Monday, 20 July 2015
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
Paul has been speaking of his ministry which is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (verse 6). It is a ministry which surpasses the reflected glory of the Old Covenant which was written on stone. This light is written on the hearts of the believers. Paul, using this symbolism says that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” There is a dual significance to those words.
First, man was taken from the dust and formed into a living being. Therefore, by mixing in the right amount of water, and then adding in God’s animating breath, we have been formed into “earthen vessels.” We are fragile and yet we are suited for various purposes; some noble and some ignoble. But we have all been fashioned by the Creator. This symbolism is found in the Old Testament, but a very good rendering is in Jeremiah 18:1-11.
The second significance is that of the habit of people to use earthen vessels (jars of clay) for storing valuables. This is seen throughout the Bible as well. A good example of this is the story of Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17:8-15. It was also known that kings, returning conquerors, and wealthy people would store gold, silver, and other valuables in such jars as well. Even the precious wine created by the Lord in John 2:1-12 was kept in such clay jars.
Paul ties the two concepts together – humans being made of clay and being “jars” suitable for containing things, and real clay jars that are used for storing all sorts of things, valuable or of little value. To him the “treasure” that he bore, which is the ministry of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, is the most valuable treasure of all. And yet, it is contained in a weak clay jar which has no value at all in comparison to what it contains.
The reason for this is “that excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” The word translated as “excellence” is huperbolé. It literally means “a throwing beyond. Hence preeminence, excellence” (Vincent’s Word Studies). Within the saved believer is something of exceeding value – far, far beyond the value of the container which holds it. Such is the nature of the grace of God. He has condescended to allow His weak, fragile creatures to share in His exceeding glory, and He has allowed us to speak of it to others. It radiates forth from the darkened vessel with a magnificence which completely overshadows its faults. Thus it is obvious that the glory is “of God and not of us.
Life application: The most marvelous and glorious thing that we possess is the knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is a possession that is not intended to be kept hidden away, but shared with all. As we open our jar of clay and allow it to come forth, the contents are never diminished. Instead, they continue to overflow. Therefore, there is no loss to us when we share it, but there is great gain for all who receive it. Speak the word!
Heavenly Father, You have granted that I, a lowly and fragile jar of clay, may possess the greatest contents of all – the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Is it right that I keep this knowledge hidden inside me? That was never Your intent! When I share this wondrous treasure, what I possess never lessens. Instead it continues to flow no matter how much I share. Therefore, I retain the wealth and others are enriched by it as well. Help me to remember this Lord and to share this marvelous fortune with every person I encounter. To Your glory! Amen.