The following article is an excerpt from "A Book of Bible Study"
by Joseph F. Harwood.
To download the entire book in PDF format, visit our home page at https://www.abookofbiblestudy.net/
In 2 Corinthians 4:6 Paul wrote that God made His light shine in our hearts when He called us to faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the verses following he wrote:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
Paul taught that we will possess the treasure of our faith in “earthen vessels”. Earthen vessels are fragile and weak vessels, and this is why Paul used this metaphor to describe our lives lived in God’s service. The “surpassing greatness of the power” by which we will live our lives and serve God will be His power, and not our own.
Paul also taught that as believers we should expect, and we will in fact experience, what it is like to be “afflicted in every way”, “perplexed”, “persecuted”, and “struck down”, always carrying around in our body “the dying of Jesus”. These experiences will be allowed to touch our lives by our sovereign God and Father because of the principle of Christian fruit bearing that Jesus taught us in John 12:24-26.
This principle can be summarized by Paul’s teaching in Romans 8 where he revealed that we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:17). In other words, Paul is teaching here what Jesus taught in John 12:24-26, which is that every genuine believer will indeed "suffer with Christ", or share in His sufferings, in order that we may also share in His glory.
Though we will endure these sufferings as part of God’s plan for our lives, we are promised in His word that we will not be crushed, and we will not be left in despair. We will not be forsaken, and we will not be destroyed. As Paul taught, even though we carry around in our bodies the “dying of Jesus”, and we are “constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake”, the result of these “deaths” will be that the “life of Jesus” will be manifested in our lives, and spiritual fruit will be born to the glory of God. It is through these “deaths”, or this share in the sufferings of Christ, that God has ordained we will bear fruit and receive a share in the eternal glory of His Son.