“LIVING EPISTLES”
                             2 CORINTHIANS 3:1-6
INTRO: God‟s people are a special people. We are special because of our birth.
       1 Peter 1:23 says of us, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but
       of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”
       We are special because of our beliefs. We believe that “..the prophecy
       came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as
       they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21) and “all Scripture
       is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof,
       for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). We
       are special because we bound for glory land. Our Lord Jesus
       promised His disciples and all who believe in Him, “In my Father’s
       house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go
       to prepare a place for you. And If I go and prepare a place for you, I
       will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye
       may be also” (John 14:2-3). And we are looking and longing for the
       day that “…the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout,
       with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the
       dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall
       be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the
       air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one
       another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
         In 2 Corinthians 3:2 Paul writes to the Corinthians—“Ye are our
         epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.” What Paul
         said of the Corinthians is true of all true believers. Some false
         teachers has started carrying forged letters of recommendation to
         increase their authority. In no uncertain terms, Paul states that he
         needs no such letters. The lives of the believers whom he and his
         companions had converted were enough of a recommendation (1).
         Friend, If you have placed your faith and trust in Christ Jesus, you
         are a Living Epistle and that makes you special. Someone has said,
         “The „living Bible‟ people really read, is you” (2). Let us note this
         morning three things about “Living Epistles.”
          2 CORINTHIANS 3:2-3—“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 fleshly tables of the heart.”
    A. CREATED BY THE AUTHOR’S HAND. Notice the last part of v3—
       “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of
       stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart.” Christ is the author of the
        letter; Paul was the penman; the message was written on the fleshly
        tablets of the hearts of the brethren at Corinth. (The People’s New
       Testament Commentary). Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-10—“For by
       grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the
       gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his
   workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath
   before ordained that we should walk in them.” Friend, If you are saved,
   you are to be a reflection of Christ in everything you do. There should
   be no doubts about Whose you are and Whom you serve! Paul Gilbert
   wrote: “Men read what you write, if it‟s false or true. Say, what is the
   gospel, according to you?” (3).
    ILLUS: Ronnie Hinson wrote:
                            Once Upon A Hill
                                 Verse 1
                   Somebody wrote my life‟s story
            Though the ink never touched the writer‟s quill
               Now in Heaven I‟ll live happy ever after
             Cause my life story started once upon a hill.
                                 Verse 2
                 I‟ve never laid eyes upon the author
             But it‟s clear to see He‟s laid his hand on me
            My life story may not be the world‟s bestseller
         But they won‟t have to read between the lines to see.
                    Once upon a hill is all it took
             From hidden shame my heart‟s been changed
                        My life‟s an open book
                      It‟s never been a mystery
                     How the fiction became real
             Cause my life‟s story started once upon a hill.
    reflections of the Author‟s work? Paul tells us why in 2 Corinthians
    5:14-15—“for the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge,
   that if one died for all, then we are all dead: And that he died for all, that
   they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him
   which died for them, and rose again.” A Living Epistle’s will is the
   Author‟s will. If we are truly His, we will love Him and do His will for
   our lives! 1 John 2:3-6 tells us, “And hereby we do know that we
  know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him,
  and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
  But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected:
  hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him
  ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Jesus said in John
   14:15—“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
   ILLUS: "I do love God," said a little girl to her papa one day when he
          had been talking to her about loving God. "Perhaps you think
          so, Maria." "Oh, I do, indeed I do, Papa!" "Suppose, my child,
          you should come to me and say, 'Dear Papa, I do love you,' and
          then go away and disobey me? Could I believe you?" "No,
          Papa." "Well, dear, how can I believe you love God when I see
          you every day doing those things which He forbids? You know,
               the Bible says, 'If ye love me, keep my commandments.'"
                                --William Moses Tidwell, "Pointed Illustrations."
The Author’s Hand and Constrained By The Author’s Heart, but also LIVING
          2 CORINTHIANS 3:2—“Ye are our epistle written in our hearts,
               known and read of all men.”
   *Note the last part of v2—“..known and read of all men.” All men who
    could see the transformation effected in the lives of the Corinthians could
    read the epistle. (The People’s New Testament Commentary). The Gospel‟s
    impact on the Corinthians had an obvious and widely perceived impact.
