2 Corinthians 4:7-15
7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
New International Version
Here in Second Corinthians, Chapter 4, we are examining one of the clearest passages in Scripture, in my estimation, to declare the process by which the power of God is released among men. We long, we pray, for that power to be released among us; everyone wants that to happen. I am increasingly concerned, however, about the ignorance of Christians, not only in other places but right here as well, as to their true power. We are surrounded by evidences of decay in society, of increasing corruption, of the disintegration of personality, of increasing hurt and darkness and despair. But all the time I can hear Jesus saying to us, “You are the salt of the earth,”(Matthew 5:13 RSV).
Salt is designed to stop corruption, so his word to us is, “You Christians are the salt of the earth. You can stop this kind of thing. If there is moral darkness around, so people do not know the difference between good and evil, so they are blind to what is happening, you are the light of the world, and your light can dispel darkness.”
Of course, he says, your salt has to have savor; it has to be salty. You cannot merely put on a front of being salty. You have to be salty, that is, you have to have the divine life and power at work in you, because salt without savor is good for nothing. And light has to be visible, Jesus said. You have to put it up on a hill where it can be seen. Nobody lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel. You cannot live isolated from the world around you. You have got to be right out in the midst of it.
Paul has been describing his ministry in terms of direct combat with what he calls the “god of this age,” the invisible being behind this darkness and corruption, the one who has, as he put it in the passage we saw last week, “blinded the minds of the unbelievers,” (2 Corinthians 4:4b RSV). But as Paul lives and speaks in light of the fact that Jesus is Lord, then the light begins to break out in the darkness of the world. That is God’s process. In Verses 7-11 of Chapter 4 there is a detailed description of how to exercise the power of God; and Verses 12-15 describe how to display the glory of God. That is what life is all about. Christians are Christian in order to exercise the power of God and display the glory of God. That is what Paul is talking about here.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 RSV)
First, it is obviously God’s deliberate program that his mighty power be displayed through “earthen vessels.” That term is not very complimentary. An earthen vessel is nothing but a clay pot, that is all, yet it is a beautifully descriptive term for basic humanity. All of us, in one sense, are nothing but clay pots, although some of you have a little finer clay than others, perhaps. You know, clay can be made into beautiful, fragile chinaware, which, of course, cracks easily. Some of you have cracked already! (They tell me they are developing a science here in California called “psychoceramics.” It deals with cracked pots!) Others are more rough and rugged. They are made of adobe mud, baked in the sun (half-baked sometimes, perhaps). But this is our humanity. We are nothing but clay pots.
A pot, or a vessel, is made to hold something. This is a beautiful figure to use, because basic to our humanity is that we are not designed to operate on our own. We were made to hold someone; and that someone is God himself. The glory of humanity that we can never get away from is that somehow God designed us to correspond to his deity; and that his marvelous deity, with its fullness and wisdom and power should somehow relate to and correspond to and be manifest through our basic humanity. We are earthen vessels, and that is what Paul is talking about — clay pots. He is very likely thinking of that Old Testament story of Gideon, who was called of God to deliver Israel from the hands of Midian hosts which had come into the land. Gideon was nothing but an obscure member of one of the more remote tribes of Israel. He had no reputation, he regarded himself as inferior to everyone else, and yet God called him to deliver the nation.
When 32,000 men gathered to help him, God cut the number down to 300. (Some of you remember Ron Ritchie’s graphic portrayal of that incident when he preached here recently. I should have Ron here to illustrate it for you.) God told them to take earthen jars, common clay pots, put candles in them, and during the darkness of the night to circle the Midian camp. At the signal of the sound of the trumpets, they were to break the pots so that lights would spring up on every side. When they did that the Midian army was demoralized. They suddenly saw lights springing up all over the mountainside. Thinking they were ringed by an army, they panicked and began to kill each other. That story has great significance for us, because it is really telling us that if we begin to live on the basis of the new covenant, acting and living as though Jesus is Lord, in control of everything in our life and the life of the whole world, we can demoralize the antagonists of Christianity and they will begin to attack one another.
