We turn now to the Word of God, and I invite you to open your Bible to the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians. It’s been our joy, through the years, to study the books of the New Testament in particular, as well as a number of Old Testament books, and we find ourselves in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church and the fourth chapter.
We’re working our way through this marvelous epistle, and we come to a paragraph that starts in verse 7 and runs through verse 15. It begins in verse 7 with these words, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” And so we’ve called this three-part series “Priceless Treasure in Clay Pots.”
When the inspired Old Testament prophet Jeremiah spoke of people in chapter 18, verses 3 through 6, he described them as clay pots. He said that they were common, cheap, breakable, and so forth, but could be used for honorable purposes. Clay pots was not only a designation that Jeremiah chose, but one which Isaiah selected as well in Isaiah 45 and verse 9, he said, ‘Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker – a clay pot among the clay pots of earth!” Both prophets were reminding us that we are merely clay pots. Nothing very glorious, nothing very magnificent. Our only value comes in what we can be used to accomplish, not in what we intrinsically are.
The apostle Paul also made a similar comparison in the ninth chapter of Romans, as he says in verses 20 and 21, “O man, who answers back to God? Thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?”
And again, the apostle Paul sees people as clay pots. They can be used for honorable purposes or dishonorable purposes, but again, their value is in their usefulness, not in their intrinsic worth. As men and women, we are cheap, and common, and breakable, and homely, and replaceable, and earthy like clay pots. Such a perspective, such an analogy, such an illustration does not elevate any intrinsic worth that may be in man because there really is nothing worthy in him in his fallen condition. Rather he becomes valuable because of what God can achieve through him when he is honorable and used for honorable purposes.
Even believers, those of us who have come to know Jesus Christ, are still clay pots. If we have new covenant faith, if we have the new covenant gospel, if we have the Word of God in us, we have the priceless treasure in clay pots.
It is by God’s mercy, Paul says in 1 Timothy chapter 1, that he was called to ministry. It is by God’s grace, because he was a blasphemer, and a murderer, and injurious, and the chief of sinners. And it is a testimony to the grace of God that He would take the chief of sinners, the foremost of sinners, and make him into the most useful clay pot. All the glory goes to God. In fact, the more valueless the jar, the more likely God is to get the glory for its usefulness.
Now, why is Paul discussing this in this text? Well, let me give you a little bit of background. I don’t want to spend too much time, because we’ve done this the last couple of times. But just to bring you up to speed, as Paul writes this letter to the Corinthians, he is being attacked. He is personally being assaulted with a wholesale character assassination, being done by some false apostles who have come into Corinth, in Paul’s absence, and endeavored to sway the people toward them so they could teach false doctrine.
In order to be believed, in order to become the gurus they want to become in that church, they have to, of course, eliminate the reigning teacher who is Paul. And so, they begin with an assassination of is character. They hit him on a number of fronts. They accuse him of having a secret, hidden life of iniquity and shame, which he denies earlier in this chapter. They accuse him of being a deceiver, someone who comes with deception, and who is really after their money or sexual favors from women; one who lies about his successes in the past, misreports his effect and his impact on other places. They say he comes without credentials; he has no papers; he doesn’t represent the proper elite structure of Jerusalem, etcetera, etcetera. They have assaulted him every way possible.
He writes this letter, in the main, to defend himself against those various assaults. And as we have noted in our study up to chapter 4, we’ve seen some specific answers to those very attacks.
But as we come to this section, he is addressing one particular part of their assault on him which I find to be most fascinating. They basically are saying about him that the reason so many people reject his preaching, and the reason he starts riots in towns wherever he goes, and the reason that there’re just a few people who believe, and the main group of people in every city and town reject, is because of his ineptness as a preacher, his lack of oratorical ability, and because of his very offensive persona.
