Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to

the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984

International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations

from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes

the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: Glad to be back with you after the summer break! 

recall that during the first quarter of this year we studied Paul’s

first letter to the Corinthians.  Our study this quarter moves

Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth.  This week we find

out about how we can be “jars of clay” happily filled with

treasures. Let’s dig in!


     A. Have you ever felt discouraged?  Ever
considered your life
and thought that you or your work was not
very important?

     B. If you have had feelings of discouragement,
turn with me to
2 Corinthians 4:1. Read. Paul tells us he
has a reason for us
to keep up our courage, i.e., not “lose heart.”

          1. What reason
does this text say we have for a positive
attitude, what
reason to keep up our courage? (Paul says
we have “this

          2.  What
ministry is he talking about? Does this text
make it clear?

          3. Imagine that
you just walked into a room where a
man is giving
an exciting lecture on how you can throw
away despair
and start feeling good about your life. Your
timing is bad
because you enter the room just as the
lecture is ending.
Tell me what you are feeling at this
moment? What
is your reaction? (You want to hear the
whole message.)

a. Is that is what is happening to us — did we

enter at the “end of the lecture” when we started

with verse 1? (Yes. Paul starts out verse 1 with

“therefore.”  We have jumped in at the end of his


     C. Paul tells us that he has this formula for
courage, for a
positive attitude. The formula involves us
performing a
ministry. We need to find out about what ministry
he is
talking about. To do that we will need to
review a few verses
from last week’s study. Read 2 Corinthians

          1. Does Paul
compare us to Moses? (Yes.)

a. Does he suggest that we are:

(1) better than Moses?

(2) different than Moses?

(3) like Moses?

(4) all of the above? (All of the above! We are
like Moses in that we can reflect God’s glory.
But we are “better” and different because
God’s Spirit allows us to reflect God’s glory
in a way that other people can better see.  We
do not have to have our faces veiled like

          2. So what is
our ministry? (To reflect God. To become
more like Him.
2 Cor.3:18)

     D. How do we normally measure success? (Money,

     E. Do you need money, education or an important
job to reflect
God in your life? (No.)

          1. What do you
need? (2 Cor. 3:18: The Spirit of the

     F. Notice that 2 Cor. 3:17 refers to “freedom.”
Do you think
Paul means freedom from the struggle for money,
education or
position? How about the struggle to have people
respect or
admire you?

     G. If you or someone you know is feeling discouraged
life, do you agree with Paul’s suggestion
that cooperating
with the Spirit to reflect God in your life
will give you

          1. Why? How do
you think this works?


     A. If you know that the most important part
of your life work
is to reveal God in your life, are you worried
that maybe your
life does not reveal God?  If so, let’s
read on.

     B. Read 2 Corinthians 4:2. How does Paul suggest
that we can
reveal God’s glory? (List on the blackboard:
renounce secret
and shameful ways; not use deception or distortion;
plainly explain the truth.)

          1. What do you
think Paul means by “secret and shameful
ways?” (A critical
part of reflecting God’s glory is to
get our life
“in order.” We need to work with God’s
Spirit to put
behind us those things we do in secret
because they
are shameful.)

          2. Can you think
of examples where the gospel was
“promoted” through
deception or distortion?

          3. After Paul
tells us what we should not do, he tells us
what we should
do.  We should be “plainly” setting forth
the truth. How
much thought have you given to being
“plain” in revealing
the gospel?

a. How do you think you can be more plain? (I

visited a church where the pastor was preaching on

Matthew 7:3.  In his sermon he referred to a “speck

of sawdust” getting in the eye.  We all knew what

he was talking about.  Earlier, however, someone

else had read this text from the KJV as “beholdest

thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye….” How

many people (especially the unbelievers you are

trying to reach) have any idea about it means to

have a “mote” in the eye?  If you have any doubt

about this go to your doctor or pharmacist and ask

for something to treat the mote in your eye.  See

what you get!)


     A. Let’s read on. Read 4:3-7. Paul suggests
in verses 3-4 that
in addition to our failure to properly and
plainly present the
gospel, unbelievers have another very good
reason for having
a hard time understanding the gospel. What
is this reason?
(Verse 4: “The god of this age has blinded
[their minds].”)

