2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
In this Epistle Paul speaks more frankly and warmly than in any other of his compositions of the ministry which was the work of his life. It is observable, however, that, in treating of this ministry, whilst he uses the most honourable terms in characterizing the office, he displays the utmost humility in what he says of himself.
I. PRICELESS TREASURE.
1. What it is. It is "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." It is the truth which Paul declared, the gospel which he preached, the mystery which he unfolded. The promise of free pardon for sin, of a new law and power for life, was what the apostles were privileged to convey to mankind. This is still, as it was then, the true wealth of the world, which enriches the mind and heart of man.
2. Upon whose authority this "treasure" is so described. This is the highest authority, that of the Divine Christ, who designates his gospel the "true riches," "the treasure hid in the field," "the pearl of great price;" who reminds us of "treasure in heaven;" who tells us that "where our treasure is, there will our heart be also;" who counsels to buy of him "gold tried in the furnace."
3. What makes this treasure so valuable? It is unvaryingly satisfying: it is inexhaustible; it is enduring, and not like the "riches that take to themselves wings;" it is accessible to all, so that the poor in this world, having it, are "rich in faith."
II. EARTHEN VESSEL.
1. Explain the figure. As Eastern kings stored their gold, silver, and jewels in earthen jars, so a plain casket may hold a costly jewel, a miry soil may yield an abundant crop, a battered ship may carry a precious freight, a lamp of clay may give a brilliant light, a mean book as to appearance may contain noble thoughts. So it is no objection against the gospel that those who preach it are in many respects unworthy of an office so dignified.
2. Exhibit its application. Christ was apparently a peasant, a carpenter's son; yet he was the Son of God most high. The apostles were fishermen, toll takers, tent makers; yet they were the heralds of salvation to mankind. The upper rooms where the early disciples met were not comparable to heathen temples, but they were scenes of Divine communion. Among those who frequented the assemblies where Christian ordinances were observed were not many noble or great, but there were inheritors of the kingdom of God. The apostle was deeply conscious of defects and weakness, was often distressed by humiliations and persecutions and contempt. His frail body, his fallible judgment, his imperfect character, his lowly and harassed condition, all contrasted with the preciousness of the gospel which was deposited in his heart and ministered by his labours. If it was so in the case of St. Paul, how much more manifestly was it so in the case of those tar less gifted and far more burdened with infirmity!
III. DIVINE GREATNESS. To what purpose was this arrangement which the apostle here describes? He himself gives the true reason.
1. That all Christian labourers may feel their littleness and their weakness.
2. That they may recognize the exceeding greatness of the spiritual power of God.
3. That they may give Heaven the glory, alike for what they receive and for what they impart. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.