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2 Corinthians 4:7–10

“We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (v. 7).

Continuing to present the nature of the true Apostolic ministry, Paul in today’s passage responds to critics who maligned his work on account of his weakness (see 2 Cor. 10:1–12:10). As we see, the Apostle agrees with his opponents that he is frail, but he makes clear that his frailty is a positive for gospel proclamation.

Paul notes that “we have this treasure in jars of clay.” He refers, of course, to himself and to those who ministered alongside him. The treasure of which Paul speaks is the Lord Jesus Christ and the knowledge of God’s glory through Him in the gospel (4:5–6). This treasure is found in “jars of clay” (v. 7)—that is, in frail vessels whose worth cannot be compared with the value of the treasure that they contain. Here the Apostle speaks most specifically of those who are called by Jesus through the church to the office of preaching the gospel, but his words have a broader application to all Christians. God uses jars of clay—human beings with all our weaknesses and limitations—to carry His gospel to the ends of the earth. He does this, Paul says, to display His power. The idea here is similar to that in 1 Corinthians 1:18–21, where Paul stresses the power of the message and not the messenger when it comes to the gospel. The Lord makes use of the lowly and the powerless so that the power of salvation can be attributed in no way to the vessel (the jar of clay) but only to the treasure inside—namely, Jesus as He is revealed in the gospel. Paul’s critics were correct that the Apostle was weak, but instead of this weakness’s reflecting poorly on the gospel, it served to reveal the glory of the gospel all the more.

Paul describes his weaknesses in 2 Corinthians 4:8–10. He stresses the intensity of his suffering and the depth of his weakness by presenting a list of trials that grow increasingly worse—“afflicted . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . struck down.” Yet what seems most striking are the “but nots” that qualify these afflictions—“not crushed . . . not driven to despair . . . not forsaken . . . not destroyed.” These “but nots” remind us that as hard as life can get for the Christian—and it can get very difficult indeed—God sustains His servants. He will not allow His enemies to get the final say, and even if the church’s foes seem to get the upper hand at times, they cannot finally destroy us. As Paul notes in verse 10, the life of Christ will also be manifested in our bodies. We will have joy and peace in this life, and ultimately our bodies will be raised from the dead (Phil. 3:12–21).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Matthew Henry points out that like Paul in today’s passage, Christians have a “but not” when we face trials. Indeed, we may suffer much for the sake of the gospel, but the Lord will sustain us and not allow us to finally be destroyed. We have the sure hope of resurrection and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit to sustain us. In the midst of our trials, let us trust the Lord to sustain us and thank Him for His grace.


For Further Study
  • Jeremiah 32
  • Matthew 5:14–16
  • 2 Corinthians 12:10
  • Hebrews 11:32–40

Proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord

Ministering Spirits to Serve Us

Keep Reading The Christian Way

From the September 2021 Issue
Sep 2021 Issue