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INDEX FOR 2CORINTHIANS
Word Studies, Devotionals, Sermons, Illustrations
Old and New Testament.
Corinthians 4:7 Commentary
so that the
power will be
God and not
Amplified: However, we possess this precious treasure
[the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth,
that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to
be from God and not from ourselves.
Barclay: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the
power which surpasses all things may be seen to be of God and not of
God's Word: Our bodies are made of clay, yet we have the
treasure of the Good News in them. This shows that the superior power
of this treasure belongs to God and doesn't come from us. (GWT)
Easy English: It is as if we have *treasure in *clay pots. So this
great power comes from God. It does not come from us.
ESV: But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the
surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (ESV)
KJV: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the
excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
NET: But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the
extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. (NET
NIV: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show
that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
NLT: We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we
ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.
This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a
common earthenware jar - to show that the splendid power of it belongs
to God and not to us. (Phillips:
Weymouth: But we have this treasure in a fragile vase of clay,
in order that the surpassing greatness of the power may be seen to
belong to God, and not to originate in us.
Wuest: But we have this treasure [the reflection of the light of
the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ] in
earthenware containers, in order that the super-excellence of the
power might be from God as a source and not from us. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: And we have this treasure in earthen
vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of
BUT WE HAVE THIS TREASURE IN EARTHEN
VESSELS, SO THAT THE SURPASSING GREATNESS OF THE POWER WILL BE OF GOD AND
NOT FROM OURSELVES: Echomen (1PPAI) de ton thesauron touton en ostrakinois
skeuesin, hina e huperbole tes dunameos e (3SPAS) tou theou kai me ek hemon:
(this: 2Co 4:1 6:10 Mt 13:44,52 Eph 3:8 Col 1:27 2:3) (in: 2Co
5:1 10:10 Jud 7:13,14,16-20 La 4:2 1Co 1:28 4:9-13 Ga 4:13,14 2Ti 2:20) (So
that: 2Co 3:5,6 12:7-9 13:4 1Co 2:3-5 Eph 1:19,20 2:5,8,9 Col 2:12 1Th
IN JARS OF CLAY!
M J Harris introduces these
next 7 verses with the interesting comment that...
No person was ever more aware of the paradoxical nature of Christianity than
Paul. And perhaps none of his Epistles contains more paradoxes than 2
Corinthians. With their numerous paradoxes, then, 2Co 4:7-12 are typical of
this Epistle and of Paul’s style. 2Co 4:7 is the first paradox—the
difference between the indescribable value of the gospel treasure and the
apparent worthlessness of the gospel’s ministers
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan
We have (echo) means to
have or to possess. The
pictures this as their
Alfred Plummer has an
interesting observation on Paul's repeated use of echo (to have, to
The Apostle again and again dwells upon
the goodly possessions of the Christian, and especially of the Christian
minister; confidence we
have (2Co 3:4),
having such hope (2Co
have this ministry (2Co 4:1), we
have this treasure
(2Co 4:7), having the same spirit of faith (2Co 4:13), we
building from God (2Co 5:1),
possessing (having) all things (2Co
6:10), having these promises (2Co 7:1); and he often builds an
argument upon these goodly possessions. (Ed: Every use of echo is in
picturing the continuance,
persistence and permanence
of these possessions). (2
Corinthians 4:7 Commentary)
What is the "treasure"?
In one of the most beautiful passages in all of Paul's letters he has just
explained that the treasure is the Light of the knowledge of the glory of
God in the face of Christ. (2Co 4:6-note)
(See John Piper's wonderful
Chapter 4: God Is The Gospel - The Glory
of Christ, the Image of God - goto page 54 in pdf) In a word the
treasure is the creational, transforming power of the Gospel placed
into followers of Christ pictured as lowly, even contemptible (as judged by
what the world values) "jars of clay". As discussed more below, this
paradoxical association of human weakness with divine power, makes it
abundantly clear from Whom the power originates and Who is to receive the
glory for the display of that power! As the psalmist aptly stated centuries
Not to us, O LORD, not to us,
but to Thy Name give glory
because of Thy lovingkindness,
because of Thy truth.
“Let him who boasts (glories),
boast (glory) in the Lord.”
(1 Co 1:31)
from títhemi = put, set) refers to the place where goods and
precious things are stored for safekeeping (Think
about the glorious Gospel you possess!)
and thus a repository (place, room, or container where something is
deposited or stored), a treasure chest, a storehouse, a treasury. The
second sense of thesauros refers to that which is stored up in the
treasury or repository (Mt 2:11 Mt 6:19 20 21 Lk 12:33).
Figuratively thesauros can
refer to the heart, as the repository of thoughts, feelings, purposes,
etc (Lk 6:45, Mt 12:35). Here in 2Co 4:7 thesauros clearly refers to
the priceless Gospel with which all believers have been entrusted. Remember
that when Jesus entrusted the stewards with valuables, He expected them to
use them wisely, which is so convicting, for how infrequently I give out this
priceless treasure to those who are spiritually destitute!
English definitions of treasure
- Derived from Latin "thesaurus" = anything hoarded, treasure, storehouse,
collection. Something of great worth or value. Gives us our English word
"thesaurus" (a treasury of words). A great quantity of any thing collected for future use.
Something or someone very much valued or highly prized. Wealth and riches,
usually hoarded, esp. in the form of money, precious metals, or gems.
Mounce comments that...
The most common use in the NT is in
reference to material riches (Mt 6:19, 21; 13:44, 52; Lk 6:45; 12:34, 35;
2Cor. 4:7; Col 2:3; He 11:26), such as what someone may find hidden in a
field (Mt 13:44). A person’s treasure is a clear indicator of the state of
his heart (Lk 12:34). True disciples store up their treasures in heaven (Mt
6:20; 19:21; Mk 10:21; Lk 12:33; 18:22), where they will have access to
them. Treasures become stored up in heaven when disciples use God’s wealth
to advance His purposes. They may not be able to take the riches with them
when they die, but they can send them on ahead.
Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Grand Rapids,
MI: Zondervan or
L M Petersen writes that...
Treasure in the Holy Scriptures consisted
in money or any possession—jewels, gold, silver, vessels, ointments, spices,
arms, grain and food, instruments of war—considered wealth or valuable, and
which a king, a government, or an individual stored in a safe, guarded place
to keep from thieves and robbers. (The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the
Bible, Volume 5)
Thesauros - 17x in 16v in the
NAS - Matt 2:11; 6:19, 20 21; 12:35; 13:44, 52; 19:21; Mark 10:21;
Luke 6:45; 12:33 34; 18:22; 2 Cor 4:7; Col 2:3; Heb 11:26 Always translated treasure(s).
Be sure to observe Who spoke the most
about treasure! What general principle does that teach us about treasures?
Matthew 2:11 After coming into the house
they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and
worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him
gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Matthew 6:19-note "Do
not store up ( with a negative
= a command to stop doing this!) for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 "But
( = Jesus commands us to make
this the goal of our life every day of our life until we see Jesus face to
face!) for yourselves
treasures (literally the Greek reads = "treasure for yourselves
treasures") in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where
thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.
Where is your heart today as you read
this note? You can tell by in
what or where or in whom you place value. Observe that the heart
follows the treasure, not vice versa! Where is your treasure
beloved? (See Solomon's wise advice Pr 4:23-note) As an aside, note that "time" is finite and priceless and therefore
how you use the time allotted to you in this short life clearly reflects
what you treasure and thus where your heart is -- Which motivated Paul to
exhort all saints to daily, moment by moment, redeem the precious, passing
time (Eph 5:16KJV-note)!
Remember Jesus' warning in the context of Mt 6:19-21 that
(Absolutely) No one can (dunamai)
two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will
hold to one and despise the other. You (absolutely) cannot serve (douloo)
God and mammon (wealth, property). (Mt 6:24-note)
(If you try to achieve a divided allegiance, all you will accomplish is
anxiety - which is what Jesus goes on to exposit in the next 10 verses [Mt
It follows that if I am anxious, I might do well to get a "heart check up"
using God's "EKG" of Mt 6:24. This may not explain or alleviate all my
anxiety but it is at least a starting point.)
Richards: The saying “Where your
treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21; Lk 12:34) focuses
attention on values. That which is deemed valuable will be the focus of
thoughts and efforts and will undoubtedly shape the choices that one
makes in life.
L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency
Computer Version - New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words)
Matthew 12:35 (Context = Mt 12:34) "The good man brings out of
his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his
evil treasure what is evil.
Comment: Good (as God
defines good, cp Jn 15:5, 8) can only come from a "good heart" (cp Lk
MacArthur: A person’s heart
is the treasury of his thoughts, ambitions, desires, loves,
attitudes, and loyalties. It is the reservoir from which the mouth draws its
expressions. It is axiomatic that a good treasure brings forth what is good
and an evil treasure brings forth what is evil. “Does a fountain send out
from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” James asked (Jas
3:11). A common expression in the computer world is GIGO, which stands for
“Garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, the quality of data entered
determines the quality of the results produced from that data. In exactly
the same way, the quality of what is in a person’s heart determines the
quality of speech his mouth produces.
Matthew 13:44 "The kingdom of heaven is
like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again;
and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:52 And Jesus said to them,
"Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven
is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things
new and old."
MacArthur explains: The disciples
were not to spurn the old for the sake of the new. Rather the new insights
they gleaned from Jesus’ parables were to be understood in light of the old
truths, and vice versa.
Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to him, "If you
wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and
you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
Mark 10:21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a
love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you
possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven;
and come, follow Me."
Luke 6:45 "The good man out of the good
treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out
of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from
that which fills his heart.
Luke 12:33 "Sell your possessions and
give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an
unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.
34 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, He said
to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute
it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this
treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power
will be of God and not from ourselves;
Colossians 2:3-note in
Whom (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
(Why does Paul tell us this? Col 2:4-note)
Comment: Observe the clear
contrast (calling for a clear choice) between the treasures in Colossians
2:3 and the treasures in Hebrews 11:26!
