“What is the argument for Christian missions?” It was a sincere question from a professing Christian. My response was, “What is the argument against Christian missions? The entirety of the biblical revelation of God in Christ, from beginning to end, is the argument. The reason for missions is Christ and the Bible is a book about him.
His next question was, “Who are we, people like us, to be involved in trying to convert the entire world? Who are you?” That question was a better one than the first. Who are we to be involved in a global mission of converting the world? Who do we think we are?
Paul explains it this way: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Cor 4:7a).
The work of the gospel is infinitely valuable. Paul describes the good news as “this treasure.” The dynamic of those two words is breathtaking.”Jars of clay” were containers, earthen ones, made of baked clay. They were inexpensive, easily breakable, and subject to deterioration. That sounds like me. The believer is like a jar of clay, but a jar of clay containing “this [gospel] treasure.”
Paul always saw God’s strength made perfect in human weakness: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor 12:9).
The reason God uses “jars of clay” for Kingdom work is explained by Paul in the second half of 2 Corinthians 4:7b: “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
Therefore, using frail, flawed, and weak servants is the strategy of God for Kingdom work and world evangelization because it reveals the power of God in Christ, not our power. The triumphant march of the gospel around the globe cannot be explained by man, it can only be explained by God and his awesome, gracious, supernatural power.
Sometimes we look at the church and ourselves and see failures of pettiness, division, complacency, pride, and wonder how it/we could possibly be the chosen instrument of the Kingdom mission of Christ? This kind of reasoning is backward.
It is upon human weakness, and not human strength, that God chooses to advance the Kingdom of Christ. God uses “clay pots” for his gospel mission, not merely in spite of our frailties and weaknesses, but because of them.
What a thrilling, and more importantly, transformative truth for the church’s evangelistic enterprise.
Editor’s Note: This originally published at Prince on Preaching.