          1. Who is the
“god of this age?” (Satan, see John 12:31)

          2. How can he
“blind the minds” of unbelievers?  Isn’t
this contrary
to the idea that everyone has free will?

          3. If you think
that “free will” prevents Satan from
physically preventing
someone from understanding the
gospel, how
does he “blind the mind?”

a. Look carefully at vv. 3-7.  What two opposing

concepts does Paul present? (Self-glory v. Jesus’


b. Does this help us to understand the “blinding”

process used by Satan? (Yes! If we focus on

ourselves, if unbelievers focus on us, they will

miss the point that Jesus’ glory, not our “glory,”

is the true revelation of God.)

          4. Isn’t Paul
saying two conflicting things: we start out
learning how
to have a positive attitude in our life, and
then he switches
to say we should not be focused on
Do you have any ideas on how those two themes
can be made

a. How can turning our attention away from ourselves

help avoid despair? (Paul integrates a spiritual

and practical theme in this line of argument. The

people could not look at Moses because they could

not stand to see even the reflected glory of God.

It was too much for them because they did not

clearly understand the gospel — what Jesus was

going to do for them to rescue them from the

condemnation of the law. The same problem exists in

another form today.  Looking at individuals can

cause us to miss what Jesus has done for us. Our

salvation is the result of Jesus’ work and not the

work of any individual.  Looking at Moses the glory

was too bright, looking at us, the “glory” is too

dim! That is the spiritual problem.  The practical

problem is that we can become discouraged if we

focus too much on our own lives or the lives of

fellow Christians.)

b. How does it help the problem for us to look at

ourselves as (v.7) “jars of clay?” (We are just the

messenger, not the message. We are just the

packaging, not the treasure. Although our work is

to reflect God’s glory, we must constantly remind

ourselves it is GOD’S GLORY and not ours!)


     A. Read 2 Corinthians 4:8-12, 16-18. Does this
sound like Paul
might have a reason to be discouraged? (Yes.)

     B. Verse 10 says we “carry around in our body
the death of
Jesus.”  That certainly sounds unusual.
What do you think Paul
means by that?

          1. Verse 10 continues
by saying, “so that the life of
Jesus may be
revealed in our body.” How does carrying
around the death
of Jesus in our body reveal Jesus’ life?
(Jesus’ death
was the ultimate sacrifice. But that
sacrifice resulted
in the gift of eternal life. Carrying
around “the
death of Jesus” in our lives means that we
have that same
spirit of self-sacrifice.  The spirit of
ourselves to help others will impress them
that there is
something special going on in our lives. As
they learn about
our message, they are exposed to the
gift of eternal
life. That is what v.12 means when it
says “death
is at work in us, but life is at work in

          2. I was in an
Asian gift shop looking for a gift for my
wife. I discovered
a delicate little brown jar that had
a carved top
and carvings on the side.  It smelled
wonderful, just
like cinnamon.  When I purchased it, I
was told that
when we were done with the jar we could eat
it!  Yes,
it was actually made of edible cinnamon bark.
(No, I had not
been insulting to the clerk.) Our lives
here are like
that little cinnamon bark jar.  We are
expendable clay
jars carrying the real treasure of the
gospel message.

     C. How do you react to the idea that you should
be “killing”
yourself here through self-sacrifice? 
Not a very attractive
picture, right? Does that sound like a way
to have a more
positive attitude?

          1. How can you
justify wanting this for your life?

          2. How do you
“sell” the gospel to unbelievers with this
kind of pitch?

          3. Is it like
an employer of a retail establishment
saying, “Come
work for us.  We will wear you out, and use
you up, but
our customers will be happy!”

          4. How do vv.
17-18 answer these questions? (The self-
sacrifice part
is temporary, i.e. “light and momentary,”
while our reward
is eternal and it “outweighs” the

     D. Friends, God has given us a job — to reflect
His glory.
You can do your job, and thus feel positive
about your work,
without obtaining any of the “things” the
world looks at to
measure success. You do not need money, position
or a high
education to be a success in this job. Not
only is our job
something everyone of us can do, our job has
a higher reward
than the compensation for any other job we
might consider.
Although we might be “pressed on every side,”
and face
sacrifices, we have the satisfaction of knowing
that this
“non-success” (from the world’s view) is exactly
what we are
supposed to be doing. More important, however,
is the
knowledge that our “compensation” is eternal
life in the best
“retreat” in the universe!

V. NEXT WEEK: “MINISTRY IN FOCUS.” Study 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:21!

action of knowing
that this
“non-success” (from the world’s view) is exactly
what we are
supposed to be doing. More important, however,
is the
knowledge that our “compensation” is eternal
life in the best
“retreat” in the universe!

V. NEXT WEEK: “MINISTRY IN FOCUS.” Study 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:21!