Can they even be compared when viewed
in the light of eternity? I
think not! So why do we (I) weary ourselves (myself) with accumulation of
the passing pleasures of temporally gratifying "tinkling trinkets and
trifles" (trinket & trifle = both something of little
value/significance) to the neglect of "accumulation" of that which satisfies
and endures eternally! Veritable "spiritual insanity" methinks!
Hebrews 11:26-note (Context
= Heb 11:25-note)
considering the reproach of Christ greater riches (~"treasure") than the
treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward (~the "treasure"
Thesauros -77x in 69v in the
- Ge 43:23; Dt 28:12;
32:34; Josh 6:19, 24; Jdg 18:7; 1 Kgs 7:37; 14:26; 15:18; 2 Kgs 12:19;
14:14; 16:8; 18:15; 20:13, 15; 24:13; 1 Chr 9:26; 26:20, 22, 24, 26; 27:25,
27f; 2 Chr 5:1; 8:15; 12:9; 16:2; 25:24; 32:27; 36:18; Ezra 2:69; 5:14; Neh
7:70f; 10:40; 12:44; 13:12; Ps 32:7; 134:7; Pr 2:4; 3:14; 8:21; 10:2; 15:16;
21:20; Job 3:21; 38:22; Amos 8:5; Mic 6:10; Joel 1:17; Mal 3:10; Isa 2:7;
33:6; 39:2, 4; 45:3; Jer 10:13; 15:13; 20:5; 27:25, 37; 28:13, 16; 30:20;
48:8; Ezek 27:24; 28:4, 13
Guzik notes that...
Earthenware vessels were common in every
home in the ancient world. They were not very durable (compared to metal),
and they were useless if broken (glass could be melted down again). “They
were thus cheap and of little intrinsic value.” (Kruse) God chose to put His
light and glory in the everyday dishes, not in the fine china!
We almost always are drawn to the thing
that has the best packaging. But the best gifts often have the most unlikely
packaging. God did not see a need to “package” Jesus when He came as a man
to this earth. Jesus was not embarrassed to live as an earthen vessel. God
is not embarrassed to use clay pots like us!
from óstrakon = baked clay - English "oyster") is an
adjective which literally means made
of baked clay and thus describes pottery or earthenware (2Ti 2:20). Such
earthenware was the least valuable in the ancient Greece household and when
broken would not be repaired but cast out. The plural noun ostraca
has been taken directly over into English for potsherds or broken pieces of
pottery that are found in archaeological excavations.
Ostrakinos is used figuratively
in 2Co 4:7 to describe that which is fragile or lowly.
Colin Brown comments that...
There is little evidence of a metaphorical use of ostrakinos in
antiquity until the second century A.D. when Artemidorus describes the body
of a man as an earthenware vessel...
The striking contrast between the splendour of the treasure and the
commonness of the vessel in which it is stored directs attention away from
the preachers to the glory of the message they proclaim. It was not unusual
in the ancient world to conceal valuable treasures in earthenware urns.
In this context ostrakinos refers
to the whole man who is entrusted with the gospel. This description finds a
parallel in rabbinic accounts of men as clay vessels containing the Torah or
wisdom which God has bestowed, e.g. Sifre Deut. 48 (84a on Deut. 11:22): as
it is not possible for wine to be stored in golden or silver vessels, but
only in one which is least among the vessels, an earthenware one, so also
the words of Torah can be kept only with one who is humble in his own eyes;
cf. b. Taanith 7a, where “glorious wisdom in a repulsive earthen vessel”
describes R. Jehoshua ben Chanaiah, whose appearance was unattractive.
Paul’s detractors had described his bodily appearance as weak and dismissed
his words as inconsequential (2Co 10:10; cf. 2Co 10:1; 11:6). His
self-description as ostrakinos attests that human weakness presents
no barrier to the accomplishment of the divine intention when it is
undergirded by the transcendent power of God (cf. 2Cor. 3:5; 4:7; 12:9, 10;
Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan
MacArthur adds that...
The vessels Paul describes here were just
common pots: cheap, breakable, easily replaceable, and virtually valueless.
Occasionally they were used to hide valuables, such as gold, silver, and
jewelry. The pots containing such valuable items would often be buried in
the ground. In fact, the man in Jesus’ parable who found the treasure hidden
in a field (Mt. 13:44) might have discovered it when his plow broke a buried
pot. Clay pots were also used to store valuable documents; the Dead Sea
Scrolls were discovered stored in clay pots in a cave near Qumran.
The only other NT use of ostrakinos
is in Second Timothy...
Now in a large house there are not only
gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware,
and some to honor and some to dishonor. (2 Ti 2:20-note).
Comment: The idea here is that
these vessels were used for dishonorable tasks. These clay pots had no value
in themselves but only had value in regard to what they contained or the
service they performed.
. The vessels must be clean and emptied
W L Lane explains that this use
of: Ostrakinos occurs in a context, where Paul urges Timothy to separate
himself from false teachers like Philetus and Hymenaeus, who have subverted
the faith of some Christians at Ephesus (2Ti. 2:14-19, 22-26). The
appearance of false teachers poses the question as to why there are disloyal
persons in the congregation. Paul responds by comparing the church to a
large house in which it is normal to find vessels of differing material,
which serve different, indeed opposite, functions (2Ti 2:20). Even as the
presence of vessels of wood and earthenware (ostrakinos) devoted to
disreputable use in such a house occasions no surprise, so the evidence of
base leadership in the church can be anticipated. But 2Ti 2:21 makes the
point that, whether a vessel is made of gold, silver, or earthenware, it may
be clean in order to be ready for honorable service to the owner. By
separating himself from the false teachers and cleansing himself from their
disreputable actions, Timothy will be prepared for any task to which his
Master is calling him.
Comment: Picking up on the vessel
imagery, believers are ordained of God to bear the water of life to a
thirsting world (2Ti 2:21; 2 Cor 4:7)
Ostrakinos -15x in the
- Lv 6:21; 11:33; 14:5, 50; 15:12; Nu 5:17; Is 30:14; Jer 19:1, 11; 39:14;
La 4:2; Ezek 4:9; Da 2:33 34, 42. It is to note that in rendering the
Aramaic portion of Daniel the translators chose ostrakinos to
describe the great image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, whose feet were
partly of iron and partly of clay (Da 2:33, 34, 42-note
- Da 2:41 uses the related word ostrakon = earthen vessel,
also describes the
hard shell of certain animals - snails, mussels, tortoises). Below is an
example of a figurative use in the Septuagint.
The precious sons of Zion, weighed
against fine gold, how they are regarded as earthen jars, the work
of a potter’s hands! (La 4:2).
Comment: The humiliated sons of
Zion, who are “weighed against fine gold” are now considered to be of no
more value than common earthenware by their captors.
Marvin Vincent notes that...
The adjective ostrakinos occurs only here and 2Ti
Herodotus says of the king of Persia
The great king stores away the tribute
which he receives after this fashion: he melts it down, and, while it is in
a liquid state, runs it into earthen vessels, which are afterward removed,
leaving the metal in a solid mass” (3:96).
Stanley cites the story of a Rabbi who
was taunted with his mean appearance by the emperor’s daughter, and who
replied by referring to the earthen vessels in which her father kept his
wines. At her request the wine was shifted to silver vessels, whereupon it
turned sour. Then the Rabbi observed that the humblest vessels contained the
highest wisdom. The idea of light in earthen vessels is, however, best
illustrated in the story of the lamps and pitchers of Gideon, Jdg 7:16. In
the very breaking of the vessel the light is revealed. (Vincent, M. R. Word
studies in the New Testament 3:312)
Adam Clarke has an interesting
note regarding earthen vessels
The original, ostrakinos skeuosin
, signifies, more literally, vessels made of shells, which are
very brittle; and as the shell is the outward part of a fish, it is very
fit, as Dr. Hammond observes, to resemble our bodies in which our souls
THE GOSPEL IS GOLD
WE ARE BUT JARS OF CLAY
Jars of clay is a figurative
description of human weakness (cp Ps. 31:12; Isa. 30:14 - but neither of
these examples are the exact phrase used by Paul).
Figuratively skeuos is used of
the human body as formed of clay (cp Ge 2:7 3:19) and thus is frail and
John Piper writes...
The third reason you should use your gift (Click
to read other reasons) for the good of others and the
glory of God is that your ordinariness is no reason not to. Too many people
say, "I'm so ordinary, so average and undistinguished. I can't do anything
significant." 2Corinthians 4:7 shows that this argument is wrong and why. It
says, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels (or clay pots!) to show us
that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us." God's concept of
ministry is so different from the world's concept. The world stresses the
classy container, not the glory of God in human weakness. If there is one
thing that we are coming to learn together in this church, it is that God's
purpose to get the glory in all things determines how we do all things. Here
God's purpose is to make sure that we see that the surpassing power belongs
to Him and not to us. How does He do it? He puts the treasure of His gifts
and His gospel in clay pots like you and me.
Your ordinariness is not a liability; it is an asset,
if you really want God to get the glory.
No one is too common, too weak, too shy, too inarticulate, too disabled to
do what God wants you to do with your gift. (Calling
All Clay Pots)
Kent Hughes has an excellent description of jars of clay in
ancient times writing that they...
were the throwaway containers of the ancient world, so that their life spans
were generally a few years at the most. They were used to store and
transport water and olive oil and wine and grain and even family treasures.
Earthenware jars were an anonymous part of everyday living as they were used
for cooking and eating and drinking and storing leftovers. Every domestic
archaeological excavation site contains their remains, called ostraca, from
the Greek word for pottery. No one took note of clay jars any more than we
would of a fast-food container. They were simply there for convenience. It
was no great tragedy when such vessels were broken. They were cheap and easy
to replace. As such, jars of clay provided Paul with a penetrating metaphor
for his and his followers’ humanity. Indeed Adam was formed out of the dust
of the ground, and to dust he returned (cf. Genesis 2:7; 3:19). As clay jars
we are all frail, weak, transitory mortals.
