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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                               Sermon # 1225

August 23, 2015                                                                                 2 Corinthians 4:1-10

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“The Power of God”

 

 

1.The Treasure

 

I’ve always had a fascination with sunken treasure.  There is something about shipwrecks from centuries ago that make that kind of find all the more spectacular.  Maybe it is just the era of ships that sailed around the world to bring treasures to nations and royalty.  Maybe it is the romanticized time of pirates and probably why Pirates of the Caribbean was such a popular movie series for Disney.  One of my favorite stories is The Count of Monte Cristo when the ordinary guy is sent to prison under false pretense and when he escapes he find the treasure of Monte Cristo and seeks revenge against those who had him sent to prison.  It has all the elements of the excitement of treasures: a good story, a map, chests under water, and massive amounts of treasure. 

            We have been entrusted with a great treasure, but one unlike any treasure the world could ever offer.  It has little value by the world’s standards.  Paul writes about this treasure in 2 Corinthians 4:7,

 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 

 

Let’s look at what he has said prior to this verse to what this treasure is.

 

a.Gospel Ministry

 

Look with me again at the beginning of the chapter. 

 

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

 

We have a ministry (verse 1) that includes the gospel (verse 3,4).  This gospel is hidden to those whom God has blinded.  It is, in this manner, like a sunken treasure hidden from sight.  God has blinded those who are perishing.  But we do not know who those folks are so our responsibility is to participate in the gospel ministry by telling the good news to all who will listen. 

 

 

b.Proclamation of Good News

The second point in this section is to proclaim the good news.  See verse 5-6,

 

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

            We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.  The name is Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, the anointed one of God.  It is the name that offends so many people today.  It is the name that is rejected by those who are blinded to the truth.  It is the name we carry as identification of who we are as Christians.  It used to be the name that was accepted throughout our society, but now the tide has shifted and the mention of Jesus in the public square is offensive.  Now, to follow Jesus means we might confront the civil rights of someone who finds our religious liberty offensive and even criminal to their rights.  But we have no choice at this point!  This light of the gospel has shone in our hearts.  It is who we are and can no more be oppressed than breathing.  The Lord has placed in our hearts the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

 

c.Light of Knowledge

 

Look at verse 6, we have the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  The treasure is deep within and at the center of our being.  That is why the people who are now faced with losing their livelihood of making cakes or taking photographs will continue to do so without compromising their faith.  They cannot do nothing else.  The light of knowledge runs deep.  It is what will keep us true to God if we ever face similar situations. 

 

This is our treasure: the gospel ministry, the proclamation of the gospel, and the light of knowledge, which is the gospel.  The treasure we have so deep in ourselves is the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

 

 

2.The Vessel

 

What is so amazing about this gospel is how God has buried this treasure.  Sunken treasures of gold and silver were obviously held on fragile vessels back in the day!  The treasure we carry today is not held in a ship or in a bank vault, but in jars of clay.

 

a.Jars of Clay

 

I want you to consider taking all your most valuable possessions and place them in clay pots for safe keeping.  Now if someone suggested that to you, what might you think?  Clay pots are fragile vessels.  They are subject to cracking if bumped or dropped to hit with a harder object.  We might admire clay pots but we are unlikely to place our treasures in them for safe keeping.

 

 

b.Physical Bodies

We might first consider our physical bodies as jars of clay.  Paul describes how our bodies are so fragile.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 

            Paul knew better than most how much the body could endure.  He had health issues, at least one that he called a thorn in his side.  He had been jailed, beaten, and in life threatening situations for the sake of the gospel. 

            We know that our bodies are not the best place to put a treasure, and yet this is how God has chosen to do it.  When you think about it, that is how God works in the world.  The sent only son in a vulnerable way as a baby and now he implants the gospel in our vulnerable bodies. 

 

c.Broken Nature

 

The other way we might consider jars of clay is in our nature, the spiritual “body”.  Paul also considers this nature in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians.

 

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…1 Cor. 1:26-28

 

            God works through our weakness.  God works through our broken nature.  God’s power works its wonders through the broken nature of human existence, jars of clay through which God works a purpose.

 

3.The Purpose

 

Why has God entrusted us with the treasure of the gospel of Jesus Christ? 

 

a.To Proclaim the Message

 

First, it is to be proclaimed to the nations.  That means we are called to proclaim the message to people.  As we heard earlier the message is Jesus Christ.  The hope is Jesus Christ.  The salvation is Jesus Christ. 

 

b.Faithfulness

 

The second purpose is faith.  We display faith in the life of adversity.  We look again at verses 8-10.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 

 

            I believe these verses are a picture of faithfulness.  We see afflictions today, things that perplex, hostilities, and opposition, but in every instance that we might experience, we are not crushed or forsaken or destroyed.  It takes a fair amount of faith to trust that God will protect and sustain us through all our troubles.  But he will, precisely because we are carrying the great treasure of Christ crucified and resurrected. 

 

c.To Glorify God

 

In the end it is all about God.  Everything is about God and not about us.  Everything is in God’s hands, not ours.  Everything belongs to God, not to us. Power is God’s, not ours.  The ultimate purpose of having the treasure of the gospel within us is to display the power of God.  The first question of the old catechism is about our purpose which is to enjoy God and glorify him forever.  Paul’s letters to the Corinthians deal with a lot of subjects, but from what we have seen in this small segment, and from one more verse in the first letter, it is about God’s power and glory.  In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul concludes a discussion on food with a statement about all that we do.

 

 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

 

It’s all about God’s power and glory.  We are the vessels God uses to display his power.  The good news for us is that God knows we are jars of clay, broken and weak, so that God is the only one who can enable us to fulfill his purpose.  Our purpose, God’s purpose through us, is to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  Let us give thanks that all belongs to God, the power, the glory, and the honor, and that he works his purposes through his own jars of clay.

 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.