    Our lives impact others! There are two things we must never forget:
   A. PEOPLE READ OUR LIVES. When Paul said “Ye are our epistle…
      known and read of all men,” he was saying, "everyone could read, and
      was obliged to acknowledge the handwriting; it was so clear a case,
      what hand the apostle, as an instrument, had in the turning of these
      persons from idols to serve the living God; and which was so full a
      proof of the divinity, efficacy, truth, and sincerity of his doctrine, that
      he needed no letters from any to recommend him. (John Gill’s
      Exposition of The Entire Bible). Listen, Child of God, people are
      watching you. They are reading your life seeing if your epistle lives up
      to the intent of the Author. There is not so powerful a sermon in the
      world, as a consistent Christian life. The eye of the world takes in more
      than the ear. Christians' lives are the only religious books the world
      reads. (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary).
       ILLUS: Around the turn of the century in rural Tennessee an old man
              crippled with arthritis was very faithful in his assembling with
              the saints. Twice on Sunday and on Wednesday nights a little
              girl watched from her window as the old man with his cane
              painfully made his way down to the little church on the corner.
              One Sunday morning following a snow storm, the little girl ran
              to her window and looking out exclaimed, "Surely the old man
              will not go to church this morning." But there he was, right on
              schedule, plodding very cautiously through the snow. The
              little girl could not contain herself any longer. She just had to
              visit the little church to see what possibly could be there that
              would bring the old man out on such an inclement morning.
              The rest is history. The little girl was impressed by the services
              there that morning and a short time later became a Christian.
              After high school she enrolled in a Christian college and while
              there she met a fine young Christian boy whom she later
              married. To this union a son was born who was to become one
              of the finest gospel preachers. This brother during his ministry
              has literally led thousands to Christ. The old man went to his
              reward never realizing just what an impact he had made for
              the cause of Christ. Because of his godly influence many will
              go into heaven with him. There can be no greater joy than to
               reach heaven and to her someone say, "I am here because you
               have shown me the way."
      People read our lives and also…
   B. PEOPLE REACT TO OUR LIVES. As people read our lives, there will
      always be a reaction to what they read. If we live for Christ, Paul said
      in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16—“For we are unto God a sweet savour of
      Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To one we are
      the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto
      life. And who is sufficient for these things?” Warren Wiersbe wrote:
      “This savor, or perfume, means life to other believers, but to the un-
      believer headed for eternal condemnation, it means death. Joseph
      was a savor death to the baker, but a savor of life to the butler (Gen.
      40). Paul‟s description is a beautiful and challenging picture. What a
      tremendous responsibility it is to introduce people to life, or to have
      them reject Christ and go off to death! Being a Christian is a serious
      responsibility, for our lives are leading people either to heaven or hell
      (4). Charles Spurgeon said, “I would not give much for your religion
      unless it can be seen. Lamps do not talk, but they do shine” (5).
       ILLUS: A group of teenage girls was discussing a new leader for their
              Bible class. Their frank comments on the woman in question
              were enlightening and amusing. One girl said, "If you kids
              pick Mrs. L- to be our teacher, I'm quitting." "Why, what's
              wrong with her?" asked several of the group. "Plenty," was the
              reply. "Remember how I used to go to help her with her
              housework on Saturdays? Well, she still owes me money and
              she won't pay. Also, she talks a lot about being a good
              Christian, and boy, you should hear her say nasty things
              about some of her neighbors. Honest, kids, I know I shouldn't
              talk about her, but, please, let's wait until we find a teacher
              who lives what she teaches us on Sunday."
      ILLUS: A non-Christian lawyer attended a church service and listened
             incredulously to the testimonies of some who were known to
             him for their shady deals and failure to meet their honest
             obligations. "How did you like the testimonies?" a man asked
             him at the close of the service. He replied, "To a lawyer there
             is a vast difference between testimony and evidence." Words
             are cheap, and it is perilously easy to give a fine-sounding
             testimony for Christ, but quite another matter to demonstrate
             evidences of God's purifying power in our lives through Christ.
             "This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is
             far from me" (Mark 7:6).
      REACT TO OUR LIVES. Is your life a honorable testimony to the life-
      changing power of God?
MEN WIDELY, and finally…
        2 CORINTHIANS 3:6—“Who also hath made us able ministers of
             the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the
             letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
*No one can claim to be adequate without God‟s help. No one is competent
 to carry out the responsibilities to which God hath called him or her.
 Without the Holy Spirit, natural talent can carry us only so far. As
 Christ‟s witnesses, we need the Character and strength only God gives (6).
*Notice what Paul says in v5—“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to
think any thing of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” God gave Paul
 and his fellow-ministers their "sufficiency" (2Co_3:5), who had made them
 able ministers of the gospel. (The People’s New Testament Commentary).
