“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? 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 fleshy tables of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:1–3, KJV)
One of the practices that has carried on for ages is that of getting letters of recommendation. When I pastored, very often I would have someone come to me and ask for a letter of recommendation. Sometimes it was for entrance to a Bible college or seminary. On other occasions it was for someone to gain employment in a ministry.
One time, before being called into the pastoral ministry, I carried letters of recommendation and accommodation on my interviews. These were helpful when it came to meeting someone that I had never met before to give them an idea of my work ethic. Beyond this, potential employers would often ask for references. These were people they could contact for a validation of my work successes.
These types of things were always important since those making selections of people wanted to make sure that they found the best. They did not want to rely upon the interview process alone, because there are a lot of charlatans running around that say all kinds of things to get hired, some true and some not true.
In Paul’s day the same thing happened. However, this was even more serious when it came to so called itinerant preachers of the day. There were men travelling the regions claiming authority to preach the word, who carried letters of recommendation. Many of these were false apostles who opposed Paul and his ministry. They were the prophets for profits, discussed in the previous devotion. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and stated that he and his team did not need such letters written on parchment.
The letters that testified to Paul and his team’s ministry were heavenly in origin. They were not written on parchment with a quill and ink. They were letters written on the human heart by the Spirit of the living God. He was speaking of the New Covenant, by which the Holy Spirit performed a spiritual transformation in the hearts of believers. Ezekiel recorded the words of the Lord explaining this New covenant work. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26, KJV).
The Corinthians did not need to see some sort of letters on parchment carried by Paul or the others on his team. The letters of their affirmation were on the heart of every true believer in Paul’s team and in the church at Corinth. The Holy Spirit moved in all those having saving faith, doing the work of regeneration. It was the transformation of their hearts from that of stone to hearts of flesh that testified to the validity of Paul’s message. Yes, their very nature changed. The affections of their hearts had changed in that they sought after God and His righteousness.
Every believer is a living letter of God’s amazing grace. The transformation of our very lives is a living testimony of our salvation. The Lord has rescued us and changed us by His Spirit into living letters to bring glory to God. We are a display of God’s glory in a dark world.