Study

a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

4. Treasures in Jars of Clay

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath 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 excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 12So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 13We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 16For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and 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.

5. For we preach not ourselves Some make this to be an instance of Zeugma, 449449     Zeugma is a figure of speech, in which two subjects are used jointly (the term being derived from ξεύηνυμι to join) with the same predicate, which strictly belongs only to one. — Ed. in this manner: We preach not ourselves to be lords, but God’s only Son, whom the Father has set over all things, to be the one Lord. 450450     “Auquel le Pere a baillé superintendance sur toutes choses;” — “To whom the Father has given superintendence over all things.” I do not, indeed, find fault with that interpretation, but as the expression is more emphatic (εμφατικωτερα) and has a more extensive signification, 451451     “Comme ainsi soit que la facon de parler est de plus grand poids, et s’estend plus loin;” — “As it is a form of expression that has greater weight, and is more extensive.” when it is said, that one preaches himself. I am more inclined to retain this interpretation, especially as it is almost unanimously approved of. For there are other ways in which men preach themselves, than by arrogating to themselves dominion, as for example, when they aim at show, rather than at edification — when they are desirous in any way to have distinction — when, farther, they make gain of the gospel. Ambition, therefore, and avarice, and similar vices in a minister, taint the purity of his doctrine, so that Christ has not there the exclusive distinction. Hence, he that would preach Christ alone, must of necessity forget himself.

And ourselves your servants. Lest any one should mutter out the objection—”But in the mean time you say many things respecting yourself,” he answers, that he desires nothing farther, than that he should be their servant. “Whatever things I declare respecting myself (so loftily, and boastfully, in your opinion) have this object in view — that I may in Christ serve you advantageously.” It follows, that the Corinthians are excessively proud and ungrateful, if they reject this condition. Nay more, it follows, that they had been previously of a corrupt judgment, inasmuch as they had not perceived his holy affection.

Here, however, all pastors of the Church are admonished as to their state and condition, for by whatever title of honor they may be distinguished, they are nothing more than the servants of believers, and unquestionably, they cannot serve Christ, without serving his Church at the same time. An honorable servitude, it is true, this is, and superior to any principality, 452452     “Plus heureuse que toutes les principautez du monde;” — “Happier than all the principalities of the world.” but still it is a servitude, so that Christ alone may be elevated to distinction — not encumbered by the shadow of a single rival 453453     “N’estant nullement empesché par l’ombre de quelque autre qui luy seroit donne pour compagnon;” — “In no degree hindered by the shadow of any other, that might be given him as a companion.” Hence it is the part of a good pastor, not merely to keep aloof from all desire of domineering, but to regard it as the highest pitch of honor, at which he aspires — that he may serve the people of God. It is the duty of the people, on the other hand, to esteem the servants of Christ first of all on the ground of the dignity of their Master, and then farther on account of the dignity and excellence of their office, that they may not despise those, whom the Lord has placed in so illustrious a station.

6. God who commanded light to shine out of darkness. I see that this passage may be explained in four different ways. In the first place thus: “God has commanded light to shine forth out of darkness: that is, by the ministry of men, who are in their own nature darkness, He has brought forward the light of His gospel into the world.” Secondly, thus: “God has made the light of the gospel to take the place of the law, which was wrapt up in dark shadows, and thus, He has brought light out of darkness.” Those that are fond of subtleties, would be prepared readily to receive expositions of that sort, but any one, who will examine the matter more closely, will perceive, that they do not correspond with the Apostle’s intention. The third exposition is that of Ambrose: “When all things were involved in darkness, God kindled up the light of His gospel. For mankind were sunk in the darkness of ignorance, when God on a sudden shone forth upon them by his gospel.” The fourth is that of Chrysostom, who is of opinion, that Paul alluded to the creation of the world, in this way: “God, who by his word created light, drawing it, as it were, out of the darkness 454454     “Du profond des tenebres;” — “Out of the depth of darkness.” — that same Being has now enlightened us in a spiritual manner, when we were buried in darkness.” This transition, 455455     Anagoge. The Reader will find in the Harmony (vol. 1, p. 436, n. 1,) a lucid view of the import of the word anagoge, or rather ἀναγωγὴ as employed, on the one hand, by “divines of the allegorizing school,” and on the other by Calvin, whose reverence for the inspired oracles would not permit him to give way to mere fancy in the interpretation of them, even in a single instance. — Ed. from light that is visible and corporeal to what is spiritual, has more of elegance, and there is nothing forced in it. The preceding one, 456456     “La troisieme exposition;” — “The third exposition.” however, is not unsuitable. Let every one follow his own judgment.

