Digging Deeper Days
7 Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; 9 we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. 10 We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed in our body. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that Jesus’s life may also be displayed in our mortal flesh. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak. 14 For we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you. 15 Indeed, everything is for your benefit so that, as grace extends through more and more people, it may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
1) Who are “we” and “you” in 2 Corinthians 4:7-18?
As readers, we need to understand who the speaker (author) is, as well as who the original intended audience is for any passage of Scripture. In the case of 2 Corinthians, the author and speaker Paul references is himself along with the other apostles who are noted as “we,” whereas “you” are the Corinthian recipients. According to Acts 18, Paul lived and preached among the people of this prosperous port city for 18 months. However, Paul did not fit into what the Corinthians viewed as the epitome of a religious leader. After all, clever, powerful orators from around the Roman Empire, who taught an ancient type of prosperity gospel about wealth and social advancement, traveled to Corinth to sell their world view (ESV Study Bible). In contrast, Paul and the apostles refused to “market the word of God for profit like so many”. (2 Corinthians 2:17) They “renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth.” (2 Corinthians 4:2) Therefore, Paul seeks to emphasize how he and his fellow apostles lived out the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, they suffer in the body and preach the gospel “for your benefit” so God’s grace will be extended to the Corinthians. (2 Corinthians 4:15)
2) What is the meaning of “treasure in clay jars” in verse 7?
While the word “treasure” may first suggest material wealth, Paul is using this term in the spiritual sense, as Jesus Christ did. Our Savior warned His followers from putting too much stock in material things, but to instead “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20) Later in Matthew 13:44, Jesus states, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.” In both instances, Jesus Christ preaches a radical message that differs from the Corinthians’ understanding of glory and success. By subtly pointing His original audience to the words of Jesus Christ, Paul is reminding them their Savior’s ministry was never about power and wealth. To be sure, spiritual treasure is “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) Indeed, treasures in heaven, the kingdom of God, and God’s glory are found in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Thus, Paul and the apostles emulate Jesus Christ precisely because they willingly suffer for the sake of the gospel. “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.” (verses 8-9) At the same time, Paul reminds his audience that any bodily suffering is only temporary. “In ancient times, sacred scrolls or valuable documents were rolled up and placed inside a jar of clay and then hidden for safe keeping…Pottery jars could be beautiful or purely functional, but they had one thing in common: they were breakable…”. (gotquestions.org) Just like ancient jars of clay, “Our bodies are temporary housing places for the treasure God has given us”. (gotquestions.org) Paul marvels that God uses fallible, mortal creatures to do His work.
3) How is “death” compared to “life” in these verses 10-12?
On first reading, Paul’s statement, “We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed in our body” seems contradictory. (verse 10) How can someone display the death of Jesus and the life of Jesus in their physical body at the same time? To understand what Paul meant by “death of Jesus,” it helps to define this phrase as the nature of Jesus Christ’s physical death. That is, our servant king Jesus Christ, the Son of God, endured physical suffering on the cross so the Corinthians, and all who accept Him, would enjoy eternal life. (1 Peter 2:24, Hebrews 12:2, 1 Peter 3:18, Philippians 2:7-8) Thus, Paul was reflecting the nature of Jesus Christ’s death to the church as he writes in his letter to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, that is, the church. I have become its servant, according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known.” (Colossians 1:24-25) Even though suffering will be part of the Christian’s life, Jesus Christ promises us an abundant, full life. Not only does Christ describe Himself as the true source of life (John 14:6, John 10:10, John 6:48), but Paul explains that Jesus’ life (i.e., the gospel message) is displayed in the apostles’ flesh so the Corinthians may come to know Him (verse 11). In the end, Paul trusts God will complete His work among the Corinthians, and many will come to follow Him. (verse 14)
1) Who are “we” and “you in 2 Corinthians 4:7-18?
This passage demonstrates that human nature has not changed in two thousand years. Like the Corinthians, we like what is bright, shiny, and new in our social media feeds. If Paul was alive today, I am not sure he would have garnered much of a social media following. By his admission, he was not a gifted public speaker; he humbled himself, and worked hard to cover his own expenses. (2 Corinthians 11:5-9) Indeed, Paul does not seem to be the type who would have marketed himself with pretty Instagram posts or by using hashtags like #livingmybestlife or #coffeeandjesus. Even though Paul’s form of ministry did not always resonate with his original audience, he still pursued the Corinthians because the good news of Jesus Christ was more important than his pride. As he writes later in this letter, “But I will continue to do what I am doing, in order to deny an opportunity to those who want to be regarded as our equals in what they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) Rather than being followers of the latest trends of our culture, let us be seekers of truth, which comes from the reading and doing of God’s word.
