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2 Corinthians 4:5-12 – In the face of Jesus Christ

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light 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 clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.


This is the Epistle selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. The lessons of this Sunday are placed in a Proper Ordinary Time grouping, numbered Proper 4. This will next be read aloud by a reader on Sunday, June 3, 2018. It is important because Paul explained how the fragile state of a mortal body can only find shatterproof strength from within: by God’s presence in one’s heart, and by the rebirth of Jesus Christ be visible in our mortal flesh.

When Paul wrote, “We do not proclaim ourselves,” that is a statement that all Apostles (no matter how many “we” will be) have died of ego. One cannot stand before a group of people and pretend to have some mystical power that makes oneself capable of casting out damnation on others, by calling upon “the name of Jesus Christ.”  When a person uses those words in public, one is proclaiming oneself as special.  One then proclaims so others will think one is able to call upon God and Christ, so the divine serves that one.

Plenty “faith healers” have put on grand acts that have profited those special hands handsomely.

True Apostles (to whom Paul wrote) “do not proclaim the self.”  If one “does not proclaim oneself,” then one has lost all claims to self. Therefore, Paul wrote, “We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.”

To “proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord,” this says a Saint is in the name of Jesus Christ.  A Saint takes on that persona by Divine Will, not personal choice.  One serves God, just as His Son Jesus was totally subservient to the Father.  It is the Father that gives the name to the Son, not the other way around.

As such, that identification that proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord has replaced the name of oneself, although that name of the self is still attached to the physical body. The identity one claims is Jesus Christ, and that entity is readily identified as the “Lord” to whom one’s self-ego has surrendered. That surrender of self then makes one a “slave for Jesus.”

The word translated as “sake” is the Greek word “dia.” That word means, “successfully across” or “thoroughly,” where the implication says Apostles have “crossed over” to being Jesus reborn.  This must be understood as a statement of one’s ego stepping aside willingly, for “Jesus’ sake,” where the Christ Mind takes over.  The Spirit of Jesus Christ then uses one’s body to do the biding of the Father, as did Jesus of Nazareth.

Modern Americans may balk at the concept of slavery, and even to the outdated models of wives being subservient to their husbands.  Americans lash out harshly at the idea of slavery.  However, the reality is all human beings are slaves, who serve many masters.

The soul is imprisoned in a “clay jar”body, one that can only be freed from that captivity through death.  This means human beings are slaves to the world.  Freedom, as a concept, is well and fine but not a reality.  Freedom is an illusion.

Is one free to fly away from earth and go to heaven at will?  Or, does gravity on earth and the lack of oxygen and life supporting elements in the void of space not enslave us?  The laws of physics master over humanity.  Needing a job to afford to buy things makes one a slave to necessities.  Needing the comforts of others makes one a slave to relationships.  We are never free, but we hate the idea of slavery.

When one becomes the slave of God, with the Christ Mind putting one to work, then the soul has been given the promise of true freedom, which comes by slavery to God’s Will, not human wants and desires.

Paul then wrote, “For it is the God who said, “Let light 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.”  That says Apostles have become married to God, whose love is then placed solidly in the hearts of His beloveds. Marriage is two joined as one, where God commands and His wife (a “clay jar” is always the one penetrated by the Spiritual) obeys.  This is willing slavery to the power of God’s love.

The light of that love then permeates their being and radiates outward from within. It beacons to those who do not know this love of God, whose lives are still blind to this light of salvation. It is this inner presence that brings forth the “knowledge of the glory of God,” which is the Christ Mind. Therefore, Saints all become “the face of Jesus Christ” in Spirit.

The metaphor of being “clay jars,” where the Greek words “ostrakinois skeuesin” may be better grasped as “earthen vessels,” says that human beings are no more than the matter that makes up a human body. The body is form that is fragile, just as are clay jars.  It is a soul that is poured into our “vessels” that gives them life. Still, one understands that a soul “does not come from us,” as “this extraordinary power belongs to God.”

The “treasure” within our “clay jars” is our souls, which are God’s creations. A soul is God’s breath of life into an “earthen vessel.”  Our souls are eternal forms, whereas human bodies are eternal as matter that cannot maintain a constant state.  Bodies change, while the soul remains the same.  A soul gives animation to material, where life allows for growth as well as deterioration.  Unfortunately, the earth of one’s clay tends to soil its gift from God.  Therefore, the soul needs cleansing, just as the body needs washing.

This then makes the “extraordinary power” that Paul wrote of become the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit is separate from the soul; and likewise, this Spirit also is not a power commanded by “earthen vessels” or “clay jars.” It is this power that protects the jar from being smashed by the forces of the world, which are the afflictions, perplexities, persecutions, and beatings that comes from a world that looks at a lowly “clay jar” and cannot see the presence of God within it.

The Holy Spirit does not mean escape from worldly punishment, but survival through it. Ordinary life, without the Holy Spirit, can result in the soul being reduced to sins, becoming worthy of punishment.  Souls are thus recycled or banished from heaven, based on how well they reject sinful influences.  The Holy Spirit is what brings eternal salvation to a soul.

It keeps one’s soul from being crushed under the weight of evil influences.  It saves one from fears, sensed as the dangers of losing material things.  It soothes the wounds to one’s soul, which come from the persecution and rejection of enemies, friends and family.  The Holy Spirit keeps one’s soul standing strong, after harsh strikes that come from those who see the pious as weak targets to hit. When one becomes Jesus Christ reborn, one is always attracting the same satanic hatred that seeks to punish every human form the Christ Minds fills; but a holy soul, like the one possessed by Jesus, does not quit in the face of trouble.

This is how an Apostle wears the face of Jesus Christ, even though one’s human face still rides high atop the human form. We make the face of Jesus be known by acting like him, from sincere motivations as servants of God.  Paul still wore the human face of Saul, but wore the face of Jesus Christ once he became Paul. As such, Paul wrote, “For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.”  This projects the death of one’s self-ego, to be exchanged for the ego of Jesus of Nazareth – the Christ Mind.

Once this alter-ego becomes one with an Apostle (a Saint), the soul has been cleansed by the Holy Spirit, with God’s love coursing through the body – the blood of Christ. From then on “we will always be given up to death,” and our souls will have it no other way.  Our egos may return as simpletons, seen in bodies that drool and seem inept; but Apostles will always rise to righteous states when confronted with evil choices.  The face of Jesus will take on all challengers.

As the Epistle reading selection for the Second Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry for the Lord should have begun, the message given by Paul is clear. Ministry is not something a soul in an earthen vessel can achieve alone. It requires divine assistance. Ministry to the Lord requires the sacrifice of self and the love of God within.

To be a Saint is to enter ministry through a leap of faith, not a certificate of study. Of course, God will know the works one will have done, and His gifts of the Holy Spirit will use one’s education and experiences to one’s advantage.  One’s special talents will be utilized accordingly.  Still, before one can save the world, one must save one’s own soul through the sacrifice of self.

Hold on Abe. No need to do a physical death. We’ll handle the sacrifice Spiritually.

This is why Paul wrote, “So death is at work in us, but life in you.” A literal translation says that better, as “So death in us works,” where the Greek word “energeitai” is translated as “works.” That states “death” is figurative, not permanent.  The “death” of one’s ego is what allows one to “accomplish” and be “operative” in ministry. One is free to do the “work” of God, when one is not slowed down by the fears and anxieties of one’s self-ego.

When one slaves from joy and delight, one is truly free.  It is then those “works,” through “death,” that leads to eternal “life to you.”  That reflects a ministry that comes to all who have died to be in the name of Jesus Christ.

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