Sermon on 2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Text: For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 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.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’” (Luke 2:9,10) In this way, the birth of Jesus Christ was announced to the world by the angels. When they saw God’s plan of salvation finally put in motion, they felt obligated to tell someone else. We can understand that feeling. When something wonderful happens to us, we can’t wait to tell others. We like to tell others good news. This morning, the Apostle Paul speaks about good news that he was privileged to share with others. He preached THE GOOD NEWS OF CHRIST. It is 1. A Light Piercing The Darkness and 2. A Treasure In Jars Of Clay.
Paul begins by saying, “we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.” Apparently, there were some in Corinth who doubted Paul’s words. They said that Paul wasn’t telling the whole truth. They said that he was distorting God’s Word for his own advantage. Perhaps, they thought of him as one of many fly-by-night philosophers who had come to Corinth.
In the words of our text, Paul defends his teachings. He tells the Corinthians that he was not teaching his own ideas. He had taught them correctly about all the Jesus had done for them. As proof, he says in verse 6, “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.” With these words, Paul tells the Corinthians to look at their faith. The same God, who created physical light on the first day of creation, has also created spiritual light in their hearts. Since faith had been created in their hearts, Paul must have been presenting the pure spiritual truths. The Holy Spirit worked through the message of Paul to illuminate their hearts.
We, also, have experienced a similar illumination. God has pierced our darkness with the light of the Gospel. That light was Jesus Christ who came to this earth to suffer and die in our place. All of our many sins were forgiven because of what Jesus has done for us. Now he comes to us and shows us the way out of this darkness into his glorious light. The Holy Spirit creates the faith in our hearts, which follows that light. The Holy Spirit works through the washing of Baptism to illuminate our sin-darkened hearts. Because of the faith that is ours, we are released from our darkness and can now walk in faith.
Please, take note of where this light, this faith comes from. It is not our decision, as if we, all of a sudden, brought ourselves to faith. Rather, that faith must be created in us. The Holy Spirit must, first, create that faith before we can follow the light, which leads us from darkness into light.
How do we know if we have faith, if we have been enlightened? None of us can look into the hearts of others to see. Rather, we know we have come to faith when we confess Jesus Christ is our Savior. We, also, show our faith by the way that we live our lives. Our lives reflect the light of Jesus, as the moon reflects the light of the sun. The Good News of Jesus has pierced our darkness, and now we reflect that light to others. This gift of light has been given to us free of charge. Not that it is a cheap gift, however. It cost Jesus his life. However, it is free because it is God’s gift to us. The light of the Good News, the Gospel, is a very special gift.
If we have something valuable, we usually try to protect it. You might get a safety deposit box to put your valuables and important papers in. Rather than keeping our money in our homes, we usually put it in a bank, where it will be kept safe. When we have something precious, we do our best to keep it secure.
Yet, listen to Paul in verse 7, “we have this treasure in jars of clay.” We have a treasure. This is another way that Paul describes the faith that we have. It is a most precious treasure. Only by believing in Jesus as our only hope for salvation can we hope to enter heaven. It is a most precious treasure, which is ours only by the grace of God.
Yet, look where this treasure is stored! It is in “jars of clay.” Paul is referring to our weak, frail bodies. Adam was created from the dust of the earth on the sixth day of creation. As his children, we also have this jar of clay. We are jars of clay housing a very valuable treasure. Let’s take a few moments and reflect on the fact that we are but “jars of clay.”
On the one hand, it keeps us from finding pride in ourselves. It would be, as if we were saying, ‘I must be something special. Look at me and all that I have accomplished. God has to give me salvation, because I am so good.’ Paul reminds us that we are nothing but “jars of clay.” Clay jars are fragile and weak. Look at our bodies as we grow older. Think about the times that we get sick. If the jar were firm in and of itself, it would deserve some of the credit. However, the vessel is weak, making it apparent that the strength has to come from some place else. It isn’t the jar itself that is valuable, but the treasure inside that makes that jar valuable.
It is, also, helpful for us to remind ourselves that we are but jars of clay, because it helps us grow confident in our day-to-day lives. As we said before, these clay jars are fragile, yet we continue to live on this earth. We continue to house the precious treasure of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God shows his love for us by keeping us. God looks out for us and has all things in hand for our benefit.
The fact that we are still preserved is evidence of God’s mighty power. Paul says, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Paul realized his weakness. Later in this epistle, Paul speaks of having a “thorn in the flesh.” We don’t know exactly what Paul was referring to, except that it was some sort of physical difficulty. Paul tells us that he pleaded with the Lord three times to take this away from him. God’s answer was this, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Lest we rely on ourselves, God has placed this treasure in jars of clay. He wants us to rely on him for strength and protection.
Paul also shows evidence of God’s power to protect. He says in verses 8&9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Paul reminds us that the life of a Christian is not always an easy one. The devil is going to do his level best to make life miserable for the Christian, in the hope that the Christian will despair and leave the faith. Yet, God has promised to be with us and protect his people. You might think of it as a boxing match. We are in the ring against a formidable opponent. He may get in a few punches in that send us reeling. We may even get knocked down a time or two. However, although we may be down, we are never down and out. With God’s help, we get back up again and fight. God promises that we will be victorious. A victor’s crown is waiting for us. On our own, we would be smashed like little pieces of pottery. However, with God on our side, we will be strong, because we have a treasure that cannot be taken away from us. That treasure is our faith through which we receive the blessings of the redemption that was won by Jesus Christ.
This treasure is ours by God’s grace. We have a light that leads us all the way to heaven. Through our contact with God’s Word, may we strengthen our hold on this treasure. May none of us extinguish the light of our lives by deeds of darkness. May we be eager to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others. Although we are but jars of clay, we have this confidence. God, who has been with us in the past, is with us today and will be with us forever. Amen.
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