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.
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.
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, 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. – 2 Corinthians 4:7–18 (ESV)
Colin Kruse writes:
Clay jars were found in virtually every home in the Ancient Middle East. They were inexpensive and easily broken. Unlike metal vessels (which could be repaired) or glass ones (which could be melted down and the material reused), once broken, clay jars had to be discarded. They were thus cheap and of little intrinsic value. Paul may have had in mind the small earthenware oil-lamps sold cheaply in the marketplaces. If so, ‘the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’ (v. 6) would be the treasure, while the apostles in their frailty would be the earthenware lamps from whom the light was made to shine in the world. Perhaps aware of criticisms that if he claimed to participate in such a glorious ministry, how come his life was marked by weakness and suffering, Paul explains, we have this treasure in jars of clay.
The contrast between treasure and jars of clay which contain it is intended to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. In 1:9 Paul testified that the affliction he experienced in Asia taught him ‘not to rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead,’ and in 3:5 he acknowledges that ‘our competence comes from God.’ In similar vein here, the frailty of the messengers shows that the all surpassing power comes from God is not inherent in his envoys.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 56
Q. 56. What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the third commandment is that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.