A Message Worth Everything: Dying So That Others May Live - 2 Corinthians 4:7-15
As Paul writes to the Corinthians one thing that he wants to make clear is the infinite worth of the message of salvation. In 2 Corinthians 4:7 he refers to the Gospel as the treasure of God. It’s a treasure of immeasurable value, and yet it’s a treasure that God has placed into jars of clay.
It’s vivid picture. Jars of clay in Paul’s time were cheap, unimpressive, temporary containers. They weren’t made to be attractive or strong. And yet this is what Paul calls Christians, jars of clay. God places within us the beautiful, priceless message of salvation. And He uses us, in all of our mess and in all of our weakness, to proclaim Him.
As Christians we should be overwhelmed that God has chosen to use us to share His message with the world. Paul certainly considered it a high calling (2 Corinthians 4:1-6). But what Paul also makes clear is that as jars of clay, God’s power is revealed in our weakness. Paul was one of the greatest missionaries of all time, but his life and his ministry were marked by suffering and pain (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).
That said, through all of his suffering Paul was sure of this: God is faithful and He will use our suffering and sacrifices for His sake, as a means of showing His power and reaching others with the truth.
While our nature is to be discouraged by opposition and suffering, we should consider all that God can accomplish as we suffer for His sake.
In Our Suffering God Shows His Sustaining Power (4:7-9)
In verses 8-9 Paul makes two things clear: the depth of his suffering and the never failing power of God. While he was often pushed to the edge, God never failed him. God’s power is sufficient for any trial.
- Afflicted but not Crushed – The word translated ‘affliction’ refers to being under pressure. Paul knew what it was like to be under great pressure. He says in 1 Corinthians 1:8-9a that he was so burdened that he despaired of life. But even still, he wasn’t crushed. Through it all he had hope in the God who raises the dead (1 Corinthians 1:9b-10).
- Perplexed, but not driven to Despair – Paul uses a wordplay in the original language to express this: He is at a loss, but not a complete loss. He is stressed, but not stressed out. While the opposition, betrayals and persecution are hard to understand, he doesn’t despair and he doesn’t lose hope (2 Corinthians 6:4-10).
- Persecuted but not Forsaken – The word translated persecutedhas the connotation of being pursued or hunted. Paul certainly knew what it was like to be sought. He was often beaten and imprisoned, but in it all he knew that God never abandoned him. He was never alone.
- Struck Down but not Destroyed -Being struck downis a fighting term. Paul says, I have been beaten, I have been put on my back, but I’ve not been overcome. He was down but not out. God’s always sustained him.
- Summary– These four contrasting pairs work together to make this point: Paul’s suffering was intense and significant, but God was always faithful. In Paul’s weakness God showed His strength and His power (2 Corinthians 4:7, 12:8-10).
In Our Suffering God Reveals Jesus and His Saving Work to the World (4:10-12)
- The New Testament and Jesus Himself are clear about this: to follow Christ involves suffering (John 15:20; Matthew 16:24-25). Just as Jesus gave His life, those who follow Him will be called to give their lives.
- While Paul saw himself as entering into the suffering and death of Christ, he was sure of this: God intended to reveal Jesus and proclaim the message of salvation through his suffering. To follow the picture, through death (Paul’s suffering) the message of life in Christ is made known (Colossians 1:24-25; Philippians 2:17-18).
- Application: As we give our lives to the spread of the Gospel the reality is that we will face difficulties. We may suffer rejection, abandonment or even physical pain. But we can share in Paul’s hope, that God uses our suffering as a means of making His power and salvation known.
In Our Suffering God Can Grow Our Confidence in Him and Our Hope of Eternal Salvation (for us and others) (4:13-15)
- In Psalm 116 the psalmist declares his trust in God even in suffering. In verse 13 Paul identifies with the Psalmist. It’s because of his faith in God amid affliction that he speaks with confidence. He is sure that the God who raised Jesus will also raise him and all those who believe. This is the message of hope that he speaks with boldness (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
- Paul gave his life to proclaiming the message of salvation. He suffered more than most can imagine, but he did it all for the sake of others and for the glory of God. Through it all Paul never lost heart because he recognized that eternal things are what matter most (4:16-18).