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2 Corinthians 4:7-12 – Treasure in Clay Jars

Summary

Paul marvels that his own frail human body and afflicted life are the means by which God shares the news of God's glorious self-revelation in Jesus Christ.

Analysis

More than in any other correspondence we have from Paul, in 2 Corinthians we receive detail of Paul's persecutions and troubles. Here Paul speaks eloquently of the trouble he experiences. He concludes that these troubles are a participation in the death of Jesus, "so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies" (2 Corinthians 4:10).

Paul is drawing a contrast between the knowledge of the glory of God present in Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 4:6) and the medium through which God has chosen to spread that knowledge and experience of glory. Christ is the human face of God, glorious and yet accessible to our unveiled faces. Ironically, God is making this news known through a life like Paul's.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote that "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are" (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). The point here is similar. In a cultural context where strength, beauty, prosperity, and wisdom were thought to be evidence of God's presence and blessing, Paul proclaims that God is working in precisely the opposite way. This theme of God's power made perfect in weakness runs throughout 2 Corinthians as Paul tries to defend his ministry against that of the apparently more vibrant super-apostles.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12

7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.

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10 February 2011

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