2) What is the meaning of “treasure in clay jars” in verse 7?
When I was dating my now-husband, Patrick, he started calling me “Skat” after our relationship became serious. I had never heard that term before, so one day I asked him what it meant. Patrick smiled at me and said, “It means ‘treasure’ in Danish.” Growing up in Denmark, Patrick often heard “Skat” used as a term of endearment. By using that phrase for me, he was turning to his mother tongue to signify how much he valued me. I was not just any woman, but I was his precious possession and future wife. As much as Patrick continues to love, value, and respect me, Paul reminds us that “treasure” can also have a more profound, more beautiful spiritual connotation. In his Notes on the Bible, Albert Barnes points out that the treasure spoken of in 2 Corinthians 4:7 has “unspeakable value.” Indeed, “it had been so entrusted to [the apostles] as to show the power of God in its propagation; that it had showed its value in sustaining them in their many trials; and “they” had showed their sense of its worth by being willing to endure all kinds of trial in order to make it everywhere known.” (biblehub.com) In the same way, God calls us to be teachers of the gospel today, whether that is to our friends, family, or co-workers. We do need to be special to do this good work. Certainly, Paul alludes to Psalm 115:1 and Psalm 116:11 to show there is a simple way to be a faithful witness of the gospel, “we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak.” (verse 13) Whether we are enjoying prosperity or facing persecution, we speak the truth in faith and trust the work of the Holy Spirit with the results. (John 14:26)
3) How is “death” compared to “life” in these verses 10-12?
Paul preaches a profound message in this passage. Because of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we can endure our temporary earthly sufferings and look to the beauty of eternity. Yet, is it that simple? Are we not allowed to be sad when a parent dies or angry when a friend wanders from the faith or when we doubt God’s goodness during physical illness? Of course, we will still feel grief over loss, but Paul’s central takeaway is that through death comes life. Even when “our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.” (verse 16) In other words, God uses our doubt, pain, and suffering to make us increasingly like His Son. Faith is not trusting what we can physically see, but instead trusting in the unseen work of the Holy Spirit, who transforms us into new creatures. (verses 17-18) Biblical commentator Matthew Henry puts it this way, “The prospect of eternal life and happiness was their support and comfort. What sense was there to pronounce heavy and long, grievous and tedious, faith perceived to be light and short, and but for a moment. The weight of all temporal afflictions was lightness itself, while the glory to come was a substance, weighty, and lasting beyond description. If the apostle could call his heavy and long-continued trials light, and but for a moment, what must our trifling difficulties be! Faith enables to make this right judgment of things.” (biblehub.com) Thus, we cultivate real spiritual insight not from looking to the world around us, but evaluating our circumstances as a drop in the bucket compared to the “eternal weight of glory.” (verse 17)
Digging Deeper is for Everyone!
1) Take this passage (or any other passage).
2) Read it, and the verses around it,
3) Write down your questions
as you think of them.
4) Ask specific culture related questions and be ready to dig around for your answers. Google them, use www.studylight.org, or look them up in a study Bible and read the footnotes (click on the little letters next to a word and it will show you
other related verses!). (www.esvbible.org)
5) Check your applications with other trusted Christians that you are in community with and embrace the fullness of God
in your everyday!
Why Dig Deeper?
Finding the original meaning is a huge deal when we study Scripture and can make all the difference in our understanding as we apply God’s truths to our everyday lives.
In our modern-day relationships, we want people to understand our original intention as we communicate; how much more so between God and humanity?!
Here’s a little bit more on why we take Digging Deeper so seriously.
We love getting help while we study and www.studylight.org is one of many excellent resources, providing the original Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) with an English translation.
Want to know more about a specific word in a verse? Click on “Strong’s Interlinear Bible” then click the word you’d like to study. Discover “origin”, “definition” and hear the original pronunciation – That Is Awesome!
Want more background? Click “Study Tools”, then pick a few commentaries to read their scholarly approach, keeping in mind that just because a commentary says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. (just like the internet :-))
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