I have seen this happen. Christians have no longer to fight hard, pitched battles, for the battle is often won. That is what Paul is saying here. God’s purpose in your life and mine is that we so live that people are actually baffled when they look at us. They say, “I don’t get it. I know this person. He (or she) is so ordinary; there is nothing outstanding there, but yet what happens as they go through life is so remarkable that I just don’t understand it.” They can see that the power is not coming from you; it is coming from God. Paul goes on to describe the way it is going to appear, in Verses 8-9:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 RSV)
I like the graphic way William Barclay translates these verses:
We are sore pressed at every point, but not hemmed in; we are at our wit’s end, but never at our hope’s end; we are persecuted by men, but never abandoned by God; we are knocked down, but not knocked out. (2 Corinthians 4:8-8 Wm Barclay)
Notice the weakness of the “pot” there, and the transcendence of the power. “Transcendent” means “beyond the ordinary.” The power of God is not ordinary. It is different than any other kind of power we know about. Therefore, it is wrong to expect it to be dramatically visible. It is a quiet power that is released in quiet ways, and yet what it accomplished is fabulous. Here is the weakness of the pot: “We are sore pressed; we are at wit’s end, we are persecuted, we are knocked down.” On the other hand, here is the transcendent power: “We are not hemmed in; we are not at hope’s end; we are never abandoned and we are never knocked out.” That is the way God expects us to live. The remarkable thing, and the place where we struggle is, it takes both of those. It takes the weakness in order to have the strength. That is what we do not like. We all want to see the power of God in our lives, but we want it to come out of untroubled, peaceful, calm, circumstances. We want to move through life protected from all the dangers and all the difficulties.
Remember how I described it a few weeks ago? We want to be like the Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland. We want to go through life in our little boats, gliding through all the difficulties. They appear as though they are going to get us, but they never get close. You come safely out the other end with not a hair of your head mussed, with no real difficulty at all. But that is not what God has in mind. We are to have difficulties and afflictions and persecutions. That is the point. We ought to expect to be “sore pressed,” and “at wit’s end,” and “persecuted,” and “knocked down but never knocked out.”
I have been interested to notice what has happened to Bob Dylan of late. You know that he has become a Christian and has written some Christian songs. He is now putting on concerts here in this area, and if you have read some of the reviews, you see how angry the world is at him because he is now a Christian. All the old skill is there, the message he conveys is more meaningful than ever, and yet the reviewers are furious at him. He is being persecuted for the name of Jesus; his stand as a Christian is being attacked on every side.
This is what God expects of us. And we are not even permitted to choose the scene of our own martyrdom. We cannot go through this list and choose, “Well, I’ll take a few afflictions, but I don’t want to be knocked down.” We get what God sends. Whatever he wills is what we have to go through. Yet we are never to be knocked out, that is the point.
Paul is saying that we are not protected from life. I wish we could get over that idea. It is difficult, I know, because the “folk” religion, as Jack Crabtree would call it, that we are constantly exposed to today is telling us something else. It is telling us, “If you’re a Christian, God will keep you from all these dangers and troubles. Why, you won’t even get sick. If you’re really a Christian you’ll have no physical illnesses; troubles will evaporate and never come to you.”
This is absolutely wrong. Christians can get cancer, Christians can have financial collapse, Christians can go through difficulties, family separations, divorce, problems of every sort. Sure they can. In spite of all they do, no matter how close to the Lord they walk, they can have these difficulties because out of them God wants to demonstrate a different attitude, a different reaction than other people have. He wants to demonstrate that there is an obvious love and joy and peace about your life that can never be explained in terms of you, but always must be explained only in terms of God at work in you.
Even that is not automatic, because I know many Christians who are afflicted and they are often crushed; they have perplexities that drive them to despair; they are persecuted; they feel abandoned; they are knocked down and often they are knocked out for weeks and years at a time. What makes the difference? Paul’s answer is in Verses 10-11. Here we have a marvelous setting out of the process of walking in victory:
…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:10 RSV)
Notice that the “life of Jesus” always rests upon the “death of Jesus.” We must have, in our experience, the “death of Jesus” in order to have the “life of Jesus.”
For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may he manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11 RSV)
What we want, of course, is the “life of Jesus;” every one of us wants to be like him. But the power of God is the miracle of others seeing in us, in the midst of our pressures and trials, the character and the life of Jesus coming out. I have always been amused and challenged by the verse in Colossians 1, where Paul prays that his friends in Colossae may be “strengthened with all power, according to God’s glorious might,” (Colossians 1:11). What are they going to use all this power for? It sounds as though Paul ought to say, “So that you can go about doing great miracles; so that you can astonish people with the tremendous magnetism of your preaching and teaching and be followed by great crowds, making a great impact.” But that is not what he says at all. He says, “I pray that you may be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, unto all endurance and patience with joy,” (Colossians 1:11 RSV). That is what takes power; that is where the life and the power of God is manifest. That is the “life of Jesus.”
