I became a Christian as a teenager, in a denomination that had legalistic and separatist views on some issues. One of their principles was that if you were a visitor you couldn’t share in communion unless you had with you a letter from a similar group of believers. The Corinthians were asking Paul for the same kind of thing.
It was love and friendship that kept me in that church through many years. One evening, shortly after my conversion, I arrived early for a prayer meeting to find a lone man on his knees pouring out his heart to God on behalf of the large group of teenagers who had recently made a profession of faith. Our names poured from his lips in passionate prayer. Not many of us fell away from faith and several went into full time mission work. We were living letters of this godly man whom we all truly loved, and deeply respected.
In the Corinthian church there were true and false teachers. Paul was being asked for a letter of commendation to prove that he was genuine and distinct from the false teachers. He informs them that he does not need a letter written with ink. They themselves are a living letter from Christ as a result of his ministry.
He tells them that conversion has its origin in Christ alone. The proof of this is lives radically changed, not a letter written on a piece of paper. The letter was clear for all to see. It was written on their hearts, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. Their new lifestyle was striking. It was the outworking of something which began in their hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the New Testament world Christians were distinctly different and stood out in an ungodly society as living letters, giving evidence of changed lives. We, who claim to belong to Jesus Christ, have the same call on our lives, in a world that has, in general, forgotten or rejected Him. We’re called to be real – not to have a veneer on the outside, but a profound change of heart, mind and will, which is expressed in outward behaviour – how we speak and how we act, which results from how we think.
Letters in ink don’t have life, but living letters in the hands of Jesus are agents of change in a world that desperately needs Him. The author and writer of living letters is Christ Himself. The ink is the Spirit of the living God written on the human heart. The message of our lives will speak louder than our words if our faith is genuine - living faith securely rooted in Jesus Himself.
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father thank You for sending Jesus and for leaving the Holy Spirit in the world today. Please put within me a true desire to live in the world as someone who is different. Make me a powerful living letter so that the people I mix with are drawn to Jesus, who alone is the answer to their deep needs. I ask this in the name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.
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