Turn your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 4. I don't know if in planning this, Dr. Newton wanted me to be an object lesson, you know, the jar of clay, earthen vessel, but that's what I am, and providentially, that's where we are here today. One of my favorite historical characters is Adniram Judson. When I was up at Intercity Detroit Seminary, I served as a missions pastor for about 20 years and oversaw our missions program and discipleship. Love reading biography and doing biographical sketches, but on Sunday, April 4th, 1819, before commencing his public ministry in Burma, Judson sat down, and like many people we read about, he wrote out some commitments that he had. He wrote out what we call rules of holy living, some commitments that he wanted to maintain.
They were copied from a handwritten note that he wrote into one of his first memoirs, a memoir of the life and labors of Reverend Adniram Judson by Francis Wayland, which is a two-volume work published in 1853. He said, first of all, I purpose to be diligent in secret prayer every morning and every evening. Secondly, never to spend a moment in mere idleness. Third, purpose to drain natural appetites within the bounds of temperance and purity, wanted to keep himself pure as a minister of the gospel. Fourth, purpose to suppress every emotion of anger and ill will. Number five, he purposed to undertake nothing from motives of ambition or love or fame.
Certainly is one of the most famous Baptist historical figures that we know of, but that wasn't what he sought. Six, never to do that which at the moment appears to be displeasing to God. Seven, to seek opportunities of making some sacrifice for the good of others, especially believers, provided the sacrifice is not inconsistent with some duty. And then eighth, really the one most to the point of our message today, endeavor to rejoice in every loss and suffering incurred for Christ's sake and the gospels.
Remembering that though like death they're not to be willfully incurred, that is you don't go seeking for them and searching for them, yet like death they are great gain. And so I want us to kind of focus in on that last one, to rejoice in every loss and suffering incurred for Christ's sake and the gospels as we look at the example of Paul here in this passage of 2 Corinthians chapter four. You know Adoniram Judson, if you've read about him or are familiar at all, you understand that he knew what it would take to have a faithful ministry, a persevering ministry through much difficulty for sure. He had heart-rending circumstances, heart-breaking prospects before him and potentially heart-losing affliction from without and yet he had a great soul gaining ministry and I think he showed a model of faithfulness in ministry through much suffering and difficulty and the text before him was his real life experience. And so we look at 2 Corinthians 4 and I know we're taking a seminary chapel opportunity to go through these paragraph by paragraph in our text, but we have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. Reflected 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 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. So death works in us but life in you. But having the same spirit of faith according to what is written, I believe therefore I spoke, we also believe therefore we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.
For all things are for your sakes so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound of the glory of God. Therefore, we do not lose heart, although our outward man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. While we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.
I want to read the whole chapter because it's clearly framed in such a way, you see kind of the obvious framing. Paul starts in verse 1, therefore we have this ministry, we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. And then in verse 16 he says, therefore we do not lose heart, though our outer man is decaying, our inner man is being renewed day by day. This frames this chapter talking about the faithful ministry of the apostle through suffering for the glory of God.
And today I want to acknowledge that we can have a faithful persevering ministry through suffering and difficulty if we will faithfully proclaim the gospel, be willing to embrace the cost of that ministry and then do so for the glory of God. And I will do my best not to spill into whoever's message is next. I'm not sure who's next.
Is it Greg or Brian? Okay, I won't spill into it too much but it's hard not to spill in a little bit and you can reach back if you want and correct, you can reach back and correct the things that I mess up too, being an earthen jar with lots of cracks for sure. Let's look at these things. You know, first of all, I think in verses 1 through 6, which I won't cover, a faithful and persevering ministry has confidence in the gospel of Christ, has confidence in the gospel of Christ. We see that and I'm sure you heard a great message about that last time. A faithful ministry that perseveres through difficulty must have confidence that the gospel is powerful to transform lives. We see that in the apostle Paul's life. He faithfully proclaimed the gospel. In the context of 2 Corinthians, we see this.
He's kind of defending himself against some who came into Corinth. They called themselves super apostles, we might say. And they said they were smooth of speech. They were persuasive. They had a better way than Paul had to offer. They even said, Paul, he's not that great to listen to.
