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Lesson 4: Let God’s Light Shine (2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10)

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But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7, Memory Verse #2)

In chapters 2 and 3, you learned that you are the aroma of God spreading everywhere the knowledge of Him. Women know all about aroma. Think of the delightful smell of good food cooking or fine perfume, and of course, the many benefits of essential oils. A pleasing aroma influences and invites the receiver to enjoy more of the same. So it is with you as the aroma of Christ.

You are also a living letter presenting Christ to those who are “reading” you. Have you thought about how much reading stimulates the mind and draws one into exploring more? That’s what the Spirit of God is writing in your life, a letter that others will want to read and experience what you have in Christ.

And, you are an illustration of the freedom that comes in Christ. Freedom from the blindness enslaving the mind of an unbelieving person. As you are transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ, you are freed from sinful behaviors so that your life will glorify God more and more. To glorify God means to enhance His reputation. That’s what we are to do with our lives.

But, whether you will be a delightful aroma, an inviting letter, or a clear image of Christ depends on how much you are relying on God to lead you and change you.

Yet, your aroma of God and letter of Christ are emanating from frail human bodies. The best news is that God overcomes your weaknesses with His power as you trust in Him.

Questions To Consider This Week:

  • How do you keep your eyes fixed on what is unseen and eternal rather than seen and temporary (4:18)?
  • Why does God put His treasure in “jars of clay?” And, what is revealed in our frail human bodies during every trial that threatens us?
  • What will it take for you to trust in God to help you view whatever hardships and pain you experience as “light and momentary troubles?”

Day One Study—Get The Big Picture

Read 2 Corinthians 3:18-5:10, including verses from the previous lesson. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

[To print, follow this link (or for the NIV, this one). Use your own method (colored pencils, lines, shapes) to mark: 1) anything that grabs your attention and 2) words you want to understand. Feel free to develop your own method of marking up a passage. Put a star  next to anything you think relates to dependent living.]

1. What grabbed your attention from these verses?

  • 4:7-12
  • 4:13-18
  • 5:1-10

2. What verses or specific words do you want to understand better?

3. What topics are repeated in this passage or continue an earlier discussion in this letter?

4. What verses illustrate or help you understand what dependent living on God looks like?

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Two Study

Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

What Does The Bible Say?

5. Answer the following questions based on what is written in the biblical text.

  • Why does God put His treasure in “jars of clay” (4:7)?
  • In vv. 8-9, Paul says about his team that they are what? But not what?
  • What is revealed in our frail human bodies during every trial that threatens us (vv. 10-11)?
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

Historical Insight: It was customary to conceal treasure in clay jars, which had little value or beauty and did not attract attention to themselves and their precious contents. (NIV Study Bible, note on v. 7, p. 1767)

What Does It Mean?

Historical Insight: The pottery lamps which could be bought for a coin or two in the Corinthian market-place provided a sufficient analogy; it did not matter how cheap or fragile they were so long as they showed the light. (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, p. 49)

6. Let’s try to understand what Paul means by “the treasure” in 4:7.

  • From 3:18-4:6, what could be “the treasure” in 4:7?
  • What do other Bible translations of 4:7 say that help in understanding this verse?

7. How does 2 Corinthians 4:7 relate to 4:8-9?

Think About It: There will be times when you feel like you’re going crazy, struggling, and wondering how you’ll ever live through your hardships or heartaches. Take it from a veteran: do not let yourself sink into despair. Set the bar high in your battle against despondency by holding onto biblical hope. Find an anchor in Scripture, such as a favorite psalm or snippet of a proverb. Pick a timeless stanza from a hymn or chorus. Use that Scripture or song as your stake in the ground, your resolute act of defiance against discouragement. And, above all, trust in God. (Joni Eareckson Tada, Just Between Us, Fall 2018, p. 8)

8. To understand vv. 10-11 better, see Galatians 2:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:7. This is the life of faith and dependent living.

  • Who gives His life to us?
  • Whose life is being lived through us?
  • From where do we get the ability to live this way?

