In 2 Corinthians 4:7, the apostle Paul refers to human beings in a very particular way—earthen vessels:
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not out of us.”
This verse not only says we’re vessels, but earthen vessels. Perhaps we’d rather be heavenly angels, not lowly jars made out of clay. Why did God make us this way?
Earthen vessels with a purpose
We can readily agree we’re earthen, made of clay—we’re easily broken and seemingly not worth much. Consequently, we might look down on our earthly state and not realize our value, how special we are in God’s creation.
But God made no mistake when He created us, not like heavenly angels, but as earthen vessels. Before creating mankind, God already had myriads of angels. He wanted something new. So He made man of the dust of the ground, creatures to be on the earth, not as angelic beings in the heavens. He had a particular purpose for us, even in our earthen condition.
God created us to be weak, limited, earthen vessels so that in Christ, He could be the treasure within us that shines out of us. Instead of creating us to be strong, independent creatures to express our own wonderful characteristics, God created us earthen, desiring that we would express His excellency rather than our own.
Now we can see the preciousness of being earthen vessels. We are unique in God’s creation. Only earthen vessels, not angelic beings, can express His excellency.
And we can do this because we’re vessels, containers. Vessels can receive, be filled with, and overflow with something. Being earthen, we may be weak and limited, but God created us as vessels to contain Him. He wants to come into us lowly vessels and shine out of us. Angels can worship God, but only human beings can receive God, contain Him, and overflow with Him to express Him!
Before we received Christ as our Savior, we were empty and our life lacked meaning. Being empty vessels, we were simply earthen, without a treasure within. But when we opened our heart to receive the Lord Jesus Christ, the void within us was filled for the first time. Christ came into our spirit and filled our deepest part with Himself. We finally received the content we were created for! This was the first step for us to live as vessels according to God’s plan for us.
So now that Christ lives in us, how do we express Him? We have to admit we often express more of our earthen selves than the precious treasure within us. Why is this, and what can we do about it?
As vessels, the most important thing is for us to be open so we can be filled with Christ. Picture a water bottle. Its purpose is to be filled with water, but if the cap is put on too quickly, only a small amount of water fills the bottle. It never reaches the point of overflowing. If we pick up this barely-filled bottle, we might not even see the water in it. Now suppose the cap is removed again and again, allowing more water to fill it. Gradually, every bit of the bottle is filled with water, even to the point of overflowing. If we were to pick up that bottle, we would get splashed!
Yes, we have Christ as the treasure within, but do we have just a small amount of Christ? Or, when others are around us, do they get “splashed” with Christ? He wants to fill not only our spirit, but also our entire being. Every day, we need to practice opening to the Lord to allow more of Christ as the treasure to fill us. Christ wants to fill not only our spirit but also our whole vessel—our heart, our mind, our emotion, our will, with all our thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Then we’ll express not ourselves, but the Christ who fills us.
How to be filled
Every vessel, whether inanimate or human, has a mouth. As human, earthen vessels, we need to open our mouth so we can be filled with Christ. By opening our mouth to pray, to call on the Lord’s name, and to prayerfully take in God’s Word, our heart is opened up and available for Christ to fill.
By opening our hearts within and our mouths without to Him, we allow Christ to fill every bit of us until we overflow with Him, expressing Him as the treasure in us. This fulfills our purpose as an earthen vessel and satisfies God, who wants to be manifested as the unique treasure in this universe.
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Paul as our pattern
In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul could write about being an earthen vessel because he experienced Christ as his treasure. Paul wasn’t a heavenly being; he was an earthen vessel, just like us. But he was a person who kept himself open and allowed the Lord to fill his entire being in all circumstances, whether good or bad. We can look to Paul as our pattern by practicing to open ourselves to be filled with our glorious, excellent Christ.
We may be earthen, but we’re something so special to God. We’re the center God’s plan, of His heart’s desire, and we fulfill our purpose by being continually open to His filling so He can overflow from within us.
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