Jars of Clay

7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

Who would ever think of placing their treasure in a clay jar—right? The valuable is far from safe and secure. There are no locks or securing devices for jars. The only protection afforded the treasure is the secrecy of concealment—not a comfortable scenario for something of worth. The possibility of losing cherished items increases exponentially under such arrangements. Yet, Paul indicates that is exactly what God has done. He has placed a treasure—His treasure—inside jars of clay. Think for a moment at the extent of what seems to be a total absurdity.

The New American Standard translates the phrase, “jars of clay” as “earthen vessels.” Back in the day, the Greeks used this word as a metaphor for the human body. This seems to be the context the Apostle Paul is using. The word “earthen” in this case is the suggestion of frailty and weakness. The idea is that jars of clay are easily smashed and broken into pieces whether by intent or accident, thus exposing contents to dangerous elements. The illustration is a perfect example of the human body. There is nothing enduring or lasting about it. The slightest attack can end its existence in a moment of time.

And yet we discover that God has remarkably decided to place His treasure within the container of the human frame. In fact, we read in John’s gospel¹ of Jesus saying the Spirit of Truth resides within these jars of clay. While we might not consider it the safest of locations for valuables, God has deemed the redeemed so important that He’s entrusted His great Treasure inside vulnerable human earthen vessels. It is that treasure of the Holy Spirit that transforms a life. The Spirit of Truth is the One who gives the earthen vessel the power for nobility and holy expression—purity. Paul is very careful to let us see that any transformation and work of God in his life was by the surpassing power belonging to God alone—the One residing currently inside of him.

The little word “surpassing” in the Greek language means “beyond all measure.” The idea is that within the limited, vulnerable container—the jar of clay—is a power beyond all measure. One of the ways the Greek lexicon defines this power is “excellence of soul.” Within each earthen vessel lies the potential of a transformation so radical it can take the lowest of internal human conditions (sinners) and create incredible value and worth. No one is beyond the power of the Holy Spirit working in the life. His transforming ability is all-inclusive to all who obey Him.

So, next time when you see a typical jar of clay, think about the treasure that lies within the earthen vessel that is your body and give God a glory for what He has done with you and through you.

J. Robert Hanson

¹ John 14:17 “even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

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