People Epistles

     We often study Paul’s letters to the Corinthians church. 2 Corinthians is a highly personal letter and reveals a great deal about the relationship Paul had with that church. That church was plagued at times with men who tried to lead them away from the true gospel which had been preached to them by Paul. He called these fellows “peddlers” of the word of God (2 Corinthians 2:17). Evidently these folks had letters of commendation from some source. Paul was not impressed.

     In 2 Corinthians 3 he makes it plain that he did not need a physical letter. As he says there, the church at Corinth is itself his letter (3:1-2). The letters that were important to Paul and to God were not written with physical writing materials, but were letters that are manifested by the Christian faith of the good people at Corinth. Paul had spent eighteen months with those folks and had taught them the gospel of Christ (Acts 18). They were his letter. They were “people epistles.”

     Now, we are not in exactly the same situation as Corinth but we can see a principle here that relates fully to our own lives. Those folks were people epistles and we are too. When God’s Word is written on our hearts we become a living manifestation of the gospel of Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-33). What does it mean to be a “people epistle?”

     First it means that we must have our hearts and minds in the right place. “Set your mind on things above” said Paul in Colossians 3:2. Paul worked through this theme in Philippians 2:5-11, the famous passage on having the mind of Christ. It is not easy to keep our minds in the right place, but it is essential because everything we say and do flows from our minds (Proverbs 23:7).

     To be a good “people epistle” means that we are careful to reflect the Will of God in our speech and not only in what we say but how we say it. Paul covers this well in Ephesians 4:29-32. People who find joy in tearing others down may be epistles but certainly not from God.

     To be a good “people epistle” means what we order what we do with our lives by God’s will. Peter spoke of the development of holiness in 1 Peter 1. Our friends and neighbors need to see us living by the light of God’s Word. Just remember, as the old preachers would say, “You may be the first Bible a person reads.”