Digging Deeper Bible Commentary – 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (August 1, 2017)
No prosperity gospel teaching is complete without specific reference to 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 and other Scriptures that normalize suffering in the life of the Believer. James adds, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds… (James 1:2). And Peter clarifies – “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (1 Peter 4:15-17).
Suffering and weakness as the seed of strength is one of the paradoxes in the Christian Faith that must be understood in order to truly appreciate the impact and value of the Good News of salvation. The cross precedes the crown; trials precede triumph; and the crucifixion predates the resurrection. However, whereas in many countries of the world, Christians are being victimized, attacked and murdered for their Faith, many of us in America and the “West” have very little appreciation of what it means to suffer for Christ. In today’s Scripture and elsewhere, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the extent of the suffering he faced in order to help spread the good news of salvation so that others might live (2 Corinthians 4:12).
We all must identify with verse 7. Every believer in Christ is the recipient of a miraculous mystery, referred to as a “treasure”. Commentator David Guzik puts it this way – “The treasure is the greatness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the glory of God made evident through that gospel. It is the very light of God and the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, reflected in the face of Jesus Christ. This is the greatest treasure in all creation!”
Earthen vessel is a very apt description of Believers in Jesus Christ. The earthen vessel was the least expensive of available vessels. It was also the most perishable. But before we look at symbolism, remember how we were created – from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). It is the contrast between the excellency of the treasure on the one hand and the expendable nature of the vessel that highlights the fact that the treasure must be of God. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul quotes Jesus – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
In this passage, Paul limits his description of the “treasure” we carry in our earthen vessel to the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. However, other Scriptures make it abundantly clear that we carry God’s Holy Spirit Himself in our bodies from day to day (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Surely the awareness that the God and Creator of the Universe has chosen to live within me is the greatest treasure of all.
The truth is that our “earthen vessels” are transformed into “excellent vessels” when God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence. By way of illustration, the official airplane of the President of the United States is Air Force 1. Were that state-of-the-art plane to become disabled, and the President steps on to a transport plane to continue his journey, that transport plane becomes Air Force 1. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in us that transforms the value of our body
And yet, paradoxically, His presence means little, until we appropriate His power. May we forever live in the light of the legacy of His love which He daily sheds abroad in our lives.
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