There is a new film out called, Jesus. I have not seen it myself, though I hope to, but everyone I have talked to who has seen it has told me it is a marvelous film. It is very faithful to the record of the Scriptures, and people come away silenced, almost stunned by the picture of Jesus. As you read through the Gospels, the Spirit of God brings to your mind’s eye a far more beautiful and wonderful picture, perhaps, of his character and life. You see his compassion of heart, his moral beauty that attracted people everywhere he went. You see the serenity of his spirit, how he moves through every scene of anger and unrest with calmness and quietness. You see his disciplined will and his obvious joy in living. That is the “life of Jesus,” and that is what we want, isn’t it?
How do you get it? Well, here is the way. The secret, Paul says, is our consent to sharing the dying of Jesus, “always carrying in the body the dying of Jesus, in order that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” What does he mean by the “dying of Jesus”? You know he does not mean that we have to go out and get ourselves nailed to a cross. But that cross is a symbol of something very real in our experience. What was Jesus like on the cross? He was not powerful, and impressive, and significant; he was not being applauded by the multitudes who listened to his every word. No. The cross was a place of physical weakness, of rejection by the proud and arrogant world around him. It was a place of obscurity, a place where he was willing to lose everything he had built and trust God to bring it back and make it significant. That is what we are talking about.
Are you willing to give up all the things that make you look important to other people, to take the place of obscurity, if necessary, trusting God to use it however he will? That is the “dying of Jesus.” Today we are being assaulted on every side by the cult of the human potential. Groups like Est, Transactional Analysis, Transcendental Meditation, and others are saying you need to find some hidden resources in yourself that you can count on. You must develop these resources, and then you will find yourself growing in confidence and ability to handle life. You can be at the top of the heap if you will send in $250 and spend a weekend with them.
People on every side are believing that. And it appears to work. That is the problem. Many of them do find a new source of confidence, a new ability to function, to make a far greater impression on others, but it all comes out at this point: The measure of their success is the degree to which they are recognized by someone else. These blatant cults now proclaim this around us, as do the Christianized versions of them that take the words of Scripture and the songs and hymns of Christians, and glaze them over and present them as a “Christian” way of doing this. But it is still the same old thing, coming out to the glory of the individual, and calling on him to rely upon his own natural resources and abilities to succeed.
But the Christian gospel cuts right across all that. That is the very thing that the “cross” says has to die. We have come to the end of our dependence on ourselves and rest upon the willingness of God to be at work in us, without any flash or demonstration, but in loving, quiet ways to change our whole character until it is like Jesus in the midst of rejection and lack of recognition. Are you willing to do that? If so, you can have the “life of Jesus.”
Here is where we struggle, isn’t it? We want the power of God, but we want to get credit for it too. If God does anything through us, we want to be sure we get a write up in Christianity Today. If anything happens in our midst, in our home, or in our family, we want it to be known that we spent a lot of hours in prayer over it, that we had counseled so-and-so in such-and-such a helpful way. We want to move in and get the credit every time.
We want the “life of Jesus,” but we also want the satisfaction of our own flesh. We want to be serene of spirit and gentle and compassionate of heart, but we also want the joy of telling people off when they are out of line. That is a great pleasure, isn’t it? Isn’t it amazing how we want to be free from anxiety, to have an untroubled, serene spirit about the future, but at the same time insist on the pleasure of worrying? We enjoy worrying; we feel so much more fulfilled if we have worried awhile, that we have done our share at least. We sometimes say to people, “If I don’t worry, who will?” as though somebody has to worry or nothing is accomplished rightly.
That is our problem, isn’t it? We want the kingdom of God, and we want our own personal rights as well. But you cannot have both. That is where the new covenant brings us, “always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, in order that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our mortal flesh.”
That is where Verse 11 helps us, because God takes over. There Paul says, “while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake.” Verse 10 is a conscious choice we make where we agree to giving up our personal desire for recognition and significance, etc., in order to let God give it back to us in a right way. But Verse 11 is telling us that there are circumstances into which God puts us where we have to die whether we like it or not.
