Earthen Vessels

2 Corinthians 4:7

Indeed, as the Apostle Paul declares, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7 KJV). God is exhibiting His greatness within our weakness. The result of being Spirit-possessed is a series of contrasts and, to many, conflicts. It is well, then, for the believer to learn to recognize these tension points, their cause and their cure.

There are Christians who suppose that to be Spirit-filled is to be free from temptation. How manifestly untrue. Fresh from the creative genius of God and created in the image and likeness of that God, Adam was tempted. Retaining the divinity of the godhead, but clothed with vulnerable humanity, Jesus was tempted “in every way… just as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). And this immediately after His anointing with the Holy Spirit. The most holy of God’s children face temptation.

“Earthen vessels” means physical limitations. Whether they mean merely physical weariness, fatigue, even exhaustion or failing health, a physical handicap—they all come to the Spirit-filled Christian.

And what about the emotions of a Spirit-filled man? Should they not be obviously spiritual? The answer is yes and no. Man is a creature of emotions. Love is one emotion. Love can be self-centered, grasping for attention, even judgmental. The unselfish, compassionate love of Christ is a hallmark of the Spirit-filled man. Anger is carnal when it is self-defensive. It is spiritual when it defends God, His purity and righteousness.

Man is also a creature of moods. It is when the moods get beyond bounds that they are distressing. But sorrow, joy, even ecstasy may come and go within the God-ordered life. And it is the Spirit who will keep these moods within bounds.

Possibly one of the most provocative tension points is that of Christian perfection. Jesus commanded, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 KJV). Now, perfection is that state which cannot be improved. Then how can the Spirit-filled man, who indeed is yet human, be perfect? Man’s perfection lies not in accomplishment, but in spirit; not in performance, but in purpose. It is to Christian perfection that God calls us, not to sinless perfection. Sinless perfection says that one is not able to sin. Christian perfection declares that he is able not to sin. And therein lies a world of difference.

Milton S. Agnew, The Holy Spirit: Friend and Counselor

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