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Living Epistles

Living Epistles

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Published by glennpease
BY JAMES DENNEY, B.D.


'Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? or need we, as
do some, epistles of commendation to you or from you ? Ye are our
epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men; being made
manifest that ye are an 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 tables that are hearts of tlesh." — 2 Cor. iii. 1-3 (R.V.).
BY JAMES DENNEY, B.D.


'Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? or need we, as
do some, epistles of commendation to you or from you ? Ye are our
epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men; being made
manifest that ye are an 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 tables that are hearts of tlesh." — 2 Cor. iii. 1-3 (R.V.).

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Published by: glennpease on Sep 06, 2013
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LIVIG EPISTLESBY JAMES DEEY, B.D.'Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? or need we, asdo some, epistles of commendation to you or from you ? Ye are ourepistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men; being mademanifest that ye are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written notwith ink, but with the Spirit of the living God ; not in tables of stone,but in tables that are hearts of tlesh." — 2 Cor. iii. 1-3 (R.V.).ARE we beginning again to commend ourselves ? "Paul does not mean by these words to admit thathe had been commending himself before : he meansthat he has been accused already of doing so, and thatthere are those at Corinth who, when they hear suchpassages of this letter as that which has just preceded,will be ready to repeat the accusation. In the FirstEpistle he had found it necessary to vindicate hisapostolic authority, and especially his interest in theCorinthian Church as its spiritual father (1 Cor. ix. 1-27,iv. 6-21), and obviously his enemies at Corinth hadtried to turn these personal passages against him. Theydid so on the principle Qui s'excuse s accuse. " He iscommending himself," they said, "and self-commenda-tion is an argument which discredits, instead of sup-porting, a cause." The Apostle had heard of thesemalicious speeches, and in this Epistle makes repeatedreference to them (see chaps, v. 12, x. 18, xiii. 6). Heentirely agreed with his opponents that self-praise was99ioo THE SECOD EPISTLE TO THE CORITHIAS
 
no honour. " ot he who commendeth himself isapproved, but he whom the Lord commendeth." Buthe denied point-blank that he was commending himself.In distinguishing as he had done in chap. ii. 14-17between himself and his colleagues, who spoke theWord " as of sincerity, as of God, in the sight of God,"and " the many " who corrupted it, nothing was furtherfrom his mind than to plead his cause, as a suspectedperson, with the Corinthians. Only malignity couldsuppose any such thing, and the indignant question withwhich the chapter opens tacitly accuses his adversariesof this hateful vice. It is pitiful to see a great andgenerous spirit like Paul compelled thus to stand uponguard, and watch against the possible misconstructionof every lightest word. What needless pain it inflictsupon him, what needless humiliation I How it checksall effusion of feeling, and robs what should be brotherlyintercourse of everything that can make it free andglad ! Further on in the Epistle there will be abundantopportunity of speaking on this subject at greaterlength ; but it is proper to remark here that a minister'scharacter is the whole capital he has for carrying onhis business, and that nothing can be more cruel andwicked than to cast suspicion on it without cause. Inmost other callings a man may go on, no matter whathis character, provided his balance at the bank is onthe right side ; but an evangelist or a pastor who haslost his character has lost everything. It is humiliatingto be subject to suspicion, painful to be silent underit, degrading to speak. At a later stage Paul wascompelled to go further than he goes here ; but let theindignant emotion of this abrupt question remind usthat candour is to be met with candour, and that thesuspicious temper which would fain malign the goodiu. I-3.J LIVIG EPISTLES 101cats like a canker the very heart of those who
 
cherish it.From the serious tone the Apostle passes suddenlyto the ironical. " Or need we, as do some, epistles of commendation to you or from you ? " The " some " of this verse are probably the same as " the many " of chap,ii. 17. Persons had come to Corinth in the characterof Christian teachers, bringing with them recommenda-tory letters which secured their standing when theyarrived. An example of what is meant can be seenin Acts xviii. 27. There we are told that when Apollos,who had been working in Ephesus, was minded to passover into Achaia, the Ephesian brethren encouragedhim, and wrote to the disciples to receive him — thatis, they gave him an epistle of commendation, whichsecured him recognition and welcome in Corinth. Asimilar case is found in Rom. xvi. 1, where the Apostleuses the very word which we have here : " I commendunto you Phcebe our sister, who is a servant of theChurch that is at Cenchreae : that ye receive her in theLord, worthily of the saints, and that ye assist her inwhatsoever matter she may have need of you : for sheherself also hath been a succourer of many, and of mineown self." This was Phoebe's introduction, or epistleof commendation, to the Church of Rome. The Cor-inthians were evidently in the habit both of receivingsuch letters from other Churches, and of granting themon their own account ; and Paul asks them ironically if they think he ought to bring one, or when he leavesthem to apply for one. Is (hat the relation which oughtto obtain between him and them ? The " some," towhom he refers, had no doubt come from Jerusalem : iti6 they who are referred to in chap. xi. 22 ff. But it doesnot follow that their recommendatory letters had beenioa THE SECOD EPISTLE TO THE CORITHIASsigned by Peter, James, and John ; and just as little

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