Focus on the Meaning: Jesus Christ gave His life for you, so He could give His life to you, so He could live His life through you. (Major Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ)

9. So, why does God put His treasure in jars of clay?

10. What else did you learn as you studied 2 Corinthians 4:7-12?

What Application Will You Make?

11. Read the “Think About It” below. Is this how you think of yourself? Why or why not?

Think About It: A vessel’s worth comes from what it holds, not from what it is. Paul contrasted the relative insignificance and unattractiveness of the light-bearers with the surpassing worth and beauty of the light (i.e., God’s glory). … It is precisely the Christian’s utter frailty which lays him open to the experience of the all-sufficiency of God’s grace, so that he is able even to rejoice because of his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)—something that astonishes and baffles the world, which thinks only in terms of human ability. (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, pages 49-50)

12. In what other ways can you apply this lesson to your life?

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Three Study

Read 2 Corinthians 4:13-18. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

What Does The Bible Say?

13. Answer the following questions based on what is written in the biblical text.

  • Why do Paul and his team continue to speak in spite of the dangers (vv. 13-14)?
  • How do the Corinthians benefit from Paul continuing to preach Christ (v. 15)?
  • Why do they not lose heart (see also 4:1) even during their struggles (v. 16)?
  • What does Paul call the painful times he’s experienced (v. 17)?
  • What are those troubles achieving for him?
  • What does he do to keep going (v. 18)?
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

Think About It: The more faithful that Paul and his companions remained to God’s will, the more they suffered and the more the Corinthians prospered spiritually from their teaching and examples of faithfulness.

What Does This Mean?

14. Paul quotes Psalm 116 in v.13. Read Psalm 116:5-10. What has the psalmist learned about life that relates to Paul’s experience?

Historical Insight: The resurrection of Christ is the greatest event in human history. No one was resurrected with an immortal body before that time or has been since. The great hope for us is that we will be resurrected when Jesus comes. We will be presented to God with all believers and live in God’s presence for the rest of eternity.

15. Paul mentions “not losing heart” twice in this chapter (vv. 1, 16). Sometimes looking at the opposite helps us to understand.

  • What does it mean to “lose heart?”
  • So, what does it mean to “not lose heart?” And, why is this important?

16. “Overflow” (or, flow over) is another key term in 2 Corinthians. Paul uses it 7 times. It refers to things that overflow, excel or abound.

  • Read 1:5. What overflows?
  • Read 3:9. What overflows or abounds?
  • Read 4:15. What overflows? Why?

17. What else did you learn as you studied 2 Corinthians 4:13-18?

What Application Will You Make?

“Light and momentary troubles.” That’s what Paul called his hardships and pain because he was looking beyond today and seeing the joy of being in heaven forever afterwards. After reading just part of what he experienced (we’ll see lots more in chapters 6 and 11), it seems insane for him to say this. Commonly, our frail human nature would rather complain and even compare our troubles with each other to see if we have it better or worse. Have you noticed this?

Scriptural Insight: Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17, For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all. There is purpose and reward in enduring troubles. 1) Endurance is good for us. It teaches us “staying power” for a long-term burden. 2) Endurance makes us stronger. Just like load-bearing exercise makes our bones stronger, troubles that challenge your faith do that, too. 3) Endurance is necessary to grow into maturity. Think about the process of human development. Teething, learning to walk and ride a bike, and adolescence are painful but necessary parts of developing into adulthood. God’s goal for us is to be mature and complete. Endurance is His tool to help us reach that goal, to grow up.

4) Endurance teaches us to depend on God more than on ourselves. Going through troubles is God’s will for us. He allows things in our lives to challenge us, but His motive is not to trip us up. He wants to develop that endurance in us. It is not so we don’t need Him any longer but that we would rely on Him more. He wants to make us stand firm in Him and to get us through “whatever.”

18. What will it take for you to trust in God to help you view whatever hardships and pain you experience as “light and momentary troubles?” Ask Him for that right now.

19. In what other ways can you apply this lesson to your life?

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today.

Day Four Study

Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. Ask the Lord Jesus to teach you through His Word.

What Does The Bible Say?

