I have been crucified with Christ…and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20).
When Paul calls our bodies earthen vessels (in 2 Corinthians 4:7), that’s no compliment he’s throwing at us. Rather, it’s a gracious way of calling us pots made of burnt clay, easily broken and not worth much. It’s amazing how much attention we place on that pot. We shape it, rub it, polish it, fill in the cracks. We make it smell good, look good, be good. But the fact is, it’s still an earthen pot. When God told Adam, “You came from dust and to dust you shall return,” He was not being poetic. He was being factual.
But a pot, even a dirt pot, was created to carry something. Just as an ordinary vial is transformed by the value of the precious perfume it contains, so it is in the mystery of the new covenant. The holy, precious treasure of the presence of God is kept in a dust vessel. Why would God do that? Paul gives the reason: that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves (4:7). That is, so the greatness of God’s power would be seen clearly in what it can do with dust.
Paul tell us what happens to these pots when they hang around life long enough. They get afflicted in every way…perplexed…persecuted…struck down (4:8-9). But we’re not destroyed (4:9). Life may knock you down, but not out. Why? It has nothing to do with the pot itself, but with what’s inside it: We’re always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (4:10).