They say, in fact, that he, in his person, is utterly unimpressive, and his speech is downright contemptible. He is nothing to look at. He lacks charm. He has no marketing savvy. He offends his audience. He is far too plain for Greeks who want something mystical. He is far too simple for Jews who want something ceremonial and Mosaic. He comes in with this preaching the cross, and Jesus is Lord, and it’s too plain; it offends everybody. He’s nothing to look at, and he’s certainly nothing to listen to. His weakness, his ineptness, his shortcomings, his physical deformities and frailties stand in the way of his impact. He is a weak, unimpressive, contemptible, inept preacher with all kinds of distractions, which may have included some kind of deformity of his face, related to his eyes, causing the Galatians to be willing to give their eyes to him if that were possible. Whatever it might be, he was such a distraction himself and such an offense in his person that people turned him off and therefore turned away from the message.
And then, when he continued to press the message with such importunity against their hearts, relentlessly hammering on the issues of the cross and repentance, he offended them to the degree where instead of being winsome, he became the object of their persecution.
Well, they lied about him on many fronts, but when they said he had a hidden life of shame, it was a lie. When they said that he was actually being imprisoned in various places because God was chastening for his secret sin, they lied. When they said he was a deceiver, they lied. When they said that he was an adulterator of the Word of God who corrupted the truth of Scripture for personal gain, they lied. But when they said he was weak and unimpressive, they told the truth. And that makes this such a unique passage because here he agrees with their assessment.
And then he turns the tables on them. “You’re right,” he says. “I am weak; I am unimpressive, and I have this treasure of new covenant truth in a clay pot - common, cheap, breakable, replaceable.”
They lied about him on a lot of issues, but when they said he was unimpressive, and he was weak, and he was inept, and he had certain foibles and frailties, they were exactly write. When they said he lacked human persona, presence, power, and oratorical ability, they were right.
But then the burden of proof is on them. You see, their argument was, “Paul is not the right guy to be presenting the gospel because of all these people who reject it. They’re rejecting it because of Paul.”
His answer is, “You’re right. I’m weak. Now you explain why so many people are being transformed. Let’s not look at the people who reject; let’s look at the transformed lives. Let’s look at churches all over Asia, all over the Gentile world. Let’s look at the power of God pouring through this weak and fragile clay pot, and you explain that.”
It was just that weakness that became strength. That’s what we said, didn’t we? Paul goes to God about those things that make him weak, and he pleads with the Lord to take them away, and the Lord said, “No, My power is perfected in” – what? – “weakness.”
And he concludes, “When I’m weak, then I’m strong.” His deformities, his shortcomings are, in fact, true, but they are the credentials of his authenticity, and they are the very keys to his remarkable power.
He’s a man who defies convention – even church convention today. He is a man who might not win the preaching award at the seminary because of his oratorical skill. But he was a man whose power and expression of power was unequaled in his time, and maybe in any time.
How so? Well, he answers it here in verses 7 through 15. Here is a defense against the assaults upon his person. He unfolds what really turns out to be a magnificent tribute to this man, and it unlocks for us the key to his power.
First of all – and we’ll review for a minute. We said the first thing that made him powerful was he was humble. Look at verse 7, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.” We went into great detail talking about that earthen vessel, didn’t we? W talked about the fact that clay pots were used to take out the filth, and the trash, and the garbage that came out of a home. They were used for very dishonorable purposes. He says, “That’s all I am; I’m a garbage pail. But that’s all right; I want the power to be evidently from God so that He can receive the glory.”
The key to his greatness was his humility. It’s always that way. God always pours out grace to the humble. His strength is always manifest when man runs to the limit of his own ability and is exhausted.
But secondly, we said he not only was a powerful man because he was humble, but because he was invincible. He was invincible.
You say, “Well, how can you be humble and invincible at the same time?”
Because when you get to the bottom of Paul, you hit God. When you’ve gone through Paul and hit rock bottom, you’ve just hit the rock of all the ages. When you come to the end of Paul, you come to God. And that is why, in verses 8 and 9, we saw that he could say, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” You can hammer on him, but eventually you’re hitting rock. And you can’t extinguish his life. You can’t destroy his courage. You can’t do away with his boldness. You can’t break his spirit. You can’t crush him.
He knew his human limitations better than his critics, and he would have agreed with all of their assessment of his weakness and could have given them an even longer list that he himself knew before God - like any of us can. The worst that our critics can say against us doesn’t approach the truth of our weakness. They were criticizing him because so many people rejected, and so many were offended to the degree of bitter hostility and persecution. He was making it difficult for the gospel, and they thought he ought to have a little more marketing savvy; ease off a little bit, find out what the marketplace wanted; give them something that was palatable; increase his oratorical efforts. So many things he did just turned people off. His message incited them. His person was unattractive. So, they went after him.
