Jars of Clay
Read This Week: 2 Corinthians 4
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. – 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NIV
If you have been a follower of Jesus in America for any considerable period, you may have taken one look at the title of this entry and thought it was about the contemporary Christian band most popular in the early 2000s. While that would be a good guess, it is not our subject here. We’re talking about the powerful jars of clay metaphor that Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 4:7.
At this point in his letter, Paul wants to make a distinction between his experience and the people of Corinth. He had a unique conversion and suffered intense persecution, including being in prison and having to endure a public stoning. Even as he wrote to them, he had just been near death again. The Corinthians had not faced these circumstances or opposition in their walk with Christ. So, it is was easy for some to idolize Paul as a hero and for others to look down on him as a poor, battered soul.
But starting with verse 7 to the end of the chapter, Paul points out the one, enduring similarity that they all had. He writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” His assertion here is that they were all the same; common individuals revealing an uncommon Savior to the world. They had different experiences but were all just normal people carrying around something priceless.
Paul wants them and us to know that Christians are not special because of who we are, or because of our spiritual resume. We are special only because of what we carry. Just as an expensive item doesn’t get its worth from the box it comes in, the Gospel does not get its power from who holds it nor its value from the clay jar. We have this treasure in jars of clay is a beautiful word picture of God entrusting His extraordinary message to ordinary men and women. Imperfect, temporary vessels who have been given the responsibility to transport something eternal and flawless.
In the ancient world, many things were stored in clay jars including valuable treasures. In our modern world, this is true of the Christian life. The timeless message of the Gospel is stored in sinners saved by grace who are refined by fire and susceptible to being broken just like ancient pottery. Yet, God, in His good pleasure, chooses to deliver His most remarkable thing in such unremarkable containers.
This is why we shouldn’t lose hope in our calling or life with God. This is why we don’t have to despair when we go through hard times. It’s not about us. It’s not about what we can do or bring to the table. It’s about the privilege of carrying the Good News of Jesus to the world so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
God spoke to me this week from 2 Corinthians 4 verse 17 that says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
God is saying to me that the few little problems you have, while in the flesh, are nothing compared to the wonderful things I have in store for you. What that means to me is one day we will shed this body of flesh and live on with Jesus in our spiritual body.
I love this, Jeri. Truly the momentary and temporary troubles of this passing life are nothing compared to the eternal riches in Christ experienced after this life is done. In fact, it’s not even close. May we live in light of this truth especially when dealing with trials and struggles.
2 Corinthians 4:1 says, “Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times.” (MSG) In the Amplified Bible, 4:1 says, “Therefore, since we do not hold and engage in this ministry by the mercy of God granting us favor benefits opportunities and especially salvation we do not get discouraged or become faint with weariness and exhaustion.”
In life we can let people get us off track, we can let others get us discouraged and influence us to do things that God doesn’t want us to do. We can let circumstances bring doubt and confusion and the list goes on. But God has given us a gift, a beautiful life with Him. A ministry to bring others into the family and then help them grow. He gives us opportunities to bless others for Him. So, as you go to God He will refill you, give you what you need to the job He has given you. Trust and respond.
What God is saying to you and I is that “You are my treasure, vessel, my servant. It’s important to know I have given you a precious ministry, messages to share with others, work to do for those I lead you to. Don’t get discouraged if someone doesn’t respond to Me through you. Don’t walk off the job I’ve given you. Keep asking Me what to do and when. I understand some will walk away, but keep looking for those who are responding, they’re the keepers. I am with you. Keep your head up! I will give you the strength to carry on with Me.
I loved this from The Message that you pointed out, Heidi: “Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times.” The God of the universe let us in on what He wants to do in the world that will have an eternal impact. How could we walk away from that? We can’t. It’s too important.
I appreciated how you put it: Don’t walk off the job I’ve given you. Keep asking Me what to do and when. May we keep asking, listening and going for His glory.
When speaking with God on this chapter, the verse that He drew my attention to is 2 Corinthians 4:4 ” For the god of this world has blinded the unbelievers’ minds [that they should not discern the truth], preventing them from seeing the illuminating light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (the Messiah), Who is the Image and Likeness of God.”
The words God has given to me on this are “Think of the song amazing grace – I once was lost but now i’m found. This is among the same levels of metaphor. The ones who do not have their hearts open to Me are blinded. Lost, confused and alone. Blind to discern the truth of Jesus and My Love. But those who are ready – who have opened their hearts and minds to reach to Me, are gifted with visions – not to the seen but the unseen. The Holy spirit within you, and my Love surrounding your being. Many hover around this perception but finding the truth requires your relationship with Me. And it is then that you can see all and join Me when your vessel decays. In everlasting Glory.”
It is up to us to reach out to God and open our hearts to his love, and only then we can be found and truly free of our worldly veil.
I appreciate this heartfelt insight, Javaid. It is never a bad thing to be reminded of where God found us, how he restored us and what he rescued us from. We were truly blind and couldn’t see and it is amazing how His grace captured us. I think this is imperative to keep in view as we “carry these treasures in jars of clay” to those who are laboring under what you described as a worldly veil and the inability to discern the truth of Jesus. We were once there and we want others to clearly see and experience God.
This week I got a song from 2 Corinthians 4 verse 6 called “Treasures”:
We are treasures of the Lord, treasures of the Lord
Treasures from up above who gives us light in the darkness
Joy in the sadness, hope in the hopelessness
Giving us grace and mercy
His power gives us strength
We are treasures, treasures of the Lord
God loves it when we give others hope and love and let them know that He gives us the strength and power that guides us.
That’s beautiful, Alma. The word picture of God loving it when we give his hope and share His gospel with others is my favorite part of your post. The song is wonderful and culminates in that last statement. It caused me to picture the smiling face of God.
In our reading this week, this is what God was saying to me. It is the minds of the unbelieving that are blinded. Satan’s main battlefield is your mind. I have chosen the word to transmit the gospel, because the word touches your mind. Satan can only blind those who do not believe. Put your trust in who My Son Jesus is and what He did for you. Ask me to shine My light in you where others may see it. Preach Jesus! I can fill your heart with spiritual light. If you are a christian you have a shining heart. It is the light of the knowledge of My glory. I shine it in, so you can shine it out. If you try to hoard it up within yourself, you will lose it. Perfect vessels are safe but bring glory to your self. Earthen vessels are risky but can bring glory to Me. I will make you more effective in ministry through your suffering. I want you to be motivated by My glory. Even though you suffer on the outside, take heart, I am blessing and renewing you on the inside.
What this said to me was I need to be more open and willing for God to shine his light in me to others. Our suffering is not in vain, as God will use it to help me be able to minister to others.