Hath shined in our hearts. He speaks of a twofold illumination, which must be carefully observed — the one is that of the gospel, the other is secret, taking place in our hearts. 457457     “Interieurement en nos coeurs;” — “Inwardly in our hearts.” For as God, the Creator of the world, pours forth upon us the brightness of the sun, and gives us eyes to receive it, so, as the Redeemer, in the person of his Son, He shines forth, indeed, upon us by His gospel, but, as we are blind, that would be in vain, if He did not at the same time enlighten our understandings by His Spirit. His meaning, therefore, is, that God has, by His Spirit, opened the eyes of our understandings, so as to make them capable of receiving the light of the gospel.

In the face of Jesus Christ. In the same sense in which he had previously said that Christ is the image of the Father, (2 Corinthians 4:4) he now says, that the glory of God is manifested to us in his face. Here we have a remarkable passage, from which we learn that God is not to be sought out (Job 11:7) in His unsearchable height,

(for He dwells in light that is inaccessible, 1 Timothy 6:16,)

but is to be known by us, in so far as He manifests himself in Christ. Hence, whatever men desire to know respecting God, apart from Christ, is evanescent, for they wander out of the way. True, indeed, God in Christ appears in the first instance to be mean, but he appears at length to be glorious in the view of those, who hold on, so as to come from the cross to the resurrection. 458458     “Ceux, qui ont la patience de venir de la croix ... la resurrection;” — “Those, who have the patience to come from the cross to the resurrection.” Again we see, that in the word person 459459     The original expression is προσώπῳ ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ — in the person of Jesus Christ. — Ed. there is a reference made to us, 460460     “Ce qui est dit de Dieu, c’est pour le regard de nous;” — “What is said respecting God, is in relation to us.” because it is more advantageous for us to behold God, as He appears in His only-begotten Son, than to search out His secret essence.

7. But we have this treasure. Those that heard Paul glorying in such a magnificent strain as to the excellence of his ministry, and beheld, on the other hand, his person, contemptible and abject in the eyes of the world, might be apt to think that he was a silly and ridiculous person, and might look upon his boasting as childish, while forming their estimate of him from the meanness of his person. 464464     “Ils le iugeoyent selon l’apparence de sa personne, qui estoit petite et contemptible;” — “They judged of him according to the appearance of his person, which was small and contemptible.” The wicked, more particularly, caught hold of this pretext, when they wished to bring into contempt every thing that was in him. What, however, he saw to be most of all unfavorable to the honor of his Apostleship among the ignorant, he turns by an admirable contrivance into a means of advancing it. First of all, he employs the similitude of a treasure, which is not usually laid up in a splendid and elegantly adorned chest, but rather in some vessel that is mean and worthless; 465465     “The term σκεῦος (vessel), from σχέω to hold, has an allusion to the body’s being the depository of the soul. ́̓Οστρακον properly signifies a shell, (of which material, probably, the primitive vessels were formed,) and, 2dly, a vessel, of baked earth. And as that is proverbially brittle, ὀστράκιος denoted weak, fragile, both in a natural and a metaphorical sense; and therefore was very applicable to the human body, both as frail, and as mean.” — Bloomfield. — Ed. and then farther, he subjoins, that the power of God is, by that means, the more illustrated, and is the better seen. “Those, who allege the contemptible appearance of my person, with the view of detracting from the dignity of my ministry, are unfair and unreasonable judges, for a treasure is not the less valuable, that the vessel, in which it is deposited, is not a precious one. Nay more, it is usual for great treasures to be laid up in earthen pots. Farther, they do not consider, that it is ordered by the special Providence of God, that there should be in ministers no appearance of excellence, lest any thing of distinction should throw the power of God into the shade. As, therefore, the abasement of ministers, and the outward contempt of their persons give occasion for glory accruing to God, that man acts a wicked part, who measures the dignity of the gospel by the person of the minister.”

Paul, however, does not speak merely of the universal condition of mankind, but of his own condition in particular. It is true, indeed, that all mortal men are earthen vessels Hence, let the most eminent of them all be selected, and let him be one that is adorned to admiration with all ornaments of birth, intellect, and fortune, 466466     “De tous ornamens, de race, d’esprit, de richesses, et toutes autres choses semblables;” — “With all ornaments of birth, intellect, riches, and all other things of a like nature.” still, if he be a minister of the gospel, he will be a mean and merely earthen depository of an inestimable treasure Paul, however, has in view himself, and others like himself, his associates, who were held in contempt, because they had nothing of show.