Have you been in those circumstances recently, where no matter what you do you cannot seem to get any glory or credit for yourself? That is exactly where God wants you, because out of those times of inordinate pressure, times of hurt and despair and heartache, and a sense of being wasted and not used, God is working his will. Others, perhaps, are being given life because of the death you are going through. Paul will speak more about that in just a minute.
I want to tell you that I am going through a time like that right now, and it does not feel good. It does not feel very triumphant or victorious, but that is just the point. We are to be led in triumph by Christ, regardless of how we feel at the moment. It is his work that does it, not ours. That is what Paul is calling us to. Often this transcendent power within us is even recognized by the world. God, in a sense, forces the world at times to pay tribute to this kind of living. That is why Martin Luther, even though he felt abandoned and helpless at the moment, dared to stand against all the secular and sacred power of the day for the truth of God. He finally became the most widely known and recognized man of his age, and has become one of the great names of history. A Mother Teresa can give herself to the slums of Calcutta, and with no longing or hope at all for recognition and honor, suddenly is elected to receive the Nobel Prize. God can give back honor if he wants to, but there must be the willingness to forego it for our own account. Paul looks ahead to see what will happen in the whole church when this begins to happen among us. Verse 12:
So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, “I believed, and so l spoke,” we too believe, and so we speak… (2 Corinthians 4:12-13 RSV)
He is quoting here from Psalm 116, where the psalmist is declaring by faith that the trials and the pressures he is going through are going to have some effect and impact in his surroundings. He cannot see it yet, but he says it is going to be true because God has said it. That is where Paul is. He says, “I don’t see the life in you yet, but I know it is coming. We are going through the death; we are going through the pressure and the heartache, but it is going to have an impact on you. I know it is coming because that is the kind of God we serve.”
…knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. (2 Corinthians 4:14 RSV)
Paul’s confidence grows that this is the nature of the body of Christ. We share life with one another, and as you lose yourself in costly service, life becomes visible in someone else. We all know how this can happen, even in a family. Parents give themselves for years in order that their children might enjoy things. We can do this with one another in the body of Christ. We can endure the loneliness of prayer, and the faithfulness of upholding one another, the difficulty of counseling each other and see life come, as a result, in somebody else. Paul concludes this in Verse 15 with a wonderful picture of where it all comes out:
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. (2 Corinthians 4:15 RSV)
Notice where it comes out at — increased thanksgiving. We are being told today that if you take certain praise expressions out of the Bible, “Praise the Lord,” “Hallelujah,” or “Praise Jesus,” and in times of heartache you say those over and over again, you can force God to deliver you from your trial; you manipulate him into it by using praise. That is not what Paul is talking about. He is talking about people who have gone through great sorrow, deep hurt, real heartache, but in the midst of it they have looked to God for strength and have found his comfort. They have known and trusted his love, and the result has been there has been such an inner joy and peace and strengthening in the midst of the trial that they cannot help but give thanks to God that the whole thing came about.
Some years ago I clipped a letter from Billy Graham’s Decisionmagazine that was a wonderful testimony. I do not know whether it comes from a man or a woman because only the initials were of the writer were published:
“For a long time I had been bitter about life. It seemed to have dealt me a dirty blow, for since I was 12 years old I have been waiting for death to close in on me. It was at that time I learned I had muscular dystrophy. I fought hard against this disease and exercised hard, but to no avail. I only grew weaker. All I could see was what I had missed. My friends went away to college, then got married and started having families of their own. When I lay in bed at night thinking, despair would creep from the dark corners to haunt me. Life was meaningless. In March of last year my mother brought home from our public library Billy Graham’s book World Aflame. I started reading it, and as I read I realized that I wanted God. I wanted there to be a meaning to life. I wanted to receive this deep faith and peace. All I know is that now my life has changed and I now have joy in living. No longer is the universe chaotic. No longer does life have no goal. No longer is there no hope. There is instead “God who so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” I continue to grow weaker. I am close to being totally helpless and am in pain most of the time, but sometimes I am so glad I am alive that it is hard to keep myself from bursting at the seams. I can see for the first time the beauty all around me, and I realize how very lucky I am. Despair is such a waste of time when there is joy; and lack of faith is such a waste of time when there is God.”
That is the kind of thanksgiving that glorifies God. Out of the midst of the pain, the pressure, the heartache, and the perplexities there comes a joy, a strength, a faith, and a love that makes clear that the power is not coming from us, but from God. That is what impresses the world. May God help us to live like that.
