: Now we have such confidence in God through Christ. (NET Bible)
NIV: Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. (NIV - IBS)
NLT: We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: We dare to say such things because of the confidence we have in God through Christ, (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: And such confidence are we having through the Christ towards God. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: and such trust we have through the Christ toward God,
SUCH CONFIDENCE WE HAVE THROUGH CHRIST TOWARD GOD: Pepoithesin de toiauten echomen (1PPAI) dia tou Christou pros ton theon: (2Co 2:14 Php 1:6) (Ex 18:19 1Th 1:8)
James Denney links this confidence with the end of the previous chapter (see notes) writing
Ray Stedman agrees with Denney writing that Paul is led...
Confidence (4006) (pepoithesis from peitho = to persuade) describes the quality or state of being certain. It describes Paul's assurance of mind and his firm belief in the integrity, stability and veracity of God. Paul expressed a reliance on God, the idea of reliance being an expression of confidence or trust based on experience, which provides the perfect segue (seg-way - to move on to another topic without interruption) for Paul to explain his adequacy for ministry.
Paul expresses his boldness a second time in this chapter (2Co 3:12-note) in view of his "hope" regarding the permanent glory of the New Covenant.
Bernard explains such confidence as saying in essence...
Murray Harris explains it this way...
Vincent remarks that Paul had confidence...
Guzik comments on confidence through Christ toward God...
Through Christ - Not through Paul but through Christ "the Head, from Whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God." (Col 2:17-note)
In Romans Paul declared that...
Vincent explains through Christ toward God...
"THE PROOF IS
I love J Vernon McGee's comment...
Paul Apple sums up this chapter...
David Hocking alliterates this section as follows (reference)...