Chapter 04 – THE TREASURE IN JARS OF CLAY
2nd Corinthians Chapter 04 is all about the Gospel in the hands of God’s faithful servants (metaphorically described as the “Treasure in Jars of Clay).”
I.) THE FAITHFUL PREACHERS OF THE GOSPEL (v1-2)
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
In chapter 04, Paul concludes his discourse about the faithful ministers of the New Covenant (Gospel). In this opening statement, Paul encouraged everyone to “not lose heart” in sharing the Gospel for this ministry comes from “the mercy of God.” This means that this is God’s ministry and He will be the One who will empower and strengthen us to accomplish His will. Our responsibility, according to Paul, is to “not tamper with God’s words.” In other words, we must become faithful to the Gospel. We are forbidden from preaching a different Gospel, watering it down, adding to it, or worst, not preaching it at all. TO BECOME A FAITHFUL PREACHER OF THE GOSPEL, ONE HAS TO BE FAITHFUL TO THE GOSPEL FIRST.
II.) THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL + SATAN WHO BLINDS UNBELIEVERS (v3-6)
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
In this passage, Paul revealed the “spiritual mechanism” of how the Gospel works particularly to unbelievers. It must be noted first that Paul described the Gospel here as a “light.” This is a reference to his encounter with the Gospel. If we can recall, Paul encountered Jesus in a flash of bright light that almost blinded him while he was on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9). Now, according to Paul, the Gospel is “veiled to those who are perishing (unbelievers).” In addition, Paul revealed a scary revelation that Satan was involved and he “blinds the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” In this analogy, the reason why unbelievers can’t see the light of the Gospel is that Satan is blinding them from seeing it. Truly, Satan is against God!
Since this is the case, it supports the doctrine that God must “regenerate” unbelievers for them to see His gospel. It is only Him who can open the eyes and heart of a person to come to Christ (v6). Again, this supports the teaching that as preachers of the Gospel, our only task is to share the Gospel. The rest is up to God.
III.) THE TREASURE IN JARS OF CLAY (v7-18)
a.) The Affliction in Every Way (v7-12)
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
We now come to the main passage of this chapter: the Treasure in Jars of Clay. This is a beautiful metaphor concerning the Gospel in the hands of God’s faithful servants.
Coming from the context of the preceding verses, Paul used the metaphor of treasure in jars of clay to point out that the “surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” The treasure is the Gospel and the jars of clay are us. The point of this metaphor is that the power is in the Gospel (the treasure) and not on its carriers (us, the jars of clay).
However, it is not Paul’s intention to say that we are of little value. In fact, the rest of the following verses is an encouragement for us. First of all, to carry and be entrusted with this treasure is already a great honor. From verses 8 to 12, Paul connects the concept of jars of clay to the main theme of this letter which is about suffering. Like jars of clay, we are also fragile, weak, and vulnerable. But despite this, Paul encouraged us that even though we face hardships in this world, these sufferings can never truly bring us down. We can be afflicted but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed. In all of his letters, Paul had always been honest about the reality of suffering and death in a believer’s life. And again, Paul explained that the reason for this is that “the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” It may sound weird in human wisdom, but we glorify Christ when we endure sufferings in life. So yes, we are mere “earthen vessels.” But we are not ordinary jars of clay for we carry the most valuable treasure in the world. Again, the power is in the Gospel and it is our faithful God who will strengthen and empower us to endure the sufferings that lie ahead of us.
b.) The Spirit of Faith within us (v13-15)
“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
The point of this short passage is Paul’s statement: “I believed, and so I spoke.” This is one of the primary requirements to become a faithful servant of God: BELIEF. According to Paul, the reason he spoke (or preach the Gospel) is because he believed it first. And most importantly, he was transformed by it. It is impossible to preach the Gospel without believing it.
c.) We Do Not Lose Heart (v16-17)
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,”
In this passage, Paul started with the word, “So.” This means that this is the conclusion of the matter. According to Paul, we shouldn’t lose heart. Yes, we suffer and face hardships in life but that shouldn’t discourage us from serving God. Just like Paul said, even though “our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” This refers to God’s constant and endless supply of mercy, grace, and strengthening (Lamentations 3:22-23; Psalm 73:25-26; Psalm 29:11)
After this, Paul again revealed another powerful truth about suffering. As he states: our afflictions are only “light and momentary.” This is a truth that every believer must keep in his heart: no suffering in this world is permanent. No hardships last forever. They are all momentary. As to Paul’s statement that our sufferings are “light,” he is not being insensitive to our sufferings. The reason he called it light is that it is indeed light when it is compared to the “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” There is glory and healing that awaits every believer. This is God’s promise. And to this, we come to our final verse.
d.) The Things that are Unseen (v18)
“as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
One of the ways that we can have the strength to endure suffering is “to not look to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” The seen things are everything that we can see with our eyes including our sufferings. According to Paul, these things are “transient” or lasting only for a short time. It echoes Paul’s earlier statement that our sufferings are truly momentary. If a person focuses on these things, he will truly be overwhelmed. This is why we need to focus on the unseen which refers to the spiritual realm of God and His heavenly Kingdom. Because according to Paul, this is eternal (or will last forever). Only God is forever. If we focus on this and truly learn the great vastness of God’s power and Kingdom, our sufferings will truly appear small and insignificant (and therefore give us the strength to overcome it). THIS IS THE KEY: FOCUS ON GOD. As many Pastors would say, a big problem becomes small if it is compared to a big God.
As I close, 2nd Corinthians Chapter 04 is truly one of the most powerful and beautiful chapters in the Bible. It gives us courage, strength, and hope to remain faithful in serving God despite the multitude of sufferings that awaits us. But again, these sufferings are only light and momentary and are nothing compared to the glory that awaits us all.
God Bless!! 🙂