Sermon Starters

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Christian Ministry Professionals

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

Epiphany VIII-B

Option A: By Rev. Kelly Bedard

Living Letters of Recommendation
(2 Corinthians 3:1b-6)

A. Their Composition

1. Composer/author/writer: Christ (verse 3)

2. Tablet/paper/stationery: human hearts (verses 2 & 3)

3. Writing materials: "ink", the Holy Spirit (verse 3); "pens," those whose sufficiency comes from God (verse 5)

B. Their Destination & Destiny

1. To be "known and read by everybody" (verse 2)

2. To supplement--not supplant--the old letter (the Law) with a new letter/covenant (the Gospel) (verse 6)

3. Deliverance from the demands of the Law; salvation through the life-giving Spirit (verse 6)

Kelly Bedard, B.A., M.Div.


Option B: By Rev. Wayne Dobratz

Living Letters Of Recommendation 
2 Corinthians 3:1b-6

Setting: Paul is once again battling the influence of proselytizing false teachers. The circumstance was much like that of our day with Mormon Missionaries or Jehovah's Witnesses going door to door, seeking to steal people from Christian churches. The Mormon Missionaries wear name badges which identify them as representatives of "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." They are self-recommended. Paul and his fellow workers need no such self-recommendation. They have:

Living Letters Of Recommendation
(Cf. 2 Cor. 1:4; Matt. 5:14)

I. Christians are God's Letters

A. Not written with pen and ink

B. But on their hearts

II. These Letters are the result of God's Ministry

A. Word

B. Sacrament

III. The Content of these Letters

A. Not the Law which kills

B. But of the Spirit who gives life

Commentary: Letters of recommendation were as common in Paul's day as they are in ours. Many of them are letters of introduction. Paul needs no other letter than that which has already been written on their hearts by the Spirit of God. 

Letters of recommendation seek to unite hearts. The Spirit does this through the Public Ministry, through Word & Sacrament. Paul and his fellow workers were enlightened by the Holy Spirit's work in their hearts through Word & Sacrament. So were the members of the Corinthian Church. 

But there is more. Paul writes phaneroumenoi, which means for "public display," and he writes about slabs that are made of even grander material than stone. Paul has in mind a letter which is engraved on a public monument. He thinks of a grand unveiling of this monument, a displaying of this writing to public gaze, the public being gathered to view it, passing by and reading it. They will read there how indissolubly the Corinthian Christians are united in heart and in soul with the heart and soul of Paul and his assistants.

This is not the least bit extravagant or grandiose. The Corinthian congregation is a great public body in the city of Corinth. Jesus said that "a city set on a hill cannot be hidden" (Matt. 5:14). This Christian congregation is a greater monument than anyone would ever see in Corinth or in any other great city. Here is a grand, new kind of monument, completely unlike the common ones made of stone. The Christians themselves are this writing. 

"You are a letter of Christ," Paul says. "You are better than cold, dead 'stone tablets,' that are erected in a public place." "You are tablets that are hearts of flesh, living, pulsating, breathing flesh. Christ himself has written the message upon your lives."

Paul and his helpers were the hands which Christ employed, for the Spirit always comes through the preached and taught Word. Take heart, preacher, your work is being viewed wherever your people go! Whoever "reads" the people to whom you minister is reading the writing of the living God! All the glory of it belongs to Christ alone. He who worked it is God's living Spirit. What a grand view of a true minister's work in a congregation!

Paul's description of the Living Letters of Recommendation in Corinth applies to the work of any Pastor who has made and/or kept any congregation what it should be. Take heart, fellow preacher! 

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58 KJV). 

Isaiah spoke also of you when God's Spirit compelled him to write: "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings..."(Isa. 52:7).

(The introduction and outline are the author's. The notes are taken in large part from Richard Lenski's The Interpretation of 1 & 2 Corinthians Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937 & 1963, pp. 908ff.)

Rev. Wayne Dobratz, B.S., M.Div.

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This page was revised on: Friday, January 20, 2006 12:10:32 PM