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CLAY JARS CONTAINING THE TREASUR

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작성자 최고관리자 작성일15-12-29 22:31 조회867회 댓글0건

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<2 Corinthians 4: 7-9>

 

 In today’s scripture, Paul is defending his apostleship.  Corinthians believed that in order to become an apostle to spread the gospel, one must have extraordinary abilities. 


 They thought that an apostle should be apart from ordinary people whether it is through appearance, speaking abilities, or an ability to perform miracles. 


 To these Corinthians, Paul argues that when an apostle is powerless, he can attest God’s true power.  He is speaking of the paradox stating that God’s power advents not when we are strong but when we are weak.


  Regarding ‘apostleship,’ Paul stresses three absolutes: 1) Humans are fragile creatures, like clay jars, 2) But in these fragile bowls are treasures called ‘gospel,’ and 3) Therefore, no external shock can completely destroy these jars.  Let’s take a look at these three absolutes that Paul talks about.


 First, Paul is contrasting God and humans through the expression ‘clay jars containing the treasure.’  Let’s compare the clay jar and the treasure in this expression.  People do not store valuable jewelry, like gold, silver, or diamond, in clay jars.  Clay jars, which are made from soil, are not too pleasing to look at.  They are also very crude.  Furthermore, they are fragile even a small impact can fracture or break these jars.  Therefore, no one stores valuables in these ugly, fragile jars.


 The ‘earthen vessels’ that Paul talks about is a jar that was used during sacrificial ceremonies in a temple.  If these vessels ever became tainted or contaminated, they were discarded immediately.  Clay jars were like paper plates and cups of today to be used once or twice, then thrown away.  They could not be recycled once they were broken and thrown away.  Containers made from aluminum or glass can be melted and reused once they are broken, but clay ones cannot be reused.  In short, clay jars were not recyclable.


 Through this expression ‘earthen vessels,’ Paul stresses man’s weakness.  In Genesis 2: 7, it is stated that God created man out of clay, or soil.  Prophet Isaiah explained the relationship between God and man as a relationship between a ‘potter’ one who makes clay pots and ‘clay.’  Because man was created from soil, it is natural for man to be returned to soil once he is dead.


  When Paul compared man to ‘clay,’ he is stressing the fact that man can be broken easily.  Because man’s body and soul are weak, man can easily fall.  Man can easily fall into temptation and sin.  Man cannot live thousands of years eventually, and not before long, man must die and be returned to the soil.


 One night, while driving, I saw a dying squirrel on the road that was just hit by a car.  The squirrel did not get completely run over; rather, he just barely hit by a car.  But he squirmed a bit, raised his head for the last time, and died rather quickly.  Although it was a death of an insignificant small animal, the image stayed in my mind for a long time.  Animals or humans, we are all very fragile and a mere small impact can easily fracture us and break us.


 But Paul is denouncing the belief that apostles should gloriously preach the gospel, like the image of gold or silver jars.  He argues that the school of thought which believe that only hard containers like those made from glass or metal bring about God’s power is wrong.  He believes that within the fragile jars made of clay can bring about God’s powers.


 This is all related to the crucifixion of Christ, the Son and Messiah of God who died powerlessly at the cross.  Jesus died on the most brutal execution equipment in the world, in a most gruesome and powerless manner.  But this cross became the true power of God.  The amazing power of God, which saved humans from sins and death, sprang forth from this cross.


 Second, the clay jar contains the treasure.  Clay jar, in itself, is a very weak container.  It can just as easily break in the next minute.  But within this jar is a true treasure.  The jar itself is weak, but once the treasure is placed inside it, it will no longer break.  There is power, which comes from the treasure.


 Paul explains this is in second half of verse 7 of today’s scripture.  The excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”  What does this mean?  There is a reason why God made man not from gold, silver, or iron but from clay.  He did so to ensure that man would depend on God and not rely on himself.


 Let’s think about this.  If man were not like clay jars, but a very strong being spiritually and mentally, then what would this world be like?  While we are mere clay beings, we still make nuclear weapons and clone humans.  If we were forged of stronger material, we would have erected a taller, more arrogant Babel tower.


 Why did God let Apostle Paul endure all those difficulties while he was preaching God’s words?  Why did God let Paul remain in that weak clay state while he was spreading the gospel?  Paul would have had much easier time had he had supernatural powers like God’s angels.  The reason lies in the fact that God does not want Paul to just rely on his own strength.  He did not want Paul to only trust his own abilities, but to rely on God’s powers.  That is why God left Paul as a clay jar rather than something stronger.


