It’s All Good- 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

In our previous post, we examined the meaning of God’s working all things for good for those that love Him, and we saw what good means there. For God, things are good when they are as they should be, and that God works all things to make us all we should be, and anything which helps make us all we should be is good according to God. This brings to mind three questions. First, what is it that we should be? Second, how does God get us there? Third, do we have any part in the process? All of these questions are addressed by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians. We will look into the first two now, through an examination of 2 Corinthians 4:7-18. Paul begins this passage by telling us that “we have this treasure in jars of clay”(verse 7). The question arises as to what treasure he refers to, and in the answer to this question we find the answer to our first question, what is it we “should” be? The treasure referred to here points back to 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, where we are told that the Spirit of the Lord lives in us, that we all reflect His glory, and that we are being transformed into His likeness. Every human being is created to be the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), but only believers can truly be this image, since the Spirit only indwells Christians, and only the Spirit can transform us into His likeness. This is the connotation of the use here of jars of clay, for any image of God seen in us is not us, but is the Spirit living through us, and we are transformed into His likeness as He “teaches” us to let Him live through us. It is as we learn to let Him live through us that we become what we “should” be, all that we are meant to be, the image and likeness of God expressed through our own unique personalities and gifts, all believers together bearing the image of Christ. So then, how does the Spirit “teach” us, how does God get us to be all we should be? Paul gives us the process in verses 8-12. In verse 8-9, Paul tells us about his being “hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down”. Why would he first point out difficulties and hardships? It is precisely because these are the primary “all things” (Romans 8:28) which God uses to make us as we “should be”, as we are meant to be. We learn here the comforting fact that all these “troubles” are not random chance, but that they have a purpose, that God is sovereignly in control of them and is working them for our good, that they are part of His plan to make us all we are meant to be. In verse 10, we then see the fruit of these “all things” in Paul’s life, that they brought him to the place where he would “always carry around in his body the death of Jesus”. The term carry around here is a present active participle, and the idea is that this is something that we must continually do, that we must over and over again choose the “death of Jesus”, that we must take up our cross continually. And what does he mean by “death” here? The reference here in Jesus life is not to Calvary but to Gethsemane, to “not my will, but thy will be done”. This is the death we must continually die and the cross we must continually take up, for as we die to our will and live to God’s will, as we quit doing things ourselves and let Him do them through us, then the “life of Jesus will be revealed in our body” (verse 10). In verse 11, we find that this is a process, something God is continually doing, and that He never “gives up” in His working to make us all we are meant to be, to make us as we should be. We are “always being given over”, God is always at work in us to make us all we should be, and He uses the things listed in verses 8-9 (and other things as well, in fact, all things) to help do so. For these things are most often the way in which He brings us to the cross, to the place where we “deny ourselves” and let go of our own efforts to “live for” God, to the place where we realize we can’t handle things, and finally learn to let God live through us, just as Jesus did (John 14:10). So we learn from Paul here that becoming all we should be (the definition of good) involves a “death”, and this death entails a death to self, that what we were must gradually die in order for us to gradually become what we are meant to be, and that anything which helps bring about this “death” is good.

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