Lord, I know that there are many people here who are going through struggles and pressures, dangers and trials. How our hearts long to cry out to you to deliver us from them, to take them away, to not let us go through them. May we rather learn, Lord, that wonderful attitude of our Lord Jesus, “If it be possible, may this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
The apostle Paul has been giving wonderful pictures of what it looks like to be a Christian. In the first six verses of 2 Corinthians 4, Paul has described Christians as those who are beholding the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (3:18; 4:4; 4:6). Those who do not see the glory of the gospel of Jesus are the ones who are perishing (4:3). Therefore, Paul has declared that the gospel message that they are proclaiming, which was written down by the apostles and you hold in your hands today, is the means by which you are able to have God’s light shine in your hearts so that you can see the glory of God. This is why Paul does not lose heart. He has a magnificent ministry given to him by the grace of God (4:1). So what does this mean for us? How does beholding the light of the gospel of the glory of God change who we are and how we live?
Table of contents
Treasure In Clay Jars (4:7)
Paul says we have this treasure. The gospel message of Jesus is a treasure. This is what Jesus said in his parables. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44 ESV)
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:27–28 ESV)
To our context, Paul describes this treasure as the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is the treasure. We have a precious treasure in the word of God because the gospel reveals the glory of God. But notice what Paul says about this treasure. Paul says we have this treasure in clay jars.
Clay jars were insignificant in the ancient Near East. They were common, unimportant, temporary, and expendable. If a clay jar broke, you did not try to fix it. You just discarded it and replaced it. So Paul does not say that this treasure is contain in gold treasure boxes. The treasure of the gospel message is held in clay jars. This is how Paul pictures himself and it is how we must consider ourselves. Paul does not say that he is a unique work of art, worthy of the highest value. No, he is a clay jar among many clay jars, carrying the treasure of the gospel. Why is this the case?
Paul continues in verse 7: “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” The power is in the message, not the clay jar. God put the treasure of the gospel in human containers like Paul and the apostles with a purpose: to show that the treasure of the gospel has nothing to do with the jar. The image of clay jars was used as a metaphor for human weakness in ancient writings, including the Qumran writings. Our flaws show the flawless gospel. We are the clay jars so that we are not stealing the glory away from God and his glorious gospel. We are to embrace our weaknesses so that the power of God can be made visible in our lives. Think about how God’s power is on its greatest display when it transforms a weak, selfish, fragile, broken person and into a God-loving, Christ-believing, standing in the strength that God supplies Christian. Paul reminds us that the value is not us. We are just clay jars. The value is the gospel and we are valuable in relation to the task and value given to us by God. When we promote ourselves as anything more than a clay jar, we have taken away the attention from God, where the attention always belongs. We must never draw attention to ourselves but to God and the gospel.
What Being Clay Jars Looks Like (4:8-9)
To reinforce this concept, Paul describes what being a clay jar carry the treasure looks like. Paul describes his weaknesses. He and the apostles are afflicted in every way, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. But because they carry the treasure they are not crushed, driven to despair, not forsaken, nor destroyed. They may be knocked down but they are never knocked out. Our strength comes from God’s sustaining power, understanding the mission he has given us. Our strength does not come from ourselves because we are just clay jars. Paul is not destroyed because he carries the treasure that is too valuable and too glorious. So he does not stop. He can be knocked down but he will not give up or be stopped. Thus, we see Paul when he is stoned and left for dead in Lystra, getting up and going to Derbe to preach. How did you do that Paul? The strength was not in himself. The strength was the gospel message he carried. He had a mission that would not allow him to stay down. God sustains us through our hardships because of the hope we have in the gospel and the ministry we are compelled to proclaim.
