2 Corinthians 3:1-3. Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 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.
Walking around with letters of recommendation was a pretty common thing back in Paul’s day. It is pretty clear that some had come to Corinth with such letters, and then they proceeded to challenge Paul’s authority and his gospel message. Where were Paul’s recommendation letters? Is he just commending himself? Is he even really an apostle? Or is he just a big phony?
This was clearly painful and personal for Paul. But out of his pain and suffering we, by God’s grace, gain even greater insights into our union with Christ and the New Covenant. And so, as we see in the scripture above, Paul’s answer concerning his letters of recommendation is, “My letters are in the very lives of the Christians of Corinth. I will stake my authority and reputation on the love of this church.”
Paul is placing his faith, not in the Corinthians alone, but in the Spirit of Christ, and in the New Covenant. Notice how Paul describes the Corinthians in verse 3. They are letters from Christ, written on human hearts not stone tablets. He is contrasting the Old Covenant law (the Ten Commandments written on stone) with the New Covenant life of love.
The New Covenant was prophesied by Jeremiah hundreds of years earlier:
Jeremiah 31:31-33. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
The New Covenant was like a marriage covenant made between God and Israel, and mediated by Christ. All who trust in Christ for life are brought into this covenant and our the “spiritual Israel.” The New Covenant places us into Christ. All of our sins are removed and we are given a new heart full of new desires for the things of God. We now love what he loves. I know it doesn’t always seem like it, but at our deepest level, we now desire to serve and love God and others. We desire holiness. We desire grace.
The Corinthians, as messed up as they were, proved the reality of the New Covenant. They did the right thing. They eventually chose holiness and grace. They confronted the problem in their church and they were learning to forgive. This is why Paul could say about one of the most messed up churches in the Bible that they were his living letters of recommendation. Not because he trusted them, but because he trusted the Christ in them. He trusted the New Covenant work of the Spirit.
Christian, your life itself is God’s letter of recommendation – you are a letter from Christ, written by the Spirit. And this is true of every Christian. This is true of the church. Our lives are the living proof of God and his grace. Because we have been rescued from the Old Covenant law keeping, and been placed into Christ, our lives will be living letters testifying to the reality of God’s salvation for all of mankind. We’re not just talking about some transient spiritual or religious experience here. This isn’t about law keeping as a testimony to your own goodness. This is about real heart change. This is a whole new reality for us. A new life force, the Spirit, motivating and directing us. This is way beyond living by the Old Covenant Law and trying to figure out good and evil on our own. This is living by faith beyond sight.
“To live is Christ” makes each of us a living letter from God. This letter of his grace and love is written onto our hearts. It proves his reality and his salvation to a questioning and skeptical world.
Do you see your life as a letter from Christ written by the Spirit? If everyone was to read the letter of your life would they read a letter of grace or a letter of law keeping? How does your union with Christ radically change the content of your “life letter?”