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A Treasure in Jars of Clay

In 2005 a Bach Archive researcher in Weimar, Germany, discovered a treasure. In a shoebox filled with birthday greetings for a duke, he found a previously unknown aria by Johann Sebastian Bach. The piece was written for the duke's birthday in 1713. The lyrics centered around the theme, "Everything with God and nothing without him."

A musical masterpiece inside a shoebox resembles Paul’s metaphor: “this treasure in jars of clay” (v. 7). Paul and his team were focused on “setting forth the truth plainly,” in contrast to false teachers (vv. 1–2). Some people didn’t understand the gospel message because of spiritual blindness caused by the devil (vv. 3–4). At the center of the gospel is Christ alone (vv. 5–6).

This treasure is therefore the gospel, salvation in Christ (v. 7). The treasure, referring to our humanity, is carried in “jars of clay.” God made human beings out of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). We’re mortal, fragile, vulnerable, and unimpressive. People in that day often did hide valuables in ordinary objects, so the image wasn’t as surprising to them as it is to us. But for them, and for us as well, the incongruity of the combination highlights the privilege that we have to preach the gospel.

The good news is not about our worthiness but God’s. The vessel is nothing compared to the treasure hidden inside. The power of the gospel is shown to be entirely divine. As a result, all the glory goes, as it properly should, to God. And with God’s power inside them, Paul and his team could endure hardship and suffering without giving up (vv. 8–9).

Apply the Word

C. S. Lewis once said: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal . . . [I]t is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” We need to remember that every person we meet has a spiritual destination. Share Christ with someone today.

BY Brad Baurain

Dr. Brad Baurain has worked as a writer or editor for Today in the Word since 1993. Currently, he serves as associate professor and TESOL program head at Moody Bible Institute. Brad has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has also taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Brad and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Munster, Indiana.

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