Earthen Vessels

Pastor Jim Garlick

More than Conquerors– 2nd Cor 4:6 - 11

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2nd Cor 4: 7

We have this treasure in an earthen vessel, describes to us the Christian believer, we are not earthen vessels only, nor treasure, but a two-fold person, fully human with all that means but holding within us a treasure, something given to us by God.

Paul tells us what this treasure is in vs. 6 “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”.

It is something beyond theory and above purely intellectual knowledge, it is revealed knowledge about Jesus Christ…It is along the same lines as Peter when Jesus asked “Who do men say that I am?” and he answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” all Christianity is built upon this confession, it is a God given revelation, not just facts about Jesus, not just a belief in a historical man, but a revelation of the light of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

This is the rock upon which Jesus builds his church and we are living stones built together upon that rock into a habitation of the Spirit.

The church is not just some religious club for a bunch of “goody goodies”, it is a company of people who have had their eyes opened to recognize, to adore, to follow Jesus Christ, it is a company of sons who have had a revelation, beyond “what eyes can see and ears can hear, but God has revealed to them who love Him.” For natural man does not understand the things of God.

There is nothing that you and I can do to build us into His church, no methods built on outer knowledge, but an inner knowledge can bring this about.

“This is life eternal, that they should know you the only true God and him who you sent, even Jesus Christ” John 17:3. Our spirit is the where our “knower” is.

We explain what we know through reasoning area of the soul, what we know in our spirit by revelation from God. “But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit”.

This is the treasure – that Christ has been revealed to us and we have seen Him, and that we know that he by the Holy Spirit has made his home in us… “Therefore to you who believe He is precious” 1st Peter 2:7

There is nothing that can replace Him “Where else can we go for he has the words of life?” John 6:67-69

NIV puts our text this way… "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us". 2nd Cor 4:7

Earthen vessels, another way of putting it is; “ordinary people”. MSG Bible unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.”

So much teaching in the church has taught us to despise our naturalness but our naturalness is who we are and it can manifest either the works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit, the earthen vessel is who we are…So we are not one of those churches who preach steps on how to improve yourself, (positive thinking) nor are we saying we deny ourselves at the expense of doing nothing.

The primary problem of man is selfishness manifested as sin, and this self life must embrace the Cross and come under its dominion, so that our naturalness begins to express a new self, called Christ "it’s no longer I that lives, but Christ”.

The Christian is the living letter of Christ, spontaneously allowing Jesus to function and express His character in whatever role or capacity we find ourselves, whether as husband or wife, employer or employee, leader or follower, etc, naturally supernatural.

When we are born again, we become new creations in Christ, birthed sons and daughters, God has seeded himself in us, but Christ is yet to be formed we still need our minds renewed and our thought life changed, “be transformed by the renewing of your minds”.

Feelings are part of our natural make up, suppressing feelings is not spiritual but denying our earthen vessel the ability to be human, its artificial, pretentious and false humility.

Here is the glory of Christianity is that God’s treasure can be manifest in people who are naturally weak or very gifted, some have no confidence others are over confident, but God can still shine forth in any vessel. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Some of us are impulsive or impatient, while others are much disciplined and stoic, whatever the person the precious treasure within can still break forth.

“commending ourselves to every man’s conscience”. 2nd Cor 4:1-2

Paul again gives us an important verse in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The "I can do" (the earthen vessel) and the treasure within "through Christ" This partnership means, “I am the instrument, He is the power.” (II Corinthians 3:5)

The "I can" depends on the "Christ in me", but also the "Christ in me" depends on my participation with the one who lives in me. Didn’t he promise "I am with you always, even to the end of the age?"

All the great men and women of scripture were weak, but did great things for God, out their weakness were made strong.

Paul in this 2nd letter to the Corinthians reveals to us his humanity more than in any other, we learn more about the man in this letter.

What is our standard for a good man; by what measure do we use to say that person is a good Christian? Maybe Paul in this letter will shatter those ideas.

“We despaired of life”. Ch 1:8 Could the great Paul think he wasn’t going to make it, that even he despaired? “Weighed down beyond measure…”

"For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears;" 2nd Cor 2:4 Could the great Paul shed many tears?

“I had no rest in my spirit” (No relief) Ch 2:13. In Ch 4:8 he said he was “perplexed”, in 6:10 “Sorrowful”

Can it be that the same person who called us more than conquerors in Christ, is the great Paul? Yes, and it is fact that Paul was a man, not another angelic being incapable of human feeling; he is not remote from you and I. In Paul we meet another earthen vessel.

2ndCor 6:4-10 (Vs 1 workers together with him) here is the whole story behind the man bearing in his body (the earthen vessel) the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the life of Jesus (the treasure) may be manifested in his mortal everyday life.

