Sermon: More People Read Us Than Read the Bible


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Purpose: To be sure that people read us as epistles of Christ and not as something else

More People Read Us than Read the Bible

Do people read you as an epistle of Christ or as something else?

Second Corinthians 2.14–3.18

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • February 28, In the year of our Lord, 2016

Scripture Reader and Reading: Phil Joseph – Second Corinthians 3.1–3

Song Leader and Song Suggestions: Kevin Michael – Songs on the Bible


  1. Dwight Moody (1837–1899) once said,

    “I remember reading of a blind man who was found sitting at the corner of a street in a great city with a lantern beside him. Someone went up to him and asked what he had the lantern there for, seeing that he was blind, and the light was the same to him as the darkness.

    “The blind man replied: ‘I have it so that no one may stumble over me.’

    “Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me. That is what Paul meant when he said we were to be living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men. I would not give much for all that can be done by sermons, if we do not preach Christ by our lives. If we do not commend the gospel to people by our holy walk and conversation, we shall not win them to Christ.”
    (The D. L. Moody Year Book: A Living Daily Message from the Words of D. L. Moody)

  2. Whether his ratio of 1 to 100 reflected reality then or now,
    1. does not matter.
    2. Do you know anyone who would dispute his point,
      1. that many more people read us
      2. than read the Bible?
        1. Do you read your Bible regularly?
        2. Of course you do, but
          1. what about the average citizen in Josephine County?
          2. However, they do read you daily!


  1. Second Corinthians 2.14–16 – We Are the Fragrance of Christ

    14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

    1. As God leads us in victory through Jesus,
      1. God spreads His knowledge everywhere we go.
      2. We are God’s fragrance,
        1. which is Jesus living in us, and
        2. God sends us
          1. to the saved and
          2. to the perishing.
            1. Our lives affect (whether for good or bad),
            2. everyone around us.
              1. May they smell the fragrance of Christ living in us, and
              2. not the odor of the works of the flesh.
    2. To those who are perishing,
      1. we are the aroma of death leading death, because
      2. they refuse to see Jesus in us, and
        1. they reject Him and us,
        2. leading to the second death.
    3. To those who are being saved,
      1. we are the aroma of life leading to life, because
      2. they have accepted Jesus and they see Him in us, and
        1. that gives them full life now, and
        2. eternal life later.
  2. Second Corinthians 2.17 – We Live with Sincerity and with God

    17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

    1. The reason we are the fragrance of Christ, and
      1. the reason we affect people,
      2. is that we do not peddle the word of God.
        1. We can say that even more now than the church in the first century.
        2. For many centuries the church produced the Bible.
          1. However, now the church does not, but
          2. has abdicated that precious good work to publishing houses.
    2. Therefore, we do not go around selling Bibles,
      1. so people cannot accuse us of peddling Bibles,
      2. that we sell it to make money.
        1. However, it could be the case that we preach and teach for money.
        2. Even so, we do not ask the public
          1. to support our preaching and teaching efforts, but
          2. we fund it ourselves.
    3. No, we speak the word of God with sincerity.
      1. We come from God, because
      2. our word comes from God.
        1. We speak,
        2. remembering that God watches and hears what we do.
  3. Second Corinthians 3.1–3 – We Are Letters of Christ

    1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? 2 You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.

    1. In Second Corinthians, Paul, amazingly, had to reestablish his apostleship.
      1. These brethren knew him.
      2. They became followers of Christ, because of Paul’s apostolic ministry.
        1. They saw the miracles he performed.
        2. They heard the words of grace he spoke.
    2. Yet, something happened that led them to question his apostleship
      1. without realizing how that affected their Christianity.
      2. He questioned them in verse 1,
        1. whether they needed Paul to commend himself to them again, or
        2. whether they needed to verify his apostleship from others.
    3. Then he turned it around on them,
      1. declaring that their conversion,
      2. their new lives in Christ
        1. that did not resemble their old lives outside of Christ,
        2. demonstrated Paul’s authenticity.
    4. Rather than questioning them and their status as they were him,
      1. he spoke highly of them,
      2. saying that they were written in his and Timothy’s hearts.
    5. All men, people inside the church and outside the church,
      1. knew the kind of people the members of the church at Corinth were, and
      2. everyone read them, as one might read a document.
        1. This made them epistles of Christ.
        2. How did they become epistles of Christ rather than of sin?
    6. They allowed Paul, Sosthenes (from First Corinthians), and Timothy
      1. to minister to them,
      2. writing upon their hearts by means of preaching and teaching.
        1. However, it was not the words of those three men, but
        2. the words of the Spirit of the living God.
          1. He wrote upon their hearts.
          2. His word changed them.
            1. Therefore, people read the Spirit of God
            2. when they read the Corinthian Christians.
      3. They knew this to be a spiritual experience, for
        1. the preaching team did not write upon tablets of stone,
        2. as the Lord did when He wrote the Ten Commandments, but
          1. He wrote upon something soft, tablets of flesh,
          2. in particular their hearts, their inward nature.
  4. Second Corinthians 3.4–6 – God Makes Us Sufficient