When you behold glory, you have to tell others. We have taken many family vacations each summer. We have had a goal for the five of us to see all the states together before our children left home for college. We have come to some amazing places in the creation. We have seen the Grand Canyon. We have seen Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Yellowstone National Parks. When we were at Yellowstone last year, there is an iconic waterfall there that is powerful and massive. But to get to it is a very long, steep hike. There were signs warning you about how difficult the hike would be. It is so steep that there are benches for trying to hike back up because you are going to need a break. As we were walking down this long, weaving walkway, I was thinking in my mind, “Is this going to be worth it? Each steep step I take down is a hard step back to the top.” I am making this calculation in my mind. We would pass people who were winded and sitting on the benches. Others are huffing and puffing as they slowly would walk past us. But hardly a person would fail to say, “It’s just a little further and it is worth it.” So we continued to descend until we finally got to this waterfall. It was amazing! It was thundering. It shook the platform. I have never seen a waterfall like this one. Do you know what we had to do? We had to talk about it to each other as we stood beholding the majesty and glory of this waterfall. We are all taking pictures. We are pointing out things, making sure we all see everything there is to see. We had to share what we saw. Do you know what we did as we walked back up? We did the same thing everyone did for us when we came down. As we were huffing and puffing our way back to the top, we were telling people, “It is worth it. Keep going. You have to see it.” This is the picture Paul is giving. What keeps us going? We have beheld the treasure and it is amazing. What keeps us going? We have to tell others about the glory that we saw. So the apostles could be beaten but they would not stop because they were carrying the treasure.
Carrying in the Body the Death of Jesus (4:10-12)
Notice the next picture Paul uses to describe his work in verse 10. Paul says that we lose our lives so that Christ is always on display. We embrace our weaknesses so others will see Jesus. This point ties back to verse 7 — so that the surpassing power is shown to be with God and not us. We die to ourselves so that the life of Jesus is seen. Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die every day!” To the Romans he wrote, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:36 ESV) To the Philippians he wrote that he was being “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith” (Philippians 2:17). To Timothy he wrote,
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; (2 Timothy 2:10–11 ESV)
Paul says that they are mistreated, beaten, and are dying to give others life. Being a Christian is the sacrifice of self. Christ died that we might live. We die so that others might live. We might read about what the apostles sacrificed and think that we are glad that we are not apostles. Do you supposed we have been called to be any different? Why is Paul writing all of this to the Corinthians? Remember what he will say in 2 Corinthians 12:19. He has written this for the upbuilding of the Corinthians. This is the picture of taking up the cross and following Jesus. This is what it means when Paul tells the Colossians:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4 ESV)
We have this gospel treasure and our lives are hidden so that Christ is on display. You have died and Christ is your life! We die to ourselves so that others may live. We do not satisfy our desires but forfeit our lives so that others can see the treasure of the gospel and find life. We have beheld the light of the glory of the Lord and we must share it. This is why we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out.
Have The Same Faith (4:13-15)
Paul now uses the scriptures to exemplify what they do, quoting Psalm 116:10. Turn to Psalm 116 so you can see what Paul is saying. It is far too easy to read 2 Corinthians 4:13 and think that Paul is saying that he speaks because he believes. But this misses the power of what Paul is saying. We need to look at Psalm 116 to see the point.
Psalm 116 begins with a declaration of loving the Lord because heard my pleas for mercy (1-2). Verse 3 pictures the dire situation that death, distress, and anguish surrounded the psalmist. He was doomed. But then he was delivered from death (4-9). Suddenly the author is rescued. The quotation Paul makes is from verse 10 but see the context of what the psalmist is saying. Even when he was greatly afflicted, he had faith. Though distress and anguish surrounded him, he believed. When death encompassed him, he had faith. So he will call on the name of the Lord (13), pay his obligations to the Lord (14), offer thanksgiving (17), and praise the Lord (19). Notice another declaration that you probably have heard at a funeral is found here: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” What is the point? Even when surrounded by death, we will still believe and we will still speak. Even when distress and anguish overwhelm us, we will still have faith and we will still speak. For even in our death, we are precious before God. Now what is Paul saying? “Since we have the same spirit of faith…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” (4:13-14).
We have the same faith! We may be killed for what we preach, but we have faith in God and we will still speak because we know that precious in the sight of the Lord are death of his saints. Or, to say this as Paul did, because we know that the power that raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us from the dead and bring us with you into the Lord’s presence. The hope of resurrection changes our bodily concerns for the gospel. We will be killed and the reward is resurrection and to be brought back together with you. This is why they do not lose heart (4:16). This is why we do not lose heart and do not give up. We have faith and so we speak. Whatever we must do “so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (4:15). Paul’s goal was never to be comfortable, or worry about his reputation or his popularity. His concern was that people were giving thanks to God and praising God. Paul lived so others would glorify the treasure, not the clay jar.
