Summary: This sermon explores the concept of treasure in earthen vessels, within the concept of preaching the gospel
This message is about vessels! I am sure you must have guessed from the title. Our main bible text is from 2 Corinthians 4: 7-9:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed...NKJ
What is a vessel? A vessel may be a pot, cup, pan, bucket, etc. By its design, the main purpose of a vessel is to hold or contain something: You use a cup for tea or coffee, a pot for cooking, or a bucket for fetching water. That is why it is called a container.
Human beings are also vessels. We are supposed to contain something. Spiritually, there are 3 categories of vessels:
1. Empty vessels
2. Vessels unto dishonour
3. Vessels unto honour
Note what the Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:20-21: But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honour and some for dishonour. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honour, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
Empty vessels are people containing nothing of substance, those with zero knowledge of Christ, those who have not pledged allegiance to Christ, in other words, unbelievers who are not born again. If you have a cup on your table with nothing in it, how will you describe it: empty! And do you notice what you normally do with an empty container? You stow it by placing it upside down. That illustrates the life of unbelievers: upside down. Emptiness leads to restlessness, rebellion, suicide, etc. We often hear the stories of celebrities being arrested for shoplifting, in spite of all their wealth. This shows that there is something missing in them.
Vessels unto dishonour
These are Christians with no direction, lukewarm, Christians who will be hot for Christ today and cold tomorrow; those whom the Bible describes as unstable. They live a life of disobedience, not sure of their salvation. They are not much better than Empty vessels.
Vessels unto honour
These are obedient Christians striving unto perfection, in other words, earthen vessels with treasures therein. As human beings, we belong to one of these 3 categories, and this morning, I want you to examine yourself and see which category you belong. The Bible in 2 Corinthians 13:5 says: Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.
Let’s stay with Category 3 Vessels now
We as kingdom citizens are not only vessels, but earthen vessels. Genesis 2: 7 makes it clear that we were made from dust. And to dust we will return. In other words, we are nothing but insignificant bits of clay! And note that there are different grades of clay: china, which cracks easily, sun dried clay which crumbles at the first knock, the yellow attractive sort, dark, painted, etc. Whether you are white, black, yellow, or green, we are all clay that is why we face similar challenges. Simply put, we of ourselves are of little value. Galatians 6:3 says if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Let’s take it one level deeper
The bible says we have this treasure in earthen vessels. What is this treasure? It is the power that comes from the Holy Spirit, not from nuclear power, not from shrine or voodoo, but one that breaks down barriers, the power that brings transformation, the power that has translated us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His dear son. (Colossians 1:13) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The question you may wish to ask me at this stage is: why is this treasure hidden in earthen vessels. The second part of verse 7 of 2 Corinthians 4 answers that question: to illustrate that whatever we have is from God and not from us. Apostle Paul in 1 Corinth 1:31 points out clearly: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’
Watch this; people can only see what you look like on the outside, they don’t know the power of God in you as a carrier of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19) It is like the wrappings of a plasma TV. It is often bulkier than the TV itself, but you have to break through the wrappings, the white fluffy stuff, to get to the real thing, so are we as believers. God put this treasure in faulty, weak, sinful men and women.