What is a “Treasure in Earthen Vessels” ?
A treasure could be of gold and silver and gemstones couldn’t it? And earthen vessels could be pottery made out of clay. That would be “Treasure in earthen vessels”. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were found stored inside large clay pots, and hidden in caves, those were treasures in earthen vessels.
But the bible speaks about one specific “treasure”, that’s carried in “earthen vessels”. It’s a treasure worth more than those Dead Sea Scrolls, even though a part of what was written on those scrolls, were sections of the old testament scriptures. That was a big “find”, and quite a treasure. But the treasure that the bible talks about is an even greater treasure. It’s worth more than all the gold and silver and gems in the world.
Let me read to you a passage of scripture, that talks about this treasure. Open open your bibles if you’d like to, to 2 Corinthians chapter 4, you can follow along. I’ll read verses 1 thru 11..
“Therefore, since we have received this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame; Not walking in craftiness, or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth, commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
“For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God who said; Light shall shine out of darkness, is the One who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ.”
“But we have this the treasure, in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power (the power of the gospel) may be of God and not from ourselves. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; Perplexed, but not despairing; Persecuted, but not forsaken; Struck down, but not destroyed. Always carrying about in the body, the dying of Jesus, that the LIFE of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live, are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
Four Important Statements
The apostle Paul makes a number of interesting and important statements in those verses.
First he notes that since he and the other apostles have received this ministry from Christ, to preach the gospel, and since they have themselves received mercy from God, then as a result of that, they’re NOT going to lose heart. And they’re renouncing their past behavior. And they’re now walking in complete honesty, not adulterating the words of God, but actually being the very manifestation of the word of truth in their behavior. (There’s a lesson for us there, isn’t there? Are we the very manifestation of the word of truth, in OUR behavior?)
Next Paul states that if the gospel that they preach is misunderstood, or, in other words, if it’s “veiled”, it’s not because God hasn’t revealed the “light of His word”. But rather, it’s because people have allowed themselves to be “blinded by the god of this world”. And the way that you “allow” yourself to be blinded, is by desiring the world, more than you desire God’s truth. I seem to almost constantly, refer to 2 Thess 2, verses 10 & 11, which tell us that BECAUSE of a lack of love for the truth, God “sends us” so to speak, “a deluding influence, that we may believe a lie.” And when the scripture says, God “sends us” this deluding influence, it’s really just a matter of our own human nature. We tend to believe what we want to believe. If we don’t absolutely “LOVE” knowing God’s truth, then we’ll just naturally believe what we DO love. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or false. We’ll believe what we want to believe, ’cause that’s what we love.
Next, Paul points out, that they are not preaching anything that’s of their own origin. They are simply preaching Christ, and His word. Paul says that God, who declared that “Light shall shine out of darkness”, has Himself, made His light to shine in their hearts, giving them the knowledge of the glory of God.
By the way.. that phrase, “light shall shine out of darkness” is really a reference to Gen 1, verse 3, in which God said; “Let there be light, and there was light.” God’s light, absolutely “shined out of the darkness”.
So then Paul and the other apostles, were simply preaching “the light” which God caused to shine in their hearts. It was God’s gospel that they were preaching, and NOTHING of themselves.
And that’s when Paul says; “But we have this the treasure, in earthen vessels”. “This THE treasure”. There’s only ONE true treasure. That’s exactly what the word THE means in this verse. It is THE one true treasure. Your bible might not even have the word “the” in this verse, but it’s there in the original. And I’ve made this point several other times, but when the original Greek uses the word “THE” before something, it always means, it’s THE only one! It doesn’t matter if the bible is talking about THE God and Father, or THE gospel, or THE grace of God, or THE hope of our calling, or THE treasure. It always means, that it’s THE only ONE!
That’s why I said in the beginning, that THE treasure that we have in earthen vessels, is the greatest treasure in all the world, because there’s no other treasure like it. We might call gold and silver, and gems, and money, “treasures”, but in reality, they’re NOT! There’s only one thing that we should be “treasuring”. And that’s the gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation”. Romans 1, verse 16. If we’re treasuring anything else in this life, then we’re going against, God.
Man’s Weakness & God’s Power
After Paul tells us that “we have this the treasure, in earthen vessels”, He then says this; “That the surpassing greatness of the power (the power of the gospel) may be of GOD, and NOT of ourselves. We are afflicted in every way.. but not crushed. Perplexed.. but not despairing. Persecuted.. but not forsaken. Struck down.. but not destroyed.”
Remember what Paul wrote in 2 Cor 12, verse 10.. “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.”
God had just told him; “My grace is sufficient for you. For, POWER is perfected in weakness!” In other words, GOD”S power is made complete, in our weakness. And the GOSPEL, God’s power for salvation, is entrusted to weak, “earthen vessels”.
God isn’t referring to clay pots, is He? He’s referring to human beings. When the man named Ananias was sent to Saul, after Saul had been blinded by seeing the brightness of Jesus, God told Ananias, in Acts 9, verse 15; “Go, for he is a chosen VESSEL of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the sons of Israel.”
Saul , or in other words, Paul, was God’s “vessel”, to carry the word of salvation. And Paul was an “earthen vessel”. Paul himself said in 1 Cor 15, verses 47 & 48; “The first man is from the earth, “earthy”. (the word “earthy” here, literally means, “made of dust”) “The second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy..”
So Paul, just like every one of us here today, was an “earthen vessel” of God. And our purpose, is the same as Paul’s purpose. To carry the gospel to the rest of the world.
