Jars of clay


But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

There’s that “But” again. Remember 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God…”? As it was there, the “But” is the key. It sets up the whole thing. It indicates that this verse is much more than just a statement about you and me being vessels that contain the Lord. Yes, that’s true, but there is so much more here that we might miss except for the “But.” The “But” says that there is something contrary about this verse. Something is not as it should be, or at least not as you would expect.

“But,” Paul says, “we have this treasure in jars of clay.” Such a valuable treasure in such an improper place. “This treasure” is obviously referring to the previous verse where Paul says that we have in us, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Wow. Such a glorious treasure. And where does this magnificent treasure go? It goes in a clay pot, an earthen vessel, a jar of clay. Fragile, breakable, inexpensive, ubiquitous. The most prolific find in any archeological dig in that part of the world are potsherds. And potsherds are broken shards of pottery. In that day clay pots were the most common material around. And that’s where God has chosen to put “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” In a common, ordinary, breakable clay pot, representing you and me.

I broke one of our coffee mugs yesterday. Pulled it out of the dishwasher and it flew out of my hand and landed on the hardwood floor, shattering into a number of pieces. That’s what happens with clay pots.

A fitting treasure in an unfitting place. That’s what this “But” is all about. And there’s a reason for this. That’s what the rest of the verse is about. “To show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” It should be obvious. The whole point here is to set up a contrast between our human frailty and God’s power. The breakableness of our humanity is actually an important part of the message. Our human weaknesses play into God’s strength and make it clear that it is God doing everything. There’s no confusion. People witness a power in our lives, but they look at us and shake their heads thinking, It must be coming from somewhere else. And sure enough, it is. That is precisely why we don’t draw attention to ourselves so as not to lead anyone to think the power is coming from us. So you can also see how, if we try and hide our weaknesses and human frailty and try to give a good impression in and of ourselves, we foul up the whole message. People are supposed to look at us and see ordinary, but then look at what we are doing — what’s going on in our lives — and see extraordinary. If they stop with us, they fail to get the point.

The more human we are — the more broken down, fragile, and ordinary we are — the more obvious it becomes that God is at work in our lives. This is why we have nothing to hide. The more others see who we really are, the more opportunity they have to see who God really is in our lives. And isn’t that the point?

The 21 Day Challenge

— Day Seventeen —

Jars of clay

Chapter2 Corinthians 4:7

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Paul makes reference not just to the power of the Lord but to the surpassing greatness of His power. This glorious ministry is performed through vessels of weakness.

For Your consideration

What are our expectations of God?

Never forget that just as God has a plan for your life … so does Satan. Make no mistake, Satan is the god of this world and is actively at work scheming how he might discourage each of us from fulfilling the personal mission that our Lord has given each of us.

Do not lose heart! This ministry to proclaim the glory of Christ is too treasured to give in to discouragement.

Summary and Questions

2 Corinthians, Chapter 4: 1-7

Summary – Preaching Christ

  • The message of the gospel focuses on the glory of Christ.
  • Christ supremely reveals God as the image of God
  • Any gospel that does not preach Christ Jesus as Lord is a false gospel.
  • We need to be gazing intently into the face of Christ.


  1. What type of ministry have you received from the Lord?
  2. When are you tempted to get discouraged in your ministry; to question whether it is worth it to keep making sacrifices and putting forth the effort? How do you deal with this temptation to despair or to withdraw?
  3. Do you truly believe that God is Sovereign when it comes to who responds to the truth of the gospel? How does this affect your desire to witness?
  4. How glorious and cherished do you find God’s revelation about Himself in the person of Christ to be to you?


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4 Responses to Jars of clay

  1. John A Fagliano says:

    A treasure in a jar of clay is easier to spot that a treasure in a golden chalice. Some may mistake the chalice for the treasure ane never see the real treasure inside. If a jar of clay falls to the floor and breaks, the treasure will survive. But if a golden chalice is dropped, people will ignore the treasure and get upset that the chalice is scratched. They will try to polish it and cover it up and ignore the treasure…if it was in there to begin with.
    The treasure looks more beautiful inside a jar of clay and other jars of clay without much of themselves to brag about will want that same treasure. But a beautiful empty chalice will say “I’m fine the way I am.”

  2. David Kreitz says:

    “We have this treasure (the life of Christ)) in earthen vessels (our own bodies) to show the transcendent power (to live life) belongs to God and not to us”.

    This is a quote from John’s “New Covenant” album I memorized years ago.

  3. Mark D Seguin says:

    Good read & video!

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