He's not that impressive of a person to follow. And so Paul here is saying, it's not about me, it's about the glorious gospel of Christ. And we say, I assume you meditated on that in the last message. Today we're covering verses seven through 12, Lord willing. And I want us to look at the fact that we must be willing to endure suffering to, as it were, count the cost if we're going to have a faithful and persevering ministry. We have to be willing to endure suffering, as it were, count the cost if we're to have a faithful and enduring ministry.
I want to cover three points really in this section. First of all, the realities of the cost involved. Paul doesn't mince any words by saying how difficult the ministry really is.
He describes this in various ways. The second thing I want to see is the reason God requires that cost. Why is it part of God's providence and sovereignty that he puts us in positions where ministry is not easy? As a matter of fact, it receives a lot of opposition and produces a lot of suffering.
Why does it have to be that way? I mean, you're suffering enough in seminary, right? Why do you then have to go out into ministry and suffer more? Well, there's a reason God does that. There's a reason God called Paul to suffer and to have difficulty. There's a reason he calls us to do that.
He called people like Adoniram Judson to do that. And third, we're going to see the results of a gospel-confident ministry that endures suffering that counts the cost. And those are kind of our three main points. Now, I'll zoom in and out of the text that we have today to bring those out, hopefully, and you can hopefully that makes sense to you from the scripture. If it doesn't, preach a better message on it, I'm sure you can. But that's the way God has led me to study this text.
First of all, the realities of the cost involved. We see in verse seven that we bear the glorious message of the gospel in inglorious vessels. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, Paul says.
There's a lot written. I read a lot of commentaries on this and a lot of opinions about what these earthen vessels might be. But one thing they agree with is that they are just common, fragile carriers of something usually more important, not always more important. Sometimes they were used for refuse. Earthen vessels are jars of clay, as the NIV translates it, clay pots. They contained everything from wealth to worthless things, from foods to liquids, one rabbi said you had to put wine in a clay pot, not in a gold or silver vessel to preserve its quality. They were used to house things like the Dead Sea Scrolls, right, which lasted for a long time. They were found in earthen vessels and clay pots.
They were also used to contain the previous day's refuse. So the point is there's nothing impressive about the vessel. The vessel is inglorious. It is common. It is fragile.
It is breakable. So the focus Paul wants us to have here is on the superlative contrast between the glorious message of the gospel and the messenger himself. The righteousness revealed in Christ and the sinner that proclaims that righteousness.
Such a contrast between the two. What do you think about yourself as a messenger? Do you agree with Paul that we are just earthen vessels? We're common carriers of a glorious message. The tension's not to be drawn to us. It's to be pointed to Christ.
I think that's something we have to be careful. It's one of Judson's resolutions that he does not seek fame in his ministry. We live in a day of ministry that that seems to be the goal of many pastors, many proclaimers. They seek recognition, sometimes notoriety, sometimes opportunity to present themselves before people.
Spend a little time on Twitter and you'll see some of these distinctions. You'll see earthenware vessels proclaiming the glories of Christ and you'll see people proclaiming their own glories. I always like when you see someone say, my book was just published and they have a picture. I love the cover.
They did a great job. I'm like, well, okay. Someone else prays you, not your own mouth. But nonetheless, people seem to seek glory so easily and that is within us to want to get glory that only God deserves. So I'm not just going to blame it on certain pastors or preachers, but I'm going to say it's within all of us to want to steal glory from God, to make our message more glorious than the message of the gospel. And Paul reminds us here that we bear a glorious message in inglorious vessels.
Second thing he reminds us of to show us about the cost of being faithful ministers is that we bear opposition to the message from both without and from within. It'd be nice if ministry was smooth. It was readily accepted.
It was popular. But we live in a culture today and Paul certainly lived in a culture in Judson. Judson went to a place with no Christians.
They live in places where the message is not readily accepted, but it's opposed. And Paul tells us this along several lines in verses eight and nine. He says we are afflicted in every way. He says we are persecuted, but not forsaken. We're struck down.