And then, when he continued to preach with persistence, they begin to become hostile toward him, his enemies did. They began to attack him with a venom and a vengeance that brought him next to death every day of his life. But that couldn’t break his spirit; that couldn’t take away his boldness; that couldn’t alter his message; that couldn’t touch his courage. Because when you get to the bottom of Paul, you find God. You hit rock.
He had learned not to lean on his own understanding. He had learned to acknowledge God. And the burden was now on the critics. You explain the invincibility of this man. You explain how this man can take this endless barrage, and his life is still monumentally powerful. You explain that.
Thirdly, we said that nother mark of his power was he was sacrificial. In verse 10, he says he was “always carrying about in his body the dying of Jesus.” In verse 11, he says, “We who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake.” That’s not something mystical. He’s not talking about some deeper life principle here. He is saying this, “Every day I stand on the brink of being killed.” That’s what he’s saying. There’s nothing mystical about this. This is exactly what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 16:24, when He said, “If you want to come after Me, you’re going to have to deny yourself and pick up your cross.”
In other words, you’re going to face the reality of death. And for Paul, this was an everyday occurrence, as we pointed out in our last message. I mean it just was that way every day. He would wake up every day and face the reality that it might be his last day. And we remember the litany of things that he went through in 2 Corinthians chapter 11 as he listed all of the things that he had suffered short of death. Ah, the man was sacrificial.
You say, “Why was he willing to bear in his body the dying of Jesus. Why was he willing to be delivered over to death every day? He says it in verse 10, “In order that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our body.” Verse 11, again, “That the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” Because when my life is completely abandoned, and when my life is on the block, and when I am suffering immensely and living on the edge of death, you’re going to see the power of Christ in me.
It wasn’t Paul that they really hated; it was Christ that they hated. They couldn’t get at Christ, so they got at Paul. And all it did was manifest the life of Christ. The more they hit Paul, the more Christ manifested His life through Paul. The more they persecuted him, the sweeter was the life of Christ in him, the more gracious he became, the more merciful he became, the more kind he became, the more effective he became, the more Christlike he became. He was powerful because he was humble, invincible, and sacrificial.
Now let’s pick it up at verse 12. He was humble because he sought to be fruitful. He was noble as a servant of Christ. He was powerful. He was self-sacrificial because he lived for the fruit of his ministry. And this really summarizes Paul, verse 12, “So death works in us, but life in you.”
Now, he’s not talking about himself manifesting the life of Christ, as he did in verses 10 and 11; he’s talking about them. He says, “This is it.” Here’s another of several paradoxes that we’ve gone through in verses 8, 9, 10, and 11. Death works in us. And he indicated what that death was, as I read you in verses 10 and 11 - the facing of death every single day. Every day he wakes up could be the day he dies. That’s the price of his ministry. That’s what it could cost him. But that’s all right, because death working in him has a purpose. He will put his life on the line to bring the message of life to you.
He said the same thing, really, in Colossians chapter 1, verse 24 – used different words, but said the same thing – “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.” In other words, there’s no – and you need to mark this out, there’s no gain for the sufferer in suffering for himself. In other words, this is not some martyr complex. He’s not imagining that somehow there’s merit in his pain. Oh, there was a refining work that God was doing in his life, and there was a work of releasing the life of Christ through him, but he didn’t seek suffering; he wasn’t a self-flagellator. The reason he suffered was not so he could have a personal gain; the reason he suffered was to bring the message of Christ to the lost and to build up the Church.
So, it says in Colossians 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.” I’m not looking at myself; I’m not trying to achieve some spiritual goal in my own life by pain. This happens because I pursue the fruit of ministry. I’m glad to fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body the Church.
In 2 Timothy, in chapter 2 and verse 10, we find a very similar testimony, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are elect.” I endure everything for the elect’s sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” I’m not suffering for myself. This isn’t some masochistic idea that somehow I’m going to gain merit by my pain. I am suffering for you. Now, there is real selflessness - I’m suffering for you. This is the price that it takes to get you the gospel in this pagan culture. This is the price it takes get you the gospel in this Jewish synagogue. The price might be my life, but if that’s the price, that’s the price.