R. K. 2 Corinthians: Power in Weakness. Preaching the Word. Crossway
GIVE GOD THE GLORY
Why does God often
choose the weak or those who are cognizant of their weakness and who cry out
in their hearts “Who is sufficient for these things?” Part of the answer is
given in 1 Corinthians 1:26–31.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according
to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the
foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak
things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base
things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are
not, that He might nullify the things that are, 29 that no man should boast
In short, God chooses
the weak (in the eyes of men) so that “no flesh should glory in His
presence” (1Co 1:29KJV). God will not share His glory with another. As
Jehovah says through His prophet Isaiah...
am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My
praise to graven images. (Isaiah 42:8, cp Is 48:11, Ex 34:14)
The great Puritan
pastor and author Richard Baxter (1615-1691) understood the Paul's concept
of frail "jars of clay". As he lay on his deathbed, someone
encouraged him with a reminder of the good so many had received from his
preaching and writings to which Baxter replied...
I was but a pen in God’s hand, and what
praise is due to a pen?
Thomas Watson wrote that...
Ministers are earthen pitchers. 2Cor 4:7. But
these pitchers have lamps within them, to light souls in the dark.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon's Personal
Testimony about how God used a
simple man, a nameless "jay of clay" (nameless on earth and in time
but renowned in heaven and for eternity) to
preach a simple message
on Isaiah 45:22 which the Spirit used to save the man who would go on to be
heralded as the "prince of
preachers". How awesome are
the "paradoxes" of God, Whose "foolishness...is wiser than men, and
(Whose) weakness...is stronger than men." (1Co 1:25)
God often allows the vessel to be chipped and
broken, that the excellency of the treasure contained, and of the power
which that treasure has, may be all His (2Co 4:10, 11; Jn 3:30).
martyred at age 29 clearly understood Paul's description of precious
treasure in mere jars of clay when he described himself and his co-workers
as a "bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody."
Francis of Assisi when asked how he was able to accomplish so much
This may be why: The Lord looked down from heaven and said, ‘Where can I
find the weakest, littlest man on earth?’ Then he saw me and said, ‘I’ve
found him, and he won’t be proud of it. He’ll see that I am only using him
because of his insignificance.’
John Piper in his book "Brothers,
We Are Not Professionals- A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry"
asks a convicting question...
wonder of wonders, we were given the gospel treasure to carry in clay pots
to show that the transcendent power belongs to God (2 Cor. 4:7).
Is there a way
to be a professional clay pot?
We are afflicted in every way but not
crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not destroyed,
always carrying in the body the death of Jesus (professionally?) so
that the life of Jesus may also be manifested (professionally?) in
our bodies (2Co 4:9–11).
Rob Morgan writes that...
in Bible times, when they didn’t have
banks or safe repositories, they would bury their precious possessions in
the earth or hide them in caves. They would often use clay jars for doing
this. Have you ever read about the Dead Sea Scrolls? These priceless
manuscripts date back 2000 years and were discovered in caves near the ruins
of the village of Qumran, in the desert South of Jerusalem. They were stored
in clay jars. Of course, clay jars break easily. They are fragile. They are
easily damaged. In fact, that’s the way the scrolls were found. An Arab goat
herder threw a rock toward the cliffs, trying to scare his goat back down
the hill. The rock sailed through the opening of a cave, and the boy heard
the sound of a jar breaking. The Dead Sea Scrolls were stored in jars of
clay, but jars of clay are fragile. They break easily.
And Paul is using that as an illustration of you and me. We are God’s
depositories for His treasure, yet we are fragile and breakable and easily
damaged. Every one of us can identify with that. I don’t need to spend much
time on this point. No matter how strong we think we are or how stoic we try
to be, we are fragile people and we break and are easily damaged. That’s
true of us physically and it’s true of us emotionally. Some of you right now
feel like a jar of clay that’s been chipped or cracked or broken. Someone
has thrown a rock, and it’s shattered something inside of you. Well, the
benefit is that it keeps us humble. In fact, the rest of the verse makes
this quite plain and that brings us to the third word—power. (Read
the entire sermon -
Jars of Clay)
Wiersbe rightly reminds us that...
We must focus on the treasure and not on
the vessel. Paul was not afraid of suffering or trial, because he knew that
God would guard the vessel so long as Paul was guarding the treasure (see
1Ti 1:11; 6:20). God permits trials, God controls trials, and God uses
trials for His own glory. God is glorified through weak vessels. The
missionary who opened inland China to the Gospel, J. Hudson Taylor,
used to say, “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things
for God because they reckoned on Him being with them.”
W: Bible Exposition Commentary - New Testament. 1989. Victor
refers to a hollow vessel or container of any material used for a specific
purpose, with the meaning varying depending on the context - utensil, jar,
dish, gear (e.g., "sea anchor" in Ac 27:17).
Figuratively skeuos refers to
human beings who exercise or carry out some function - one's own body = 1Th
one's wife = 1Pe 3:7-note,
recipients of God's wrath = Ro 9:21, 22-note
(contrasted with Ro 9:23-note
= believers); of believers as "vessels of honor" = 2Ti 2:21-note.
Luke uses skeuos to
refer to Paul as vessel or instrument in Acts 9...
But the Lord said to him (Ananias), "Go,
for he is a chosen instrument (vessel - Ac9:15KJV) of Mine, to bear My name
before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel for I will show him how
much he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:15,16)
Comment: Here skeuos
describes Paul as like a vessel who chosen for specific divine service, one
of unimpressive stature, chosen to carry and communicate the treasure
of the glorious light of the Gospel, shining in his (and our) hearts, the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. What an
astonishing contrast - Paul like a cheap clay pot containing the
indescribably, inexplicably precious treasure—the treasure of the
divine reality of the gospel. Baked dust carrying about the most precious
treasure God has even given mankind!
Johann Sebastian Bach was one of
the greatest musicians of all time and his skills on the organ were without
equal. Once when an acquaintance praised Back’s rendition of a particular
work, he replied like this. “There is nothing very wonderful about it,”
he said. “You have only to hit the right notes at the right moment and the
instrument does all the rest.” (Patrick Kavanaugh, The Spiritual Lives
of Great Composers. Nashville: Sparrow Press, 1992, p. 13.)
Martin Luther said: “I simply taught,
preached, wrote God’s Word...otherwise I did nothing....The Word did it
Skeuos - 23x in 22v - Mt 12:29;
Mk 3:27; 11:16; Lk 8:16; 17:31; Jn 19:29; Acts 9:15; 10:11, 16; 11:5; 27:17;
Ro 9:21, 22, 23 2Co 4:7; 1Th 4:4; 2Ti 2:20, 21; He 9:21; 1Pe 3:7; Re 2:27;
18:12 NAS = article(2), container(1), goods(1), instrument(1),
jar(1), merchandise(1), object(3), property(2), sea anchor(1), someone(1),
Jars (skeuos) or “containers” in the
ancient world just as today could be made from a wide variety of materials,
wood, glass, stone, brass, gold, silver, or clay. Generally, the more
valuable the object to be stored, the nicer the container. Sometimes,
how-ever, to throw off potential robbers, one might hide valuable objects,
rings, jewels, spices, maybe even gold coins, in plain, unassuming
containers. The latter idea, although the less expected, seems to come more
in line with Paul’s thinking here....
Connecting the imagery of clay jars to
human beings is not much of a stretch from a biblical point of view. Not
only is man viewed as being created from dust (Ge 2:7), God is pictured as
a potter (Isa 29:16; 45:9; 64:8), who can if he chooses, destroy his bad
pots (Isa 30:14; Jer 18:1–22; 19:1–13). Paul draws further on this imagery
in Rom 9:19–29 to highlight God’s sovereignty over man’s salvation. (Baker,
W. R. 2Corinthians. The College Press NIV commentary. Joplin, MO: College
Why they should not preach themselves:
because they were but earthen vessels, things of little or no worth or
value. Here seems to be an allusion to the lamps which Gideon's soldiers
carried in earthen pitchers, Jdg 7:16.
The treasure of Gospel light and
grace is put into earthen vessels. The ministers of the Gospel are weak and
frail creatures, and subject to like passions and infirmities as other men;
they are mortal, and soon broken in pieces. And God has so ordered it that
the weaker the vessels are the stronger His power may appear to be, that the
treasure itself should be valued the more. Note, There is an excellency of
power in the Gospel of Christ, to enlighten the mind, to convince the
conscience, to convert the soul, and to rejoice the heart; but all this
power is from God the Author, and not from men, who are but instruments, so
that God in all things must be glorified. (Amen)
So that (2443)
(hina) is used to express purpose or to introduce a conclusion. In
this case Paul says that the reason God has deposited the treasure of the
Gospel in frail men is that when others see sinners set free from sin solely
by means of proclamation of the Gospel, it will be abundantly clear that the
power that produced that effect was supernatural and not natural.
Hodges explains it this way...
The apostle means to present the utter
disproportion between the visible means (jars of clay) and the effects
produced (changed lives), as proof that the real power is not in man, but in
from huperballo = a
throwing beyond the usual mark from huper = above + ballo =
literally a "throwing beyond" (contrast Paul's following use of kataballo)
and thus refers to a degree which exceeds extraordinarily a point on an
implied or overt scale of extent. It means extraordinary, far more, much
greater, to a far greater degree, surpassing, beyond measure, utterly. This
word is used only by Paul in the NT.
In other words, the "power" of common clay pots stands in dramatic contrast to the
power of God's Gospel. In fact one cannot even
quantify the difference. They are not on the same scale! The power of the
Gospel of God overcomes and transcends all our weaknesses.