Being Clay Jars
I want to end by each of us reflecting on the pictures Paul has given us in this paragraph. We have beheld the treasure of the gospel. But are we causing people to see the treasure we carry or are we causing people to look at the jar, which is us? Do we draw attention to ourselves or do we draw attention to the gospel? We must have the glory be directed to God and never to ourselves.
Further, are we more concerned about protecting our clay jar or about protecting the treasure? I believe too often we are willing to discard the treasure to protect this body, this clay jar. But the clay jar is not important. You are a clay jar with a purpose: protect the treasure and show the treasure. If we fail in this purpose, then we have failed God who gave us this purpose. We have died and our lives are hidden in Christ. People must see Christ, not us. We must be willing to allow the clay jar to be broken and laid in the dust so that people will see the glory of the treasure. We believe and so we speak because we believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Believing in Jesus’ resurrection means we believe in our own resurrection. So why protect the clay jar? Protect the treasure and share the treasure. Give it all to the Lord and one day we will all be joined again in the Lord’s presence.
New American Standard Bible
For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
King James Version
For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
For you can have 10,000 instructors in Christ, but you can’t have many fathers. Now I have fathered you in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
International Standard Version
You may have 10,000 mentors who work for the Messiah, but not many fathers. For in the Messiah Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
A Conservative Version
For though ye have countless instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus I begot you through the good-news.
American Standard Version
For though ye have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I begat you through the gospel.
After all, though you should have ten thousand teachers (guides to direct you) in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the glad tidings (the Gospel).
An Understandable Version
For although you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I conceived you people through the good news . .
Anderson New Testament
For though you have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet you have not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Bible in Basic English
For even if you had ten thousand teachers in Christ, you have not more than one father: for in Christ Jesus I have given birth to you through the good news.
Common New Testament
For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
Daniel Mace New Testament
for though you may have ten thousand christian preceptors, you cannot have many fathers; since it was I that first instructed you in the gospel of Christ Jesus:
For if ye should have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the glad tidings.
Godbey New Testament
For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, but you have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Goodspeed New Testament
For no matter how many guides you may have in the Christian life, you will not have many fathers; for in this matter of union with Christ, I became your father, through preaching the good news to you.
John Wesley New Testament
For if ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for I have begotten you in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Jubilee 2000 Bible
For though ye may have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet ye shall not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Julia Smith Translation
For if ye have ten thousand preceptors in Christ, but not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus by the good news I begat you.
King James 2000
For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Lexham Expanded Bible
For if you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, yet not many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I fathered you through the gospel.
Modern King James verseion
For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for I have begotten you in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Modern Spelling Tyndale-Coverdale
For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ: yet have ye not many fathers. In Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the gospel.
Moffatt New Testament
You may have thousands to superintend you in Christ, but you have not more than one father. It was I who in Christ Jesus became your father by means of the gospel.
Montgomery New Testament
For though you have ten thousand tutors in Christ Jesus, you can have but one father. For in Christ Jesus I begot you through the gospel.
For though you may have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, because I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
New Heart English Bible
For though you have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the Good News.
Noyes New Testament
For though ye have ten thousand teachers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I begot you through the gospel.
Sawyer New Testament
For if you have ten thousand teachers in Christ still you have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you by the gospel.
The Emphasized Bible
For, though myriads of tutors ye should have in Christ, yet not many fathers; for, in Christ Jesus, through means of the joyful message, I, begat you.
Thomas Haweis New Testament
For though ye may have ten thousand teachers in Christ, yet not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus through the Gospel I have begotten you.
Twentieth Century New Testament
Though you may have thousands of instructors in the Faith of Christ, yet you have not many fathers. It was I who, through union with Christ Jesus, became your father by means of the Good News.
For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Weymouth New Testament
For even if you were to have ten thousand spiritual instructors–for all that you could not have several fathers. It is I who in Christ Jesus became your father through the Good News.
Williams New Testament
For though you have ten thousand teachers in the Christian life, you certainly could not have many fathers. For it was I myself who became your father through your union with Christ Jesus, which resulted from my telling you the good news.
World English Bible
For though you have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the Good News.
Worrell New Testament
For, though ye have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet ye have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I begat you through the Gospel.
Worsley New Testament
for if ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet ye have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you by the gospel.
Youngs Literal Translation
for if a myriad of child-conductors ye may have in Christ, yet not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus, through the good news, I — I did beget you;
in, by, with,
, at, on,
in, by, with,
, at, on,
I, my, me, not tr