Our apostle here expostulates the case with the Corinthians, why they should at any time hearken to the false apostles, who, by relecting upon his person and ministry, made it needful for him to vindicate both from contempt and scorn.
As if he had said, "What! do I need to begin again in this second epistle, as I did in the first, to commend myself, and the effects of my ministry, among you? Or need I commendatory letters either to you or from you, as the false teachers amongst you have?
No, verily, you yourselves, by your conversion to Christianity, and embracing the faith of the gospel, are a better attestation and testimonial to the world, of the success of my ministry, than any written epistle is or can be: for you are an epsitle written in my heart; that is, your conversion by my ministry is the joy and rejoicing of my heart; there it is that I continually carry a thankful and honourable remembrance of you, and bear you upon my heart, whenever I go in and out before the Lord.
And as my epistle, you are known and read of all men; that is, all Christians, far and near, take notice of you as a church which God has eminently blessed my ministry to the conversion and edification of."
But lest the apostle should seem too assuming in calling the Corinthians his epistle, in the next words he calls them the epistle of Christ, 2Co_3:3, Ye are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, that is, your faith and conversion was the work of Christ's Spirit, though wrought by my ministry; he having wrote his law in your hearts after a more excellent manner than any thing that can be written with ink and paper; not as the ten commandments of old were written, in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart; that is, in your hearts made soft and pliable and ready to obey the word and will of God, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, using my ministry as the pen or instrument in his hand in order thereunto.
Learn hence, 1. That it is a very great favour from God when his ministers can see the success of their labours in the hearts and lives of any of their people; when they can say, Ye are our epistle.
Learn, 2. That nothing doth so highly commend our ministry as our people's proficiency: their improvement in knowledge, their stedfastness in the faith, their growth in grace and holiness, is beyond all verbal commendations and acknowledgments whatsoever. Sermons fetch not applause from men's renown; the people's practice is the preacher's crown.
Learn, 3. That whatever success the faithful ministers of Christ meet with either in the work of conversion or edification, among a people, they attribute the whole efficiency of it unto God, ascribing nothing more than a bare instrumentality to themselves: Ye are the epistle of Christ, says the apostle, ministered by us; Christ has written his law in your hearts by my ministry: as if he had said, "Christ is the writer, the pen is the minister, the ink the Spirit, the paper, or table that receives the impression, is the heart, and the law of God, the writing writ therein and thereupon."