THE GREATEST TREASURE ON EARTH
2 Corinthians 4:1-7
2 Corinthians 4:6,7 says, “For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” This passage speaks of the greatest treasure that exists on the earth, and we are told God put this treasure in earthen vessels. Coinciding with this treasure are the two sources of light by which God, the Father of lights, illuminates the inhabitants of earth.
Now the first thing for us to settle in this discussion is, “What is this treasure that God has placed in the possession of the human race?” The word of God says, “We have this treasure.” Generally, most people think of treasures as gold, silver, diamonds, Jewels, stocks, bonds, real estate possessions, and an abundance of cash.. However, anything that is esteemed above its ordinary value is a treasure to the one so appreciating it. A small photograph likeness of a dead child might mean nothing to us, but to its mother it represents more than this whole world with all its power, pomp and influence. But the treasure we are talking about was given to all Christians, and for the most part the saints are not distinguished for the amount of this world's goods they possess.
This treasure is clearly identified in verse 6. God has given the human race, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Now that is a mouth full, but it is heaven's description of it. What is the greatest of all treasures on this earth? Neither earthly riches nor advantages, but knowledge, understanding and enlightenment. . It is knowledge of God the Father, knowledge of how great and glorious the Father is. For human beings not to know their Maker is deplorable ignorance indeed. In fact, it's shameful. This treasure is the gospel of Christ, for it contains the knowledge of the glory of God. The world knew something of God's glory before the coming of Christ, but now we have the knowledge of God in all the fulness of His glory. The preeminent glory of God the Father is not so much in His power and wisdom, as in His moral attributes: His holiness, His love, His longsuffering and His mercy. Such knowledge is the treasure. The treasure is the 27 books of the New Testament, for they contain all this fuller knowledge of the glory of God. The New Testament is the greatest treasure you have in your house, and it is the greatest treasure you can have in your heart. I know not how can people can rightly claim to be educated who have little or no
knowledge of the glory of God, their Maker? I close this first point by saying that the greatest treasure on earth is the Church of Christ, the Church of God and the Christian religion, for these are all components of the knowledge of the glory of God.
The second thought in the passage is the interesting comparison made between the light of the sun and the light of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 says, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In these words there is an implied comparison between the creation of light in the beginning, and the dawn of gospel light at the coming of Christ into the world. The light of the sun and the light of Christ are the two sources of light for the human race. One light is material, and the other light is spiritual. One light up our dark planet, and the other lights up our lives. This verse could well be rendered, “Because it is God who said, light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts for the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God.” At the creation of the universe God said, “Let there be light,” and the great star we call the sun came into existence. Some two thousand years ago, God again said, “Let there be light” ( to shine in the spiritual darkness of this world), and behold Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Jesus was the God-man, both God and man, both human and Divine.
Some of the very last words God said to the nation of Israel in Old Testament times was, “But to you who fear my name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings”(Malachi 4:2). By prophecy Christ is called “the Sun.” The world was in physical darkness when He created the first sun, and the world was in religious and moral darkness when He created Christ the spiritual Sun. Since the coming of Christ there have been two lights in the world. One is the light of nature, and it drives away the darkness of night. The other is the light of the gospel which emanates from Christ, and it drives away the moral and religious darkness that covers the world.
What of God it is needful and beneficial for us to know God the Father has revealed through Christ, and whatever is not there, we may rest assured it is unnecessary for us to know. Truly the knowledge of God Christ has revealed is not small, for there is vastly more revealed in the person of Christ than we shall be likely to learn in this mortal life. Even eternity will not be too long for the discovery of all the glory of God which shines forth in the person of Christ. It should be remembered that it was the second persosn of the Godhead who was willing to come earth and assume the form of a human being.
Those who think they can change or modify the Christian religion had better first to change the brilliance of the sun and try to modify it. Let us be more than satisfied with the revelation God has given us in the person and teachings of Christ Jesus, and His apostles.. Let us all be fully persuaded of the truth of His words, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Jesus is the only religious teacher who is compared to the might of the sun that illuminates the universe. The light of divine knowledge flows to the human race from Christ and His religion. Jesus is the true soul-light of mankind. We have learned the greatest of all treasures on earth is the knowledge of the glory of God the Father, and we have learned that the soul-saving benefits of this knowledge flows to the earth like light flows from the sun.