    4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

    1. The Corinthians made this an issue of Paul and his team, but
      1. Paul explained, and they knew it as the truth,
      2. that he trusted in God through Christ.
        1. The issue was not his apostleship, but
        2. the work of Christ as Jesus ministered to the Corinthians through Paul.
    2. Therefore, Paul quickly affirmed
      1. that the three preachers did not get their sufficiency from themselves, but
      2. it all came from God.
        1. He worked miracles through them.
        2. He preached words through them.
          1. Truly, everything we have in life and everything we are,
          2. comes from God,

            7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1Co 4.7).

            1. Who makes us differ from another person?
              1. God does.
            2. What do we have that we did not receive?
              1. Nothing, as James wrote,

                17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (Jam 1.17).
            3. Why then should we boast because of what we can do?
  5. Second Corinthians 3.7–11 – We Have a Glorious Ministry

    7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

    1. This is why Paul said that we are epistles of Christ!
    2. In verse 6, the first century preachers
      1. delivered to us the new covenant, because
      2. the old covenant faded in glory.
        1. Not that it had a defect, but
        2. God provided it as a temporary covenant
          1. until He brought in the permanent covenant, which
          2. has more glory than the previous covenant.
    3. Even as the children of Israel saw glory on the face of Moses,
      1. so our generation sees the glory of Christ
        1. on our faces and
        2. in our lives.

          1 Who is like a wise man?
          And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
          A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
          And the sternness of his face is changed
          (Ecc 8.1)
      2. They may never open a Bible, but
        1. they will come to know Christ
        2. through what you show them just by your living,
          1. even if you never speak the Gospel to them, for
          2. your manner of life opens up to them like a book.
  6. Second Corinthians 3.12–17 – Some Will Not See

    12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

    1. If many people will read us instead of reading the Bible,
      1. does that mean they will believe?
      2. No, even as people read the Bible itself and
        1. do not believe,
        2. so although we live the life of Christ before them, and
          1. they see Jesus living in us,
          2. many still will not open their eyes,
            1. even as they did not open their eyes to Him
            2. when He lived on the Earth.
    2. We should live openly,
      1. boldly in public as disciples of Christ, for
      2. we may be the only Bible most people will ever read.
  7. Second Corinthians 3.18 – Look into the Mirror for Transformation

    18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

    1. How is it that we become epistles of Christ?
    2. With unveiled faces,
      1. we open our eyes,
      2. as looking in a mirror and
        1. we see the glory of the Lord taking shape.
        2. What is that mirror?
      3. Think on what Paul has already shown us:
        1. Verse 3
          1. The New Testament, the Spirit of God, preachers and teachers,
          2. write on our hearts the life of Christ.
        2. Verses 7–17
          1. We look into both the old covenant and the new covenant.
          2. In the Scriptures, we see the glory of the Lord.
    3. The Scriptures function as a mirror.
      1. We look into the Scriptures and see a true picture of ourselves.
      2. The Scriptures reflect back exactly the kind of people we are.
        1. However, Paul argued that the more we look into the mirror,
        2. the more we see a transformation happening in us.
          1. We go from one glory (of old self) to the greater glory (of the Lord).
          2. What we were before fades in glory,
            1. even as the old covenant faded in glory for Israel, and
            2. we become more like Christ.
              1. This happens by the Spirit of the Lord, for
              2. He works on us through the mirror of His word.


  1. As you go about your week,
    1. think of the numbers of people
    2. that are reading the Bible
      1. through you.
      2. What then do they read?
  2. Fill yourself to overflowing with the Scriptures, and
    1. the Scriptures will come out in the way you live, and
    2. people will see it and like it.