Being an Epistle 


You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 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. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)

St Paul sees the members of the congregations he founded or ministered to as being his true epistles. As he says of published words: “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). More important to St Paul than the Scriptures were the people who joined him in following Christ. This is a truth that the Orthodox Church today would do well to remember. More important than all the scriptures, canons, patristic writings, typikons and rubrics are the members of the Church – the women, children and men who are the parishioners, the living stones of the Church. The members are living scriptures in whom the Word of God and the Spirit of God abide. It is the members of the Church for whom Christ died on the cross, not for perfect rubrics or canons or liturgies. It is in the members of the Church that the Holy Spirit abides. It is the members of the Church who are created in God’s image and likeness. It is the members of the Church whom God loves, sending His Son to die on the cross for them.


For St Paul it is more likely that those who have yet to be evangelized will ‘read’ the lives of the church members rather than any scriptures, rubrics, or dogmatics. How we members live is the best scriptures to offer to non-believers. No wonder that some have felt Protestant Evangelicals are guilty of bibliolatry.

Our hearts should be open to all to read. No duplicity or guile should be part of Christian behavior or witness. Our hearts are the real scriptures, not words engraved on stone monuments.


Sometime in the 5th Century, a Syrian monk now called Pseudo-Macarius wrote the following:

His very grace writes in their hearts the laws of the Spirit. They should not put all their trusting hopes solely in the scriptures written in ink. For divine grace writes on the ‘tables of the heart‘ (2 Corinthians 3: 3) the laws of the spirit and the heavenly mysteries. For the heart directs and governs all the other organs of the body. And when grace pastures the heart, it rules over all the members and the thoughts. For there, in the heart, the mind abides as well as all the thoughts of the soul and all its hopes. This is how grace penetrates throughout all parts of the body.  (Pseudo-Macarius, THE FIFTY SPIRITUAL HOMILIES, p 4)


In a world in which fundamentalist, literalist Christianity is strong, Christians tend to think reading their bibles or handing out bibles is their main form of witness. St Paul would disagree. More important is that our hearts be changed by Christ and the Holy Spirit, and that we personally become the light to the world (Matthew 5:14). Lead by example, evangelize by being a witness that Christ is in your life, your heart, your mind, your home.