Ananias Preaches to Saul
Think back to Saul and Ananias for a minute. Saul had just seen Jesus as he was going to the city of Damascus. And Saul is blinded by the brightness of the sight of Jesus, and he falls to the ground, and Jesus says to Him; “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting!” Well, Saul now believes that Jesus is the Christ. And when Saul is recounting this story, in Acts 22, verse 10, He specifically asks Jesus; “What shall I do Lord?”
If there ever was a time in history, when God would directly speak His gospel to a man, this might have been the time. But that’s not what happened. Here’s what did happen..
Jesus tells Saul, in that same verse in Acts 22, verse 10; “Arise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told, of all that has been appointed for you to do.”
Then Jesus calls on Ananias, and He tells Ananias to go to Damascus, so HE can tell Saul how to be saved, through baptism. Why did Jesus do that? Why did Jesus call Ananias, to go and tell Saul how to be forgiven, when Jesus was standing right there in front of Saul? And He could have just told him right then and there Himself. But He didn’t tell him, He called for Ananias. Why?
Well, there’s only one answer for why. Because it had already been ordained by God, that THE treasure, of forgiveness through the gospel, should be carried, “in earthen vessels”. Even Jesus Himself, didn’t by-pass this law of God. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels”!
Jesus Delegates Responsibility
Jesus did a lot of teaching when He was with His disciples. He said in John 9, verse 5; “As long as I am in the world, I am the LIGHT of the world.” But in anticipation of when Jesus would NOT be in the world any longer, He said; “YOU are the light of the world.” (Mat 5:14)
after Jesus was gone, believers would then be the ones to bring the light of the gospel to the world.
Philip Preaches to the Ethiopian Treasurer
In Acts chapter 8, we have the story of an Ethiopian treasurer, who was about to receive the REAL treasure. Were told in verse 26, that “An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying; Arise and go south, to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Philip had been in Samaria preaching the word there and converting people. But now an angel tells him to go south, down a certain road. And when Philip goes there, he finds this Ethiopian treasurer traveling back home in his chariot, after having been in Jerusalem, worshipping God.
We’re told in verse 29; “And the spirit said to Philip, Go up and join this chariot.” The angel of the Lord, is called a “spirit”, in this verse. ALL angels are spirits, aren’t they? As a matter of fact, Hebrews 1, and verse 14 says; “Are they not ALL, ministering Spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”
So then God Himself, sent one of His angels, who is a ministering spirit, to render service to the Ethiopian, who God obviously already KNEW, would obey the gospel, and inherit salvation. And an interesting part of this, is that the WAY this angel renders service to the Ethiopian, is by sending Philip, to preach the word to him. Why didn’t the ministering spirit, not simply preach the word to the Ethiopian himself? I think you know why.. It was because “We have this treasure in earthen vessels”. It was not the angel’s “role”, to preach the gospel, it was the role of a MAN to do that. Today, it could very well be the role of a woman to preach the gospel privately to another person, but in this case it was the role of a man, not an angel.
Peter Preaches to Cornelius
Before we close this study, I’ll give you one more example, of a ministering spirit, sent out by God, to render service to one who would inherit salvation.
There’s a story, in Acts chapter 10, of a man named Cornelius, who lived in the city of Caesarea. It says in verse 2, that he was “a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God continuously.” That alone should be a lesson for us.. God says; “Pray without ceasing!” (I Thess 5:17).
But concerning Cornelius; It says in Acts 10, verses 3 thru 6 “About the ninth hour of the day, he clearly saw in a vision, an angel of God, who had come to him, and said to him; Cornelius! And fixing his gaze upon him, and being much alarmed, he said; What is it Lord? And the angel said to him; Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now, send some men to Joppa, and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter. He is staying with a certain tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.”
An angel of God, was sent to render service to Cornelius, and he does so, by directing him to Peter. Do you think that maybe the angel didn’t know God’s gospel plan of salvation? There was indeed a time when angels DIDN’T know God’s full plan.
Peter once said, in 1 Peter 1, verse 12; “It was revealed to them (he’s talking about the old testament prophets here) that they were not serving themselves, but YOU, in these things which now have been announced to you, through those who preached the gospel to you, by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven; Things into which angels long to look.” In other words; Angels longed to gain a clear glimpse, or a clear understanding, of the gospel that has now been preached.
So the prophets of old didn’t understand the full plan of God, and neither did the angels. But now these things have been revealed through the Holy Spirit of God, for everyone to know.
So again; Why didn’t the angel sent from God, simply preach the “good news” to Cornelius and his household? It’s because of God’s law; “We have this treasure in earthen vessels”. A part of God’s plan of salvation, is that PEOPLE, should preach the gospel to other people. And so it’s a never ending cycle; One generation of people, preaching to the next generation of people, until the end of time.
Some people are waiting for God to speak to them directly. Others are looking for some kind of miracle, to fill their minds with the will of God. But all anyone has to do is listen to people like you and I, members of the body of Christ, speaking God’s word.
We must Know the Word
And to conclude our study.. Here’s what God’s word says..
First, His word tells us to believe that Jesus is the Christ. (John 8:24) And then His word tells us to repent of anything that we’ve ever done that’s contrary to God’s word. (Luke 13:3) And His word tells us that we have to be willing to confess our faith in Him. (Mat 10:32) And God’s word commands us to be baptized, by the authority of Jesus Christ, FOR the forgiveness of our sins. (Acts 2:38) And then of course, God tells us, through His word, that we must remain faithful to the end. (Mat 24:13) That means continuing to live a life of faith, and repentance, and confession, and righteous living. (1 John 1, verses 5 thru 10)
God wants to give you His treasure. The question is.. Will you accept it, by obeying ALL that His word tells us to do?
Thanks for studying with us, and may God grant us all, a better understanding of His word.
Please leave your comments or questions in the space below. Spiritual Questions, and Answers from the Bible.. That’s how we learn.