From The Editor’s Notebook: Are You A Postcard Christian?

From The Editor’s Note Book

W. Ross Rainey

Are You A Postcard Christian?

To the Corinthian Christians the Apostle Paul wrote: “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men; forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the 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 fleshly tables of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:1-3).

Ordinarily we think of a letter as something sealed and meant to be read only by the intended receiver or receivers. The present day post card, open even to the mail carrier to read if he so desires, is a better example here of what the Holy Spirit purposes to make all true believers in Christ.

It was customary in Paul’s day, as it is in some quarters today, to give letters of commendation (see Acts 18:27; Rom. 16:1). The apostle’s enemies, no doubt the Judaizers who in part are described in 2 Corinthians 2:17a, demanded such letters, thereby challenging Paul’s authority and apostleship. Paul replied that he needed no such credentials, the Corinthian believers themselves being his letter, though chiefly they were “the letter of Christ” (2 Cor. 3:2-3, NASB). He could not have written like this in his first letter to them, but because of their obedience he could now rightly say this. His expression of love and confidence toward the Corinthians must have led them to earnest inquiry on their part to determine if they really were what the apostle said they were.

When Paul spoke of them as “the letter of Christ,” he described the general character of the Church and her responsibility. The Church is Christ’s letter of commendation to the world, and what a solemn responsibility it is to recommend the Lord Jesus Christ in our walk and talk. Lest his words should have been misunderstood by any of the Corinthian saints, Paul quickly swept away any thought of self-commendation or self-sufficiency on his part. Rather, he forthrightly declared, “Our sufficiency is of God” (3:5; see 1 Cor. 3:6-7).

Regarding the Corinthian believers as “the letter of Christ,” we note the following:

1. God was the Author — the Apostle Paul merely the pen.

2. The Lord Jesus Christ was the subject.

When speaking to young Christians in one of his lectures, Charles H. Spurgeon said, “Of all I wish to say this is the sum: my brethren, preach CHRIST, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel …”

3. The Holy Spirit was the imperishable and illuminating ink — their Life!

4. Their regenerated hearts were the writing tablets. Surely, the words of verse 3 are an echo of Ezekiel 11:19.

Very few unregenerate sinners will read the Bible, but unbelievers do read Christians, and as someone has stated:

You’re writing a gospel, a chapter a day,
By deeds that you do and the words that you say;
Men read what you write, whether faithless or true
Say, what is the gospel according to you?

In his flexible, contemporary style, J. B. Phillips has beautifully translated 2 Corinthians 3:2 and 3 as follows: “You yourselves are our testimonial, written in our hearts and yet open for anyone to inspect and read. You are an open letter about Christ which we ourselves have written, not with pen and ink but with the Spirit of the living God. Our message has been engraved, not in stone but in living men and women.”

A Lesson From Aloft

Recently, following a brief season of ministry in New Jersey, the editor was returning home via Northwest Orient Airlines’ Flight No. 217 out of Newark’s International Airport. As our Boeing 727 made its descent toward Detroit’s Metro Airport, we momentarily veered to the right, gained speed and altitude, and in a few seconds I could see the entire airport complex as we quickly jetted away from the area.

It was then that the pilot’s calm, reassuring voice informed us that one of the gauges on their instrument panels indicated some trouble with the wing flaps and it was his decision to check things out thoroughly before landing. For some ten minutes or more we made a wide circle over city suburbs, during which time everything was carefully checked, including a visual check of the flaps by the flight engineer from the windows of the passenger cabin. Again, having entered the landing pattern, we were soon safely down on terra firma, and this, with appreciation for the cautious precision of wise and experienced pilots.

Reflecting on this little experience aloft, I couldn’t help but think of our lives as Christians. Our spiritual sphere is “in the heavenlies” which, among other things, is a place of conflict with diabolical foes (Eph. 6:12). Little wonder, then, that the Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:16). The Greek word translated “circumspectly” means “with exactness” or “carefully.” It is used, for instance, in Matthew 2:8 in connection with Herod’s sinister commission of the wise men to go and accurately or carefully search for the Christ-child. Thus the word carries the idea of precision and accuracy.

As for the Christian life, it cannot be left to chance. We must make wise decisions and seek to know, do and love God’s will. Christians face many dangers in the enemy territory of this evil world, but the Word of God and the Holy Spirit have been given to us to alert us to these dangers, as well as to enable us to walk wisely and precisely. Many a Christian life would have been spared shipwreck if, on a spiritual level, the same precise care and caution had been applied to their walk as professional pilots apply to their flying.

Christ’s Postascension Appearances

Did you know that there were five appearances of Christ after His ascension? They are as follows:

1. To Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6; 22:6-11; 26-13-18).

2. To Paul in Arabia, although this appearance is somewhat conjectural (Acts 20:24; 26:17; Gal. 1:12-17).

3. To Paul in the temple (Acts 9:26-30; 22:17-21).

4. To Paul in prison at Jerusalem (Acts 23:11).

5. To the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:12-20).