2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Jars of Clay
What a way to describe ourselves, “jars of clay.” The Bible is fond of describing men as clay, dust, grass—things that are so temporal, here today and gone tomorrow. We see this at every funeral, and if we are wise, in every flu, every epi- or pandemic, and even every time we break a nail. Unlike us nature is caught up in a more cyclical movement of life and death—still death predominating.
And yet Paul informs us that as breakable as these jars of clay are, as Christians we carry something within them that is eternal. Paul calls it a treasure, by which he means the gospel which he just defined as “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” And it is because of the surpassing power of this treasure which believers have from God that they are afflicted but not crushed, perplexed but not to despair, persecuted but never forsaken, struck down but not destroyed. Believers die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31), and this death they carry about in the flesh. But this is only so that the life of Jesus may “be manifested in our mortal flesh.” And so both death (to sin) and life (in Christ) are evident in us, and that gladly, for we agree with the Forerunner, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
And the reason that we do not despair through life’s struggles is that “though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” And how can this be? Because He who raised the Lord Jesus has raised us, first in our rebirth (Romans 6:4), and will bodily on the last day. And so we know that all of these outward afflictions are just as temporary as our mortal lives are in this world. Indeed, Paul calls these afflictions “light” and “momentary” compared to the “eternal weight of glory” for which these afflictions prepare us. And so we gaze at the unseen, we listen to the inaudible, and we feel the untouchable, knowing that what is seen, heard, and touched in this world is transient while the unseen, inaudible, and untouchable is eternal in the next world for which we yearn.
Jars of clay. I rather like that description. I am completely satisfied that my life in this world is but a breath. It is my hope that as such a fragile jar, I shall boldly carry the gospel of Jesus Christ within me and about me. Let us place ourselves willingly in the Potter’s hands that He might make us useful and beautiful, and as He defines those terms. And when the day comes that these jars must be broken, may we release the most pleasing aroma.