THE TREASURE IN EARTHEN VESSELS
2 Corinthians 4:5-10 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
The light of the gospel of Christ is not hidden from anyone that seeks it with an open and receptive heart. It is hidden only to those whose minds have been blinded by Satan - those that place worldly gain over spiritual wealth. With the coming of Christ, and the establishment of His church, the light of (His) ...glorious gospel shines on all that are willing to hear it, accept it, and obey it's teaching (See preceding verses 3 & 4). Paul says this of the ministry to which he and his fellow servants of God were called: for we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord. To preach yourself, is to preach your own doctrine - one that is different from that of God through Jesus Christ. To preach yourself, is intended to bring glory and worldly gain to yourself, rather than God. When Paul referred to "our gospel" in verse 3, above, he did not mean that he originated it. Rather, God committed the gospel of Christ to him to be preached to others. The gospel was that of God; Paul was merely its steward, God's ambassador, or a servant for Jesus sake.
The same God that, in the beginning of time, commanded the light to shine out of darkness, had enlightened the minds of Paul, and his fellow ministers, with the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The often-used phrase, "to see the light," means to gain knowledge and understanding - to be enlightened. As an example, Paul "saw the light" on the road to Damascus. He physically saw the glorious light of the Savior, but he also was given complete understanding of God's will through the spiritual light of knowledge that shined through Christ. Once blinded by his spiritual ignorance, Paul, after his conversion, saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Paul follows this teaching by saying, but we have this treasure, that is, we have been entrusted with the gospel of Christ, which is the treasure. Paul was instructed to take this treasure, the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, and preach it throughout the world, to both Jews and Gentiles. God placed this trust in the apostles of Christ, including Paul, as well as in other inspired disciples of Christ. These preachers God selected for this purpose - they became His chosen vessels. Although the Holy Spirit of God inspired them, yet they were all human beings - they were earthen vessels of God. This, the greatest treasure on earth, that is the hope of eternal life, was entrusted to theseearthen vessels to carry out God's will - to bring to all mankind the hope of salvation, which was planned before the beginning of time. How incredible this seems to be to the human mind, yet it was all part of God's plan.
It was evident that these first-century preachers of the gospel of Christ were all human beings. That being true, why should mankind believe that it was the word of God that they taught? The power to do so, was of God, and not of us. Indeed the word of God was preached with the power of God. It was confirmed to be of God by miracles, which could not possibly be performed by mere human beings. Speaking in unlearned tongues, casting out demons, healing the sick, and raising the dead. The power of God supported and proved the message they brought to the world, came directly from the will of God, and not the will of man. Through weak and feeble earthen vessels, the power of God proclaimed and confirmed His plan of eternal salvation.
Paul reveals the physical nature of these earthen vessels in verses 8 and 9. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. The power of God was again demonstrated by allowing His ministers for Christ to withstand persecution and dangers that mortal beings could not possibly endure. Although they all eventually succumbed to human death, yet they were protected and preserved until their mission was completed. This treasure of God, the greatest gift of all, the gospel of Christ, He placed in the hands of earthen vessels - inspired preachers in the first century, as well as in knowledgeable and faithful preachers of His inspired word today.