Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10). When we think about treasure we usually think about something of significant monetary value. The Bible references treasure numerous times. In so doing, the biblical writers almost always refer to something other than earthly treasure. Such is the case in 2 Cor. 4:7.
Paul begins, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” The treasure mentioned here is the greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the glory of God revealed through that gospel. It is “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). The earthen vessels are the vault in which the treasure of the greatness of the gospel is stored. In this case, we are the vessels.
The word means clay pots and by using this description Paul seeks to capture the fact we are lowly, common, expendable, and replaceable. Yet, it is into such lives God chooses to invest His gospel treasure. Why did God choose such a risky approach? Because perfect vessels are safe but bring glory only to the vessel. By risking the gospel to imperfect earthen vessels God gets profound glory—“so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” The great power of God in the gospel overcomes and transcends the clay pot so that people are drawn to the gospel rather than to the clay pot. Jesus said as much in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
There is an Old Testament story that I believe points forward to “this treasure in earthen vessels.” In the story of Gideon, it was the breaking of clay pots that made the light shine forth and bring victory to God’s people (see Judges 7). In much the same way, God “breaks” His clay pots, “so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be God and not from ourselves.” He does this through what Paul describes as, “momentary, light affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17). In other words, God allows us to be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. Yet, in all this, He sustains us so that we are not crushed, despairing, forsaken, or destroyed (2 Cor. 4:8-9). To put it another way, our weakness does not cripple us but actually strengthens us with “the surpassing greatness of God’s power.”
Many Christians today try to avoid suffering. They get caught up in the bad theology of the false gospel known as the prosperity gospel and its health, wealth, and prosperity message. It is also known as the word of faith movement and it almost always misinterprets and misapplies key passages dealing with suffering. They fail to realize that when we avoid suffering we actually cheat ourselves. Notice what Paul says, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).
Three things can be said of the surpassing greatness of momentary suffering. First of all, it is momentary. This means that present suffering will last no longer than a lifetime. Secondly, it is light. The idea here is something that is a weightless trifle when compared to the third thing that can be said of momentary suffering. Such suffering is doing something on our behalf. It is “producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” The Greek word for “weight” means a heavy mass. Paul is saying the future glory Christians will experience with the Lord far outweighs any suffering we might experience in this world—the greater the suffering the greater the glory. Elsewhere Paul writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). So, whether your suffering is physical sickness and disease or persecution for the cause of Christ, do not lose heart! Make it your goal to make much of Christ in your suffering, “so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”
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