Pitifully paltry vessels
possessing a priceless proclamation.
described saints as jars of clay noting that...
weaknesses and God’s strength form an unbeatable combination!
put it well...
achieve His purpose either through the absence of human power and resources,
or the abandonment of reliance on them. All through history God has chosen
and used nobodies, because their unusual dependence on Him
made possible the unique display of His power and grace. He chose and used
somebodies only when they renounced dependence on their
natural abilities and resources.
Human weakness (jars of clay) and
God's power while enigmatic to the natural man, are the perfect match in
God's design. Paul again paints the picture of this paradox between
and God's infinite power in 2Corinthians 12...
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power (dunamis)
is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about
my weaknesses, that the power (dunamis)
of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with
insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's
sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Co 12:9-note,
W. Griffith Thomas once said...
In all Christian work, there are three elements absolutely indispensable:
the Spirit of God as the power (cp Acts 1:8), the Word of God as the
message (cp 1Co 1:18), and the man of God as the instrument
(Acts 9:15, 16 ~ clay pots). The Spirit of God uses the message by means of
Comment: You have likely heard it said that God is not so much
interested in our "ability" as in our availability. God desires humble,
inconspicuous, weak, frail clay pots who are willing to continually be
emptied of self so that they might continually be filled with His Spirit
empowered to give out the treasure of "the light of the Gospel of the glory
of Christ Who is the image of God" (2Co 4:4), "the light of the knowledge of
the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2Co 4:6)
Power will be of God - The extraordinary power demonstrated in the
Gospel is from God as the Source and not from men (who are frail jars of
Jamieson notes that the English "will be of God" in the original
“may be (present
continually) God’s (may be seen and be thankfully [2Co 4:15]
acknowledged to belong to God), and not (to come) from us.”
The power not merely comes from God, but belongs
to Him continually, and is to be ascribed to Him.
Not from ourselves - Paul refuses to take any credit for the
supernatural effects produced by the Gospel.
God keeps us continually dependent upon Himself; we have nothing but what we
have received, and we receive every necessary supply just when it is
necessary; and have nothing at our own command. The good therefore that is
done is so evidently from the power of God, that none can pretend to share
the glory with Him.
Hodge writes that...
Although what the apostle says here is true of all ministers, doubtless he
was referring especially to himself and his own particular circumstances. He
had spoken most highly of his mission, but he himself was a poor, weak,
persecuted, downtrodden man. This, he says, only makes the power of God the
more conspicuous, not only in the success of the apostle’s ministry, but in
his preservation in the midst of dangers and sufferings that it seemed
impossible anyone could either escape or bear. In order to show, on the one
hand, how weak he is, how truly a mere jar of clay, and, on the other, how
great and manifest God’s power is, the apostle contrasts his trials and his
deliverances in the following verses. (2Co 4:8, 9) (2 Corinthians
from dunamai = to be able, to have
power) power especially achieving power. It refers to intrinsic power or
inherent ability, the power or ability to carry out some function, the
potential for functioning in some way (power, might, strength, ability,
capability), the power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature. Dunamis
conveys the idea of effective, productive energy, rather than that which is
raw and unbridled. It is power which overcomes resistance or effects
It is no accident that Paul used
dunamis more in the letters to the Corinthians than in any other writing
- 26x in 22v -1Co 1:18, 24; 2:4 5; 4:19f; 5:4; 6:14; 12:10, 28 29; 14:11;
15:24, 43, 56; 2Co 1:8; 4:7; 6:7; 8:3; 12:9, 12; 13:4 (usually translated
"power" but sometimes "miracles"). For example...
(explaining why the Cross of Christ should not be made void - 1Co 1:17)
the word of the Cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us
who are being saved (present tense = saved every day = present tense
salvation = sanctification) it is the power of God. (1Co 1:18)
with we preach Christ - 1Co 1:23) to those who are the called, both Jews and
Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1Co 1:24)
message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in
demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (A
picture of what a "clay pot" looks like in Christian ministry. Does this
describe you [me] beloved?)5
that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power
of God. (1Co 2:4, 5) (Which is exactly what he is saying here in 2Co 4:7)
(explaining how Paul will assess those were teaching the Corinthians - did
they have God's power?) the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in
power. (1Co 4:20)
Now God has
not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.
(1Co 6:14) (Resurrection Power
fill me this hour!)
For indeed He
was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power
of God (Who raised Him - 1Co 6:14). For we also are weak (cp
"clay pots") in Him (Note the
paradox: us = weak <> in Him = power), yet
we shall live with Him because of the power of God directed toward
you. (2Co 13:4) (Notice this
reiteration of the divine axiom that it is out of a weak "clay pot" that the
power of God is dispensed to thirsty souls! Why do we so often [and vainly]
seek to be strong in ourselves!)
The treasure that Paul
is describing in this verse is the Gospel about which he writes in
I am not
ashamed of the
Gospel, for it is the power (dunamis) of God
to everyone who
to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Ro 1:16-note)
Remembering that dunamis depicts inherent power residing
in a thing by virtue of its nature, Paul is saying that the Gospel in and of
itself has the inherent, omnipotent power of God
working supernaturally to bring about the salvation of a lost soul who
receives the Gospel (See similar dynamic taught in Col 1:5-note,
- Observe the "fruit" not of the clay pot messengers but of the surpassingly
greatness of the power of the Gospel). Our English word dynamite is derived from
dunamis and some have suggested that the Gospel is "God’s dynamite".
This is misapplication of this English derivative in an attempt to try to
picture the life saving power of the gospel. Dunamis does not refer
to explosive power, as if the Gospel will blow men to bits but to intrinsic
power able to save men.
Kenneth Wuest: The concept of the
Gospel as a force pervades
the epistles to the Corinthians; its proof, so to speak, is dynamical,
not logical. It is demonstrated, not by argument, but by what it does; and
looking to what it can do, Paul is proud to preach it anywhere.
John Piper sums up
this powerful section...
God uses weak, afflicted clay pots to carry “the
surpassing power” of “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2Co
What happens when these clay
preach the gospel and offer themselves as servants?
2Co 4:6 (note)
gives the answer:
“God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in
our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the
face of Jesus Christ.”
This means that in the dark and troubled heart of unbelief, God does what He
did in the dark and unformed creation at the beginning of our world. He
said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. So He says to the
blind and dark heart, “Let there be light,” and there is light in the
heart of the sinner. In this light we see the glory of God in the face of
Christ. (I highly recommend
that you take time to read especially chapter 4 of Dr Piper's online book
God Is the Gospel- go to page 54 in the
Pdf to begin Chapter 4)
F B Meyer
It is power. It is His power. It is great
power; nothing less would suffice. It is exceeding great power, beyond the
furthest cast of thought.
even use dunamis as a proper name of God = "Power" (Mt 26:64 , Mk
Thompson summarizes this verse...
Why this ironic
divine action of placing so precious and glorious a treasure in so common
and frail a container? So that there would never be any mistaking the
container for the contents: “in order to show that the all-surpassing power
is from God and not from us” (v. 7). Contrary to the opinion of some in the
church who have inflated egos, or those who would elevate pastor or deacon
to the level of demigod, none of us are the treasure. We are fragile and
imperfect vessels, one and all.
Years ago when
Mohammed Ali was in his prime, he was about to take off on an airplane
flight. Following standard procedure, the stewardess asked all passengers to
fasten their seat belts. Noticing that he hadn’t fastened his, the
stewardess gently reminded him to buckle up. In his usual brash style, Ali
retorted, “Superman don’t need no seat belt!” Quickly but gently the
stewardess reminded him, “Superman don’t need no airplane either.” And Ali
reportedly fastened his belt.
It’s a humbling
reality, but we need the reminder. We are weak, frail human beings. There
are no “super-Christians,” and even though we have “super power” (hē
huperbolē tēs dunameōs) within us, it is not our doing but the work of God.
studies the church’s 2000 year history would have to be blind to miss this
truth at work. There are heresies, conflicts and schisms, violence,
arrogance and ignorance, failures and follies. Yet, in spite of it all, the
church has continued and prospered. How could it be? It is because the
all-surpassing, extraordinary, abundant, and preeminent power that has been
at work across the ages came not from imperfect Christians, but from our
perfect indwelling treasure, (the Gospel of) Jesus Christ. (Review and
Expositor Volume 94. 1997. Louisville, KY: Review and Expositor)
Earthen Vessels -
Ruthe Frens had spent most of her life as a missionary in Japan. When I was
asked to speak at her funeral, the apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4
came to mind. Ruthe’s conversion as a child had not been like Paul’s. It was
not accompanied by a blinding light from heaven and an audible message from
Jesus (Acts 9). Yet, over the years it was obvious to all who knew her that
she had seen the light—she had come to know God personally through faith in
Jesus Christ (2Co 4:6-note). And her face revealed the joy of her relationship
with the Lord.
Ruthe could also identify with Paul’s description of the human body as “an
earthen vessel” (v.7), which is fragile and only temporary. An illness that
almost took her life in 1953 left her physically weakened. But through the
years she grew spiritually strong.
I was with her family when the doctor informed her that she didn’t have long
to live. At that time, everyone could see the peace on her face. After her
death, scores of letters and e-mail messages from friends in Japan had this
common theme: Ruthe’s smile radiated the presence of Jesus in her life.
Does your life reveal to others that you know Jesus? Can they see that your
heart has been transformed?— by Herbert Vander Lugt
Although my outward
I'm inwardly renewed each day
Because the life and power of Christ
Indwells this fragile jar of clay.
A Christian's life is the window
through which others can see Jesus.