8. While we are pressed on every side. This is added by way of explanation, for he shows, that his abject condition is so far from detracting from the glory of God, that it is the occasion of advancing it. “We are reduced,” says he, “to straits, but the Lord at length opens up for us an outlet; 467467     “We are troubled on every side. In respect of the nature of it, (the trouble,) it is plain it was external trouble. The very word there used, Θλιβόμενοι, signifies dashing a thing from without. As the beating and allision of the waves against a rock make no trouble in the rock, no commotion there, but a great deal of noise, clamor, and tumult round about it. That is the sort of trouble which that word in its primary signification holds forth to us, and which the circumstances of the text declare to be the signification of the thing here meant. [...] The word στενοχωρούμενοι expresseth such a kind of straitening as doth infer a difficulty of drawing breath; that a man is so compressed, that he cannot tell how to breathe. That is the native import of the word. As if he had said, ‘We are not reduced to that extremity by all the troubles that surround us, but we can breathe well enough for all that.’ Probably there are meant by this thing desired, two degrees or steps of inward trouble... Either it is a trouble that reacheth not the heart, or if it doth, it does not oppress or overwhelm it.” — Howe’s Works, (London, 1834), p. 706. — Ed. we are oppressed with poverty, but the Lord affords us help. Many enemies are in arms against us, but under God’s protection we are safe. In fine, though we are brought low, so that it might seem as if all were over with us, 468468     “There is an allusion,” says Dr. Bloomfield, “to an army so entirely surrounded and hemmed in στενοῖς, (in straits,) as the Roman army at the Caudinae Furc’, that there is left no hope of escape.” — Ed. still we do not perish.” The last is the severest of all. You see, how he turns to his own advantage every charge that the wicked bring against him. 469469     “Pour le rendre contemptible;” — “To render him contemptible.”

10. The mortification of Jesus 470470     “Mortificationem.” — Such is Calvin’s rendering of the original term νέκρωσιν, and it is evidently employed to convey the idea of putting to death, the main idea intended to be expressed being, as our author shows, that the apostles were, for the sake of Christ, subjected to humiliating and painful sufferings, which gave them, in a manner, an outward conformity to their Divine Master in the violent death inflicted upon him. The term mortification, when taken in strict accordance with its etymology, in the sense of putting to death, appears to bring out more fully the apostle’s meaning, than the word “dying,” made use of in our authorized version. Beza, who gives the same rendering as Calvin, subjoins the following valuable observations: — “Mortificationem τὴν νέκρωσινSic vocat Paulus miseram illam conditionem fidelium, ac pr’sertim ministrorum (de his enim proprie agitur) qui quotidie (ut ait David) occiduntur, quasi destinationem ad coedem dicas: additurque Domini Iesu, vel, (ut legit vetus interpres) Iesu Christi, tum ut declaretur causa propter quam mundus illos ita persequitur; tum etiam quia hac quoque in parte Christo capiti sunt conformes, Christusque adeo ipse quodammodo in iis morte afficitur. Ambrosius maluit mortem interpretari, nempe quia in altero membro sit mentio vitoe Christi. At ego, si libuisset a Pauli verbis discedere, coedem potius exposuissem: quia non temere Paulus ςέκρωσιν maluit scribere quam θάνατον, quoniam etiam Christus hic considerandus nobis est non ut simpliciter mortuus, sed ut interemptus. Verum ut modo dixi νέκρωσις nec mortem nec coedem hic significat, sed conditionem illam quotidianis mortibus obnoxiam, qualis etiam fuit Christi ad tempus;” — “Mortification τὴν νέκρωσιν This term Paul makes use of to denote that miserable condition of believers, and more especially of ministers, (for it is of them properly that he speaks,) who are, as David says, killed every day — as though you should say a setting apart for slaughter; and it is added — of the Lord Jesus, or (as the old interpreter renders it) of Jesus Christ, partly with the view of explaining the reason why the world thus persecutes them, and partly because in this respect also they are conformed to Christ, the Head, and even Christ himself is, in them, in a manner put to death. Ambrose has preferred to render it death, for this reason, that in the other clause mention is made of the life of Christ. For my own part, however, were I to depart from Paul’s words, I would rather render it slaughter, inasmuch as Paul did not rashly make use of νέκρωσιν rather than θάνατον, since Christ also is to be viewed by us here, not simply as having died, but as having been put to death. But, as I said a little ago, νέκρωσις here does not mean death nor slaughter, but a condition which exposed every day to deaths, such as Christ’s, also, was for a time.” — Ed. He says more than he had done previously, for he shows, that the very thing that the false apostles used as a pretext for despising the gospel, was so far from bringing any degree of contempt upon the gospel, that it tended even to render it glorious. For he employs the expression — the mortification of Jesus Christ — to denote everything that rendered him contemptible in the eyes of the world, with the view of preparing him for participating in a blessed resurrection. In the first place, the sufferings of Christ, 471471     By the “sufferings of Christ,” here, Calvin obviously means — not the sufferings of our Redeemer personally, but sufferings endured for Christ in the persons of his members, as in Colossians 1:24. — Ed. however ignominious they may be in the eyes of men, have, nevertheless, more of honor in the sight of God, than all the triumphs of emperors, and all the pomp of kings. The end, however, must also be kept in view, that we suffer with him, that we may be glorified together with him. (Romans 8:17.) Hence he elegantly reproves the madness of those, who made his peculiar fellowship with Christ a matter of reproach. At the same time, the Corinthians are admonished to take heed, lest they should, while haughtily despising Paul’s mean and abject appearance, do an injury to Christ himself, by seeking an occasion of reproach 472472     “Matiere d’opprobre et deshonneur;” — “Matter of reproach and dishonor.” in his sufferings, which it becomes us to hold in the highest honor.