We're crushed, he says as well. We bear opposition to the message that we proclaim both from without and from within. He gives a list of the ways he was opposed both from without and from within that these may be our experience as well. They probably have been your experience if you've done any ministry at all. You've gone out and you've been like, I'm excited to go out and share the gospel. And then someone argued with you or someone scorned you or a family member removed fellowship from you. And you're like, that's not the reception that I was looking for.
I was looking for transformation. Paul uses these words afflicted or hard pressed. Says this is that pressure that we feel.
It's maybe from the culture around us. And I don't want to make too much of each of these words. I think Paul's really just giving us parallel phrases to tell us that, listen, you're going to face opposition from outside, from the culture, from people, from even from within your own heart and mind. He was afflicted. He was, he was perplexed. There's a play on words here in the Greek and he was at a loss but not completely lost or completely losing. But he was perplexed, perhaps not able to understand what was happening or why it was always happening. And when you read through Acts and see the experiences of Paul, you see a whole mixed bag of results from his preaching and one that noticed especially in Acts 19, his ministry in Ephesus where he received a great reception to the gospel, spent a lot of time there preaching and teaching and then of all things, he had opposition from the idol maker, right, that created a riot and that caused his ministry to be stopped.
He had to move on somewhere else. It was perplexing. You couldn't always figure out what was going on and people in their opposition to the gospel create perplexing circumstances. He was persecuted, certainly rejected by men, persecuted both spiritually and physically. Paul and Silas were beaten with rods at one point.
They were, they're beaten almost to the point of death and that was a time where he faced great opposition physically and he faced it over and over again while he was just trying to go and help with a heart of compassion and struck down, laid low as with a weapon one writer said or another writer said, body slammed repeatedly. That was maybe more the common vernacular, but struck down, just slammed down, maybe the most extreme of the four and yet his confidence in Christ didn't waver because though struck down physically, he wasn't struck down ultimately or destroyed ultimately. Do we experience these reactions to and results from our ministry of the word? If you haven't, you will and if you haven't, sometimes it is by the grace of God that we don't and we should be very thankful for freedom to proclaim and the general acceptance of the gospel, the influence of salt and light, lives of Christians that stay back the evil influence and progress of sin and wickedness.
We should be thankful for that. We shouldn't feel guilty that we don't suffer more, but we should also expect with a faithful ministry, expect to have opposition and suffering. Expect that even to come from within as we are perplexed as to whether we can carry on or whether God wants us to continue on. We bear opposition to the message both from without and within and third, we suffer as well as Christ suffered even to the point of being delivered over to death. Verses 10 through 12, we see this repeated as well. Paul says, always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus and in verse 11, a parallel phrase, for we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake and in verse 12, so death works in us.
We suffer as Christ suffered even to the point of being delivered over to death. One of the most interesting to me accounts about Adoniram Judson is his letter that he sent to Anne Haseltine's father. Any of you ever read that?
Maybe you haven't. There's a great book, it's called The Three Mrs. Judson's and it's not the typical book a guy's going to run to because you're like, that's the Mrs. Judson's. Judson was married three times, not at the same time, in succession. He lost one wife and married another and she died on the mission field and then he married another who outlasted him. And that book's an account from those women's perspective of their life alongside of Judson.
It's really, really good reading. But he met Anne Haseltine during an association meeting. He was invited to lunch at the deacon's house. John Haseltine, while there, Adoniram met Anne, or she was called Nancy often. If you read the biography, you'll see her referred to as Nancy often. One month after meeting her, he wrote a letter declaring his intentions to be her suitor. She delayed several days and finally, she wrote back that her parents would have to consent before she would even consider that, which is great, right? She had written during this time in her journal wondering, quote, whether she would be able to commit herself entirely to God to be disposed of according to his pleasure. And she finally concluded in her journal, yes, I feel willing to be placed in this situation in which I can do the most good, though it were to carry the gospel to the distant benighted heathen. And then Judson, because she said he needed her father's permission, sent him a very well-known letter at this time. He says, I'm now to ask you, and he sent this to John Haseltine, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world, whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life, whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India, at the time they were going to go to India, they ended up going to Burma, to every kind of want and distress, to degradation, to insult, to persecution, and perhaps violent death. Can you consent to all this for the sake of him who left his heavenly home and died for her and for you for the sake of perishing immortal souls, for the sake of Zion and the glory of God?