This is a description of what it means to be a Christian, to incompatibles dwelling together, human weakness inhabited by the power of God, not all treasure and no vessel, nor all vessel and no God.

How can the power of God be manifested in weak human vessels with so many contrary feelings and weaknesses, by Christianity that’s how, for Christianity is not the removal of the weakness, nor is it the manifestation of power apart from us, but it is the power of God in the presence of human weakness, “that the excellency of the power maybe of God and not of us”.

Faith doesn’t mean the absence of doubt, but overcoming the doubts, faith crosses the bridge into the invisible, the unknowable, the impossible, and it does not mean we will not have doubts or make mistakes. Faith is a positive in amongst negatives. The seeds of faith maybe in a vessel surrounded by doubt, but that does not nullify the treasure, but rather allows it to shine forth even greater, and I’m not encouraging doubt, but sometimes while still feeling unsure we take steps of faith. Christianity is faith triumphing in the presence of doubt.

The Lord instructed Joshua to place the priests at the front and as soon as their foot touched the river, they walked across on dry land. I wonder who was at the front that day. Boldness in faith is made by stepping into the river of God’s promises and believing in the impossible despite your own human weakness and doubts.

Thanks be to God that despite all of our short comings he can still use us.

Exodus Ch. 3:11 “And Moses said unto God, “Who am I?”

Ch. 4:1 “Moses answered, “What if” they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you'"

The problem with Moses is the problem of all of us, to fully believe in and trust God’s word. “I will be with you”, we would think that this would be enough to quench his lack of trust, yet this wasn’t the case. But with each doubting statement comes another fresh outpouring of grace.

Vs. 10 “And Moses said unto the Lord, 'Oh my Lord I am not eloquent, I am slow of tongue and slow of speech'”. We have had “who am I” and “What if”.

Now we have “I am not” and still we see the infinite patience of God and grace endowed again. “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say”.Vs.11-12

Our natural lives are valuable, but our spiritual lives are indispensable.”

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and NOT OF US." 2nd Cor. 4:7

Vs.12 The maker of Moses’ mouth promised to fill it with his words and wisdom, yet unbelief and mistrust could only place more trust in an ability to speak, rather than in the one who created it. God is ever ready to assist those who by genuine humility lack confidence and trust; he is ready to lift us up by his grace and teach us his ways

On the other hand God has little grace for false humility, of unbelief through pride.

Vs. 13-14 “The anger of the Lord was kindled” (inflamed). Moses has passed the level of mere weakness, by refusing to occupy the position God had assigned him. We have so many who are saved by grace apart from works, yet this false humility has them on a works merry go round, busily trying to make themselves worthy to God.

This is a stench in the nostrils of God, it is saying the blood is not enough, and the cross was only a job half-done. They would rather presume that God’s redeeming atonement is not finished.

Others will not believe “that if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” but they must somehow alleviate their sins by doing more for God. It is a sought of purging through activity, but its false humility.

“God takes the simple and foolish things of the world to confound the wise”. God uses the ordinary that by faith do the extraordinary and mighty things.

Actions of faith are not always without the use of one’s mind, but faith is always beyond our abilities otherwise its not faith.

Faith stakes it all on Christ regardless of feelings or evidences, when we are in dry times, when its hard to pray, when our hearts seem cold and fruit is little or none at all, when we can’t read the Bible or have little interest in it.

Faith is not what I feel about Christ or things, what I know or don’t know. It is settled in the fact that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and along with Paul, we can say, “and the life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son God, who loves me and gave himself for me” Gal. 2:20.

The testimony of Moses is not the mistake he made in killing the Egyptian, but his faith. The testimony of David is not his adultery and murder but that deep down he was a man after God’s heart.

Christianity is not to camouflage the vessel so as to be uncaring and without feelings, but let the earthen vessel by seen with all its naturalness with the treasure inside, the greater one! True spirituality is to care, but to also let the Cross of Christ deal with the things in our life that stand in the way of his will and purpose. Flesh is not converted; it has to learn to submit to the Spirit. If we are continually looking within ourselves and finding reasons not to trust and believe, always confessing reasons why we cannot take steps of faith, we make God a liar, because we would rather believe in our inabilities than in the power of God.

True spirituality is not pulling ourselves up by our boot straps and human persistence, no! It is in the midst of weakness being carried by another, despite the feelings of pain or distressing circumstances.

The difference between us and the unsaved is that we have the treasure and they don’t.

Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; you are a vessel connected to the divine power of God. “No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of God’.

This is Christianity. With eyes sometimes full of tears we keep holding onto the plough. “We are more than conquerors.” 2nd Cor. 4: Vs’s 7-8

Pastor Jim Garlick

River City Christian Church - Hobart - Tasmania - Australia