But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Somewhere in a box around our house, tucked away in safety and protection, is a small pottery bowl. This masterful creation was either an art assignment completed in Mrs. Camp’s 4th grade class at Stilwell Elementary School, or an even earlier effort during my time in Cub Scouts. The bowl has a white ceramic glaze with a diamond design etched into its misshapen sides in blue and brown. The small attempt at some artistic flair has survived these 40 years because, for most of that time, it has been carefully packed away, out of sight. Eventually, however, from time or mishandling this “earthen vessel” will be broken and thrown away.
Paul makes additional references in the following verses to this ‘object’ described as an earthen vessel: body (v. 10), mortal flesh (v. 11), outward man (v. 16), and earthly house (5:1). In each of these identifications, the temporal nature of “earthen vessels” is being stressed.
- “body” is dying
- “flesh” is mortal
- “outward man” is perishing
- “earthly house” is dissolving
“I’ve read enough,” you say? “This is discouraging; I didn’t need this,” you think? Not hardly! Paul offers a number of encouragements that are only possible because of the fact that “the things that are seen are temporal” (4:18). I draw your attention to only one: “excellency”!
For those of us who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin, these “earthen vessels,” our bodies, are housing a “treasure” on display which is nothing less than the very glory of God…His image! But why? Do we not normally expect to see items of value on full display in an equally appropriate surrounding, for all to see? If my little pottery bowl from 4th grade were really a work of art of some real worth, would it be packed away, hidden from view?
In the case of our “earthen vessels,” the Scripture could not be more clear in providing the answer: “…that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
God has chosen to put His glory on display, as we own the ministry to which we have been called to preach Christ Jesus the Lord! In so doing, we are blessed…no, abundantly blessed…to be the “earthen vessels” in which the glory of God is on display! In this way, God shows His power in us and through us.
My ever increasing experiences as a Christian clearly remind me of how weak and frail we are. Even during times of continuing blessings in the ministry at NBBC, there are always just enough reminders of our weakness to keep us humble and dependent. When prone to discouragement because of the decaying nature of our “earthen vessels,” we can be reminded that this temporal condition is being used by God to make Himself known, and “worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”!
Be encouraged! No matter what the struggle or hardship, an obedient child of God, can be assured that God desires to use our “earthen vessels” to display nothing less than His own glory!
I realize that you too may have evidence of some early efforts with pottery. Very likely, your ceramic bowl is much better and nicer than mine. Regardless, someday, these little poorly made pottery bowls will crumble…and that will be final. But those trusting in Christ are assured that when these “earthen vessels” crumble, it is not final! This earthly display of God’s glory will be gone, but we have a new one waiting, permanent, “eternal in the heavens”!