Believers are weak. That is the point Paul makes in 2 Corinthians 4:7.
Paul says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (verse 7). However, before we can talk more about the fragility of believers, we need to first understand this “treasure” that Paul speaks of, which we possess. To illuminate its meaning, let us consider verses 4 and 6 in conjunction with our current verse. This treasure is the gospel of Christ’s glory (verse 4) AND it is the knowledge of God’s glory in Christ (verse 6). In other words, this treasure that we have been entrusted with is the gospel message. We have been entrusted with all that the gospel entails – its power to shine light in a dark world, its revelation of Jesus as the image of God, and its saving knowledge that shines into our own hearts; that is indeed a treasure.
But Paul then goes on to say that we have this treasure in jars of clay. Why do you think he says this? In comparison with great treasure, jars of clay appear insignificant. But even more importantly, they are insufficient to hold such worth as their fragility and vulnerability makes them weak vessels. They can break and the treasure can be lost. The incredulous analogy that Paul is making here is of believers and the gospel. We are these weak vessels who are carrying the great treasure of the gospel. We have glorious riches for ourselves and to share with the world. Yet, we are fragile and temporary and, on our own, insufficient to the task.
The result is that we, as believers, live in a continual paradox according to the world’s standards: we are weak, but we are also rich. This is an important truth to recognize because it is the gospel alone that constitutes true wealth. Never has God ever said that believers will be rich in money. No, true riches are only found in the saving knowledge of Jesus. That is why we can be poor financially and yet spiritually rich. May we never think that material wealth or financial stability in this life is somehow linked to the health of our faith. It is not. And let us even lay aside our desire for money, which actually blinds our minds and “keeps [us] from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (verse 4), so that we can focus on those treasures that truly matter.
The point Paul is trying to make in all of this is that God should always receive glory for the gospel. As we take the gospel forth into the world, it becomes apparent that the power and beauty of the gospel does not reside in us. The gospel does not advance because we ourselves are powerful. Rather, God uses frail people so that He receives the glory.
This is why verse 7 holds the key to the whole chapter and why it acts as a critical transition between verses 1 through 6 and verses 8 and following; for it explains that the reason why we suffer, why we are constantly aware of our mortality and our deficiencies, in short, why life is not easy for us as we proclaim the gospel, is to always remember that we are mere “jars of clay,” and that every good thing and any suffering that comes from our proclamations is because of God alone.