2 Corinthians chp 3 : 'Living Letters' - J Stewart Gillespie 

'Living Letters' 

Surely one of the strangest descriptions of Christians? 

Many titles given to Christians in the NT: 

My sheep – John 10 
Little children – John 
Flock of God – Peter 
Saints Christians 
Followers of that way 

But here – living letters! 

Wherever I go – this letter is taken! 

This is not the kind of evangelism that places emphasis on bringing people to places, meetings or events but rather the kind of evangelism that recognises that God sends His messengers to the lost, and those messengers are you and I. 

An evangelism that grasps every opportunity to brig Christ to lost men and women. 

Every contact 
Every conversation 

Possession of it 
Potential of it 
Production of it 
Purpose of it 
Power of it 

Possession of it 


Paul doesn't just see Christians he has made a contribution to 

Paul doesn't fly a flag of convenience 

The church at Corinth was not just a church he turned up to if he had nothing better on! 

We live in a day when commitment to what doesn't immediately prosper me or promote my interests, where ideas and principles of being a help to others is dwindling! 

There is a spirit in our age, self interested, selfish and self promoting. 

The believer is to be self less; 'take up your cross daily.' 

Paul took ownership; 'ye are our epistle written in our hearts known and read of all men.' (3:2) 

This is my assembly 

This is my responsibility 

I have a responsibility not just to suite myself but to contribute to and impact for God and for good in the life of others. 

Paul had a heart for the Corinthians (3:2) 

It was in giving that he gained 

It was in sorrow he found joy 

It was in losing that he won 

It was in the cross he saw the crown 

Within a week of taking power Donald Trump had reversed or blocked the work of the previous president: trade deals, abortion funding and immigration. 

How transient and fleeting the castles built on the sands of the sea shore of eternity even by the most powerful men in this world, yet in doing this work Paul had invested or eternity. 

Potential of it 

People don't read their Bible – they read you! - Not a bible verse but a fairly reasonable paraphrase of 3:2-3 

How do we get the gospel out? 

What are Gods methods? 

'Gods methods are His men' – JC Ryle 

It is 'not better methods we need – better men' – JB Nicholson 

Maybe a place you will go where the Bible will not! 

Off course you will have read of this often in the Bible already. 

You will have read it in: 

In the first epistle to Pharaoh – that's Joseph 
In the 2nd epistle to Pharaoh – that's Moses 
In the 1st epistle to Nineveh – that's Jonah 
In the epistle to Namaan – little maid 
In Gods epistle to Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 

When God would speak to Pharaoh He sent Moses 

When God would place His word in the prison cell – He sent Paul and Silas 

When God would speak to Artaxerxes – bearing his cup would be Nehemiah 

When God would speak to Nebuchadnezzar – amongst the Hebrew captives would be Daniel. 

When God would speak to Namaan the Syrian – amongst the captives was a Jewish maid. 

See the potential of being a living letter: 'known and read of all men' 

Production of it 

How might this happen for an epistle to be written in my heart? 

It is a deep work of the 'Spirit of God' (v3) 

Written in the 'heart' 

The heart is the seat of: 


It is the intellectual and motivational centre of the person. 

How does this epistle penetrate into my heart? 

How does it move from 

the page to the person 

What does that experience look like? 

Is it purely a supernatural work? 

In chapters 3 & 4 we notice that the Lord uses means to achieve this end: 

By the Spirit of God (3:17) 
By the Word of God (3:14-18) 
By the Experiences, mainly the suffering experiences of life (4:8 ff) 

The experience of the epistle of Christ written in the heart is no easy experience. 

Abraham – Genesis chp 22 

Many OT titles of God 

Many prefixed with the covenant name: 'Jehovah' 

Jehovah Rapha – The Lord who Heals 

Jehovah Nissi – The Lord our Banner 

Jehovah Bore (Isaiah 40:28) – The LORD Creator 

Jehovah Mekaddishkem (Exodus 31:13) – The LORD that Sanctifies You 

Jehovah Mauzzi (Jeremiah 16:19) – The LORD My Fortress 

Ha-Melech Jehovah (Psalms 98:6) – The LORD the King 

Jehovah Mephalti (Psalms 18:2) – The LORD My Deliverer 

Jehovah Sabaoth (Tsebaoth) (I Samuel 1:3) – The LORD of Hosts 

Jehovah Shalom (Judges 6:24) – The LORD (our) Peace 

Jehovah Tsidkenu (Jeremiah 23:6) – The LORD Our Righteousness 

The title of Jehovah learned in the intensity of the planned and counselled death of Isaac! 

The confusion of mind: 'thou shalt not kill' 
The conflict of interests between his son and his God 
The challenge of faith – 'in Isaac shall thy seed be called' 
The compassion of his soul towards his son. 
Even up to the point of stretching forth his hand to slay the boy (Gen 22:10) 

If Abraham were invited to come and speak on the names of Jehovah, I very much doubt that he would be able to get passed that one great title, that great title of Jehovah, before which all others seemed to fade into relative insignificance, in his moment of deepest testing, greatest loss, his mind struggling with the impenetrable mystery of 'take now thy son, thine only son Isaac and put him on the altar.' With his spirit beyond pain and his heart bursting like never before, at that point, at that point – 'Jehovah Jireh.' 

This name is no mere point of doctrine or a sermon 

This name is a Person, a place, a problem, a pain, a passion and a provision. 

As Shadrach, Meshech and Abednigo stepped into the fiery furnace, the words of Isaiah jumped off the pages of their Bible and were written by the Spirit in their hearts: 


'When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee' (Isaiah 43:2) 

Jonah experienced the reality of: 'salvation is of the Lord' 

cast into the tempestuous sea 
sinking down (2:3) into darkness 
unable to breath 
then final total darkness 
now able to breath – but every breath laboured 
suffocatingly laboured 
did he know where he was? 
Could he know where he was? 
'out of the belly of hell' – may be figurative for us – but probably not for Jonah. 
Would Jonah ever forget that 'salvation is of the Lord.?' 
Could Jonah ever forget that salvation is of the Lord? 



Many years ago, worked through the 7 'I Ams' of Johns Gospel. Took one per Sunday evening. Ask the blind man of John 9 to speak to you on the subject of the I am sayings of Jesus, you might just leave with the impression that there is but one! The blind man of John 9 experienced the reality of 'I am the light of the world. 

As he moved from a lifetime of darkness, from the total blackness of a windowless room that was his soul, in the light unimaginable, shapes, forms, hitherto unmatched to sound and sense. 

From a lifetime of darkness to a: 

Light unimaginable 
Drama of dimensions 
Explosion of experience 
A world of shade and of colour 

There would be for this man many stars shining in the night sky but for him only that one star shone brightly: 'I am the light of the world.' 

The truth of 'I am the Light of the world,' would never be for this man one of the great I am sayings! It would be for him the only one! 

'I Am the Light of the world' is: 

His Joy 

His Delight 

His Glory 

His Hope 

His Life 

His Happiness 

His Testimony 

His Triumph 

His Rejoicing 

His Salvation 

His Transformation 

The two returning from Jerusalem to Emmaus, disheartened, discouraged, disappointed, a familiar stranger would take the text of scriptures well known and familiar (Luke 24:25) and Like a blacksmith of the heart He would fire the iron pen of Job in the coals of conscience, fanned by the breath of the Spirit and write on their hearts the word of prophecy long known! Luke 24:32 – 'Did not our heart burn within us when he talked with us by the way and opened unto us the scriptures.' 

Purpose of it 

Power of it