 God has called us, his Living Epistles, to be witnesses of His life-changing
 power. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20—“And all things are of
God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us
the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, God was in Christ, reconciling the world
unto himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and hath committed
 unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are the ambassadors for
 Christ…” What are we to be witnesses of? :
A. HIS GRACE (EPHESIANS 2:8-9). We are to let this world know that
    Salvation is solely by grace through faith. Oliver B. Greene is his
   commentary on Ephesians wrote: “Grace came by Jesus Christ—yea,
   Grace WAS Jesus Christ—and becomes ours by faith. The Law extends
   blessings to the good—but Grace extends salvation to the bad…yea, to
   the worst. The Law demands that blessings be earned by righteous
   works; but Grace is the free gift of God, no strings attached. By Grace…
   the gift of God…Since the cross, salvation does not depend upon
   religious practices such as rituals, feasts, the keeping of Sabbaths,
   assemblies, etc. Salvation depends upon receiving Jesus…Good works
   have nothing to do with salvation. Good works are the evidence, the
   fruit, of salvation” (7).
   ILLUS: On April 18, 2000, 10-year-old Candace Newmaker tragically
          died in a counselor‟s office. Her adoptive mother, Jeane
          Newmaker, took Candace to Connell Watkins‟ home-based
          therapy center in Evergreen, Colorado to help her overcome
          “reactive attachment disorder.” As part of the therapy,
          Candace was wrapped in a blanket, then four people pushed
          against the blanket with pillows. The little girl was told to fight
          her way out of it to become “reborn.” A video tape reveals
          Candace repeated said she couldn‟t breathe but the session
          continued. After 70 minutes of this exercise, Candace died of
          asphyxiation. This little girl‟s horrific death is but one grim
          reminder that our culture is spiritually confused. Salvation
          through Christ is the only avenue through which we can find
          new birth and new life (Houston Chronicle, 8/16/00, p5A) (8).
   We must be WITNESSES of…
B. HIS GLORY (V5). LIVING EPISTLES are to be witnesses of the glory of
   God operating in their lives. They are to show forth God‟s power and
       presence operating in their lives. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7—
      “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined
      in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the
      face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that
      the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
      ILLUS: A Hindu trader in India once asked a missionary, "What do you
             put on your face to make it shine?" With surprise the man of
             God answered, "I don't put anything on it!" His questioner
             began to lose patience and said emphatically, "Yes, you do!" All
             of you who believe in Jesus seem to have it. I've seen it in the
             towns of Agra and Surat, and even in the city of Bombay."
             Suddenly the Christian understood, and his face glowed even
             more as he said, "Now I know what you mean, and I will tell
             you the secret. It's not something we put on from the outside
             but something that comes from within. It's the reflection of the
             light of God in our hearts.
CLOSING: There are people in the world around us who never open, who
         never read this Book. But they are reading us. Are they able to see
         God in our lives? Are they able to say of us to others, "That man—
         or that woman--reminds me of Christ"? Do we let our light so shine
         that men may see, not us, but our Father in heaven? This is the
         real test. -- W. H. Griffith-Thomas in a sermon, "Knowing and
        Showing," from Keswick's Authentic Voice. Christianity Today, Vol.
         36, no. 5.
           WITNESS. Child of God, What is your life saying to this world
           about Christ?
           Listen to the words of Pearl Anderson:
                         I am my neighbor‟s Bible,
                        He reads me when we meet.
                      Today he reads me in my home—
                          Tomorrow on the street.
                       He may be a relative or friend
                         Or slight acquaintance be.
                      He may not even know my name,
                           Yet he is reading me.
                            To learn if I am living
                           And walking as I pray.
                            He is watching closely
                           Just what I do and say.
                    Dear Christian friends and brothers,
                           If we could only know
                      How faithfully the world records
                         Just what we say and do,
                    Oh, we would write our records plain,
                         And come, in time, to see
                    Our worldly neighbors won to Christ
                      While reading you and me (9).
NOTES: 1. Living Letters From The Life Application Bible. p. 35.
       2. Albert B. Wells, Jr. Inspiring Quotations-Contemporary &
                Classical. p. 37.
       3. Wells. p. 35.
       4. Warren W. Wiersbe. Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on The New
                Testament. p. 481.
       5. Wells.
       6. Living Letters. p. 85.
       7. Oliver B. Greene. The Epistle of Paul The Apostle To The Ephesians.
                pp. 81-82.
       8. Raymond McHenry. In Other Words. Volume 10. Issue 4. Fall
                2000. p. 10.
       9. Wells. p. 34.

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