In Philippians again, he makes evident the same testimony, in verse 17, “I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, and I rejoice.” I rejoice to give my life for your faith, to bring the gospel to the elect.
So, the man – the man was a powerful man. The man was effective because he was absolutely unconcerned with himself. He was expendable. He saw that his duty in life and his joy in life was to bring life to others through the gospel. “So death works in us, but life works in you.” I may be dying physically, but you’re coming to life spiritually.
He told the Romans – he said, “Whoever believes is going to be saved. But how are they going to hear it without a preacher. And how are they going to preach unless sent? I have to go. In 1 Corinthians 9:16, he says, “Woe is unto me if I preach not.” In Romans 1, he said, “I’m ready; I’m eager. Turn me loose.” Because he was committed to the fruitfulness of ministry. He was willing to take up his cross. He understood what was at stake. He understood that there was no easy way to do that. There’s no clever way to avoid hostility. Oh, it may not be in every culture; it certainly isn’t in ours that somebody’s going to kill you for preaching Christ. But there will be a negative reaction. I mean that is basically inevitable. Somebody is going to turn against you if you’re bold in Christ. And if you’re trying to figure out a way not to be bold in Christ, and not to speak the truth so it’s not offensive, you have probably prostituted the message.
Paul says, “I have the suffering, and that’s my joy. So, you can have the benefit. I’m disposable. I’m a clay pot. They break all the time, and God’s got a lot of them in His shelf. It doesn’t really matter, for to me live is Christ, to die is gain. Frankly, you’re nice, but I’d rather be with Him if given the choice.”
Have they forgotten this in Corinth? Have they forgotten what should grip their hearts that the suffering of this man was not because he was homely, or because he lacked communication skill, or because he was frank and bold, or because he lacked marketing savvy? Have they forgotten that the reason this man suffered so immensely was so that they could be saved? And they who had been saved by the preaching of his gospel, had they forgotten. Boy, how fickle people are.
He put his life on the line every day to preach the gospel to them. They believed and were saved, and now they are defecting away from him. That’s a pretty short memory. You think of him, as he comes to the end of his life, and he says, “All who are in Asia have forsaken me.” It’s unthinkable. It’s unthinkable. And in effect, he’s saying to Timothy, “Please don’t you do it. Demas did it. Everybody else did it, but the house of Onesiphorus; please don’t you do it. At my first offense, no one stood with me. No one. But the Lord stood with me, and he delivered me out of the mouths of the lions.”
Here was the man who gave his life to bring them the gospel. They took the gospel, believed, and were saved, and then defected from the proper respect and love for the man. They are the proof of the validity of his dying. They shouldn’t be wondering about his suffering. This is the price to bring them life. They were the living because of his dying.
Philip Edgcumbe Hughes writes, “It is the unconquerable life of the risen Jesus within that enables his servants willingly and perpetually to be handed over to death for His sake, in order that the same life of Christ may be kindled in the hearts of others, enabling them in turn to win others.”
This is the chain of faith unbroken through the ages. God takes the weak, and the despised, and the persecuted, and the nothings, and the nobodies, and the not many mighty, and the not many noble, and the base, and the common folks who are losing their lives, who are giving their lives away, and He makes them powerful. And they, in dying, become the agents of life, and another generation lives to die so that others might live to die so that others may live to die.”
Paul was powerful because he pursued fruitfulness. He looked at the fruit of his life. It didn’t matter what happened to him. “If I live, I live to the Lord; if I die, I die unto the Lord. What is the difference?” That is not any issue.
A dear friend of mine was saying that they were inviting some people to speak in Northern Ireland. They didn’t want to come because they were concerned about the terrorists. Well, I understand a normal sense of self-preservation, but what – don’t we have a sovereign God? And what does it matter if I get shot or you get shot anyway? That’s not the end of the kingdom purposes. Someone may choose to shoot a clay pot, and God will bring another one. He buries His workmen, but His work goes on. Your life is nothing. It’s expendable and you just obey God.