The third valuable truth proclaimed in this passage is how the inhabitants of earth come into the possession of this precious knowledge, and the eternal life it bestows on all who find it and accept it. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4: 7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not us.” An earthen vessel is some kind of a clay pot or jar. Eastern kings stored their gold, silver and jewels in earthen jars. Ancient manuscripts of the Bible were stored in large earthen jars for safe keeping, and some of those manuscripts continue to be uncovered in Palestine. In the middle East it was the custom of Orientals to keep valuables and money in jars which might be hid, and in case of danger, might be buried underground. God has given mankind the knowledge of His glory and has placed it in the hands of human beings for safe keeping. The earthen vessels in this passage are human beings. Paul and other apostles were earthen vessels. The writers of the New Testament were earthen vessels. Whatever you learn about God from the Bible you learn from earthen vessels. The term earthen vessels are used in contradistinction to heavenly vessels. God will not teach anyone personally and directly what they must do to be saved. Scripture tells us that in the Christian age of the world God speaks to us only through His Son. Moreover, since Christ returned to heaven, He has not told anyone in person what they must do to be saved. Even when He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, Paul said, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” We would have thought that Christ Himself would have told him what to do. But what did Christ tell him? Here is the answer, “Go into the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” Why didn't Jesus tell him? The reason was that God had put His great treasure of divine knowledge into the hands of earthen vessels. Neither God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, nor angels will ever communicate God's treasure of knowledge to the human race.
But let us suppose an angel should come and tell us what we must do to go to heaven or how to live the Christian life. What message could he bring other than what has already been brought by the Apostles, Evangelists and and Bible writers? Let an apostle answer. Paul said, “Though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that which we preached to you, let him be anathema”(Galatians 2:8,9). Indeed, we have this treasure in earthen vessels, not heavenly vessels.
This divine rule was followed when God first gave this great treasure to mankind. Romans 10: 13,14 says, “Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, but how shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe. in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Did you ever read or hear of a conversion in the first century when a preacher was not present. Of course you didn't for Jesus said, “No man can come to Me, except the Father who sent Me draws him, “ And then He told us how the Father draws: “Even as it is written in the prophets, they shall all be taught of God.” Every man therefore who has heard and has learned of the Father comes unto Me”(John 6:44,45). We should rejoice that He has conferred on us such a great honor that we should labor with Him in the work of the gospel.
Finally, even though Christ is the light of the world and his light is shining in the darkness, not all men have believed. John 1:4,5 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in he darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” It was true when Jesus and the apostles lived, and it is true today. Light and darkness are metaphors for moral and religious conditions. Darkness is a symbol of error and moral corruption. However, the light is made to shine in the darkness when the knowledge of God is preached. Every effort to preach the gospel to lost men and women to bring them to the Father is a demonstration of light shining in the darkness. As God's treasure has been placed in the hands of earthen vessels, it is our responsibility to give it to people who are living in the darkness. The word of God says, “This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” There is antagonism between light and darkness, but let us remain loyal to God and show our gratitude for giving us this saving knowledge of Himself. Through a correct attitude toward the gospel of Christ, we have the opportunity to show our loyalty to God.
This thought of loyalty to God reminds me of a story I read about a man who was on a ship crossing the Atlantic, a man and his invalid wife. She was utterly helpless from rheumatism. Her husband was a big, fine looking man slightly grey, and slightly past middle age. He would have to take his wife into his arms as if she were a baby, and take her to the dining room for her meals, and then back to their stateroom. This attracted other passengers, and one day when he had passed carrying his precious burden, a thoughtless girl remarked, “It is a great shame for a great, big fine looking man like that to be tied to an invalid wife.” His sensitive ear caught the speech, and when he had placed his wife in her chair, and had propped up her head with pillows, he sought the company of which the young lady was a member.
He spoke firmly but kindly: “Pardon me, but I heard your remark made a moment ago, and I wanted to tell you how it is. I was once a bankrupt, and when I would have taken my own life, my wife, who was young and beautiful, saved me. Afterward, when traveling in the company with those I considered my friends, I contracted yellow fever. Everyone forsook me, but that little woman. We were completely alone–strangers in a strange land, but she never faltered. For days I lingered between life and death, a raving maniac. She nursed me and prayed. Well, you see I got well, but her health was permanently broken. You doubtless think her a great care. She is, but it the most sacred care ever given to any mortal, and I only pray God that I may live so long as she does that not one thing that she may need be denied her. Yes, I'm tied to her, but the cords that bind me are cords of love, which shall never be broken.” Now my friends, that is loyalty.
I would suggest to you that what this woman did for this man, and what this man did for this woman cannot compared with what God has done for each and every one of us. At one time we all were living in the darkness. The light was shining in the darkness, but we did not comprehend it. We all loved the darkness rather than the light, but God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” He saved us from missing heaven. It is written, “We love God because He loved us first.” Do we love God the Father? . Because of Him, we have become an educated, an enlightened and a redeemed people destined to live forever, life without end.. Do we appreciate what He has done for us? He has kept us from missing heaven. He has saved us from eternal punishment to be imposed on the disobedient world at the resurrection.