Joseph Philpot - January 15 - Daily
Portions - January 15 - 2 Corinthians 4:7
Be not surprised if you feel that in
yourself you are but an earthen vessel; if you are made deeply and daily
sensible unto what a frail body God has communicated light and life. Be not
surprised if your clay house is often tottering; if sickness sometimes
assails your mortal tabernacle; if in your flesh there dwells no good thing;
if your soul often cleaves to the dust; and if you are unable to retain a
sweet sense of God's goodness and love. Be not surprised nor startled at the
corruptions of your depraved nature; at the depth of sin in your carnal
mind; at the vile abominations which lurk and work in your deceitful and
desperately wicked heart. Bear in mind that it is the will of God that this
heavenly treasure which makes you rich for eternity should be lodged in an
We are to carry about a daily sense of
our base original to hide pride from our eyes. We are to be despised by
others; and by none so much as by our own selves. We have ever to feel our
native weakness, and that without Christ we can do nothing; that we may be
clothed with humility, and feel ourselves the chief of sinners, and less
than the least of all saints. We thus learn to prize the heights, breadths,
lengths, and depths of the love of Christ, who stooped so low to raise us up
SHELLS FOR GOD
BEARING THE PEARL OF THE GOSPEL
Spurgeon's Exposition of 2Co 4:7
The original might very fairly be
have this treasure in oyster shells,”
for, just as pearls are found in the
shells of oysters (Ed: see note below), so God gives to those who preach the
Word the treasure of the gospel, yet they are themselves nothing but the
oyster shells, nothing but the earthen vessel in which God pleases to place
His priceless treasures. If you have done anything in the service of God, my
brother, remember that you are nothing but the oyster shell, it is God’s
truth that is the pearl in you; so while you are thankful for the honor that
He puts upon you, mind that you give Him all the glory (Ps 115:1 1Co
1:31KJV). It is well to take the right view of our own imperfections and
infirmities, as Paul did when he wrote, “Most gladly therefore will I
rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The infirmity of the creature leaves the more room for the display of the
greatness of the Creator; for, if God can work such wondrous results by
using such poor tools as we are, how great must be his power and skill!
Note: Oyster is derived from
Ostrakon which is related to the word for "clay" (ostrakinos) so Spurgeon's
word picture is not far fetched.
The most earnest and faithful minister of
the gospel must ever remember that humbling truth. He has this precious
treasure of the gospel entrusted to his charge; he knows he has it, and he
means to keep it safely, but, still, he is nothing but an earthen vessel,
easily broken, soon marred,-a poor depository for such priceless truth. Yet
God has a good reason for putting this treasure into earthen vessels,- That
the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
If angels had been commissioned to preach
the gospel, we might have attributed some of its power to their superior
intelligence, and if only those had been called to preach the gospel who
were men of great intellect and of profound learning, we might have
considered that the talent of man was the essential qualification for a
preacher. But when God selects-as He often does, nay, as He always
does;-earthen vessels, and some that seem more manifestly earthen than
others, then the excellency of the power is unquestionably seen to be of
God, and not of us.
F B Meyer references 2Co 4:7 in
his devotional commentary on Judges 7 in which God reduced the size of
This is one of the most searching
chapters in the Old Testament. It is full of teaching to those among us who
are full of their own plans and strength, and who can count on many great
alliances to assist them. God will not give His glory to another, and He
cannot give the Midianites into our hand so long as there is a likelihood of
our laying claim to the results. Success in spiritual work must be denied us
if it would tend to our vaunting ourselves. Hence it is that so many of
God's most successful workers have had to pass through periods of
humiliation at the river's brink.
Judges 7:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7:8 The test. --
Two methods were employed for thinning the army. First, the usual
proclamation was made (Deut. 20:8). Then the way in which the soldiers drank
was carefully observed. Those that threw themselves at full length were
evidently apt to prefer their own comfort and refreshment to their soldierly
self-denial, which prefers duty to pleasure; these were, therefore,
dismissed. And the little body which remained was specially equipped; taking
no more victuals than they could easily carry, because the campaign would be
short in spite of the numbers of the foe.
A good equipment for the Christian, --
a light to shine, a trumpet to proclaim the victory of Jehovah; though at
the best we are but earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:6-7).
"God counts hearts, not heads" (Rev. J.
The Treasure And The Pots - It has
been said that the Roman Empire ran on olive oil. It was used in cooking,
bathing, medicine, ceremonies, lamps, and cosmetics. For decades, olive oil
from southern Spain was shipped to Rome in large clay jugs called amphorae.
Those jugs, not worth sending back, were discarded in a growing heap of
broken shards known as Monte Testaccio. The fragments of an estimated 25
million amphorae created that man-made hill, which stands today on the bank
of the Tiber River in Rome. In the ancient world, the value of those pots
was not their beauty but their contents.
Because of this, the first-century followers of Christ would have clearly
understood Paul’s illustration of the life of Jesus in every believer. “But
we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power
may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
Our bodies, like amphorae, are temporary, fragile, and expendable. In our
modern world that highly values outward beauty, we would be wise to remember
that our greatest treasure is the life of Jesus within us. By God’s grace
and power, may we live so that others can see Christ in us.— by David C.
We are just the clay pots. Jesus is the true treasure within us.
Although my outward shell decays,
I’m inwardly renewed each day,
Because the life and power of Christ
Indwells this fragile jar of clay. —Sper
Christ is seen most clearly
when we remain in the background.
Corinthians 4:8 Commentary
way, but not
Amplified: We are hedged in (pressed) on every side
[troubled and oppressed in every way], but not cramped or crushed; we
suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out,
but not driven to despair;
Barclay: We are sore pressed at every point, but not hemmed
in. We are at our wit’s end, but never at our hope’s end.
God's Word: In every way we're troubled, but we aren't
crushed by our troubles. We're frustrated, but we don't give up. (GWT)
Easy English: We often have great trouble but nothing has
destroyed us. We do not understand everything but we do not lose hope.
ESV: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair; (ESV)
KJV: We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed;
we are perplexed, but not in despair;
NET: We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not
crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; (NET
NIV: We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck
down, but not destroyed.
NLT: We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not
crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: We are handicapped on all sides, but we are
never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. (Phillips:
Weymouth: We are hard pressed, yet never in absolute distress;
perplexed, yet never utterly baffled;
Wuest: We are being hard pressed from every side, but we are not
hemmed in. We are bewildered, not knowing which way to turn, but not
utterly destitute of possible measures or resources. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: on every side being in tribulation, but
not straitened; perplexed, but not in despair;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
WE ARE AFFLICTED IN EVERY WAY, BUT
NOT CRUSHED; PERPLEXED, BUT NOT DESPAIRING: en panti thlibomenoi (PPPMPN)
all' ou stenochoroumenoi, (PPPMPN) aporoumenoi (PMPMPN) all' ouk
exaporoumenoi, PMPMPN: (Afllicted: 2Co 1:8 9 10 6:4 7:5
11:23-30) (But: 2Co 4:16,17 12:10 1Sa 28:15 30:6 Ps 56:2,3 Pr 14:26
18:10 Ro 5:3-5 Ro 8:35-37 Jas 1:2-4 1Pe 1:6,7 4:12-14) (Not despairing:
or, not altogether without help, or means, 1Sa 31:4 Job 2:9,10 Ps 37:33 Jn
14:18 1Co 10:13)
THREE GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
ON THESE NEXT TWO PASSAGES
Note that all
of the verbs in 2Co 4:8 and 2Co 4:9 are in the
picturing continuous action. In other words Paul was continuously afflicted,
perplexed, persecuted and struck down.
(2) Note also that the second verb
of each "couplet" (antithetical set) is preceded by the English
word "not" which is the Greek particle "ou" signifying
absolute negation -- the idea is "by no means" or "absolutely not". Paul is emphatically denying that these actions or
attitudes are his continued state.
(3) Note that each of these "effects"
should not be divorced from their "cause" - In other words, Paul is "squeezed
but not squashed" not because he "gutted it out" but because he relied
on the surpassing greatness of the power (dunamis) of God to sustain
him through the fiery trials. The transcending power of God transforms every
tribulation that the sovereignty of God allows us to experience. "The first
clause in each member of the series of contrasted participles, implies the
earthiness of the vessels; the second clause, the excellency of
the power." (Jamieson, R_
Plummer adds that...
The ruling idea throughout is that God
manifests His power in His servants’ weakness. Whatever hostile agents,
whether human or diabolical, may do, the earthen vessels are able to bear
the shock and continue to render service. (2
Corinthians 4:7 Commentary)
Guzik notes that...
In the story
of Gideon, it was the breaking of vessels that made the light shine forth
and bring victory to God’s people (Judges 7:20). In the rest of the chapter,
Paul will show how God “breaks” His clay pots so the excellence of the power
may be of God and not of us....
Paul knew the
power and victory of Jesus in his life because he was continually in
situations where only the power and victory of Jesus could meet his need!
As Wil Pounds reminds us...
Most of the time these old pots have to
be broken before they emit the sweet fragrance of His grace. God does it
through the pressures that come in our lives. In the midst of cracking the
pot the believer is sustained by God's power and the prospect of future
blessings in glory. These present sufferings lead on to eternal glory. We
have confidence in view of the sure promise of eternal glory. Because God
has placed His treasure in earthen vessels, our personal insufficiency and
sufferings only serve to demonstrate more clearly that this treasure is not
from us, but is the power of God. The life of Christ is revealed in
affliction. We are nothing. The whole power is of God. We stewards of the
treasure of God are to have none of the glory of the work. Our one supreme
passion should be that God alone gets all the glory. It is His work, not
ours. It is not our task to dream up great things to do for God and then ask
Him to bless it. It is our job to find out where He is at work and join Him
in what He is doing. The results are eternally different. God fulfills the
ministry by using weak, afflicted, persecuted, and decaying vessels. These
vessels that contain His fragrance are worn out in His work. (Sweet
Fragrance in Old Clay Pots)
A. W. Tozer said
It is doubtful God can bless any man
greatly until He has hurt him deeply.
I like Rob Morgan's
One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into
a well. The animal brayed and cried miserably for hours as the farmer tried
to figure out what to do. There seemed no way to get the donkey out, and
especially because the donkey was old and feeble anyway. So the farmer
decided the best think to do would be to cover the old animal with dirt and
just bury him. The man invited his neighbors to come and help, and they all
grabbed shovels and began to pitching dirt into the well. When the poor
donkey realized what was happening, he squealed in fear; but shortly, to
everyone’s amazement, he quieted down. After awhile, the farmer peered down
the well and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that
hit his back, the donkey shook himself, the dirt fell to the ground, and the
donkey took a step up. Pretty soon, to the amazement of all, the donkey
stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!
