2 Corinthians 3:3

3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of 1the living God, not on 2tablets of stone but on 3tablets of 4human hearts.[a]

2 Corinthians 3:3 Meaning and Commentary

2 Corinthians 3:3

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared
But lest it should be thought that the apostle attributed too much to himself, by saying that the Corinthians were our epistle; here he says, they were "manifestly declared"

to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us;
so that the apostles and ministers of the word were only amanuenses, Christ was the author and dictator; yea, he himself is the very matter, sum, substance, and subject of the epistle; he is formed in the hearts of his people in conversion, his image is stamped, his grace is implanted, his word, his Gospel dwells richly, his laws and ordinances are written here; he also is the exemplar, believers are but copies of him, in grace and duty, in sufferings, in the likeness of his death and resurrection: and they are "manifestly declared" to be so, by the impresses of Christ's grace upon them; by the fairness of the copy; by the style and language of the epistle; by their likeness to Christ; by their having not the form only, but the power of godliness; and by their lives and conversations: now in writing these epistles, the ministers of the Gospel are only instruments, "ministered by us". They are made use of to show the sinner the black characters which are written upon him, and that what is written in him, and to be read by him, by the light of nature is not sufficient for salvation; they are employed as instruments in drawing the rough draught of grace in conversion, and in writing the copy over again, fairer and fairer; being the happy means blessed by God, for the building up of souls in faith and holiness, in spiritual knowledge and comfort. These epistles are

not written with ink;
of nature's power, or of rhetorical eloquence and moral persuasion;

but with the Spirit of the living God:
every grace that is implanted in the soul is wrought there by the Spirit of God; or he it is that draws every line, and writes every word and letter; he begins, he carries on and finishes the work of grace on the soul; and that as "the Spirit of the living God": hence saints become the living epistles of Christ; and every letter and stroke of his making, is a living disposition of the soul in likeness to him; and such are written among the living in Jerusalem, and shall live and abide for ever as the epistles of Christ: again, the subjects of these epistles, or that on which they are written, are

not tables of stone;
such as the law was written upon, on Mount Sinai: of these tables there were the first and second; the first were the work of God himself, the latter were hewed by Moses, at the command of God, ( Exodus 32:16 ) ( 34:1 ) the former being broken when he came down from the mount, which by the Jewish writers are said to be miraculously made, and not by the means and artifice of men F12; yea, that they were made before the creation of the world F13, and which, they commonly say, were made of sapphire; (See Gill on 2 Corinthians 3:7) these, as the latter, were two stones, which, Jarchi says F14, were of an equal size; and were, as Abarbinel says F15, in the form of small tables, such as children are taught to write upon, and therefore are so called: some pretend to give the dimensions of them, and say F16, that they were six hands long, and as many broad, and three thick; nay, even the weight of them, which is said F17 to be the weight of forty "seahs", and look upon it as a miracle that Moses should be able to carry them; on these stones were written the ten commands; and the common opinion of the Jewish writers is, that five were written on one table, and five on the other; this is the opinion of Josephus F18, Philo F19, and the Talmudic writers F20; and the tables are said to be written on both sides, ( Exodus 32:15 ) . Some think that the engraving of the letters perforated and went through the tables, so that, in a miraculous manner, the letters were legible on both sides; others think, only the right and left hand of the tables are meant, on which the laws were written, five on a side, and which folded up like the tables or pages of a book; though others are of opinion, that they were written upon, both behind and before, and that the law was written twice, both upon the fore part and back part of the tables, yea, others say four times; and some think the phrase only intends the literal and mystical, the external and internal sense of the law: however, certain it is, as the apostle here suggests, that the law was written on tables of stone, which may denote the firmness and stability of the law; not as in the hands of Moses, from whence the tables fell and were broken, but as in the hands of Christ, by whom they are fulfilled; or else the hardness of man's heart, his stupidity, ignorance of, and not subject to the law of God:

but fleshly tables of the heart:
alluding to ( Ezekiel 36:26 ) and designs not carnal hearts, but such as are made soft and tender by the Spirit of God. The table of the heart is a phrase to be met with in the books of the Old Testament; see ( Proverbs 3:3 ) ( 7:3 ) ( Jeremiah 17:1 ) and very frequently in the writings of the Jews F21.


F12 R. Levi ben Gersom in Pentateuch, fol. 113. 2.
F13 Zohar in Exod. fol. 35. 1.
F14 Perush in Exod. xxxi. 18.
F15 In Pentateuch, fol. 209. 2. & 211. 3.
F16 T. Hieres Shekalim, fol. 49. 4. Shemot Rabba, c. 47. fol. 143. 2. Bartenora in Misn. Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 6.
F17 Targum Jon. in Exod. xxxi. 18. & in Deut. xxxiv. 12.
F18 Antiqu. l. 3. c. 5. sect. 8.
F19 De Decalogo, p. 761, 768.
F20 T. Hieros. Shekalim, fol. 49. 4. Shemot Rabba, sect. 47. fol. 143. 2. Zohar in Exod. fol. 35. 1.
F21 Vid. Targum Jon. in Dent. vi. 5, & in Cant. iv. 9.

2 Corinthians 3:3 In-Context

1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?
2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.
3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.
5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,

Cross References 4

  • 1. See Matthew 16:16
  • 2. Exodus 24:12
  • 3. Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 7:3; Jeremiah 17:1
  • 4. Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; [Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10]

Footnotes 1

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.