2 Corinthians – Jars of Clay

Paul shares his struggles with his physical ailments and victories through God’s overcoming grace. He also contrasts his weaknesses with the transcendent power of Christ within.

Key Verse

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 

Overview

  • Introduction

    Maligning the Messenger

    Moving Message

    Ministry Model

    Money Matters

     

Background of the Letter

Probably the last (of four) letters to the Corinthian church Paul wrote. 1 Corinthians appears to be the second. Previous letter was very severe and had severe retaliation. He humbly responds sharing deepest struggles. History (Church fathers particularly Clement of Rome) records that the church repents and lives like a model church for 50 years following which they fall into the same heretical traps they are being warned about. [1][2][3]

Maligning the Messenger

A few self seeking self acclaimed leaders in the Corinthians questioned Paul’s apostleship, his integrity, his personality, his profession, his message:

Maligning the Messenger

They accused him of the following:

  • Not being an apostle – ch 11:5
  • Lording it over – ch 1:24
  • Lacked integrity (as he promised to come but did not) – ch 1:15
  • Unimpressive and his speech contemptible – 10:10
  • Low level trade Acts 8:1-5, 2 Thessalonians 3:8
  • Veiled gospel – ch 4:3

Paul's Response

2 cor 10

12 For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding

17 But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. 18 For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.

Moving Message

Paul focusses more on his weaknesses saying “when I am weak then I am strong

Moving Message

He describes the depths of his suffering

2 Cor 11:23 Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.

Moving Message

 He describes the extent of his weaknesses

2 Cor 12:Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to [b]torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness”.”

 

Moving Message

He describes the heights of glory he has witnessed

2 Cor 12:1 Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven

Moving Message

He describes the transformation he is experiencing

  • Moses put a veil so that his fading glory will not be seen
  • Paul does not require a veil as we are increasingly reflecting Christ’s glory

2 Cor 3:18  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Moving Message

The same transformation that works in us through Christ

2 Cor 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed….; 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Ministry Model

Personal example made his ministry a roaring success

Ministry Model

Paul planned his work and worked his plan. God re-routed him where necessary

2 Cor 2:12 Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia.-

Ministry Model

His priority was always preaching – the tent making was only when required to avoid depending on those he served to finance his ministry.

Acts 18:3and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. 4 And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.5 But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. Acts 18

Ministry Model

His personal life was unquestionable

2 Cor 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

Ministry Model

Paul was very particular about his ministry partners. (He even rejected John Mark at a point 39). Even his work partners were believers (Aquila and Priscilla). 

2 Cor 6:14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God;

Ministry Model

Paul was very particular about his ministry partners. (He even rejected John Mark at a point 39). Even his work partners were believers (Aquila and Priscilla).

2 Cor 6:14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God;

Money Matters

Paul deals with ministry support, fund raising and giving

Money Matters

Paul’s fund raising was for causes other than his personal ministry (in this case the Jerusalem collection

2 Cor 9:Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; 

Money Matters

Paul received ministry support (as did all other apostles). He seems to avoid taking money from those whom he is currently serving.

Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge? I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so. ch 11

Money Matters

When required he worked to cover his expenses

..nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 2 Thess 3:8

Discussion

}What attacks do we face in ministry, how do we respond?

}What do we learn from Paul’s ministry model? How can we incorporate it in our lives?

}Share in what way you feel like a “jar of clay” and how God’s treasure shines through you? How can you be more effective?

}What do we learn from Paul on the importance of involvement with the church (in his case Jews)? Even if we feel we don’t fit in, how should we persevere?

}What do we learn about giving and fund raising? How can we improve?

God's strength is made perfect in weakness

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