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"For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves."



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Earthen Vessels:


by Timothy Cross 

In 1947, an Arab shepherd boy casually threw a stone into a cave by the shore of the Dead Sea. On investigating the sound of the shattered pottery that the stone made, he realised that the cave contained a collection of clay pots. Further investigation revealed that the pots contained ancient scrolls. These scrolls became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were a priceless discovery, and they confirmed the accuracy of the text of the Bible. The complete scroll of the prophecy of Isaiah unearthed there at the Dead Sea is the oldest copy of the Scriptures in existence. No price can be put upon it. Talk about treasure in earthen pots!

Precious Treasure

 In 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul writes this about the treasure of the Gospel. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.

 Precious Treasure in Earthen Vessels

 The Gospel certainly is a priceless, precious treasure, for the Gospel is centred on the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19), shed for the forgiveness of sins at Calvary’s cross. Saving faith in Christ enables us to possess personally the wonderful treasure of the Gospel of salvation. Faith enables us to possess Christ and all His benefits, and make them our own. Faith makes us rich with the eternal riches that cannot ever be taken away from us. Yet, says Paul we have this treasure in earthen vessels, for the joys of salvation notwithstanding, we are still human and so subject to all the frailties of human nature - illness, injury, hurt, depression, disappointment and everything else which is part and parcel of ‘life in the body.’ It is only in the age to come, says Paul, that we will exchange these bodies of ours - earthen vessels - for something less fragile. Philippians 3:21 tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ . . . Will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself. At the moment though we have this treasure in earthen vessels. The picture highlights our weakness and frailty to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are weak, but He is mighty. He is the Creator, and we are His creatures. He is the King, and we are His subjects, totally dependant upon Him for everything, for In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Jesus told His disciples - and by implication, us - that apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

            A Christian then, paradoxically, is a curious mixture of both the earthly and the heavenly, living in this world but with an eye to the next. Human, of course, yet an object of the grace of God in Jesus Christ - vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:23).

Vessels of Salvation and Service

 According to the Bible, vessels of salvation are also required to be vessels of service. The pots - ourselves - are not to be ornamental only, but they are to be used in God’s service and purpose. The jars of the Dead Sea concealed their precious treasure for thousands of years. The Christian however is required to reveal and share the treasure of the Gospel. The Christian Faith is an evangelistic Faith. The Christian enjoys his spiritual treasures for sure, but he does not seek to hoard them. Rather he seeks to share them with all who will receive them too.

Utility Pots

 In Paul’s second letter to young Timothy, he takes up the imagery we are considering in this way:- In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for noble use, some for ignoble. If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work (2 Timothy 2:20,21). Oh then to be useable, useful and used by the Master! We may put ourselves at His disposal to be used - or laid aside - as He sees fit. We are required, says Paul, to do all that we can to be useable, that is, by His grace to purify ourselves and remove any impediments which may hinder our usefulness in God’s service. Salvation always leads to service. Growing in service is part of the process of sanctification - ‘the work of God’s Spirit whereby we are renewed in the inner man after the image of God and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness’ (Shorter Catechism).

Vessels of Mercy

 A Christian may be described as ‘a vessel of mercy.’ We have treasure in an earthen vessel. God has chosen us and saved us, and He is shaping us for better things. He is the Potter, we are the clay. To get us into better shape may require pummelling, chiselling and painful moulding. It may even require a fiery trial in the oven of testing. But we can be sure that the all-wise, all-loving heavenly Potter knows what is best. He will surely fulfil His purpose for us, so that we will appear finally in His display room, not just as a vessel of mercy, but as a vessel of glory. I am sure that He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

            Treasure in earthen vessels . . . Every Christian should treat his fellow believers with care and respect. We are the objects of the blessing of Almighty God - yet we are also frail, and sometimes easily damaged. We are more dependant upon God and one another than perhaps we would readily admit. Treasure in earthen vessels - so HANDLE WITH SUPREME CARE!

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