Paul says, “If in preaching the truth I’m persecuted, so I’ll be persecuted. If in preaching the truth I’m killed, so I’ll be killed. That’s not an issue.” He was so bent on the fruit; he knew you had to preach the truth so that the elect could believe. And so, he preached the truth, whatever the cost. He was humble, invincible, sacrificial, and fruitful.
Number five, he was faithful, another key to his power. This verse really demands a series, and sometime I’ll preach it, but not this morning. Verse 13. This is a tremendous verse. “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed, therefore I spoke,’ we also believe, therefore also we speak.” I just absolutely love that. That is the bottom line, folks. That is the preacher’s bottom line right there.
What is that? What is Paul saying? He’s saying, “Look, if nobody listens to me, if nobody believes me, if nobody is transformed, if they persecute me, if they stone me, beat me with rods, and kill me, I will still preach because this is what I” – what? – “I believe.”
Hey, we believe, so we speak. And he wants you to know that while he’s concerned about fruitfulness, he’s not a pragmatist. He’s not going to tweak the message. What he’s going to do is preach what he believes. He is true to his convictions. That’s integrity. If there are no benefits in this deal, if there are no perks, if there’s no fruit, if there’s no nothing, if I, like Jeremiah, have to preach my life away with nobody listening, so be it; I’ll still do it because this what I believe. And that’s the bottom line for the preacher.
Now, let’s look at that verse in parts and watch how that unfolds. He starts by saying, “But having the same spirit of faith.” What does he mean? Not the Holy Spirit, but the attitude of faith. He says, “I have the same kind of faith.” Subjective not the content of the Christian faith, but, “I have the same kind of subjective faith. That is to say I believe in the same thing.” In what? “I believe in the same thing, according to what is written” – perfect tense, what has been written and now stands in an authoritative document. I believe in what has been written in a document.” Well, what was it? Here’s what was written, “I believed, therefore I spoke.” He says, “I have the same belief that the guy had who wrote that.” That’s what he said.
Well, what’s he quoting? Psalm 116, verse 10. He’s quoting Psalm 116, verse 10, where the psalmist said, “I believed, therefore I spoke.” Don’t you love somebody who speaks their convictions? Isn’t it refreshing when you meet somebody who has integrity? The psalmist said, “I believed, so I spoke.”
By the way, this is a quote out of the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation. It varies a little bit from the Hebrew. But let me get the scenario in your mind of the psalmist, in Psalm 116; he’s in some deep trouble. He’s talking about the grave opening up, death looming over him. He is in fear for his life. And he’s very worried as that psalm opens. And then he begins to remember that in the past, God has delivered him. So, he does two things: he starts to pray, and he asks the Lord to deliver him. And he starts asking with confidence, exalting the Lord, confidently asking God to deliver him.
And then at verse 12 of that psalm, he just flips into praise, and he just spends the rest of the psalm, down through verse 19, praising and praising and praising and praising God. And nothing’s changed.
And somebody comes to him and says, “Well, you’re in the midst of this problem, why are you speaking to God about it?”
“Because I believe God answers prayer. I believe God is merciful, gracious, kind, and compassionate, and I believe that about Him, so I spoke to Him.”
“Why are you praising God and praising God?”
“Because I believe God is going to hear and answer my prayer. I believe in the God who is there, who will hear and answer my prayer, meet my need, deliver me from this situation. That’s why I pray, and that’s why I praise.” And that’s that little line in verse 10, “I believed, and so I said.”
There are people who say, “You know, you just got to kind of soften it up a little bit. You just can’t just say it the way you say it, Paul. It’s offensive. You can’t just go around preaching Christ and Him crucified, damnation, and judgment, and repentance. It’s offensive.”
And Paul’s answer is, “I believed, therefore I spoke.”
This is the bottom line for the preacher. You can’t be concerned about the audience; you can only be concerned about the truth.
I know there are people who say that to me from time to time, “You know, you’re so strong about this, and you’re...”
And my answer is, “I believed, therefore I spoke.” It’s true. And when you see someone who doesn’t have conviction in their preaching, it’s because they don’t have conviction – where? – in their heart. Because when you are driven by conviction, you speak it. A man with profound conviction doesn’t need somebody to tell him what to say; he just needs somebody to say it to. That’s all.
