Paul uses some marvelous poetic language in chapter 4. First he talks about having this amazing treasure -- the very Holy Spirit of God, the glory of God, the transformed life that comes from living in the presence of God -- in "clay jars". What we hold from God, that is the transformation that God is working in us from the inside out, is held in fragile, human "jars of clay". This is such a vital and critical thing for us to understand. We do not hold goodness and glory on our own as if by our own efforts we earned it or deserve it. Instead we hold the glory and presence of God in our own flawed and broken humanness. I suspect, for most of us, the jars of clay are somewhat cracked, and worn down. Notice verse 7 "But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear the this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us." As a preacher of the gospel, it is essential that I remember that what I proclaim and what God has given me to give to others is not of my doing. I am simply an earthly and earthen vessel that God has chosen to use.
In 17, after noting all of the struggles that difficulties he has had as an apostle, Paul says, "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure," C.S. Lewis gave a sermon in the 1940's about this "eternal weight of glory" wherein he speaks of what life could be like if we chose to see one another, not as the flawed and broken humans that we are now, but as the eternal creatures we are destined to be. If we chose to treat one another with the respect and deference accorded eternal beings; if we chose to honor one another for the glory for which we are destined; if we chose to serve one another according to the holiness we will all one day reflect -- and that is only marginally reflected through our current clay jars; then the church would look a lot more like the church that Jesus calls us to be. The eternal weight of glory would change our hearts and lives and perspectives.
Eternal weight of glory in jars of clay . . . what a concept!