Treasure In Earthen Vessels

March 5, 2015

                          Treasure In Earthen Vessels

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.   We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;    Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;    Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.    For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (II Corinthians 4:7-11).

The Apostle Paul was a gifted writer.  He knew how to get his message across by combining words that leave an image in the mind.  “Treasure in earthen vessels” is an example of his way with words.

From the context, it is obvious that the treasure is the gospel.  The earthly vessels are our bodies.  It is easy for us to overlook the value of the treasure we have in the gospel.  In the years 1750 – 1775 there was a group of believers in Europe who were called the Moravians.  They were suffering persecution and didn’t have liberty to preach the gospel freely.  Several of them worked as business men selling jewelry.  They would go from door to door selling jewelry.  After showing their merchandise, they would say, “I also have a precious pearl.” With that, they told them about Jesus Christ.  In Matthew 13:45 Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is “like a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls.”

The gospel is a treasure of great value because of what it cost God to make it possible.  I Peter 1:18-19 puts a price on it. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;    But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  Jesus Christ had to abandon the comforts of his throne and home in heaven and spend 33 years as a human being here on earth.  Since we have no comprehension of the comforts of heaven, we can’t imagine the extent of the sacrifice Christ made for our salvation.  Once I heard a preacher use the following illustration that helped me understand what Christ sacrificed when he became a man and came to earth.  He said, “Suppose you find some ants digging a hole.  You know that there is a slab of cement about 6 inches under the ground where they are digging and they won’t be able to go any farther.  How are you going to get word to them about the futility of what they are doing?  The only way would be for you to become an ant and go down and tell them.  That’s what Jesus did when he left heaven and came to earth.”

Another reason why the gospel is a treasure of great value is because of the transformation that it is capable of making in a sinner’s life.  II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins”  Romans 8:21 speaks of the glorious liberty that the children of God enjoy.  “Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” We go from being “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3) to being “sons of  God” (John 1:12).

A third reason why the gospel is a treasure of great value is because of the glorious future it makes possible for those who accept it.  In the midst of the hardships we sometimes suffer in this life, it is a great consolation to know that we have a great hope laid up for us in heaven.  Colossians 1:5 says, “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.”  Jesus is building a home for us there.  John 14:1-3 says, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.    In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.   And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” In heaven we will have a quality of life that not even the most fortunate in this life have experienced.

In spite of the great treasure there is in the gospel, God has left the responsibility of proclaiming it to fallible human beings in a body of flesh and bones.  It is like putting one million dollar bills in a plain paper sack.  God is glorified by manifesting his power in enabling us to be used of him to make this glorious message known.

Our earthly vessels are fragile.  We tire and need rest.  We can injure ourselves and need healing.  We can get sick and need recovery.  We need to be prudent in taking care of our bodies, because they are instruments that God wants to use.

Jesus himself said that the flesh is weak.  “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).  It takes self-discipline to get our bodies to do what we know we should.  The Apostle Paul said “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (I Corinthians 9:27).

Another thing about our bodies is that they have a short life span.  I Peter 1:24 says, “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.”  For that reason, we need to do what II Timothy 2:2 says.  “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”  We need help.    If we do as this verse says, after we are gone to heaven, we will leave others behind doing what we can no longer do.

We should be overwhelmed by the realization that God has entrusted to us a treasure of such great value.  If we surrender our lives to him, he can and will use us in spite of the fact that we find ourselves in earthen vessels.  We have little to offer, but it is said, “Little is much when God is in it.”

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