Paul says, “Look, I – nobody may listen to me, and my whole life may blow up in my face, and I might die, but I’m going to keep saying what I’m saying, because that’s what I believe. My faith compels me to preach.”
You can’t really believe the truth with all your heart and not long to proclaim it. I mean I – I have to preach my convictions. I have to preach what I believe, not only because I have a healthy fear of God, but because it’s just in me.
Paul says, “I’m going to preach what I believe.” I love that about him. That’s why he was powerful, because he preached what he believed, and what he believed was true. I think that’s what grieves us with politicians. We just keep waiting for someone who just speaks because they really believe something. And it also grieves me with preachers. If you believe it, speak it. If it’s the truth, God will energize it. No hesitation, no lack of trust, unwavering confidence in God.
He showed the same kind of faith the psalmist did, “I believe, I can’t be silent. Suffering isn’t the issue with me. My reputation isn’t the issue. I am ready; I am eager; I am obligated. Woe is unto me. I’m going to preach, because this is what I believe.” Silence? Oh, that might mean comfort, popularity, prestige, might even mean life – longer life, a little prosperity. Doesn’t matter.
Luther stands at the Diet of Worms, and he says, “Here I stand. I can’t do anything else.”
I can’t do anything else. You can’t make me say something I don’t believe. You can’t make me recant what I do believe. I believe, so I speak.
You say, “But it offends people.”
That’s right, especially in this culture today. But it’s what you believe. And if you believe the truth, you must speak. It’s true in your life, beloved; belief impels testimony. Belief impels witness. We’re here to preach the Word of God. We believe it; we proclaim it. We believe it; we give witness to it. We are called to believe it, and then it becomes our message, does it not? It’s why I guess I can’t understand why there’s any other kind of preaching than the preaching of the Word of God. What else is there? This is all we can preach with conviction, because this is the truth. Oh that God would give us more people with that kind of conviction today.
The clay pot then is humble, invincible, sacrificial, fruitful, and faithful. Something else, number six, hopeful. Hopeful. You know, all of those good attitudes only go to a point. And if this one wasn’t there, you’d have a hard time hanging onto the others.
Look at verse 14. “We believe” – verse 13 says – “therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.” What’s he talking about there? In one word, what’s he talking about? Resurrection.
Now, what does resurrection imply? Before you can rise, you have to – what? – die. So, he knows that death is an inevitability. He is saying, “I can put my life on the line. I can preach my convictions. It really doesn’t matter to me what men might think who reject the truth. For the sake of the elect, I will preach the truth. For the sake of the sanctification of the body of Christ, I will preach the truth. For the sake, if need be, of filling up the afflictions that are meant for Christ that are given to me because He’s not here, I’ll preach the truth. Because in the end, all they can do is kill me, and when they kill me, the Lord’ll raise me up.”
We live in hope, don’t we? We live in hope. In fact, he felt it would be far better to depart and be with Christ anyway, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus – who is that? Who is He who raised the Lord Jesus? God the Father. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that God raised up Christ. Acts 2:24, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 15:22 to 22. The Word of God promises us that we will be raised.
Paul says, “I may die. I’ll go into the grave. My spirit will go to be with Christ, to depart and be with Christ,” he says. “Someday my body will come out of that grave, in the great resurrection day, when the Church is raptured and taken to meet Christ. I live in that hope. And so, what does it matter if I die? What does it matter what happens to this body? I know that God, who raised Jesus from the dead, is going to raise us also with Jesus.”
See, he lived in the hope of eternal life and eternal reward. Someday death will come, as it does to all those who are not caught up in the rapture. It holds no fear for him. He couldn’t wait till this vile body became a body like Christ. He couldn’t wait, as John said it, to become like Christ when we see Him as He is. He couldn’t wait for that time when the sufferings of this world would pale in comparison to what would happen to us when we entered into that glory.
He says in 2 Timothy 4, “I am now ready to be offered. My time of departure is at hand.” “Get me out of here,” he says. Henceforth, there’s laid up for me a crown of righteousness. Death was gain far better. So, he lived in hope. That’s why it didn’t matter what happened in this life, because it mattered only to him what happened in the life to come.
