Sunday, 28 June 2015
…clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. 2 Corinthians 3:3
Paul continues with his thought of the church at Corinth as being an actual “epistle of Christ.” Instead of needing letters of commendation to or from the Corinthians, they themselves are such a letter – evident to all. The word “clearly” gives the sense of this being an obvious truth. And so the epistle is a stamp of the authenticity of the apostleship of those who worked with and for them – as he says, “…ministered by us.”
His words here could be likened to a carpenter who makes fine furniture. Such a carpenter doesn’t need a letter telling anyone how good his work is because the finished product speaks for itself. Each chair or table is a letter of commendation. Likewise, Stradivarius’ violins are a testimony to the work of the master himself. Such examples help us to see what Paul is referring to.
And this special epistle, which is the church at Corinth, doesn’t need the usual implements of a letter. It is “written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God.” Here Paul goes to concepts found in Scripture itself to demonstrate his point.
The “Spirit of the living God” is found to replace the “finger of God” which wrote out the Ten Commandments in Exodus 31:18. This same concept was used by Jesus in Luke 11 and elsewhere. In Luke we read this –
“And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Luke 11:19, 20
This is explained further by Jesus in Matthew 12:28 –
“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
The tangible concept of God’s finger represents the force behind it – the Spirit of God. Continuing on with this, he notes that the writing is “not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” Again, this is recalling the physical tablets of the Ten Commandments and is then being contrasted to the “tablets of flesh.” This is something that was promised in the book of Ezekiel to the Jewish people –
“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.” Ezekiel 11:19, 20
This promise is further spoken of in Jeremiah when the Lord promised a New Covenant to the people –
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Jeremiah 31:31-33
Paul is showing that these promises to Israel are realized in the church. Until the time when the message is accepted by the Jewish people, it has been granted to the Gentiles through the work of Paul. In every way, Paul is hinting at the superiority of the New Covenant over that of the Old Covenant. Further, he is showing that these promises apply not just to Israel, but to the nations of the world. It is a marvelous thing which God has done.
Life application: A true church is actually an epistle to those who see it. It therefore has the power to change lives as people read the actions of the congregants and then decide if what they are inspecting is worth joining. May our actions in our respective churches be such that those who read our “epistle” want to be a part of it as well.
Glorious God, You have established the New Covenant through the blood of Christ. Now the people of God have Your testimony written on their hearts of flesh rather than on tablets of stone. Your prophets of old said this would happen and that it would be for the people of Israel. Until that day, the nations have received this blessing. It looks like those times are ending and the attention is back on Israel. I pray that they will see the truth of their Messiah soon. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.