(Vs. 7.) The gospel of Christ is called a "treasure" in that it contains rich truth; it has rich blessings, such as redemption, sanctification and justification; it consists of rich and precious promises; it shows forth the riches of God's grace and mercy in Christ. This treasure is "in earthen vessels", meaning the ministers to whom God entrusts the gospel and through whom he sends the gospel to sinners. They are weak and frail creatures, subject to like passions and infirmities as other men (James 5:17; 1 Cor. 2:5-7). God makes the most unlikely his instruments of grace, that he might have all the glory (1 Cor. 1:26-29). The weaker the vessel, the stronger his power appears to be. Whatever is accomplished in the proclamation of the gospel by frail men is the work of God and not men, that he, not they, might be praised and glorified.
(Vs. 8, 9.) "We ate troubled" and oppressed in every way. We are never free from one trial or another. We are in the world and expect tribulations (John 16:1-4, 33; 15:19, 20), yet we are "not distressed". We have the peace of God, the manifestations of his love and care, a freedom to the throne and sufficient for every trial (2 Cor. 12:9). "We ate perplexed"; the word signifies doubting and uncertainty. We are often uncertain and in doubt about what will happen to us; and sometimes we know not what to do, which way to take, nor how our needs shall he supplied, but we are "not in despair". We do not despair of the leadership, help, presence and support of our lord, We are "persecuted" of men, cursed, threatened and despised because we profess Christ and preach Christ crucified, risen and exalted. But we are "not forsaken" of our Lord, who owns us and causes us always to triumph in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14). Neither are we forsaken by those who love Christ, for they support us in prayer and provisions. We are "cast down" like an earthen vessel is sometimes cast out or thrown to the earth, seemingly forgotten and deserted. But we are "not destroyed". We live by the mighty power of God and are immortal until his work in us, through us and by us is done. Whatever the condition of God's children in this world, they have a "but not" to comfort them. Their case may be bad, but not hopeless; for he is their hope!
(Vs. 10, 11.) Paul speaks here of the sufferings and afflictions the disciples themselves endure in the flesh. We are liable to the same hatred, suffering and putting to death that our Lord suffered. We are one with him, and the world, which hates him, hates us. We don't expect any better treatment than was afforded our Lord. There is one great consolation: "Because he lives, we shall live." The power of our Lord's grace, strength, comfort and peace is in us daily, manifested to us, to the church and to the world. The apostles and ministers of the gospel seem to be a special target for Satan's hatred and the world's enmity, but even these trials God uses to call out his sheep (2 Tim. 2:9, 10) through their word.
(Vs. 12.) "Our death is your life; our sufferings are for your advantage. This gospel we preach at the expense of persecution, trial and even death is the means of bringing the gospel of life to you."
(Vs. 13.) Paul declares that he and his fellow labourer's have the same spirit of faith as David, who wrote in Psalm 116:10, "I believed, and therefore have I spoken." We, too, believe God, his eternal purpose in Christ, man's utter ruin and inability, the person and work of our Lord Jesus, the resurrection to eternal life of believers and the resurrection to eternal condemnation of unbelievers. Therefore we speak these truths. The Old Testament saints are our examples (Rom. 4:19-25).
(Vs. 14.) We are assured that God, who raised our Lord Jesus from the grave as the first-fruits of them who sleep, shall by the same power flowing from him who sits at his right hand also raise our mortal bodies from the grave. We know that Christ was raised and his resurrection is an assurance of ours (1 Cor. 15:20-27). We shall all meet in the resurrection (1 Thess. 4:13-18) and shall, by Christ, be presented unto God, redeemed by his life and washed in his blood (Jude 24, 25).
(Vs. 15.) "All these things" that the apostle has mentioned (from the eternal purpose of God in electing a people; the prophecies, promises and types of the Old Testament, the incarnation, obedience, death, resurrection and exaltation of our Lord, to the calling, preaching and sufferings of the apostles) "are for your sakes!" The more the grace, favour and blessings of God are revealed to multitudes, the more honour, glory and praise are given to our God (1 Cor. 1:30, 31).
(Vs. 16.) "Therefore, we ministers of the gospel do not become discouraged, nor do we have thoughts of quitting the conflict. Our outward flesh is progressively decaying and wasting away, but our inward man, created in Christ Jesus, everyday grows stronger and stronger in the grace and faith of Christ."
(Vs. 17.) Paul calls our sufferings in the flesh for the sake of Christ "light afflictions". That which the flesh calls heavy, burdensome and grievous, faith perceives to be light and but for the moment. When we are being used of God, supported by his grace, favoured with his love, and know that these trials are for our good and his glory, we are able to call them "light afflictions". Then when we compare these afflictions and time on earth with the glory that shall be ours, they become even less important (Rom. 8:18).
(Vs. 18.) Someone once said that two things support the believer who is under trial: firstly, seeing the Lord's purpose and hand in it all (Heb. 11:27; Rom. 8:28) and secondly, looking by faith beyond this world to that glory which God had prepared for those who love him (Heb. 11:9, 10). The things of this world that we see, feel and taste by faith through the grace of God are eternal.