Can you consent to all this and hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory with a crown of righteousness, brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior, from heathen saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair? On one of the accounts, you know, there was a time where Britain invaded Burma, and because of that, the Burmese arrested all the American and British missionaries, and Judson was in prison for about a year and was treated very poorly. As a matter of fact, his wife had to walk, it took her sometimes two hours to get to him, to give him food each day while he was in prison. She had a baby right before he was in prison, or right at the very beginning of that, and she tried to nurse the baby, and she was so weak and fatigued and sick that she actually had to take their daughter around to get nursed from people that were from Burmese women.
It was a time of intense suffering, and yet they sent it, they allowed her to go, and she went and had a faithful few years there, very difficult, faithful few years. I'd encourage you, if you want to read more, there's certainly Judson's biography as well. John Piper has a book called Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ, the Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations and the Lives of William Tyndale, Adniram Judson, and John Payton, and I think that's a result of some of Piper's biographical sketches he would do at their pastors' conferences. Those were assembled. I remember when I was first starting seminary and listening to those on cassette tape, you know what those are, listening to those sketches that ended up going into the Swans Are Not Silent series of biographical sketches and being really moved by the cost of ministry in the lives of many of those who were presented there. So read more about that.
She ascended and went. Paul says here he's always caring about in the body the dying of Jesus and constantly being delivered over to death in verse 11. These are interesting phrases and I cite them and again there's a lot of opinion, but I think what we have going on here is Paul is caring about probably a reference in relating his experience as a minister of the Gospel to the sufferings and opposition that Christ faced both in his life and in his death. He's referring to the suffering and death of Christ that he is able to carry about in his own suffering and certainly he's able to carry about in his own ministry.
Dying is a different word usually used for death. It's not death itself, but the process of dying as he faces opposition and sufferings and if you've ever continually over a course of time faced a lot of opposition, a lot of suffering, at some point you're like I would almost as soon leave this world and be in glory as to endure this lasting process of suffering and dying. Homer Kent in his commentary said this is probably Paul's experience of the hatred of men for Jesus being directed against Paul as his messenger and we will often face persecution for the Gospel's sake as Paul was constantly delivered over to death. This referred really to the real prospect that Paul's faithful proclamation would end in death. He was always putting himself up to the precipice of death because of his faithful proclamation of the Gospel and he was willing to do that.
And the third parallel, so death works in us. This is a common theme for faithful believers. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2 he went to the Corinthians in fear and much trembling.
It's not because he was nervous to speak in front of them. It's because he was really had genuine fear and trembling about the reaction that he would get from the Corinthians. Says all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Peter says don't be surprised at the fire of trial that will come if you're reviled for the name of Christ you are blessed. We live in a day that as ministers we often have so lost sight of what was very clear to early Christians that to follow Christ equals embracing suffering for the message of the Gospel. And some of that we can be thankful for by God's grace that we don't have to face that but often it's because of our lack of confidence in the Gospel message and willingness to suffer.
