Satisfied of His Personal Unworthiness
Alongside Paul’s confidence in God’s sovereignty, he was stored trustworthy by a robust conviction that he himself was nothing (1 Cor. 3:7; 2 Cor. 12:11). Paul didn’t have an exalted view of himself. He spoke of himself because the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15); “the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9); and “the very least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8). Right here in 2 Corinthians he writes, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
Paul photos himself as an affordable container holding a priceless treasure. What’s the treasure? It’s “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). That’s a reference to the gospel. Paul was entrusted with it and known as to proclaim it, and he noticed it because the treasure of all treasures, far surpassing every other treasure—or all treasures mixed. And he considered himself as a nugatory vessel product of dust. That description, by the way in which, applies not solely to Paul himself however to all of us whom Christ has commissioned to take the gospel into all of the world. We’re, in the end, simply pottery made out of the mud of the earth.
The ability of the wonderful gospel has nothing to do with us, besides that we’re the clay pots during which this valuable treasure is hid.
It’s a startling distinction: the everlasting glory of God within the face of Jesus Christ, revealed to sinners by means of the gospel, which is carried into all of the world by feeble, flawed, fragile, ugly messengers—“jars of clay.”
Imperfect Clay Pots
Keep in mind, that is a part of Paul’s response to his critics in Corinth. They stated he was unimpressive. “His bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (10:10). Once more we see that he made no try and refute expenses like these. He conceded the purpose. He wasn’t embarrassed by such criticisms. He likens himself to an affordable pot product of baked clay—breakable, replaceable, strange, ugly, with no intrinsic worth, whose usefulness is topic solely to the discretion of its maker and grasp.
He was not utilizing hyperbole. The imagery is completely apt. Like all males, Paul was imperfect—and he by no means shied away from confessing that. Moreover, what Paul stated of himself is true of all ministers. As A. T. Robertson wrote, “If God could not use poor instruments and feeble voices, He would make no music.”1 Even the perfect of males are frail and fallible. The heroes of religion listed in Hebrews 11 have been all folks with ft of clay— or higher but (to stick with Paul’s metaphor) they have been vessels made solely of clay.
Clay vessels are helpful solely due to the ability of the potter who makes them. Left alone, clay would harden right into a ineffective, stonelike clod. The adjective translated “clay” is ostrakinos, the phrase for terra cotta. He’s not describing nice china, however a plain, drab, completely unadorned clay pot.
In 2 Timothy 2:20 Paul says, “In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.” Clay vessels have been the most cost effective, most typical items of family crockery—actually disposable. However they have been used for extensively various functions, some elegant, some ignoble.
In Paul’s time, it was commonplace for rich folks and kings to retailer their gold and different valuables in easy clay pots. These would then be buried within the floor for safekeeping. However a vessel of this sort was truly higher fitted to a much less honorable objective: to take away the family waste.
Sir Thomas Extra is regarded by Catholics as a saint. However his language when he talked about Martin Luther was incessantly too profane to breed right here. He known as him (amongst different issues) “a lousy little friar, a piece of scurf, a pestilential buffoon, a dishonest liar.”2 However his favourite insult was to check Luther to a privy pot. Hearken to what he stated:
[Luther] has nothing in his mouth however privies, filth and dung, with which he performs the buffoon extra foully and impurely than any buffoon, of whom none has ever been discovered apart from this one such a silly butt of males’s scorn that he would forged into his mouth the dung which different males would spit out right into a basin. . . . He has devoted himself completely to hell. . . . If he’ll swallow down his filth and lick up the dung with which he has so foully defiled his tongue and his pen, there will likely be not missing those that, as is becoming, will talk about severe issues in a severe approach. But when he proceeds to play the buffoon within the method during which he has begun, and to rave madly, if he proceeds to rage with calumny, to mouth trifling nonsense, to behave like a raging madman, to make sport with buffoonery, and to hold nothing in his mouth however bilge-water, sewers, privies, filth, and dung, then let others do what they’ll; we’ll take well timed counsel, whether or not we want . . . to go away this mad friarlet and a privy-minded rascal along with his ragings and ravings, along with his filth and dung.3
Thomas Extra repeatedly referred to Luther as “Father Tosspot.”4
In his higher moments, Luther (like Paul) would freely concede the purpose. He was in some ways a deeply flawed man and keenly conscious of that truth. As insulting as his adversaries might be, Luther was fairly able to smiting himself with reminders of his unworthiness. He knew very properly that he was a vessel product of dust. He stated, “We all belong in the ground; there’s no way around it.”5
Similarly, Isaiah stated, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). That in flip is a lament that calls to thoughts Paul’s well-known groan, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). In 1 Corinthians 4:13 Paul stated, “We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” He makes use of two Greek nouns that talk of filthy scrapings, the muck left within the backside of a rubbish container when it has been emptied. Paul actually didn’t have an inflated view of his personal significance.
The ability of the wonderful gospel has nothing to do with us, besides that we’re the clay pots during which this valuable treasure is hid. We’re weak. We’re frequent, plain, fragile, breakable, dishonorable. However our weak spot doesn’t diminish the ability of the gospel. “It is the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16).
- A. T. Robertson, The Glory of the Ministry: Paul’s Exultation in Preaching (London: Revell, 1911), 147.
- Cited in Peter Ackroyd, The Lifetime of Thomas Extra (London: Anchor, 1998), 226.
- Thomas Extra, The Full Works of St. Thomas Extra, vol. 5, Responsio advert Lutherum, ed. John M. Headley, trans. Elizabeth F. Rogers (New Haven, CT: Yale College Press, 1969), 683.
- Ibid., 315, 317, 351.
- Martin Luther, Desk Discuss, vol. 54, Luther’s Works, ed. Theodore G. Tappert and Helmut T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967), 277.
This text is customized from Remaining Devoted in Ministry: 9 Important Convictions for Each Pastor by John MacArthur.
- Pastor: May Your View of Scripture Be Too Low? (John MacArthur)
- The Single Most Essential Process of the Pastor (John MacArthur)
- Pastoral Concern about Evangelical Prophecy (Paul M. Smalley, Joel R. Beeke)