Sometimes we feel like we’re being "buried alive". The
dirt on us, and sometimes other people, even believers, do the same. The
"trick" is learning to "shake it off" and to take a step up. In this way,
our problems become stepping-stones. However, this is where the story breaks
down somewhat, for while we are called to "step up", we can do this only
because we are being energized by nothing less than God’s all-surpassing
power (2Co 4:7). And as we submit to the Refiner's fire, depending on
His power, He will use us to impact the lives of others, whether we realize
it or not. (Jars
In 2Co 4:8,9 Paul gives four sets of
contrasts each of which illustrates Paul’s experience as a clay pot,
specifically describing his weaknesses that called for continual reliance on
Paul has another list of contrasts in
the first epistle to the Corinthians...
We are fools for Christ’s sake, but
you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are
distinguished, but we are without honor.
11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly
clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless;
12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we
bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;
13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the
scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. (1Co 4:10-13).
Comment: Other apostolic weakness
lists in the Corinthian correspondence 2Co. 6:3-10; 2Cor. 11:23-29
In this list the emphasis is on
God’s grace which delivers him. He is afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and
struck down, but never crushed, never utterly left to despair, never
abandoned, never down and out. Some interpreters compare this to the Stoic
emphasis on apatheia, or inner detachment, the ability to face all adversity
with a noble indifference. This is not Paul’s orientation. Not his own inner
reserve but God’s power pulls him through, for he had learned the secret
Not that I speak from want; for I have
learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to
get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in
any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and
going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all
things through Him who strengthens me. (Php. 4:11 12 13).
Baker writes that...
Paul’s approach to hardships stands out
in contrast to the widely known Stoic perspective of his day. He does not
view hardships “stoically” as inconsequential, bouncing off him as if
nothing. Rather, they are real, and they hurt. Neither does Paul treat the
physical and emotional abuse he endures as cause for celebration and
happiness. They can and do discourage him from a personal point of view. He
is not a masochist for Christ, nor should any Christian portray himself as
one who takes delight in the pain. Rather, the theological understanding
that Paul will relay allows him to endure with superhuman confidence and
tenacity. (Baker, W. R.. 2 Corinthians. The College Press NIV commentary.
Joplin, MO: College Press Pub)
Afflicted in every way - "in every
way and on every occasion" (Hodge) Some feel that this phrase (in every way)
which precedes the first couplet (but is not repeated) applies to all 4
"At every point difficulties press upon
them: but they are not without way of escape." (Beet)
from thláo = crush, squash;
see related word study -
thlipsis) means literally to press hard
upon, crowd close against, squeeze or crush. To distress, to treat with
hostility, to oppress, to harass, to treat with hostility.
English definition of
afflict (from Latin affligo, afflicto = to strike, cast down) = To give
to the body or mind pain which is continued or of some permanence; to
grieve, or distress; as, one is afflicted with the gout, or with melancholy,
or with losses and misfortunes. To inflict upon one something hard to
endure. To trouble; to harass; to distress. Synonyms = beset,
burden, distress, grieve, harass, hurt, oppress, pain, plague, rack, smite,
torment, trouble, try, wound.
The opposite of to afflict is
to comfort. Jesus referring to the Holy Spirit promised His disciples
"another Comforter (KJV)" Who would "be with (them) forever"
Thlibo means to to suffer
affliction, to be troubled, with reference to sufferings due to the pressure
of circumstances, or the antagonism of adversaries.
Thlibo describes the pressing
of grapes to extract juice.
Here are other uses in secular Greek
literature - tight quarters; the city jammed full with a
multitude; small living quarters; a tight place and full of
bad snakes (I don't know of any "good" snakes - they are my great phobia);
distressed by someone’s scheming; distressed soul.
Thlibo can referred to both internal
(with stress and/or anxiety) and external afflictions (eg, as occurred to
slaves or aliens who were oppressed) or by troubles such as illness, desert
wandering, and shipwreck.
Earlier in his letter to the
Corinthians Paul had written...
For (explaining how the saints were
sharers of his suffering and comfort 2Co 1:7) we do not want you to be
unaware, brethren, of our affliction (thlipsis
= noun relative of thlibo) which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened
excessively, beyond our strength (Ed: Don't miss this - Paul had
learned the secret of being able to do all things not through
his intrinsic, human strength but through that of Christ Jesus Who
continually strengthened him. [Php 4:11 12-note
This is oft times a hard lesson for us to learn, but in this brief life
there can be few lessons that yield more spiritual fruit in this life and
the life to come! Be encouraged dear suffering saint!), so that we
even of life indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order
that (Paul explains God's
purpose for allowing suffering in our lives)
we should not trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead (2Co 1:8)
Tribulation to the early Christians
meant not so much ill health, poverty or loss of friends, but the sacrifices
they had to make and the perils they had to meet because of their
proclamation and/or profession (more accurately "confession") of Christ.
Like toothpaste, crushing allowed by God always brings out what is on the
inside (~character) and is divinely designed to make us more like Christ and
to store up for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2Co
Beloved, if you are suffering for His Name, count it all joy (Jas 1:2-note,
Jas 1:3 4-note),
rejoice, for great is your reward in heaven throughout eternity (Mt 5:10 11
God does great things through suffering. Witness the incredible sufferings
of the true church in China, sufferings which have not only purified the
church (false believers [an oxymoron] would not dare want to take the risk
of incarceration or execution for the cause of Christ) but have also
multiplied the effect of the Gospel through the bold testimonies of
countless suffering saints, "worthless" jars of clay in the world's eyes! Do
not let Satan's lies discourage you from taking up your Cross and following
the path your Lord trod (Mk 8:34 35 36 37 1Pe 2:21-note).
When the flames of affliction are fanned, then purpose in your heart to
recall the eternal truth that when God allows jars of clay to be fired even
hotter in the kiln (oven), His loving, gracious goal is not to break us or
embitter us but but to make us "better", really to make us more like His
Son, as He takes us from glory to glory by His Spirit (2Co 3:18-note)!
Set your face like flint, and make ever increasing Christlikeness your one
aim in this short life, dear jar of clay. Throughout eternity future, you
will not regret your decision to follow hard after Christ Jesus your Lord!
In short, the clay jar of Paul
was continually crushed by pressing circumstances and yet he was
continually sustained by a powerful Christ.
“We are troubled on every side.” There
seems to be an allusion here to the Greek wrestling games. Sometimes, in
wrestling, a man would be gripped by his adversary so that he could scarcely
move hand or foot; yet bravely says the apostle, “We are not distressed,”
or, as the original seems to suggest, “We still have a plan of overcoming
our adversaries; though they seem to have got us entirely in their power,
there is still something that we can do to obtain our release.” And he goes
even further than that, for he says, “We are perplexed,” — it seemed as if
there was nothing that he could do, yet he added, “but not in despair,” —
“not altogether without help,” as the marginal reading renders it,-for,
when he could do nothing, God could do everything. The death of
creature-strength is the birth of omnipotent might.
In Paul’s case, the earthiness of the
vessel appeared in the trouble which he had to bear. 2Co 4:8. We are
troubled on every side, yet not distressed;- He is not so far gone as that.
He sees the stormy billows raging around outside the ship everywhere, and
the ship is tossed hither and thither upon the waves yet she does not leak,
there is no water in the hold, and the waves will not sink the ship as long
as she can keep them outside; and trouble will not distress us as long as we
can obey our Lord’s injunction, “Let not your heart be troubled.” “We are
troubled on every side, yet not distressed;”
Hodge paraphrases it
"Pressed for room, but still having room.” and adds that "The figure is that
of a combatant sore pressed by his antagonist, but still finding room to
Hughes credits Merrill Tenney
for the following pithy paraphrases...
(stenochoreo from stenos = narrow + chora = space,
territory [choros = a space]) means literally to restrict or to confine to a
narrow or tight space, to be pressed for room (Josh 17:15 = "too narrow", Is
49:19 = "too cramped"). To be cooped up. To be cramped. Figuratively
stenochoreo means to experience circumstances that seem to offer no way
of escape (we've all had this feeling from time to time!) To feel "crushed"
with difficulties. To oppress. To be in straits (strait is an archaic
word which pictures one who is placed in difficulty or distress).
In 2Co 6:12 the idea is to be
"cramped" in one's feelings toward another, to be cool or formal toward
another or to be reserved = restrained in words and actions) toward another
The only other NT use is also in 2
2 Corinthians 6:12 You are not
restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections.
Comment: Paul says he had nothing
to hinder his relationship with the Corinthians, whereas they were
restrained toward him, in essence (playing on the literal meaning of
stenochoreo) having "squeezed" him out of their lives, even closing their
hearts to him! Why? Apparently they had bought into the lies perpetrated by
the false teachers who sought to paint Paul's character and ministry in a
negative light. This is a sad testimony that they believed liars instead of
the truth spoken by Paul and that this would have been especially painful to
Paul is a feeling we can all identify with for we have all be falsely
accused. Paul may have been hurt but he was still a Spirit filled man and
practiced the truth he penned that love "bears all things...endures all
things." (1Co 13:7) Have you ever taught (or prepared to teach) a Biblical
truth, only to have God bring you into a situation that gives you a chance
to "live it out"?
Stenochoreo - 4x in the
non-apocryphal Septuagint - Josh 17:15; Jdg 16:16; Isa 28:20; 49:19
Jdg 16:16 It came about when she
(Delilah) pressed (Lxx = stenochoria - NLT "nagging") him (Samson)
daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death.
