2 Corinthians Chapters 3 & 4 Treasure in Jars of Clay
In chapter 3 of this letter Paul is comparing the old covenant with the new covenant, and drawing out many amazing truths about the new covenant and how it affects the lives of the people who comprise this church. In verses 1 – 3 Paul lays out his qualification to be able to talk to them as he does. Does he need a letter of commendation to be accepted? In the church which I was brought up in they had such a practice. When I left home to go to college, the elders gave me a letter of commendation to give to the elders of the church I would attend when I got there. Paul does not need such a letter for the church in Corinth! He was instrumental in planting the church, and had written a previous letter to them. He says “You are our letter … written not with ink … not on tablets of stone … but on the heart.” Paul to them was a minister of a New Covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (v 6).
Paul goes on to speak about the glory of the old and new covenants. The old covenant was glorious, which was demonstrated by the fact that when Moses came down from the mount his face was so bright that he had to cover it to protect the eyes of the children of Israel! But the old covenant is passing away, and the new one is much more glorious! The Jewish leaders have a covering over their minds and hearts when they are reading the Old Testament. They cannot recognise Christ in the Old Testament. They are blinded. That covering can only be removed in Christ. When one turns to the Lord the covering is removed! They can experience freedom! “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (v 17). They can then look at the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, and as they do so, they will be “changed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of God” (v 18). How amazing!
In chapter 4 Paul tells them who it is that has blinded the eyes of those who have not turned to the Lord. It is the god of this age (verse 4), to prevent the light of the gospel shining on them. Verse 6 says “For it is the God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
But this amazing treasure which God has made available to us is in ‘jars of clay,’ our fragile human bodies. This is to show that “the excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us” (v 7). Paul then describes what he goes through – hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. He carries the ‘dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be shown and demonstrated in his body’ (v 11). Paul went through all this on behalf of the church. He even said “death is working in us, but life in you” (v 12). Are we prepared to do this for the good of our fellow believers? Paul knows that “He who raised up Jesus will also raise him up with Jesus” (v 14).
But Paul says “We do not lose heart. Even though our outer man is perishing, our inner man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (vs 16 – 18).
When I read these things, I feel that I have only just started. What an example Paul was!