Historical Insight: In ancient times, a “tent” was a familiar symbol of what was transitory. Our physical bodies are only temporary structures, but God is preparing new bodies for us, that are far superior to anything that human hands can produce and maintain. (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, p. 54)

20. How do you keep your eyes fixed on what is unseen and eternal rather than seen and temporary (4:18)? Paul continued to give reasons why we should not lose heart.

  • What happens if our earthly tent (human body) is destroyed (v. 1)?
  • Why do we groan in the meantime (vv. 2-3)?
  • What else does Paul say about life in the meantime (v. 4)?
  • What has God done (v. 5)?
  • What does Paul know with confidence (vv. 6-7)?
  • What would he prefer (v. 8)?
  • While we live, we make it our goal to do what (v. 9)?
  • For we must all appear where (v. 10?
  • What do we receive there?
  • Did anything else grab your attention?

What Does It Mean?

21. We are living in the now and the “not yet.” Describe the future promise we have and the ever-present tension in a Christian’s life (vv. 1-8).

  • Future promises we have …
  • Present tension …

22. Focus on 2 Corinthians 5:4. Paul wrote about this in his previous letter to the Corinthians. Read 1 Corinthians 15:53-54. What did he say?

Scriptural Insight: All Christians who die will receive an immortal body (v. 1). This is by itself a substantial gift of glory. Second, all Christians, including those who die soon after becoming believers, presently possess the Holy Spirit—who is God’s pledge of our future complete glorification (vv. 4-5). Third, death begins a new phase of existence for all believers, that will be far superior to what we experience now (vv. 7-8). (Dr. Constables Notes on 2 Corinthians 2017 Edition, p. 54)

23. Let’s look at how we are to live now in these earthly bodies (vv. 6-9). What do these statements mean?

  • Living by faith, not by sight (v. 7)
  • Living to please the Lord (v. 9 and Romans 14:7-8)

Think About It: Living by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and all He has promised for our present and our future is NOT the same thing as taking a leap in the dark. See Hebrews 11:1, 6. We can know Him through all that is revealed for us to know.

24. When our earthly bodies die, we appear before the judgment seat of Christ (v. 10). Read about this in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. Paul is addressing believers about rewards, not salvation.

  • As already saved people, guaranteed to receive heavenly dwellings when we die, are we responsible for our actions while in our “earthly tents?”
  • Why does God care about this? Use what you’ve already seen in 2 Corinthians.

25. What else did you learn as you studied 2 Corinthians 5:1-10?

What Application Will You Make?

26. What confidence can you have at your death? Do you have this confidence? Trusting Christ for what happens to you after you die is another aspect of dependent living.

Scriptural Insight: Gain confidence about what happens when you die by looking at these truths.

What does NOT happen at death: annihilation (Luke 16:19-31); soul sleep (Philippians 1:23); become a floating spirit (2 Cor. 5:3); reincarnation (Hebrews 9:27); and purgatory (Colossians 1:22).

What DOES happen at death: Fall asleep on earth; wake up in heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:14); Leave earthly tent; get heavenly dwelling fashioned for us (2 Cor. 5:1); and Be immediately at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).

27. In what other ways can you apply this lesson to your life?

Dependent Living: Living by faith is offering yourself to God (Romans 6:13), choosing to approach life His way (seen in the New Testament writings), and trusting Him with the results.

28. Review the passage for this lesson in “Day One Study.” Add reasons why God wants us to depend on Him more than on ourselves to the chart below. I’ve given a few prompts.

Verse(s)

Reasons why God wants us to depend on Him more than on ourselves

4:7

He can demonstrate His power through our frailty (jars of clay).

4:8-9

He keeps us from being crushed when we are burdened.

4:10

He reveals Jesuss life in and through us.

4:16)

He can keep us from losing heart.

Respond To The Lord About What He’s Shown You Today. 

Did you notice that every daily lesson in this study begins and ends with prayer? God speaks to you through His word. You may respond to Him about anything and ask Him to make His word true in your life. Lack of prayer is often a sign of self-sufficiency rather than dependent living and will lead you to doing what is not pleasing in God’s sight. Spend some time responding to the Lord about what He’s shown you in this whole lesson.

As His child, God transforms your life by teaching you to live dependently on Him in weakness and in strength.

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