BEWILDERED BUT NOT
- the latter = always used in the middle voice in NT) means literally
to be without a way or path (Vine - "a" = negative + "poros" =
a way, a transit, a ford, revenue, resource). Thus not to know which way to
turn, to be at a loss, to be uncertain, to be "dazed and confused", to be in
doubt, to be disturbed. To be without resources, to be embarrassed, to be in
The idea is that they were often in
situations not knowing which way to go and/or seeing no way open them.
Vine says aporeomai is
“to be without a way in which to go,” and
so to be puzzled, to be at a loss as to what to think or what to do
as Jacob was about his brother Esau (Genesis 32:7 = Lxx use of aporeomai
which renders "distressed")
The noun aporia is used once in
the NT in the context of perplexity of the signs in the sky in the days
preceding the return of the Messiah (Lk 21:25).
Aporeo - 6x in 6v in the NAS
- am perplexed(1), being at a loss(1), loss(1), perplexed(3).
Mark 6:20 for Herod was afraid of John,
knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when
he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening
Comment: Herod’s interaction with
John left him in great internal conflict because he had a moral struggle
between his strong (evil) desire for Herodias and the pricking of his guilty
Luke 24:4 While they were perplexed
about this (absence of Jesus' body from the tomb - Lk 24:1, 2, 3), behold,
two men (angelic beings) suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing;
John 13:22 (Context = Jn 13:21 when Jesus
predicts His betrayal) The disciples began looking at one another, at a
loss to know of which one He was speaking.
Acts 25:20 (Festus
- this narrative begins in Acts 25:1-19) Being at a loss how to
investigate such matters, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem
and there stand trial on these matters.
Festus was a pagan Roman ruler and was
new in Judea, explaining why he was "at a loss" to understand the
differences between Judaism and Christianity>
2 Corinthians 4:8 we are afflicted in
every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;
Galatians 4:20 but I could wish to
be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed (at
wits end) about you.
Vine comments: Apostle though he
was, Paul was not exempt from the trials that attend the servants of Christ,
and this was equally true of external experiences, persecutions and the
like, and of experiences of the mind and heart, perplexities included; see
2Co 11:28. Paul was perplexed because he felt their spiritual
development was being arrested. He had a deep desire to be with them so that
he could speak with them personally (and with a gentler tone) regarding his
concerns over their spiritual well being.
John MacArthur: This verb
(aporeomai) means to be at one’s wits’ end. He could not understand how they
could have been taught the gospel so well, believed it so genuinely, and
then appeared to have forsaken it so quickly (cf. Gal 1:6). Every
Christian worker experiences times when he comes to an impasse and finds his
own resources are completely exhausted. After saying and doing everything he
knows to say and do, those he is trying to help-sometimes unbelievers,
sometimes believers-remain completely out of reach and even turn against
J. Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press
Wuest has an additional thought:
The verb is in the middle voice, which fact speaks of the inward distress of
a mind tossed to and fro by conflicting doubts and fears. The Greek has it,
“I am perplexed in you.” Paul’s perplexity is conceived as being in the
Galatians. He says in effect, “I am puzzled how to deal with you, how to
find an entrance into your hearts.”
Aporeo - 8x in the
non-apocryphal Septuagint - Ge 32:7; Lev 25:47; Pr 31:11; Isa 9:1; 24:19;
51:20; Jer 8:18; Hos 13:8
Alfred Plummer renders this
antithetical set "in despondency yet not in despair"
Rob Morgan has the following
humorous illustration to encourage us to emulate Paul and "never
I read about a man whose route to work
every day took him through a particular park in the city, and every day he
saw an old fellow sitting on the park bench. This fellow was an illegal
bookie, but the businessman didn’t know that. The old fellow always looked
forlorn, and the businessman thought he was homeless. One day en route to
work, the businessman felt a surge of compassion for the fellow and as he
passed by he handed him an envelope containing ten dollars and a note saying
“Never Despair.” The next as he passed by the old man handed the businessman
an envelope containing sixty dollars. The old codger explained: “Never
Despair was in the money paying six to one in the second race.”Well, we
always win when we make up our minds to Never Despair. That was Paul’s
attitude. He rode that horse in every race, and it never failed him. And
it’s a message that we still need in life and in our labor for the Lord. (Jars
We are perplexed, but not in despair;- We
scarcely know what to do, but we have not given way to despair. We are
perplexed, but hope has not gone from us. Dum spiro spero, was the old Latin
proverb,-”While I live I hope;” but the Christian proverb is a still
better one, Dum expiro spero,- “Even while I die I still have hope,” for
“the righteous hath hope in his death.”
Constantly doubtful what way to take, and
yet always finding some way open. The root of the Greek word translated
perplexed means, “to be at a loss as to what to say or do”; the
intensive used here (exaporeomai) means to be absolutely shut up so as to
have no way or means available.
from ek = normally means "out of" but here serves
as a strong intensifier of the simple verb + aporéo = to be
at a loss) means to be utterly at a loss (cp at a loss - meaning of
the "milder" verb aporeo above) to be in great doubt, in utmost
despair, greatly perplexed.
As alluded to, perplexed and
despairing have the same derivation and indicate that yes, admits to
being at a loss (aporeo) but never to the point that he felt he was
at a total loss (exaporeomai) or had reached a state of utter
Thayer = To be utterly
destitute of measures or resources, to renounce all hope
The English definition of
despair - to lose or give up hope. Synonyms include - despond, give up,
lose heart, lose all hope or confidence.
Paul was at times at loss to
explain circumstances but never to the point of causing him to lose hope.
The only other NT use of
2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you
to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we
were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired
even of life;
There is one use in the Septuagint...
Psalm 88:15 I was afflicted and about to
die from my youth on; I suffer Your terrors; I am overcome (Lxx
= exaporeomai). (The English translation of the Septuagint reads "having
been lifted up, I was brought low and into despair.")
He was at his wit’s end, but there was
still a way out; he was at the brink of defeat but not defeated.
Choosing The Hard Thing -
On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech at Rice
University in Houston, Texas, about the difficult challenges facing the
nation. He also shared his passion for the United States to place a man on
In balancing the needs of his people with the desire to conquer space,
Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade. We choose to go
to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy but because
they are hard.” The nation responded. Seven years later, Neil Armstrong took
a “giant leap for mankind” in July of 1969, by walking on the moon.
Today’s world is filled with energy-saving devices that make life easier,
but there is something to be said for embracing life’s challenges. The
apostle Paul found serving Christ hard, but he didn’t see it as a cause for
discouragement. He continued to focus on Christ, and wrote, “We are
hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in
despair” (2 Cor. 4:8). Paul knew that “He who raised up the Lord Jesus will
also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you” (v.14). The goal
was worth the pain.
By the grace of God, may we commit to serving Jesus—not just when it’s easy,
but when it’s hard. — by Bill Crowder
For Further Study
Learn more about dealing with difficulties in life.
Read Joseph: Overcoming Life’s Challenges on
the Web at
Jesus gave His all to save us—
are we giving our all to serve Him?
Corinthians 4:9 Commentary
Amplified: We are pursued (persecuted and hard driven),
but not deserted [to stand alone]; we are struck down to the ground,
but never struck out and destroyed;
Barclay: We are persecuted by men, but never abandoned by God. We
are knocked down, but not knocked out.
God's Word: We're persecuted, but we're not abandoned.
We're captured, but we're not killed. (GWT)
Easy English: We suffer in a cruel way for what we believe.
However, God does not leave us on our own. Things knock us down, but
they do not kill us.
ESV: persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not
KJV: Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not
NET: we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down,
but not destroyed, (NET
NIV: persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not
NLT: We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get
knocked down, but we are not destroyed. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: We are persecuted, but we never have to stand
it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! (Phillips:
Weymouth: pursued, yet never left unsuccoured; struck to
the ground, yet never slain;
Wuest: We are being persecuted, but not left in the lurch,
not abandoned, not let down. We are being knocked down, but not
Young's Literal: persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down,
but not destroyed;
PERSECUTED, BUT NOT FORSAKEN; STRUCK
DOWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED: diokomenoi (PPPMPN) all' ouk egkataleipomenoi, (PPPMPN)
kataballomenoi (PPPMPN) all' ouk apollumenoi, (PMPMPN): (but:
Ps 9:10 22:1 37:25,28 Isa 62:4 Heb 13:5) (Struck down: 2Co 7:6 Job
5:17-19 22:29 Ps 37:24 42:5,11 Isa 43:2)
When you stand for Christ, everything
that stands against Him will come against (persecute) you!
from dío = to pursue,
prosecute, persecute) means to follow or press hard after, literally to
pursue as one does a fleeing enemy - to chase, harass, vex and pressure. It
was used to describe chasing down criminals. Dioko speaks of
an intensity of effort leading the pursuer to pursue with earnestness and
diligence with the desire of obtaining. It gives us the picture of hounds on
a hunt aggressively pursuing after the fox (Cp related verb katadioko
= pursued closely, tracked down - used in Lxx of 1Sa 26:20 "as one
hunts a partridge") .
Paul's adversaries continually hunted
him down like a wild animal!
Have you ever felt like you were
being chased or hunted down because of your ministry or having taken a stand
for Christ? Paul is saying
yes, they have chased after me, but I have never been abandoned or left
He is tired and weary from persecution,
but God has not left him to be devoured by the wolves who dog him
Warren Wiersbe writes that
it carries the idea of intense endeavor.
The Greeks used it to describe a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey. A man
does not become a winning athlete by listening to lectures, watching movies,
reading books, or cheering at the games. He becomes a winning athlete by
getting into the game and determining to win! The same zeal that Paul
employed when he persecuted the church (Phil.
3:6), he displayed in serving Christ. Come to think of it, wouldn't it
be wonderful if Christians put as much determination into their spiritual
life as they do their golfing, fishing, or bowling?