This is why Christianity is often a mile wide an inch deep and as soon as things get difficult the numbers drop off because people aren't ready to suffer. Secondly let's look at the reasons God requires this kind of cost for steadfast ministry because I'm gonna run out of time real quickly. The reasons God requires this cost and I'll hit these kind of briefly. Verse 7 he says we have this treasure in earthen vessels so that and we see this outline in these so that phrases in the next the paragraph I'm covering but then into the third one the next paragraph as well very clearly in the grammar. So that the power of the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. The first reason that God gives us why he gives the treasure to earthen vessels to weak ministers is so that his power will be displayed even in contrast to our weakness. That's what it is about the message of the Gospel right? Paul says in Romans 1 16 I'm not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God and salvation. Paul had many reasons for shame but he was not ashamed of the message. God's power is displayed in contrast and in comparison to our weakness as messengers when we can afflicted we can see a watching in a watching world we'll see God's power displayed and that's what we see in this affliction Paul says but not crushed I'm not crushed perplexed but not despairing persecuted but but never forsaken by God struck down but not destroyed regardless of what someone can do to us God holds our eternal soul never finally destroyed a watching world sees our weakness but they also see the contrasting magnificence of the Gospel of Christ they see that verse 10 and 12 also when Paul says the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies or in our sufferings the second reason God gives us in his providence for using weak vessels is because Jesus life can be manifested in our lives and in our suffering how does this happen Paul says in verse 16 though our man is decaying our inner man is being renewed day by day we saw this passage that Daniel read this morning that that Paul says you know I will boast in my weaknesses so the power of Christ can be displayed or can rest in me God's power is displayed in our weakness the life of Christ is experienced as we lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel when there's no human explanation for how a faithful minister can go on in the face of the cost he faces the explanation is divine God enables us to do that and I also believe there is in these phrases Paul uses a verse 10 11 there is also a reference to the gospel being proclaimed that is the life of Christ is manifested in the message itself and that is both the life and death and resurrection life of Christ is shown to be to be manifest both in the proclamation of the gospel and the trusting suffering of the of the gospel messenger we depend on the Lord for strength and perseverance in the face of death and then verse 15 which I'll leave to Dr. Hand mainly was so that praise will be increased to God through the spread of grace as we face suffering as we faithful proclaim the message as people come to Christ and answer to our prayers praise is magnified to God that's why God allows this process to go the way he does and then third finally quickly the results of a cost-bearing faithful ministry how can we be willing to pay this cost we see what we're going to face we see why God allows it in his providence and and what are the results that can really be encouraging to us first of all we see God glorified and that's that's clear by the way that the message is believed and and praise is given to God alone for the transformation of lives God is glorified if we have a commitment to God's glory we'll be willing to to suffer for the sake of the message of the gospel and if we love God's glory more than we love our life we are willing to give up the comforts of this life and and even our very lives for the sake of the gospel message God is glorified I love God's glory more than life in verse 17 he says even this momentary light affliction and we're like light you're afflicted you're persecuted you're perplexed you're you're beaten down you're you're almost to the point of death and always under risk of death all says there's an eternal way eternal weight of of glory beyond comparison God is glorified second others reap temporal and eternal good Paul says this in verse 12 is death in us but life in you the very process of God using weak vessels to proclaim the gospel that is the means by which God transforms lives Paul went through this he saw people saved Judson went through this he saw people converted eventually after seven years he saw one and then then more and then many others reap temporal and eternal good Paul was willing to endure his suffering because of the benefits it would bring to others and the potential brothers and sisters in Christ who would believe the message of the gospel who would see Christ in his suffering and would turn to him we often pull back from suffering because we think we're going to lose something that we love let's pursue suffering because of faithful ministry because we will gain something eternally and gain those we love brothers and sisters in Christ and then third we have resurrection life to look forward to and that's again pushing into verses 13 and 14 but if we have confidence in Christ's resurrection and our resurrection we don't worry so much about death for the sake of faithful proclamation Paul says I believe therefore I spoke we also believe therefore we speak knowing that he who raised Jesus will also raise us what's the worst that can happen to us someone takes our body right that's the worst we think the worst the worst probably is apostatizing but really the worst is for a faithful proclaimer is that he'll be killed but then he'll experience resurrection life Paul says to depart is far better but to remain is better for you he's talking to Philippians in that context Paul knew what it was like to be beaten the pressed in prison the post shamed he knew as painful and shameful as this was it was just temporary and temporal and then like Christ we would also be raised from the dead as well preach a gospel that promises resurrection life and then preach as if you believe that it will happen to you as well we need to be reminded that what is at the center of our belief in our lives and that is the gospel that is eternal life with Christ and eternal praise to God in conclusion we lose nothing to lay our clay pot lives out for the glorious message of Christ in the gospel we lose nothing and gain everything the glory of God the life of eternal souls and certainly resurrection life ourselves it is the best investment we will ever make and I pray that this would be encouraging to you Paul's example Judson's example will be encouragement to you to have a faithful ministry that counts the cost of suffering thanks for listening and join us again tomorrow as we continue the study in second Corinthians on The Daily Platform.
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