“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we 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. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”(2 Corinthians 4:1-7).
A little bit of background: Paul and Timothy co-authored this letter to the Corinthians, who lived in Corinth. They had helped start a church there and wrote this letter to them to encourage and challenge them. This young church in Corinth was having issues, as all new churches have, and they were wanting to help them out.
Before we dig into to this passage, I want to point out something really important. When you see “therefore” you have to find out what it’s THEREFORE. This is a valuable tip in practical reading of the Bible and will help us understand the passage as a whole. So, let’s look a few verses before this passage we just read.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplatethe Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”(2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
Paul was referring to the Old Testament, specifically in the book of Exodus.
“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him” (Exodus 34:29-35).
Moses wore the veil because the light of His face was so bright because He had met with God. But in verse 18 in 2 Corinthians 3, it says we have unveiled faces, so we get to shine God’s glory to others as we look more and more like Jesus every day.
Paul was encouraging the believers in Corinth not to lose heart. He was saying “don’t give up!” We are being transformed by Jesus and get to reflect His glory. This baby church might’ve been going through tough times, and Paul knew that. He wanted them to remember the privilege it is to shine the light of Christ to others, even when they reject you.
That’s why he goes on and encourages them even more. In verse two he says that the church is teaching truth, the gospel, plainly and everyone has a chance to believe.In verses three and four he explains to them that even if people don’t believe-it’s not your fault. You’re teaching truth and they have chosen to reject it so they are perishing. Don’t lose heart. Satan (the god of this age) has blinded them. It’s not your light that is blinding them. Keep shining. Paul was encouraging them because some people were rejecting the gospel and the believers were sad and discouraged. In verses five and six, Paul says keep on preaching Jesus because that is the truth, the light, the gospel.
Sometimes we are in the same place that the new church was in. We preach the gospel to our friends, but they don’t listen, and you feel like it’s your fault. But don’t lose heart! Keep sharing the light of the Gospel with them. And if you aren’t sharing the gospel and a believer of Jesus, then are you the one being blinded by the enemy? Turn to the gospel and friends who are preaching the gospel to you.
And if that’s not enough encouragement, Paul goes on…
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:17).
- What is the treasure he’s talking about? THE GOSPEL
- What is the jar of clay? US
So we, jars of clay, have this treasure, the gospel, inside of us. We’re holding the treasure. But if Paul is calling us jars of clay, we need to understand what a jar of clay is. What are characteristics of clay jars?
- Plain and simple. Paul’s saying, don’t dress up the gospel or yourself. You are just a clay jar and that’s all you’ll ever be. It’s not about you. It’s about the gospel inside of you. So, quit trying to make yourself look good. You’re a plain clay jar.
- Expendable. Or easily replaced. Paul is saying it doesn’t all depend on you! Jesus is the one who saves people, not you. So, quit worrying that you’re going to mess it up. The sovereign God is holding it all together.
- Fragile. Or easily breakable. And we are, aren’t we? We are broken by our sin, other’s sin, terrible circumstances, death of family members, and natural disasters. That’s not how God intended the world to be, but sin entered when Adam and Eve sinned. However, God had a plan, and He wants to use the brokenness for His glory.
When we get cracked from hurt, pain, and trials, don’t try to cover them up. When people see the cracks and that we’re not perfect, they will question who/what holds us together. God does. When a jar breaks and is held together by glue, we don’t praise the jar. We praise the glue! When people see who holds us together, that’s who they’ll praise.
But there’s an even bigger purpose here than that. Look at what Paul says in verse seven: to show that the power that we’re holding [the light, the gospel]is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:7b).
Paul is saying, I know you’re teaching truth and you feel like people are being blinded by your brokenness. But they’re not. Your brokenness is useful because it allows for the light of the gospel to shine through.
Are you being useful in that? I’m not saying you need to walk about talking about how terrible your life it but giving God glory for holding you together and allowing the light to shine through. Without the gospel, brokenness isn’t useful. In fact, it’s not wanted at all. No one wants to be broken, but we all are. Jeremiah 2:13 portrays this perfectly:
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
When we try to do this life on our own with our brokenness, we will be like a cracked cistern. Cisterns were created to hold water in dry regions of the world. A cracked cistern means that all of the water would come out! That is not useful or effective!! But when we’re holding light, our brokenness is effective to make the Gospel known. Why? Because it shows God’s power in our lives even though we are broken.
God wants to use us. That’s why He has this plan and made us this way He tells us to go. Go where people need to hear and let the light of the gospel shine through your brokenness when you speak. That could be across the cafeteria, the workplace, or across the world.
But guess what? We’re disobedient. Sometimes we refuse to go across the ocean or across the classroom/Locker room because we’re afraid of others’ seeing our brokenness. But God wants to use us even though He doesn’t need us. He wants to use us that even in our disobedience He brings people who need to hear to us and gives us the opportunity to share with them. God cares about people coming to know Him and He wants to use people who have come to know Him through the brokenness to make Himself known.
If we want to fulfill our purpose, we must go. We must share the gospel through our brokenness and use it to show the light of the gospel to others.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
Are you feeling crushed/in despair/destroyed/abandoned? I don’t mean pressured/perplexed/persecuted/struck down. All believers will feel those things at some point if we’re doing our job of sharing the gospel.
But do you feel like you are broken, and your brokenness has no purpose and it’s not useful? Does brokenness define you? If so, take heart and come to Jesus. Talk to someone about starting a relationship with Him so your pain and trials can have purpose. Enter into a relationship with Him and He will use your brokenness for His glory and your good.
If you are currently a believer/clay jar, but trying to cover up your brokenness, remember what you’re holding. You have the gospel. Your brokenness will help make the gospel known. That light inside of you is what defines you, and your purpose is to carry it so that Jesus may be revealed. Pray that God can show you how to use your brokenness to communicate the light of the gospel.
Three Questions to Think About:
- What defines you? The light of the gospel or your brokenness?
- Are you allowing God to use your brokenness or are you pretending to be all put together?
- Are you fulfilling your purpose and sharing the gospel?