To persecute - 30/45 NT uses convey
the sense of the intention of doing harm. To hunt down like an animal. To
run swiftly after something. To in any way whatever, to harass, trouble,
molest. To carry out physical persecution, to harass, to abuse, to treat
unjustly. (Mt 5:10, 11, 12, Mt 5:44, Mt 10:23, Lk 21:12, Jn 5:16; 15:20;
Acts 7:52; 9:4, 5; 22:4,7, 8; 26:14, 15; Ro 12:14; 1Co 4:12; 15:9; 2Co 4:9;
Gal 1:13,23; Gal 4:29; Gal 5:11; Php 3:6; 2Ti 3:12; Passive sense - to be
maltreated, suffer persecution on account of something -Gal 6:12. Dioko
conveys a sense of urgency and a sense of of intensity of purpose.
Paul at one time was a persecutor of
Jesus (Acts 9:4) because he persecuted the followers of the Lord (the Way
Acts 9:4 and
he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are
you persecuting Me?" 5 And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And He said,
"I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,
Paul's persecution of believers was equivalent (in God's eyes) to
persecution of Jesus because He was in covenant with them and thus
identified fully with them. When they were persecuted, He was persecuted.
Note how this fact is repeated in the passages below from Acts. Clearly this
is a truth God wants believers to be know and believe, especially when they
are being persecuted for His sake!
Acts 22:4 "I persecuted this Way (Acts 9:2, 18:25, 26, 19:9, 23,
24:14, 22) to the death, binding and putting both men and women into
Acts 22:7 and
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are
you persecuting Me?' 8 "And I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He
said to me, 'I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.'
Acts 26:11 "And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to
force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept
pursuing them even to foreign cities.
Acts 26:14 "And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying
to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?
It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' 15 "And I said, 'Who are You,
Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
Galatians 1:13 For you have heard of my former
manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond
measure and tried to destroy it;
Galatians 1:23 but only, they kept hearing, "He
who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to
Galatians 5:11 But I, brethren, if I still
preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of
the cross has been abolished.
as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which
is in the Law, found blameless.
4:12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless;
when we are persecuted, we endure;
1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue
- the direction of your life. Chase after
Christ-like agape love with intensity) love, yet desire earnestly spiritual
gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be
called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
“Persecuted, but not forsaken; “-having no
man’s face to smile upon him, but still rejoicing in the light of God’s
“Cast down,” — as if his antagonist had thrown
him, and he had fallen heavily upon the ground; yet he says, as he springs
up again, “Cast down, but not destroyed.”
Many a time the Christian wrestler is thrown by
his foe, but he never has a final fall. As Paul, when he was stoned at
Lystra, and left for dead, rose up again, and soon went on with his work, so
the Christian, when ho has been cast down by trouble, often seems to gain
new life and vigor, and to go on to serve his Master even better than he did
Persecuted, but not forsaken;
-- For there is One who, when we are persecuted, is persecuted with us, and
persecuted in us, who has promised that we shall not be left desolate. He
lath said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
persecution rage and flame,
Still truth in thy Redeemer’s name;
In fiery trials thou shalt see
That, ’as thy day, thy strength shall be,’“
Jamieson comments that Paul was...
not forsaken—by God and man.
Jesus was forsaken by both; so much do His sufferings exceed those of His
people (Mt 27:46).
from en = in +
kataleipo = forsake, desert) means
literally to leave down in. It conveys the sense of deserting someone in a
set of circumstances that are against him. The idea is to let one down, to
desert, abandon, leave in the lurch, leave one helpless. In Romans 9:39 the
verb means to cause to remain or to exist after a point in time.
The meaning of the word is that of
forsaking someone in a state of defeat or helplessness in the midst of
In some of the last words of Paul he
2 Timothy 4:16 At my first defense no one
supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against
Paul knew as the Lord's chosen
instrument, he would never be abandoned by God. He was clearly a student of
the Old Testament and would have been aware of the numerous OT declarations
by God that He would not forsake or abandon His people - Ge 28:15;
Deut. 31:6, 8; 1Chr 28:20; Ps 16:10; 37:25, 28. Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy
such was His Christlike spirit that He
prays that their defection may not be reckoned against them, with the
consequences that would issue at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
commenting on 2Ti 4:16 writes that this is
rather a sad note. When the apostle was
brought up for his hearing -- we would call it the arraignment of the
charges against him -- no one stood up for him; all forsook him. This was a
very dangerous time in Rome. The Emperor Nero was noted for his
vindictiveness. If anybody even appeared to be against him, Nero's assassins
were all throughout the city, ready to take the man's life. Evidently no
Christian was ready to risk his life by standing up for Paul, so he had to
face this preliminary hearing all alone. But notice again Paul's lack of
vindictiveness. "May it not be charged against them," he says; and he prays
for those who forsook him in the hour of danger. (2
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I
fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.
The psalmist records God's
The steps of a man are established by the
Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast
headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand. (Psalm 37:24, 25)
J B Phillip's paraphrase picks
up on this possible athletic association rendering this last antithetical
set "We may be knocked
but we are never knocked out!"
Struck down (2598)(kataballo
from katá = down + ballo = throw cast) means literally to cast
down (Rev 12:10KJV) or strike down (as being struck with enough force to
knock one to the ground) as when one is hit with a weapon.
Thayer says the picture "is
taken from an athlete or combatant." Wresting or boxing may have been the
background for Paul's use of this word, for the Corinthians would have been
quite familiar with a participant in the Isthmian (like our modern Olympics)
Games being pummeled to or thrown down to the ground. Indeed, kataballo
was the verb used to describe a either a knockdown in boxing or a throw down
The other NT use (see third in Textus
Receptus below) is in Hebrews...
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching
about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation
of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God (Hebrews 6:1)
The Textus Receptus has a third use in
Rev 12:10 not found in the modern Greek manuscripts in which John describes
the future event when Satan will be thrown down out from his access to
heaven (which he still possesses), an event which is associated with the
middle of the Seventieth Week of Daniel.
Kataballo - 33x in 32v in the
Septuagint (LXX) =2 Sam
20:15; 2 Kgs 3:19, 25; 6:5; 19:7; 2 Chr 32:21; Job 12:14; 16:9, 14; Ps
37:14; 73:18; 106:26f; 140:10; Pr 7:26; 18:8; 25:28; Isa 16:9; 26:5; Jer
19:7; Ezek 6:4; 23:25; 26:4, 9, 12; 29:5; 30:22; 31:12; 32:12; 39:3; Dan
11:12; 2 Cor 4:9; Heb 6:1
Cast down, but not destroyed;- Even if
the adversary is able to cast us down, he is not able to destroy us, for
“underneath are the everlasting arms.” “Cast down, but not destroyed;”
apo = away from or wholly + olethros = state of utter ruin <>
ollumi = to destroy <> root of Apollyon [Re 9:11-note]
= destroyer) is a verb meaning to cause to experience utter destruction or
ruin and often refers to eternal damnation
(Mt 10:28; Lk 13:3; Jn 3:16; Ro
2:12) which is not Paul's intended meaning here. Note that apollumi
when used to refer to eternal destruction does not refer to the loss of
being, but the loss of well-being.
It is interesting that apollumi
like kataballo (see above) conjured up secular athletic metaphors
metaphor), for this verb was
used to refer to losing a match, as when one is knocked out in boxing or
pinned in wrestling.
This brings to mind one "knock down"
blow that many thought had finished Paul's career as an apostle of Christ
Jesus, Luke recording Paul's miraculous recovery...
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium,
and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him
out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples
stood around him, he arose and entered the city. And the next day he went
away with Barnabas to Derbe. (Acts 14:19, 20)
Comment: The world says you "can't
keep a good man down." In this passage we see that you can't keep God's
man down (until he has finished his course - cp the 3.5 year ministry of
God's two witnesses in the end times - "when they had finished their
testimony" then God allowed the Antichrist to deliver a knock out punch, but
not before their work was fully accomplished. Rev 11:7-note)
George Whitfield put it well
when he said "We are immortal until our work is done." (Amen)
In some contexts apollumi means to
fail to obtain what one expects or anticipates and thus to lose out on or
lose, especially referring to eternal rewards (Mt 10:42, Mk 9:41, 2Jn 1:8).
In early Greek writings the word
apollumi spoke of eternal loss or annihilation, which reflected the
Greek concept of the afterlife. Later the word came to mean "violent injury"
Wayne E: New Testament Words in Today's Language. Victor. 1986)
When contrasted with struck down, Paul is
saying I may have been "hit' but I'm not I have not been killed, violently
injured, utterly devastated or destroyed. I haven't loss my eternal rewards
a less likely primary sense in this passage.
The allusion is still to combat. Paul was not only persecuted or pursued by
his enemies, but actually overtaken by them and cast to the ground—but not
killed. When they seemed to have him in their power, God delivered him. This
occurred so often and in cases so extreme as to make it manifest that the
power of God was exerted on his behalf. No man from his own resources could
have endured or escaped so much. There is in these verses an evident climax,
which reaches its culmination in the next sentence. He compares himself to a
combatant, first hard pressed, then hemmed in, then pursued, then actually
thrown down. This was not an occasional experience, but his life was like
that of Christ, an uninterrupted succession of indignities and suffering.
Kent Hughes nicely sums up 2Cor 4:7-9...
You can catch the intensity of Paul’s paradoxes by stacking the sufferings
he endured in the earthen vessel of his body (using Tenney’s rendering):
“squeezed … bewildered … pursued … knocked down.” What abject weakness! But
we have God’s surpassing power: “not squashed … not befuddled … not
abandoned … not knocked out.” What astonishing power! Again, “we have this
treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God
and not to us” (2Co 4:7). It wasn’t that Paul in each case reached down into
his soul, sucked it up, and became the man. It was never his strength. It
was God’s. Paul’s weakness was the occasion for God’s power. Paul remained
an earthen pot, and a cracked pot at that, as his crumbling flesh allowed
the power of God to shine so brightly.
R. K. 2 Corinthians: Power in Weakness. Preaching the Word. Crossway