2 Corinthians 4:7-18

In the early part of 2 Corinthians, the “we” and the “our” he uses refers to himself and his apostolic team. By chapter 5, those same words refer to “all” believers. The shift takes place within our passage in verse 16. But, since the theme of “glory in earthen vessels” carries through from verse 7 through 18, I don’t think Paul would object if we acknowledge the process and rich content described in verses 7-11 as applicable to ourselves. However, after you read it, you may prefer to pass.

For God who said, “light shall shine out of darkness”, is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Cor 4:6

The next verse reveals a core truth about God’s sovereign plan of revealing this light of His glory in the context of a dark world. I believe it is also a truth that distinguishes Christianity as unique among the world’s religions.

But we have this treasure in earthen (seemingly ordinary) vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.

What “treasure” is Paul referring to? I believe 1 Corinthians 3:16 answers this question.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

God’s plan of revealing Himself to the world after His ascension involved you and I. The Light of the World is His Spirit and He resides in us. So, what is it that releases this light? What is it that is going to “produce for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison“? Here is the rough news, it may require some “momentary light affliction“. You may be asking, “How light?”. Paul’s response,

We are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down and our outer man is decaying.

It would be natural to ask, “How could these circumstances (which register as negatives) possibly produce any light? Where is the victory in this negative testimony?” If Paul has any credibility with you, listen to his answer;

(Even though) we are afflicted in every way, we are not crushed. Even though we are perplexed, we aren’t despairing about it. Even though we are persecuted, we are not forsaken. Even though we are struck down we are not destroyed. And, even though our bodies are deteriorating, our spirits are being renewed every day.

Paul goes on to explain some of the mystery of suffering that may have even been part of what perplexed him;

We are always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life (light) of Jesus also may be manifested in our body, for we are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life (light) of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal bodies.

It is as though Paul knows this is going to be tough to understand, so he goes on to explain;

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

As best as I can understand Paul, it is our responses to life’s challenging circumstances that are (at least at times) going to produce the light that shines out of darkness and gives God glory. While it may not be in keeping with western culture’s personal success gospel, scripture makes a case that God is glorified as much (if not more) through endurance as He is through deliverance.

Knowing now what will likely be involved in glorifying the Lord and becoming the light of the world, do you prefer to pass or are you still attracted to that eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison?

Father, each of us has circumstances that are less than ideal. You know better than we that some of them are heartbreaking. As to the “why” behind our circumstances, we are perplexed and even knocked down. Help us to see, like Paul, with an eternal perspective, so that we may reckon our afflictions (whatever they are) as light and momentary in view of the reward. Help us to focus on those eternal things that cannot be seen. Help us to shine in the midst of our particular darkness. May our lives provide the surprising  context for Your incomparable and compelling glory. Amen.

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