The word rendered mortification, 473473     Wiclif (1380) renders the expression as follows: “euermore we beren aboute the sleyng of Ihesus in oure bodi.” — Ed. is taken here in a different sense from what it bears in many passages of Scripture. For it often means self-denial, when we renounce the lusts of the flesh, and are renewed unto obedience to God. Here, however, it means the afflictions by which we are stirred up to meditate on the termination of the present life. To make the matter more plain, let us call the former the inward mortification, and the latter the outward. Both make us conformed to Christ, the one directly, the other indirectly, so to speak. Paul speaks of the former in Colossians 3:5, and in Romans 6:6, where he teaches that

our old man is crucified, that we may walk in newness of life

He treats of the second in Romans 8:29, where he teaches, that we were predestinated by God to this end — that we might be conformed to the image of his Son. It is called, however, a mortification of Christ only in the case of believers, because the wicked, in the endurance of the afflictions of this present life, share with Adam, but the elect have participation with the Son of God, so that all those miseries that are in their own nature accursed, are helpful to their salvation. All the sons of God, it is true, have this in common, that they bear about the mortification, of Christ; 474474     “Here we have a strong mode of expressing the mortal peril to which he was continually exposed; (as in 1 Corinthians 15:31, καθ ᾿ ἡμέραν ἀποθνήσκω, I die daily,) together with an indirect comparison of the sufferings endured by himself and the other apostles, with those endured by the Lord Jesus even unto death. The genitive τοῦ Κυριου (of the Lord,) is, as Grotius remarks, a genitive of likeness. The sense is — ‘bearing about — continually sustaining, perils and sufferings, like those of the Lord Jesus.’” — Bloomfield, — Ed. but, according as any one is distinguished by a larger measure of gifts, he, in that proportion, comes so much the nearer to conformity with Christ in this respect.

That the life of Jesus. Here is the best antidote to adversity — that as Christ’s death is the gate of life, so we know that a blessed resurrection will be to us the termination of all miseries, 475475     “La fin et l’issue de toutes miseres et calamitez;” — “The end and issue of all miseries and calamities.” inasmuch as Christ has associated us with himself on this condition, that we shall be partakers of his life, if in this world we submit to die with him.

The sentence that immediately follows may be explained in two ways. If you understand the expression delivered unto death as meaning to be incessantly harassed with persecutions and exposed to dangers, this would be more particularly applicable to Paul, and those like him, who were openly assailed by the fury of the wicked. And thus the expression, for Jesus’ sake, will be equivalent to for the testimony of Christ. (Revelation 1:9.) As, however, the expression to be daily delivered unto death, means otherwise — to have death constantly before our eyes, and to live in such a manner, that our life is rather a shadow of death, 476476     Calvin manifestly alludes to the expression which occurs in Psalms 23:4, the valley of the shadow of death, which he explains in a metaphorical sense, as denoting deep afflication. — See Calvin on the Psalms, vol. 1, pp. 394-396. — Ed. I have no objection, that this passage, also, should be expounded in such a way as to be applicable to all believers, and that, too, to every one in his order. Paul himself, in Romans 8:36, explains in this manner Psalm 44:22. In this way for Christ’s sake would mean — because this condition is imposed upon all his members. Erasmus, however, has rendered it, with not. so much propriety, we who live. The rendering that I have given is more suitable — while we live. For Paul means that, so long as we are in the world, we resemble the dead rather than the living.

12. Hence death indeed. This is said ironically, because it was unseemly that the Corinthians should live happily, and in accordance with their desire, and that they should, free from anxiety, take their ease, while in the mean time Paul was struggling with incessant hardships. 477477     “Eust ... combatre contre tant de miseres et calamitez;” — “Had to struggle against so many miseries and calamities.” Such an allotment would certainly have been exceedingly unreasonable. It was also necessary that the folly of the Corinthians should be reproved, inasmuch as they contrived to themselves a Christianity without the cross, and, not content with this, held in contempt the servants of Christ, because they were not so effeminate. 478478     “Comme eux;” — “As they.” Now as death denotes all afflictions, or a life full of vexations, so also life denotes a condition that is prosperous and agreeable; agreeably to the maxim: “Life is — not to live, but to be well.479479     “Non est vivere, sed valere, vita.” — Martial. Ep. 6:70. — Ed.


VIEWNAME is study