He said - you know, when they said to him on his way to Jerusalem, “You’re going to get in prison; you might die.”
He said, “None of these things move me; I don’t count my life dear to myself. I just want to finish the work.”
“I live in hope,” he says, “that God is going to raise us and present us with you. We’re all going to be there someday. In the presence of God, the whole bride will meet the bridegroom. I’ll risk death suffering, being weak, because I live for eternal life, not temporal life.” He was willing to give his life because of the hope of heaven for his sake, and all who are in Christ.
Well, I need to give you one final point. What made him powerful? He was humble, invincible, sacrificial, fruitful, faithful, hopeful, and worshipful. Worshipful. Nothing he ever did really was for him. Look at verse 15, “For all things are for your sakes.” I just do all this for you. I just live so that you can live. I even die so that you can live. I don’t have any self-interest. “And my goal is for your sakes, but beyond that” – follow this – “in order that the grace – the saving grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to redound to the glory of God.”
See, the ultimate goal was the glory of God. “I do everything for your sakes so that saving grace can come to you so that you can be added to the hallelujah chorus, who forever and ever and ever and ever will glorify God. That’s it. My ultimate purpose is worship. My ultimate purpose is to worship the living and true God with all my being, to do whatever I do for His glory.
“And my evangelistic efforts and my ministry toward you as believers to bring you to sanctification and maturity and thus make you reproductive is so that more and more people can come to faith in Christ and be added to the hallelujah chorus, who forever and ever and ever, as a part of the redeemed humanity will praise and glorify God.”
Worshipful. He was really lost in wonder, love, and praise. What did he matter? God mattered, and God’s glory mattered. The goal was never his comfort never his reputation, never his popularity, never his prosperity. It ultimately wasn’t even the salvation of others. It was the glory of God. And he was so driven and compelled to do everything he did by – by that motive, that he even told the Corinthians, “Whatever you do, whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” He just wanted to add more voices to the hallelujah chorus.
So, the servant of the Lord bathes his heart, and bathes his soul in the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And he selflessly reflects that vision, that majestic gospel glory to others so that they may be saved and be added to that great throng of saved sinners who will have one eternal purpose, fulfilled in heaven, to glorify God.
All the way through the new heavens and the new earth, we’ll redound the praise from the voices of the redeemed. That’s the plan. And Paul says, “I’m just a clay pot. I carry the treasure of new covenant gospel that makes the plan work.” We’re not mighty, and we’re not noble. I’m not; you’re not. We’re clay pots. “But someday – someday,” Daniel says, “we will shine as the stars forever.” We’ll stop being clay pots, and we’ll start being stars if we’ve turned many to righteousness. Our only value is in the service we render, beloved. It’s one thing to be a clay pot, with nothing going on. It’s something else to be a clay pot, carrying a priceless treasure.
I hope you’re faithful. You have the treasure, too. You understand the saving gospel. You’re not a preacher, but you’re a witness. You don’t preach a sermon, but you give a testimony. And if you want to be powerful and mighty, follow the path and the pattern of Paul, who said, “Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ.” Let’s bow in prayer.
What a joy it is, our Father, to see the life of this most noble servant. How weak we feel. We even ask the question, “If he was a clay pot, we must be something less, are we not?” And yet, Lord, we know that in our weakness, Your strength is perfected. I just trust that we can be used for honorable purposes and not dishonorable ones.
O Father, help us to set our lives aside and find that humility that leads to invincibility, that sacrifice that leads to fruitfulness, that faithfulness that leads to hope. And help us to live a life of worship. May we be consumed with glorifying You, and may we know that You are most glorified when someone else is redeemed, because then there is a whole life forever to Your praise. Make us faithful to proclaim Your truth, at any cost, with the confidence that You’ll work through the truth, and that if, in fact, people reject and refuse and show us animosity and opposition and bitterness, it’s not because there’s’ something wrong with the message or the messenger, but as Paul said, “The god of this world has blinded their minds.”
And we would plead with You, O God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” to shine in their hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of Yourself in the face of Jesus Christ. May we be what You would want us to be. May we be fit for the Master’s use, in Christ’s name, amen.
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