Earthen Vessels
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.…


1. Not angels or other celestial beings. Not heavenly vessels, but earthly.

2. Men.

(1) Frail;

(2) imperfect;

(3) lowly;

(4) weak;

(5) unimposing.


1. They are thus preserved. "He had in his right hand seven stars" (Revelation 1:16). Often they seem in peril. "Pressed on every side... perplexed... pursued... smitten down" (vers. 8, 9); but the vessel is not allowed to be broken until it has done its work.

2. They are thus useful.

(1) They are in the Divine hand to be filled.

(2) They are in the Divine hand to be poured forth from.

(3) They are in the Divine hand sometimes to be shaken, and the shaking of the vessel often makes the contents more efficacious.

III. A GREAT TREASURE IS COMMITTED TO THE EARTHEN VESSELS. The treasure is the truth as it is in Jesus - the great gospel message. Christ's ministers are vessels to hold this treasure and to dispense it to those to whom they minister.

1. Ministers have not to originate what they convey. It is given to them by their Master. The vessel is filled by a Divine hand from a Divine source.

2. Ministers have not to convey themselves to their people. The people do not want the vessel, but its contents. "We preach not ourselves" (ver. 5). An earthen vessel is poor food for folks to live upon, and poor medicine for a sin-sick soul to be cured with. The "vessel" must be "the servant" (ver. 5). Even an alabaster box may well be broken that the precious ointment may be poured forth.

3. The contents are apt to taste of the vessel. This must be avoided as much as possible. The less of ourselves and the more of Christ that we convey to men the better. The contents must change the vessel, not the vessel the contents. The preacher must be Christ's as well as his message. "We also believe, and therefore speak" (ver. 13).

IV. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE EARTHEN VESSELS AND THEIR CONTENTS. A treasure; and what a treasure! For it how long the world has been waiting! What marvels it has to work! What wonders it has wrought! And committed to "earthen vessels"! No royal vessels for this royal gift. What honour to the vessels chosen! A minister of Jesus Christ! - how poor all other titles are compared with this!


1. The uninterrupted working of the Divine power. An "earthen vessel" can do nothing but receive and pour forth. What egregious folly for a minister of Christ to seek to enter into partnership with his Lord for the production of a theology! The earthen vessel cannot do anything, and should not attempt to.

2. The glory of the Divine Being. No glory can attach to the mere earthen vessel. God is "all in all." This should be the desire of every servant of God. Many, it is to be feared, are robbers of God in this matter. They snatch at the glory to which they have not the smallest claim.

VI. THE FUTURE OF THE EARTHEN VESSELS. They will be raised up (ver. 14).

1. Made glorious. "This mortal must put on immortality." "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Corinthians 15:49). The "vile body" will be exchanged for a "glorious body." We shall be made like Christ. The earthen vessels will be transformed into the likeness of him who filled them. The change is taking place whilst the earthen vessels are in the earthly service. "Though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day" (ver. 16). But when we see him as he is we shall be like him.

2. Fitted for higher service. Heavenly activities. We know not how closely associated the earthly service is with the heavenly, how much the one may depend upon the other, how much the one will influence and shape the other. Let us make the earthly service as true and perfect as we may. - H.

Parallel Verses
KJV: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

WEB: But we have this treasure in clay vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves.

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