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4. Treasures in Jars of Clay
1Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we faint not: 2but we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: 4in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them. 5For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves; 8we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; 9pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; 10always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. 11For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 13But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed, and therefore did I speak; we also believe, and therefore also we speak; 14knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God. 16Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. 17For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; 18while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
7. "Lest any should say, How then is it that we continue to enjoy such unspeakable glory in a mortal body? Paul replies, this very fact is one of the most marvellous proofs of God's power, that an earthen vessel could bear such splendor and keep such a treasure" [Chrysostom, Homilies, 8.496, A]. The treasure or "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God." The fragile "earthen vessel" is the body, the "outward man" (2Co 4:16; compare 2Co 4:10), liable to afflictions and death. So the light in Gideon's pitchers, the type (Jud 7:16-20, 22). The ancients often kept their treasures in jars or vessels of earthenware. "There are earthen vessels which yet may be clean; whereas a golden vessel may be filthy" [Bengel].
that the excellency of the power, &c.—that the power of the ministry (the Holy Spirit), in respect to its surpassing "excellency," exhibited in winning souls (1Co 2:4) and in sustaining us ministers, might be ascribed solely to God, we being weak as earthen vessels. God often allows the vessel to be chipped and broken, that the excellency of the treasure contained, and of the power which that treasure has, may be all His (2Co 4:10, 11; Joh 3:30).
may be of God … not of us—rather, as Greek, "may be God's (may be seen and be thankfully [2Co 4:15] acknowledged to belong to God), and not (to come) from us." The power not merely comes from God, but belongs to Him continually, and is to be ascribed to him.
8. Greek, "BEING hard pressed, yet not inextricably straitened; reduced to inextricable straits" (nominative to "we have," 2Co 4:7).
on every side—Greek, "in every respect" (compare 2Co 4:10, "always"; 2Co 7:5). This verse expresses inward distresses; 2Co 4:9, outward distresses (2Co 7:5). "Without were fightings; within were fears." The first clause in each member of the series of contrasted participles, implies the earthiness of the vessels; the second clause, the excellency of the power.
perplexed, but not in despair—Greek, "not utterly perplexed." As perplexity refers to the future, so "troubled" or "hard pressed" refers to the present.
9. not forsaken—by God and man. Jesus was forsaken by both; so much do His sufferings exceed those of His people (Mt 27:46).
cast down—or "struck down"; not only "persecuted," that is, chased as a deer or bird (1Sa 26:20), but actually struck down as with a dart in the chase (Heb 11:35-38). The Greek "always" in this verse means, "throughout the whole time"; in 2Co 4:11 the Greek is different, and means, "at every time," "in every case when the occasion occurs."
10. bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus—that is, having my body exposed to being put to death in the cause of Jesus (the oldest manuscripts omit "the Lord"), and having in it the marks of such sufferings, I thus bear about wheresoever I go, an image of the suffering Saviour in my own person (2Co 4:11; 2Co 1:5; compare 1Co 15:31). Doubtless, Paul was exposed to more dangers than are recorded in Acts (compare 2Co 7:5; 11:26). The Greek for "the dying" is literally, "the being made a corpse," such Paul regarded his body, yet a corpse which shares in the life-giving power of Christ's resurrection, as it has shared in His dying and death.
that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body—rather, "may be." The name "Jesus," by itself is often repeated here as Paul seems, amidst sufferings, peculiarly to have felt its sweetness. In 2Co 4:11 the same words occur with the variation, "in our mortal flesh. The fact of a dying, corpse-like body being sustained amidst such trials, manifests that "the (resurrection) life also," as well as the dying, "of Jesus," exerts its power in us. I thus bear about in my own person an image of the risen and living, as well as of the suffering, Saviour. The "our" is added here to "body," though not in the beginning of the verse. "For the body is ours not so much in death, as in life" [Bengel].
11. we which live—in the power of Christ's "life" manifested in us, in our whole man body as well as spirit (Ro 8:10, 11; see on 2Co 4:10; compare 2Co 5:15). Paul regards his preservation amidst so many exposures to "death," by which Stephen and James were cut off, as a standing miracle (2Co 11:23).
delivered unto—not by chance; by the ordering of Providence, who shows "the excellency of His power" (2Co 4:7), in delivering unto DEATH His living saints, that He may manifest LIFE also in their dying flesh. "Flesh," the very element of decay (not merely their "body"), is by Him made to manifest life.
12. The "death" of Christ manifested in the continual "perishing of our outward man" (2Co 4:16), works peculiarly in us, and is the means of working spiritual "life" in you. The life whereof we witness in our bodily dying, extends beyond ourselves, and is brought by our very dying to you.