  We, as Christians, are no different from other people.  Just because we believe in Christ, it does not mean that we are immune from sickness or death.  Just because we believe in Christ, we are not all successful or wealthy.  Just because we go to church, it does not mean that we don’t succumb to the sword of tribulation.  We possess the same weakness as all the other people of this world.


  But there is one fundamental difference between Christians and non-Christians.  We are all weak beings clay jars that can easily be broken or shattered.  But we have the treasures while they do not.  We have a God while they do not.  We have a gospel while they do not.  We have faith while they do not.  Because of these treasures, we are different from them.  How are we different?


 Third, no matter how hard the external impact may be, we do not break completely.  Take a look at verses 8 and 9.  We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”  Through this passage, Paul is expressing all the weaknesses that he experienced while spreading the gospel as four difficulties.  But with the four weaknesses and tribulations, he is offsetting them with antonyms.


  In the first half of verse 8, he states, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed.”  In the NRSV version, it is stated, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.”  We can take this to mean that we are attacked and feel pain from every way, yet we do not break.  When he used this expression, it is said that Paul thought of a wrestling match.  No matter how hard a wrestler tries to suppress and pin his opponent, he cannot complete destroy his opponent.  To those who believe in Christ, no difficulties or tribulations can completely destroy them.


 Then, in second part of verse 8, it is stated, “we are perplexed, but not in despair.”  How may times do we get frustrated during the course of our lives?  How many times have our expectations been met with disappointments?  But those who believe in Christ do not despair.  Why?  Because we have the treasure called the power of God. 


 In first part of verse 9, it is stated, “persecuted, but not forsaken.”   We can be persecuted for believing in Christ, doing something righteous, or standing up for our beliefs.  But not matter how hard we are persecuted or even martyred God does not abandon us.


 Deuteronomy 31: 6 states, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord you God, He is the One who goes with you.  He will not leave you nor forsake you.”  God will not abandon those Christians who carry the treasure in their bosom.


 Lastly, take a look at the last part of verse 9.  Struck down, but not destroyed.”  When Paul used this phrase, it is said that he had a boxing match in mind.  A boxer can knock down his opponent several times though hard punches.  But the fallen opponent always gets up.  A boxer can knock down his opponent a number of times, but he cannot completely destroy him.  It is because those who believe in Christ have the treasures.


  A lawyer named Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888) lived in the 19th century.  He invested in the real estate market in Chicago and earned a lot of money.  But during the Great Fire of 1871 in Chicago, over 300 people died and over 100,000 people became homeless overnight.  Spafford too lost a lot of property and money because of the fire.  To make the matter worse, he lost is only son one of his five children to tuberculosis.  But Spafford did not despair; rather, he took the lead in helping those who lost their homes to the fire.


  About 2 years later, when some of that wound began to heal, the whole Spafford family decided to make a travel to England.  But something urgent came up and Spafford had to send his wife and four daughters to Europe first, aboard an ocean liner.  This liner, however, collided with another ship and several hundred people died.  Only 47 people survived.


 Spafford received a telegram from his wife, and the message only contained two words.  “Saved alone.”  Anna, Spafford’s wife survived alone their four daughters, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie, and Bessie all died during the accident.  Spafford immediately got on the next ship and went to the site of the accident.


 When he looked into the spot in the ocean where his wife pointed to as the place where his daughters died, Spafford could not stand the thought of his daughters dying painfully.  But in the midst of this unspeakable tragedy, God’s river-like peace miraculously seeped into Spafford’s heart.  He immediately went into his quarters and wrote a hymn.


 “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.  It is well with my soul.”  This is the verse to Hymn 470, which all of you know so well.


 Spafford did not crumble after losing his four daughters.  He did not despair.  He did not think that God betrayed him.  He did not believe that he was destroyed.  Through the ashes of sorrow, he rose again.  He had two more daughters, and moved to Jerusalem to live completely according to God’s will.  There, he did a lot of good work for many people, and died at the age of 60.


 Just because one believes in Christ, one is not perfect.  One does not become the golden dish.  Nor the silver dish.  Not even a steel dish.  One merely becomes a fragile clay dish.  But know that within this dish lie the treasures called faith and blessings, given to us by God.


 As long as we hold onto these treasures, we will not get crushed even though we may be afflicted from all sides!  We may get frustrated, but not despair!  We may be persecuted, but not forsaken!  We may be knocked down, but not destroyed!  Even though we are weak as a clay dish, do not forget the fact that we hold a great treasure within us. 


 Let us sing Hymn 470 while remembering Spafford’s story.

 

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