Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:1-4
The teacher in children’s church asked the question, “How many gospels are there?” She expected one of two answers, one – the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or four – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Imagine her surprise when one little boy put up his hand and said there were five! Intrigued, she asked, “Why five?” to which he answered, Mathew, Mark, Luke, John and me. Give that boy a prize and praise his parents who teach him, because he was just echoing what Paul wrote to the Corinthians. He told the Corinthians that they are living epistles, known and read of all men. One version puts it in this way, “It is not a letter written with pen and ink, but by the Spirit of the living God; not one carved on stone, but in human hearts” [verse 3 Living Bible].
In Paul’s writing he sees the Corinthian Church as a living epistle, but each individual is also a living epistle. The only gospel that many people come in contact with is you and I. In a recent TV quiz show one of the questions was, “According to Christianity, who was the Redeemer who died on the cross to save humanity?” to which a rather intelligent man replied, “I don’t know”. How will that man be challenged about salvation, if he doesn’t read the Bible or know about Jesus? It can only be what he sees in Christians. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 5:16]
The exciting but also challenging message is that every believer is a living epistle. I was deeply blessed recently in a reading told by Jeff Lucas in the January 2017 issue of Premier Christianity. It concerned a man named Ken who accepted a dare to go to church. He was dressed totally in black, his arms and face covered in crude self-inflicted tattoos. His knuckles were tattooed with a swear word and an abusive greeting. He was an angry drug abuser who spent more than half his life in prison. He was utterly determined to be unmoved. Jeff writes, “But then little Marge Sample showed up. Silver- haired, elderly, and with a smile that could light up a room, diminutive Marge was on duty as a member of the welcome team that morning. She boldly strolled over to where Ken was sitting, his arms folded defiantly. “Hello!” she chirped. “I’m Marge. I don’t believe we’ve met? She rested her hand lightly on his studded shoulder.”
Ken’s response was immediate and violent. He buried his face in his hands and wailed. He sobbed his way into the kingdom that day. No one had been warm and welcoming to him for a very long time, but a simple gesture of kindness unlocked a man who had been imprisoned by hate for decades.
Elderly and silver-haired Marge was the gospel in living form to a hard man that day, and the result was stunning.
If Marge can do what she did, what hinders you from doing the same?
Read verse 3. Why is this a living letter? What is the meaning of the phrase, “Written by the Holy Spirit in human hearts?”